Exoplanets Extraterrestrial life

Why doesn’t the Copernican Principle (Principle of Mediocrity) apply to Mars? Why just Earth?

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Among the countless Earths that, we are told, sail the galaxies (an estimate released last week offers 8.8 billion “just-right planets”), one or two may indeed be researchable, even reachable. And what if we find no life there?

Ah. Recall that the Copernican Principle is not evidence. It is an assertion: Earth cannot be a rare planet because that would make us special, which is philosophically unacceptable today.

So invoking the Principle, many of these planets must be inhabited. As Fox News puts it,

As for what [the 8.8 billion estimate] says about the odds that there is life somewhere out there, it means “just in our Milky Way galaxy alone, that’s 8.8 billion throws of the biological dice,” said study co-author Geoff Marcy, a longtime planet hunter from the University of California at Berkeley.

Caution: Biology is an awkward science to play dice with. One may as well argue that there must be several species of reasoning animals like humans on Earth because there are just so many species. But there aren’t several, just one. More.

Here is a curious thing about the Copernican Principle: The Principle does not apply to Mars, a planet about which we now know a fair bit. And our hardware has been there a few times, even if we have not (so far).

It is entirely okay to think that Mars is unusual. That is, the solid string of disappointments over life on Mars is not expected to lead to the conclusion that it might be typical, and therefore life might be rare in the galaxy.

On the contrary, Earth’s mediocrity is underscored by the fact that Earth has its very own Principle, one which is not invoked when dealing with other planets.

For good reasons, doubtless.

See also:

What has materialism done for science?

Big Bang exterminator wanted, will train

Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.

“Behold, countless Earths sail the galaxies … that is, if you would only believe

Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!

5 Replies to “Why doesn’t the Copernican Principle (Principle of Mediocrity) apply to Mars? Why just Earth?

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    . . . just in our Milky Way galaxy alone, that’s 8.8 billion throws of the biological dice . . .

    Big whoop. That is nothing but a rounding error against the gaping probabilistic chasm that abiogenesis must leap.

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    bornagain77 says:

    jstanley01, that was funny!

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    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note is this recent paper from Michael Denton:

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.

    I particularly like Dr. Denton’s talk here on this thesis:

    “Dr. Michael Denton on Evidence of Fine-Tuning in the Universe” (Remarkable balance of various key elements for life) – podcast

    As to the overturning of the Copernican Principle (Principle of Mediocrity), I find that modern science has left that antiquated notion in tatters:

    The Galileo Affair and Life/Consciousness as the true “Center of the Universe”

    As to man being made in the image of God (instead of being an insignificant speck of nothing in the universe as atheism would hold), perhaps the following is a large clue in that regards:

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910.

    Geometric Principles Appear Universal in Our Minds – May 2011
    Excerpt: Villagers belonging to an Amazonian group called the Mundurucú intuitively grasp abstract geometric principles despite having no formal math education,,, Mundurucú adults and 7- to 13-year-olds demonstrate as firm an understanding of the properties of points, lines and surfaces as adults and school-age children in the United States and France,,,

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – William Lane Craig – video

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    William Lane Craig on the unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature – 11/13/13
    Excerpt: The idea that realism somehow accounts for the applicability of mathematics “is actually very counterintuitive,” muses Mark Balaguer, a philosopher of mathematics. “The idea here is that in order to believe that the physical world has the nature that empirical science assigns to it, I have to believe that there are causally inert mathematical objects, existing outside of spacetime,” an idea which is inherently implausible.,,,
    By contrast, the theistic realist can argue that God has fashioned the world on the structure of the mathematical objects. This is essentially what Plato believed. The world has mathematical structure as a result.

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.

    Kurt Godel’s part in bringing the incompleteness theorem to fruition can be picked up here

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video

    Gödel’s Incompleteness: The #1 Mathematical Breakthrough of the 20th Century
    Excerpt: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem says:
    “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume to be true but cannot prove “mathematically” to be true.”
    – Per Cosmic Fingerprints

    Thus we have a universe that is thoroughly governed by mathematical laws. As well, out of a few million species on earth, man alone has the unique ability to think abstractly about the universe in mathematical terms. And yet naturalism can account for neither the fact that the universe is governed by mathematical laws, nor for the fact that man has the unique ability to comprehend the universe in such a mathematical fashion. ,,, I know such a proof for being made in the image of God (and against the mediocrity principle, is a bit cold and hard, and does convey the ‘loving personal relationship’ aspect of being made in God’s image (and being a Christian), but, as far as overturning the mediocrity principle and overturning the notion man has no special place in the cosmos, I find the proof very effective.

    Verse and Music:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. Logos is the root word from which we derive our modern word logic

    Pieces – Meredith Andrews

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