Despite some similarities, Earth and the planet next door have very different purposes.
Earth revolves around the sun in a galactic neighborhood of eight planets. We are third from the sun. On one side of Earth orbits Mars, planet number four. Thanks to media attention
and Hollywood thrillers, we’re familiar with this
neighbor. In fact, if Elon Musk deploys his ambitious
plan, humans might step foot on the red planet by 2026.
As the reaches of our space exploration expand,
much is said about what makes a planet inhabitable—distance from the sun, presence of water, hospitable
atmosphere—but for a master class in what makes
a planet uninhabitable, look no farther than Earth’s
other next-door neighbor.
On the side of Earth, closer to the sun, looms Venus,
the mysterious planet that shows up in the early morning
or early evening skies as a pinprick of light brighter
than any of the other planets and stars.
Astronomers know Venus as more than just a neighbor.
They call it Earth’s twin. The size, mass, and density
(called gross properties) of Venus and Earth are
more similar than any other pair of planets. Yet if Venus is
Earth’s twin, it is most certainly the evil twin. Despite
their similar gross properties, the two planets could not be
A far cry from the temperate blue marble Earth,
dripping with water and flourishing with every imaginable
kind of life, Venus is a rust-colored, barren orb
whose surface is textured with mountains, including
a seven-mile-high (11 km) summit—that’s two miles
higher than Mount Everest—and volcanoes. Even
its clouds consist of sulfuric acid, making the entire
place reek of rotten eggs. The atmospheric pressure
on Venus’ surface is approximately 93 times that
of Earth’s—the same pressure as 3,000 feet (914 m)
beneath the ocean’s surface.
At 900°F (482°C), the surface temperature
burns right past even Mercury,
the planet closest to the sun.
With that heat, Venus offers no warm
welcome to visitors. In the 1980s, a
Russian lander that touched down on
Venus’ surface survived for only two
hours before succumbing to the planet’s
Compared to the Hubble telescope
image from 1974 (left), a newly processed
image using modern software (right) shows
Venus’ thick cloud cover in greater detail.
According to evolutionary models,
both Venus and Earth formed around
4.5 billion years ago when the solar
system was nothing more than a swirling
cloud of dust and gas. First, gravity
pressed the dust and gas together
into a spinning mass to form the sun.
The rest of the dust and gas gathered
to form the planets. Since Venus and
Earth are at a similar distance from
the sun, most astronomers think that their histories
ought to be similar.
In 2021, NASA announced two upcoming probe
visits to Venus, launching between 2028 and 2030.
These will be the first US-led missions to Venus’ atmosphere
since 1978. One probe will map Venus’ surface,
searching for evidence of plate tectonics and active
volcanoes. The other probe will study Venus’ atmosphere,
looking for clues of how the planet formed
and if it ever hosted an ocean.
“Only Venus can tell us why our home
planet is unique in our solar system
and the likelihood of actually finding
Earth 2.0 around another star.”
But what’s behind this growing interest in our
forbidding neighboring planet? NASA planetary geophysicist Sue Smrekar said, “Only Venus can tell
us why our home planet is unique in our solar system
and the likelihood of actually finding Earth 2.0
around another star.” Evolutionary scientists hope to
understand, if the twin planets started out similar,
why Venus ended up the apocalyptic place it is today
while Earth is, well, our home.
Once Upon a Long, Long Time Ago . . .
Carbon dioxide makes up 96% of Venus’ thick
atmosphere. Nearly half the sunlight passes through
the cloudy atmosphere to heat the planet’s surface,
but the huge amount of carbon dioxide traps the heat,
raising Venus’ surface temperature to hellish levels.
Some of this heat eventually flows to the top of the
atmosphere, where it radiates into space, establishing
a constant, high temperature on the Venusian surface.
Yet evolutionists believe Venus might have once
looked much like Earth today. At one point, they
think, Venus might have had a little more curb
appeal, possibly with oceans and a kinder temperature.
Maybe, in a brief billion-year window, life might
have evolved on Venus. But then Venus let itself go.
The evolutionary model requires that in the early
solar system almost 4.5 billion years ago, the sun was
nearly 40% fainter than it is today. But this presents
a problem for the Earth. With a fainter sun, if all else
were the same, Earth would have ended up an ice
world, a condition from which our planet probably
could not have recovered. Astronomers call this the
faint young sun “paradox.” So how do evolutionists
explain why Earth remains inhabitable today? Their
most common solution is that the early Earth had
more greenhouse gases than it has today.
They hypothesize that much carbon dioxide was
tied up in rocks inside both Earth and Venus. The volcanic
activity would have released some of this carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide dissolves
in water, and the dissolved carbon dioxide can
precipitate out to form carbonate rocks on the floors
of oceans, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, the amount of carbon dioxide that
can dissolve in water is dependent upon the water’s
temperature. Cooler water can accommodate
more carbon dioxide. Therefore, since
Earth is farther from the sun, its oceans
were probably cooler than oceans on
Venus. So Earth was more efficient than
Venus in removing carbon dioxide from
its atmosphere as volcanic activity introduced
carbon dioxide into the air. Ideally,
the introduction of carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere is balanced by its removal,
resulting in a constant amount of atmospheric
carbon dioxide. When it evolved
on Earth, marine life aided in removing the carbon
dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere. At least, this is what
is thought to have happened on Earth.
A Cautionary Tale?
As the story goes, since Venus is 28% closer to the
sun, it receives nearly twice the heat from the sun that
Earth does. Being initially warmer than Earth, Venus’
oceans were warmer than terrestrial oceans, rendering
Venus’ oceans less efficient at removing carbon
dioxide from its atmosphere, which led to more heating.
More heating further raised the temperature of
Venus’ oceans, reducing its ability to remove carbon
dioxide, which led to more carbon dioxide build-up in
its atmosphere, leading to higher temperatures. This
runaway greenhouse effect eventually caused Venus’
oceans to boil, and solar radiation ionized the water
vapor that then escaped into space. Venus was left
with a thick, carbon dioxide-based atmosphere.
But if the Earth and Venus are twins, where is the
bulk of Earth’s carbon dioxide? Much carbon dioxide
is locked up in Earth’s carbonate rocks, but some of
the carbon dioxide is transformed into fossil fuels. Many scientists see Venus as a cautionary tale for Earthlings.
If we don’t mend our ways of spewing carbon dioxide into the
atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, then Earth may go the way
of Venus. It’s easy to see how a faulty view of the universe’s
origin has led to the frenzied concern over man-caused global
warming and climate change.
Trouble in the Neighborhood
According to spacecraft data, both Mars and Venus
appear to have experienced violent upheaval—like
Earth’s own upheaval during the global flood.
The surface of Venus appears to
have been rapidly overturned not
long ago. Evolutionists say the
upheaval happened 150 million
years ago—recent in the evolutionary
timeline. But creationists
interpret this as a catastrophe
only a few thousand years ago. It
is unclear whether the upheaval
correlated to the fall or flood.
Venus rotates backward
so that the sun rises in the
west and sets in the east.
The sun rises every 117
Earth days on Venus.
Though Venus rotates slowly,
its dense sulfuric atmosphere
rotates 60 times faster with
the top layer of clouds blown
by 224 mph (360 kph) winds.
Unlike Earth’s lightning, which shoots from electronically charged clouds of water, lighting on Venus strikes from clouds of sulfuric acid.
A cyclone storm the size of
Europe constantly spins at the
south pole. Uniquely, the storm
has two vortices, giving it a
Mars appears to have experienced
a worldwide or nearly worldwide
flood at some point.
Flood geologists infer from the
Genesis account that Earth’s
global flood was accompanied
by tectonic upheaval. Yet
geologists who reject such a
catastrophic event on Earth
accept that a similar thing
happened on Venus. And the
same geologists who reject
the possibility of a worldwide
flood on Earth (a planet with
abundant water) accept that
Mars (a planet with no liquid
water today) was once flooded.
It’s as if God caused a
tectonic upheaval and a flood
on these planets to show that
he could have done both on
Earth at the time of Noah, just
as Scripture says.
Looking for Life on Venus
As recently as the late 1950s, many scientists thought that
Venus might harbor life. They had noted that Venus’ surface is
continually obscured with clouds. Since terrestrial clouds consist
of water droplets, scientists reasoned that Venusian clouds
were also made of water droplets. So much water in the atmosphere
seemed to suggest that a large ocean might exist on
Venus. And where water is, they thought, life forms.
But as astronomers learned about Venus’ dense carbon
dioxide-laden atmosphere, in contrast to Earth’s nitrogen-rich
atmosphere, they concluded that Venus’ surface temperature is
blistering. Because they believe Venus was never cool enough
for water vapor to condense out of its atmosphere, it probably
never formed liquid water on the ground,
let alone oceans of it. Astronomers also
found that Venus’ clouds consist mostly of
sulfuric acid, not water. Neither of these
conditions boded well for life, so hope for
life on Venus waned considerably.
Still, some scientists continue to think
that Venus once harbored life before the
supposed runaway greenhouse effect
raised temperatures to a scorching level.
Others think that small microbes might
still exist at high altitudes in Venus’ atmosphere.
This optimism has led to some premature conclusions.
In September 2020, scientists announced that they had detected
the gas phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere. On Earth, phosphine is
found in human and animal intestines and in some microorganisms.
Scientists viewed this discovery as a possible sign of life.
Other scientists proposed that the phosphine originated from
volcanoes erupting to spew compounds into the atmosphere
where they would mix with sulfuric acid and other elements to
create phosphine. After all, if volcanoes set the stage for life on
Earth by spewing materials that helped life evolve, volcanoes
might even be fueling life on Venus as we speak. The problem
is that they don’t know if any volcanoes are active on Venus,
though they were certainly active in the past.
However, subsequent studies mistakenly suggested that perhaps
scientists confused phosphine for sulfur dioxide, an abundant
gas in the planet’s atmosphere. Despite much eager speculation,
no indisputable proof of life has been found on Venus.
Even after so many dead ends in the search for extraterrestrial
life, scientists with a naturalistic worldview still do not
recognize that life does not arise wherever the conditions for
life are right. Rather, the existence of life requires a
Creator. Four centuries of biology has taught us the
law of biogenesis: life does not arise spontaneously
Prepared for a Different Purpose
Secular scientists are right about one thing:
Venus and Earth have the same history.
But they didn’t come about by natural means
from random swirling dust and gas.
Secular scientists are right about one thing: Venus
and Earth have the same history. But they didn’t
come about by natural means from random swirling
dust and gas. Rather, both planets were spoken into
existence by the Creator in the beginning.
On the other hand, Venus was created on day four
of creation week with the other heavenly bodies “for
signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis
1:14). Scripture doesn’t indicate that God assigned
life forms on any planet or moon in the universe
other than Earth. Venus would naturally be very different
from Earth because it was prepared for a different
In their search for life to confirm their evolutionary
assumptions, scientists miss the point. With its
inhospitable conditions for life, Venus brings glory to
God as the caustic and hostile place it is, emphasizing
the special care that God took in creating Earth.
We needn’t worry that Earth will end up looking
like Venus. Just as God created the Earth to be inhabited,
he has promised to one day restore it when he
recreates the new heavens and Earth. Venus, too, will
get a renovation. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be able to
have a neighborly visit with the planet next door.
joined the staff of Answers in Genesis after more than 26
years as professor of physics and astronomy at the University of South Carolina
Lancaster. He has written numerous articles in astronomical journals, and he is the
author of Universe by Design.