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Memo to SETI: Design would make other habitable planets much more likely

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The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for DiscoveryIn “SETI needs Intelligent Design” at Applied Intelligent Design blog (Jul 11, 2012), Eric Holloway argues,

As Dr. Gonzales’ and Dr. Richards’ show in the book Privileged Planet a SETI project with materialistic metaphysics does not have a hope in heaven to expect to find a habitable planet. The improbabilities involved in the formation of habitable planet in the universe are extremely small, much smaller than the probabilistic resources available in our universe.

Fortunately, the fact we live on a habitable planet within our universe makes the possibility of a trans-universal designer extremely strong. At least it makes such a possibility the much preferable explanation to a process that works through merely chance and necessity. If an intelligent designer created our planet, despite the enormous probabilistic barriers to doing so, then this makes the possibility of other habitable planets a live possibility.

This possibility gives SETI a way out of the probabilistic hole they dug for themselves with materialism. It is only if SETI allows for the possibility of intelligent design that they can justify further searches for other habited planets in the universe.

That is not all. The very interesting result from “Privileged Planet” is more than the fact our planet is very finely tuned for highly complex living beings.

It’s not a completely new idea. The mediaeval poet Dante peopled the moon and all the known planets (with the souls of the saved, in his case), andC.S. Lewis and Alice Meynell discuss the matter of alien races at length in relation to the Christian religion, both concluding that they posed no problem.

One gets the feeling that SETI would be unwilling to work with this assumption even if it proved fruitful. Their quest is to find undesigned alien races in an indifferent universe and nothing else would be a victory.

See also: SETI’s Seth Shostak: “Life is not all that special”

Exploring why NASA needed to believe in the arsenic-eating bacteria

20 Replies to “Memo to SETI: Design would make other habitable planets much more likely

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Well, of course. SETI is run by Saganites. The purpose of their quest is to disprove the existence of God, not merely find Vulcan and Mr. Spock.

    It would be pointless for a Saganite to find life WHILE proving the existence of God.

    I haven’t read “Privileged Planet”, but I have read “Rare Earth”. As much as the fingerprints of Design are in cells, the fingerprints of Design are all over the star system Sol and the planet Earth. VERY very unlikely combination of things, all with VERY small margins for error (um, if the quantity of water on Earth was only 10% (3%?) higher, all of the land would be submerged under the world ocean).

    The clear reason why NASA and The Press trumpet every single discovery of a new hellhole rock orbiting another deadly sun is to trivialize the existence of Earth. Earth CANNOT be special. It violates the principal beliefs of Saganism.

  2. 2
    JoeCoder says:

    > um, if the quantity of water on Earth was only 10% (3%?) higher, all of the land would be submerged under the world ocean

    I agree with the improbabilities, but the counter-argument to this is that then we would all be mermaids. I don’t think that should be part of the argument.

  3. 3
    Jerad says:

    One gets the feeling that SETI would be unwilling to work with this assumption even if it proved fruitful.

    How would accepting the fine tuning hypothesis change the way SETI is looking for designed signals from aliens? Doesn’t it still make sense to focus on planets similar to ours?

  4. 4
    Diogenes says:

    For decades, creationists and ID proponents predicted that exoplanets would NEVER be observed; and after they had been observed, denied the observations outright. And when they could no longer deny the observations of hundreds of exoplanets, they next insisted that exoplanets in the habitable zone would NEVER be observed.

    First, some historical background. Let’s compare Young Earth creationist predictions against ID proponents’ predictions.

    Henry Morris, whom William Dembski called a “great man”, denied exoplanets altogether in 1987, even AFTER they had been observed:

    “Nevertheless, there is no scientific evidence of it [ET life] whatever. The radio telescopes have been such a complete exercise in futility that the whole program is currently scheduled for abandonment. There is no observational evidence even of any planets outside the solar system, let alone planets that could support life.” [Henry Morris & Gary Parker, “What is Creation Science?”, Revised, 1987, p. 268]

    Morris in 1974, asserted that exoplanets did not exist and could only exist if “evolutionary” assumptions were true:

    “Certainly no other planet in the solar system could support human life… Similarly, none of the stars are inhabitable and there is no evidence (apart from statistical reasoning based on evolutionary considerations, which are quite invalid) that any of them have planets. Even if other planets do exist, the probability that any of them could support human life is infinitesimally small.” [Henry Morris, “Many Infallible Proofs”, 1974, p. 142.]

    Now– Switcharoo!

    In 2010, Answers in Genesis highly praised Henry Morris, saying that God “blessed [Morris & Whitcomb’s] burden to turn Christians back to the truth of God’s Word.” But in the very same post, AIG trumpeted the observation of hundreds of exoplanets as proof that evolution is false and scientists are STOOPID. Exoplanets, which Morris had denied for decades, even after they were observed.

    “…until 1992, there was no evidence that there were worlds around any star other than the sun. Today almost five hundred “exoplanets” have been discovered, and they defy evolution-based predictions. Explore these exotic worlds that confirm God’s power to confound the most intelligent scientist with His unlimited creativity…” [Answers Magazine Takes You on a Journey Through Time and Space! AIG. December 23, 2010.]

    So it was the world’s “most intelligent scientists” who were confounded, huh? Note that Morris said that only “evolutionary assumptions” supported exoplanets. Now AIG says the existence of exoplanets disproves “evolutionary assumptions”.

    Meanwhile at ICR, the creationist organization founded by Henry Morris, his followers in 2011 claimed that the exoplanet Kepler-22b (in the habitable zone) fits just fine in the Bible, while also predicting that the Bible says Earth will be the only habitable planet.

    “But even if this [Kepler-22b in the habitable zone] were verified, which is not currently possible, liquid water would be only one of hundreds of conditions required for life.

    …the Bible describes only the earth as being habitable…

    Kepler-22b looks just like one of “the worlds [that] were framed by the word of God.[Another ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Stirs ET Hopes. Brian Thomas. ICR. December 16, 2011.]

    So, as of 2011, exoplanets are OK? By the way, there’s no evidence that “hundreds of conditions” must be satisfied to make a planet habitable.

    And now, ID proponents’ predictions.

    William Dembski in 1993, like Henry Morris, predicted there would be no exoplanets; like Henry Morris, said that belief in them was only based on “evolutionary” assumptions; and like Morris, claimed falsely that nebular models of planetary formation were failures:

    Dawkins, to explain LIFE apart from a designer, not only gives himself all the time Darwin ever wanted, but also helps himself to all the conceivable planets there might be in the observable universe (note that these are planets he must posit, since no planets outside our solar system have been observed, nor is there currently any compelling theory of planetary formation which guarantees that the observable universe is populated with planets).

    This was false, a misrepresentation of nebular theory even in 1993. By the way, if you look at Beta Pictoris you can see the nebular disk forming on edge. You can also see a planet in the process of formation in the nebula around LkCa 15.

    Paul Nelson in 1993 approvingly quoted Dembski’s false statements about the nebular theory:

    “Some evolutionists, perhaps recognizing that probabilistic difficulties have carried off the plausibility of their [OOL] scenarios, avail themselves of a cosmological buffet, where they fill their plates with hypothetical planets and universes in which LIFE may have arisen — thus making LIFE on this planet less surprising…” [Paul Nelson, 1993. Report on the Symposium “Can There be a Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design?” . ARN.]

    News (Denyse) here at UD cited an unnamed “friend” that Earth-like planets could only exist if “Darwinian assumptions” were true– meaning only if ID were false:

    “We had total failure at finding Earth-like planets that might support our Darwinian assumption (and massive expenditure) that we are not unique in the universe. But now we’ve found something other than a giant-gas planet so we are less discouraged than before. But it turned out to be a solid chunk of iron at 1300 degrees orbiting a few solar radii above the star, so it isn’t what we were looking for, which is discouraging again. But we’ll call it “rocky” anyway and maybe our luck will return.’” [Exoplanets: Aren’t we at risk of running out of gee whiz adjectives? Denyse O’Leary. Uncommon Descent. January 14, 2011.]

  5. 5
    Diogenes says:

    And back to creationists’ predictions!

    Here’s even more denial from ICR’s Brian Thomas in 2011. He’s trying to deny that planets can coalesce from dusk disks, in this case LkCa 15, even after a planet has been observed coalescing in its dust disk:

    “Though a related university press release didn’t show original photographs,2”

    Stop right there. His reference #2 is the U of Hawaii’s page that has a prominent link to original photographs of LkCa 15. You can click the link to SEE the planet in the process of coalescing from a gap in the dust disk. Continuing with ICR:

    “But even if that object is a planet, what observations support the theory that it evolved from particles found in the dust disc? The answer is none, because the supposed evolution of planets has not been observed, but assumed. These assumptions were then used as the basis of “scientific models of how planets form.”…

    These astronomers may not have observed a planet at all. If it is a planet, what is the evidence that it is forming today, or that it formed by natural processes in the past? It might instead simply be in the process of falling apart or breaking down like everything else in the universe. Whichever is the case, these astronomers did not watch any planet forming!

    I see nothing! I see nothing! And he concludes with the ultimate God-of-the-Gaps argument:

    “And since a natural formation of planets defies physics, the creation of planets remains the best hypothesis to explain their existence.” [“Did Astronomers Find an Evolving Planet?” Brian Thomas. ICR. November 3, 2011.]

    If I can deny any possible observation, then it must be caused by magic.

    Over at Creation Ministries International (CMI), run by Jonathan Sarfati, they insisted in 2011 that exoplanets had never been directly observed, after they had been directly observed in 2008 and 2009.

    “Although many extrasolar planets are assumed to exist, we should keep in mind the methods used to detect them. Firstly, we have never witnessed or directly observed (i.e. with our eyes through a telescope) a planet outside of our own solar system. They are presumed to exist through indirect methods of observation.”
    [“Has the Kepler spacecraft found an ‘alien world’?”, CMI, Dec. 15, 2011]

    This mistake was pointed out to Jonathan Sarfati of CMI and Sarfati insisted his false statements were accurate.

    Paul Steidl, back in 1979, had predicted that planets around stars could never be seen directly; except of course, we have seen them directly since 2008:

    “These [extrasolar] planets have not been seen: it would be impossible to see even the largest planet of the nearest star because of the great distances involved…Of the one or two other stars around which planets have been thought to orbit, the uncertainties in the measurements are even greater than in the case of Barnard’s star. Thus we find little or no evidence for any planets outside our solar system. Nor are we likely ever to find any by direct observation because of the difficulties involved.” [Paul M. Steidl, “The Earth, The Stars and The Bible”, 1979, p. 234]

    Note: it took 29 years to prove that one wrong.

    And over at ICR, NASA ex-employee David Coppedge (yes, THAT David Coppedge) tells us… wait for it now…

    Planet-building, however, has become a theory in crisis. [Nebulous Hypotheses. David Coppedge. ICR. Undated, perhaps 2011, acc. July 2012.]

    Sure. When creationists say “a theory in crisis” they seem to mean one that makes countless confirmed predictions.

  6. 6
    kuartus says:

    Diogenes, its interesting that you didnt actually try to refute the interpretation the creationists provided for the evidence of supposed planetary formation. Your incredulity does not serve as a convincing counter-argument. The data can be interpreted either way and its not unequivocal, therefore its not proof of planetary formation.

  7. 7
    Diogenes says:


    Its interesting that you are untroubled by creationists asserting that exoplanets have not been observed after they have been photographed. They have been photographed. We have seen them. But I guess lies are OK, if they are intended to propagate the faith.

    Its interesting that you are untroubled by the hypocrisy and self-contradiction of the creationists, in claiming that exoplanets are only based on “evolutionary assumptions”, and then a couple years later, asserting that exoplanets prove creationism and “confound” evolutionists.

    The data can be interpreted either way and its not unequivocal, therefore its not proof of planetary formation.

    Oh it’s not? That’s funny. There are two interpretations for that data? Hmm. If there are two interpretations for the present data, as you claim, then why did every young earth creationist for decades say data like this would NEVER be obtained?

    And after they were observed, why did creationists continue denying it and falsely state they had not been seen at all?

    They didn’t say there are two interpretations before the planets were photographed. They only said that after the planets were photographed.

    In dust disks, the planets are seen sweeping dust out of their path. That is a prediction of the nebular hypothesis.

    But Dembski said there was no working nebular hypothesis. What was his scientific reference for that? Dembski made it up.

    Why are there dust-free regions around the forming planets? You say there are two interpretations. What’s your interpretation of the dust-free regions? Coincidence? Amazing coincidence, huh? Just happens to be around a smear of planetesimals.

    No, there are not two interpretations of the data. I was hoping people on this website would be smart enough to understand basic physics. I suppose I must belabor the obvious.

    A planet cannot spontaneously break up. That only happens in Superman comics. There is no Krypton.

    To break up spontaneously, huge amounts of rock would have to be lifted out of the planet’s gravity well. There’s no energy source. The only way a planet could disintegrate is if it were hit with another planet.

    In the case of LkCa 15, it can’t be “disintegrating.” That would take huge amounts of energy that is not available.

    Now have you ever seen a meteor? Did it bounce off the earth, and pop back up to space, or did it stay down?

    Have you ever seen a rock on the ground spontaneously fly up into the air and into space? The creationist I cited, Brian Thomas, said planets might be disintegrating. That’s his “interpretation.” That’s what you’re defending as just as good as, oh, gravity.

    “That’s your interpretation” is absolutely scraping the bottom of the barrel. Excuse me, but your hatred of scientists has unhinged your mind.

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    For decades, creationists and ID proponents predicted that exoplanets would NEVER be observed;

    Maybe SOME but definitely not all. But all you care about is a few quote-mines…

  9. 9
    Eugen says:


    This new article  presents yet another fine tuning parameter of nature. I may be guilty of a quick read but basically it’s about atomic mass of the elements  star uses as fuel.
    If  tritium is slightly lighter than helium 3 stars would use deuterium and tritium as fuel which would make them burn much longer. This would in turn disrupt proto planetary disk formation. Author himself suggests it’s one of the most finely tuned parameters needed for existence of intelligent life

  10. 10
    Diogenes says:


    For decades, creationists and ID proponents predicted that exoplanets would NEVER be observed

    Maybe SOME but definitely not all.

    I know of no vocal counter-examples; if you do, I would like to see them.

    I would like to see citations to vocal creationists agreeing that exoplanets were mathematically predicted before they’re discovered.

    I would like to see citations to vocal creationists cheering and saying “Hooray for science!” the moment exoplanets are discovered.

    I would like to see citations to vocal creationists, just for once, being pro-science.

    When the Higgs boson was announced, I checked around to all the past and present creationist posts. No cheering. No “Hooray for science!” No “Congratulations!” All around, bitterness, hostility, gritted teeth, resentment, and envy of science. Most had predicted the Higgs would never be discovered. After it was, some continued to deny it outright.

    Most creationists hate science. Not just origin science, operational science too.

    I only found one, one, creationist who cheered about the Higgs, just one who was not bitter or envious. Rev. Chuck Missler, the peanut butter guy.

    This website, UD, falsely claimed that the Higgs signal was two sigma, that scientists had failed to achieve five sigma. In fact, the two experiments were 4.9 and 5 sigma. They’ll say anything to make scientists look like failures. Make up numbers? Why not?

    If it makes scientists look stupid, hey, just make up your own facts.

  11. 11
    Scootle says:

    Also allowing for intelligent design and rejecting materialism means you’re no longer bound by the improbabilities of abiogenesis and Darwinian evolution to an intelligent life form. It’s hard enough to believe this happened once in the universe, let alone multiple times. Also, imagine if the aliens turned out to be similar to us in many ways as well – humanoid/placental/same fundamental biochemistry etc. – either we’d be looking at a miracle of interstellar convergent evolution or we’d be looking at common design.

  12. 12
    Joe says:


    Your position doesn’t have anything to do with science. It doesn’t make any predictions and cannot be tested.

    Deal with it…

  13. 13
    Diogenes says:

    you accused me of quote mining. Why did you not present evidence for that? Accusations without evidence? I included hyperlinks the creationists who stupidly predicted there would be no exoplanets. Since you accuse me of quote mining, why not follow the hyperlinks I typed in, and show that I quote mined? Why not show, instead of simply accusing?

    Because your only defense is to make accusations you know you can never, ever, back up with any evidence at all.

    Your position doesn’t have anything to do with science. It doesn’t make any predictions and cannot be tested.

    That’s funny, Joe, the nebular hypothesis predicted there would be many planets, and there are. The nebular hypothesis predicted they would form from dust disks, and they do.

    William Dembski and many creationists predicted there would be no exoplanets. That was a prediction, it could be tested, it was falsified. Those are your authorities.

  14. 14


    If you SETI guys are really interested in Alien Civilizations, can you tell me how come you all IGNORE and are AMAZINGLY BLIND to the alien civilization that populated our planet with about 10 million species of automatons (that is germs, insects, plants, fish, plankton, whales, animals, birds) and their numbers is on the order of 10 ** 30 (1 followed by 30 zeroes). And above all left the Homo Sapiens kind of automaton to grow and multiply and give him dominion over all other automatons?

    And all this automatons are so advanced, that armies of scientists spent last century just trying to begin to figure out how this automatons work. And they are struggling.

    What kind of BLINDNESS are you SETI guys suffering from?

    Open your eyes. The Alien Civilization left undeniable marks under your noses.

  15. 15
    Diogenes says:


    I am not a SETI guy. I have never worked for SETI. I have not commented on SETI at all on this forum.

    My comments were about the existence of exoplanets. Creationists and ID proponents predicted there would be no exoplanets. After they were observed, creationists asserted that they had not been observed. Dembski and the ICR and Henry Morris have all misrepresented nebular theory.

    Hundreds of exoplanets have been observed.

    As for what you call “automatons” created by an “alien civilization”, 99% of all species that ever existed have gone extinct. You alien civilization did not create robust species.

  16. 16
    Joe says:

    Creationists and ID proponents predicted there would be no exoplanets.

    Maybe two or three out of millions.

  17. 17
    Joe says:

    you accused me of quote mining. Why did you not present evidence for that?

    Your posts are the evidence. Read them.

    How many Creationists and IDists have you quoted?

    That’s funny, Joe, the nebular hypothesis predicted there would be many planets, and there are.

    Your position didn’t predict anything- not even nebula.

    William Dembski and many creationists predicted there would be no exoplanets.

    Many? Maybe a few. Then again your position doesn’t predict anything.

  18. 18
    Joe says:

    Gonzalez, an IDist, never said anything about exoplanets not existing. Dembski is not a cosmologist- neither was Henry Morris.

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Diogenes: You have some serious unfinished business to attend to regarding some unsubstantiated and heavily loaded accusations and insinuations made recently, cf. here. Kindly, attend to such. KF

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:


    It seems you are unaware that Gonzalez has done major pioneering work on exoplanets, including making discoveries and being a proposer of the galactic habitable zone concept; which gained him cover page coverage in science magazines. This reflects a pattern of ill-informed, loaded accusations that you need to urgently address and correct. KF

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