Intelligent Design

How Credulous Are Some Scientists? Very

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 We have this report today about an earth sized planet orbiting a nearby star.  An excerpt: 

An Earth-size planet has been spotted orbiting a nearby star at a distance that would makes it not too hot and not too cold — comfortable enough for life to exist, researchers announced Wednesday. If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world found residing in a star’s habitable zone — a region where a planet’s temperature could sustain liquid water on its surface. And the planet’s discoverers are optimistic about the prospects for finding life there. “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say, my own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent,” said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a press briefing today. “I have almost no doubt about it.”

So let me get this straight.  There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of variables making earth congenial to life. See here.   And based on the rough coincidence of two, that’s right two, variables this “scientist” announces that he has “no doubt” that life exists on the planet.  The credulity of presumably well educated scientists beggars belief.  There may be life on that planet.  I don’t know.  But of one thing I am certain, the rough (and I mean rough; the size and temperature are not really that comparable to earth’s) correlation of two life variables gives no one warrant to suggest there is “no doubt” that life exists on the planet.  And these are the scientists our opponents are always telling us we should bow down to and accept their consensus view as God’s own truth.  Give me a break.

28 Replies to “How Credulous Are Some Scientists? Very

  1. 1
    aedgar says:

    Intelligence is no guarantee for wisdom. The amount of intelligent people that are gullible enough to believe the most bizarre things is innumerable. The reason: A refusal to acknowledge the Designer to whom every human being on this Earth will one day be accountable to.

  2. 2
    NormO says:

    And these are the scientists our opponents are always telling us we should bow down to and accept their consensus view as God’s own truth.

    Are you suggesting that the opinion of one astronomer, speaking well outside of his field of expertise, constitutes a “consensus view”?

    I think not, in fact I suspect that the consensus view of biologists would be quite the opposite of Dr. Vogt’s because contrary to his assertion, as far as we know, life is not ubiquitous outside of our own planet.

  3. 3

    As an evolutionary biologist, I had the same reaction to this news story as NormO (comment #2). That is, Dr. Vogt’s personal opinion about the probability of life on Gliese 581g are about as valuable as my personal opinion about some aspect of astrophysics…i.e. essentially worthless. I don’t pretend to know much of anything about astrophysics, and unlike Dr. Vogt I wouldn’t presume to make what sound like “scientific” statements about a subject outside my field of professional expertise.

    Indeed, unless and until convincing spectrographic evidence (presumably obtained via stellar occultation) indicates that there is water on the surface of Gliese 581g, any speculation about even the possibility (much less the probability) of life there would be pointless and counterproductive. This, of course, won’t prevent publicity hounds and propagandists on both sides of the evolution/ID debate from trumpeting speculation as fact, but a discerning person with a decent respect for the rules of intellectual debate should be able to separate facts from polemics.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    It might be my computer, but the Dr. Ross link did not open for me Mr. Arrington: Here is another link to Ross’s paper:

    Fine-Tuning For Life On Earth
    http://www.meaningfulscience.c.....ghRoss.pdf

    further notes:

    Probability For Life On Earth – List of Parameters, References, and Math – Hugh Ross
    http://www.reasons.org/probabi.....h-apr-2004

    A few of the items in Dr. Ross’s “life-enabling characteristics” list are; Planet location in a proper galaxy’s ‘habitable zone’; Parent star size; Surface gravity of planet; Rotation period of planet; Correct chemical composition of planet; Correct size for moon; Thickness of planets’ crust; Presence of magnetic field; Correct and stable axis tilt; Oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere; Proper water content of planet; Atmospheric electric discharge rate; Proper seismic activity of planet; Many complex cycles necessary for a stable temperature history of planet; Translucent atmosphere; Various complex cycles for various elements etc.. etc.. I could go a lot further for there are a total of 322 known parameters on his list which have to be met for complex life to be possible on Earth, or on a planet like Earth. Individually, these limits are not that impressive but when we realize ALL these limits have to be met at the same time and not one of them can be out of limits for any extended period of time, then the condition becomes ‘irreducibly complex’ and the probability for a world which can host advanced life in this universe becomes very extraordinary. Here is the final summary of Dr. Hugh Ross’s ‘conservative’ estimate for the probability of another life-hosting world in this universe.

    Probability for occurrence of all 322 parameters =10^388
    Dependency factors estimate =10^96
    Longevity requirements estimate =10^14
    Probability for occurrence of all 322 parameters = 10^304
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in universe =10^22

    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^282 (million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion) exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

    Dr. Hugh Ross, and his team, have now, as of 2010, drastically refined this probability of 1 in 10^304 to a staggering probability of 1 in 10^1054:

    Does the Probability for ETI = 1?
    Excerpt; On the Reasons To Believe website we document that the probability a randomly selected planet would possess all the characteristics intelligent life requires is less than 10^-304. A recent update that will be published with my next book, Hidden Purposes: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, puts that probability at 10^-1054.
    http://www.reasons.org/does-probability-eti-1

    Hugh Ross PhD in Astrophysics – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236/

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is another interesting paper that recently came out concerning this very topic:

    Compositions of Extrasolar Planets – July 2010
    Excerpt: Today astronomers stand at the verge of discovering rocky terrestrial-type planets the size of Venus and Earth. Already they’ve found several only a few times the mass of Earth. In anticipation of this forthcoming discovery, a number of theoreticians have generated detailed computer simulations of extrasolar terrestrial planet formation based on the measured physical properties of known extrasolar planetary systems. So far, however, these simulations have considered only the dynamics of terrestrial planet formation and not the detailed chemical compositions of the final terrestrial planets produced. In the June 1, 2010 issue of the Astrophysical Journal three astronomers from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) and the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in Tucson, Arizona, responded to this deficiency.2 As the three astronomers discovered, the presumption that extrasolar terrestrial planets will consistently manifest Earth-like chemical compositions is incorrect. Instead, the simulations revealed “a wide variety of resulting planetary compositions.
    http://www.reasons.org/composi.....ar-planets

    further notes:

    And contrary to Dr. MacNeill’s ‘conservative’ claim that a spectrographic signature might allow the entertainment of the ‘possibility’, not probability, of life on Gliese 581g, I find even that possibility to be a pipe dream of unfounded optimism,,,

    water is considered a ‘universal solvent’ which is a very thermodynamic obeying and thus origin of life defying fact.

    Abiogenic Origin of Life: A Theory in Crisis – Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.
    Excerpt: The synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids from small molecule precursors represents one of the most difficult challenges to the model of prebiological evolution. There are many different problems confronted by any proposal. Polymerization is a reaction in which water is a product. Thus it will only be favored in the absence of water. The presence of precursors in an ocean of water favors depolymerization of any molecules that might be formed. Careful experiments done in an aqueous solution with very high concentrations of amino acids demonstrate the impossibility of significant polymerization in this environment. A thermodynamic analysis of a mixture of protein and amino acids in an ocean containing a 1 molar solution of each amino acid (100,000,000 times higher concentration than we inferred to be present in the prebiological ocean) indicates the concentration of a protein containing just 100 peptide bonds (101 amino acids) at equilibrium would be 10^-338 molar. Just to make this number meaningful, our universe may have a volume somewhere in the neighborhood of 10^85 liters. At 10^-338 molar, we would need an ocean with a volume equal to 10^229 universes (100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000) just to find a single molecule of any protein with 100 peptide bonds. So we must look elsewhere for a mechanism to produce polymers. It will not happen in the ocean.
    http://origins.swau.edu/papers.....fault.html

    Professor Arthur E. Wilder-Smith “Any amounts of polypeptide which might be formed will be broken down into their initial components (amino acids) by the excess of water. The ocean is thus practically the last place on this or any other planet where the proteins of life could be formed spontaneously from amino acids. Yet nearly all text-books of biology teach this nonsense to support evolutionary theory and spontaneous biogenesis … Has materialistic Neo-Darwinian philosophy overwhelmed us to such an extent that we forget or overlook the well-known facts of science and of chemistry in order to support this philosophy? … Without exception all Miller’s amino acids are completely unsuitable for any type of spontaneous biogenesis. And the same applies to all and any randomly formed substances and amino acids which form racemates. This statement is categorical and absolute and cannot be affected by special conditions.”
    http://theevolutioncrisis.org.uk/testimony3.php

    Sea Salt only adds to this thermodynamic problem:

    …even at concentrations seven times weaker than in today’s oceans. The ingredients of sea salt are very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers). Creation Evolution News – Sept. 2002

    The following article and video have a fairly good overview of the major problems facing any naturalistic Origin Of Life scenario:

    On the Origin of Life – The Insurmountable Problems Of Chemistry – Charles Thaxton PhD. – 1 hour video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ye3oDDAxeE

    Is the Chemical Origin of Life (Abiogenesis) a Realistic Scenario?
    http://www.godandscience.org/e.....mlife.html

    Crevo also has a article up on this subject to:

    Probability Life Not Found on Exoplanet: 100%
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20100929b

    further notes:

    The Privileged Planet – video
    http://video.google.com/videop.....ed+planet#

    Privileged Planet Principle – Michael Strauss PhD – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318884/

  6. 6
    ellijacket says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    Please forgive me for asking here but I don’t know of any other evolutionary biologist I can ask…

    DNA is recognized as a type of code/language/symbolic information. It is information with associated meta-information. Through observation, the only way we have seen this type of information/code/language come about it through intelligence. We know of no other way for information to form.

    Since every time we track down the source of information we find intelligence why do evolutionary biologists insist that DNA came about through materialistic means? Especially since they did not see it happen and all other observed evidence would point the other direction?

    I have asked this in different places but have never gotten to ask someone who is as high in the field as you and who makes themselves available so readily.

    I thank you in advance for your time.

  7. 7
    ellijacket says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    I would like to clarify…when I say information I do mean information that is coded/language like DNA.

    I have asked this before and have been given answers concerning temperature being information that just happens but that’s not the same thing. I specifically mean complex, symbolic information.

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Allen and NormO, I beg to differ. I have seen dozens of stories along these lines and every time, at least one scientist weighs in with something about life on other planets, and the consensus view does in fact seem to be that the only thing necessary is liquid water. The two of you and I know this is puerile nonsense, but we also know they say it every time.

  9. 9

    Setting the Stage: The History, Chemistry, and Geobiology behind RNA

    Steven A. Benner, Hyo-Joong Kim and Zunyi Yang

    -Author Affiliations

    Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Florida 32601
    Correspondence: sbenner@ffame.org

    SUMMARY

    No community-accepted scientific methods are available today to guide studies on what role RNA played in the origin and early evolution of life on Earth. Further, a definition-theory for life is needed to develop hypotheses relating to the “RNA First” model for the origin of life. Four approaches are currently at various stages of development of such a definition-theory to guide these studies. These are (a) paleogenetics, in which inferences about the structure of past life are drawn from the structure of present life; (b) prebiotic chemistry, in which hypotheses with experimental support are sought that get RNA from organic and inorganic species possibly present on early Earth; (c) exploration, hoping to encounter life independent of terran life, which might contain RNA; and (d) synthetic biology, in which laboratories attempt to reproduce biological behavior with unnatural chemical systems.

    Copyright © 2010 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; all rights reserved

    Free downloadable PDF here:

    http://cshperspectives.cshlp.o.....l.pdf+html

  10. 10
    zeroseven says:

    “A refusal to acknowledge the Designer to whom every human being on this Earth will one day be accountable to.”

    I think this comment says it all regarding where this fury comes from over one scientists enthusiastic personal opinion….

    Is this not meant to be a science blog?

  11. 11
    Peepul says:

    What a silly post.

    An astronomer expresses a personal belief about something (note that ‘personal’ appears TWICE in what he says), and this is evidence that the scientific consensus on evolution is wrong?

    To prove the scientific consensus on evolution is wrong, you need to do science. There is no other way.

  12. 12
    HughBothwell says:

    @arrington: I agree, “100% certain” is unsupportable hyperbole; he follows this by saying “I have almost no doubt” and his partner calls himself “highly optimistic”. My own guess would be more on the order of a 5% chance – but even this is grossly speculative and will remain so until we have found multiple instances of extrasolar life to calibrate from.

    You claim the newly discovered planet meets only two of Hugh Ross’s criteria – presumably mass and sun distance; but being only 20 light-years from Earth, it actually shares all of Earth’s “settings” with respect to all of the universal- and galactic-constant properties (at least 18 items by my count – pretty much all of the first three pages). Further, many of his planetary constraints seem amenable to considerable variability, or highly speculative (too many earthquakes would prevent life – ?really?), and almost all the remainder seem aimed at producing life *exactly* like us (a prospective star apparently *has* to have a pseudo-Jupiter plus a pseudo-Neptune plus a pseudo-Kuiper belt?? – surely not a requirement for life in general?)

    He also introduces some bizarre claims of his own (Earth’s weather is driven by sun-spots?? Greenhouse gases are regulated by comets?? Sun’s luminance controlled by ‘absorption of planets and planetismals’??)

  13. 13
    HughBothwell says:

    @aedgar: absolutely true, intelligence is no guarantee of wisdom; but ignorance seems an even less likely guarantor.

    Are you claiming that an all-powerful God is incapable of creating life on other planets around other suns? That he created a universe containing around 50 thousand billion billion stars just for our benefit – out of which, unaided, we can see less than a tenth of a millionth of a billionth of a percent? Doesn’t that seem a bit wasteful? Wouldn’t a universe 50 light-years across, containing a dozen stars and maybe 60 planets, be entirely sufficient?

  14. 14
    Peepul says:

    Hi Bornagain, I hope you’re well.

    Here’s the abstract of the paper on the composition of extra solar planets :-

    ‘Extrasolar planet host stars have been found to be enriched in key planet-building elements. These enrichments have the potential to drastically alter the composition of material available for terrestrial planet formation. Here, we report on the combination of dynamical models of late-stage terrestrial planet formation within known extrasolar planetary systems with chemical equilibrium models of the composition of solid material within the disk. This allows us to determine the bulk elemental composition of simulated extrasolar terrestrial planets. A wide variety of resulting planetary compositions are found, ranging from those that are essentially “Earth like,” containing metallic Fe and Mg silicates, to those that are dominated by graphite and SiC. This shows that a diverse range of terrestrial planets may exist within extrasolar planetary systems.’

    What we see is that we get a variety of planetary types out of the simulation, including earth like ones.

    This doesn’t support Dr Ross’s contention that the earth is a special case. Earth like planets are specifically mentioned as emerging from the simulations.

  15. 15
    Upright BiPed says:

    Peepul,

    What a silly post.

    An astronomer expresses a personal belief about something (note that ‘personal’ appears TWICE in what he says), and this is evidence that the scientific consensus on evolution is wrong?

    What post exactly are you referring to? In the post at the top of the page, the word “evolution” is never even mentioned.

    Perhaps you were just so excited about making a derogatory comment towards ID that it didn’t occur to you that your comment made no sense.

    And by the way, ID is not trying to prove that “evolution is wrong”. If you are going to be derogatory towards ID, perhaps you could try to deride it on its actual merits.

    Don’t you agree that would be more fair?

  16. 16
    zeroseven says:

    “And by the way, ID is not trying to prove that “evolution is wrong”.

    Then why are the majority of posts on this blog focussed on supposed weaknesses in evolutionary theory?

    Why is CSI used solely to try and establish that evolution is too improbable to have been the mechanism to produce new species?

    And I think what would be more fair would be to acknowledge that the inference sought from this post is that just as an astronomer speculating about life on another planet is wishful thinking, so are the biologists who state that TE produced the diversity of life we see on the planet. Or am I wrong about that and no connection was intended??

  17. 17
    HughBothwell says:

    @bornagain77:
    there are a total of 322 known parameters on his list which have to be met for complex life to be possible

    1. Many of these parameters have no obvious connection to the occurrence of life; for instance, ‘star location relative to galactic center’ and ‘star distance from closest spiral arm’ – how are these relevant? You truly believe that 98% of all planets are immediately ruled out by just these two factors?

    2. Many of these parameters are not independent – for instance, ‘star rotation rate’ and ‘star magnetic field’ are linked; simply multiplying independent probabilities will give you too pessimistic a result.

    3. Many of these parameters seem to be less about the formation of life in general and more about the creation of a twin Earth, for example the ‘mass/timing/location of collision of body with primordial earth’ parameters – do you really believe that a planet has to have a moon gouged out of it by collision in order to host life?

  18. 18
    bornagain77 says:

    Peepul, and the studied showed, as you yourself noted, was that the probability for getting a planet with the correct chemical composition was much lower than original supposed. Which is exactly the point that I was making. I remind you that correct chemical composition is only one parameter out of many, many more that has to be satisfied. And even if it is granted to materialists that the universe were bursting at the seems with planets exactly like earth which had the potential to host life this still does nothing to alleviate the insurmountable problem that the origin of life presents for you. If you haven’t heard of the ‘little’ origin of life problem confronting scientists, because maybe you’ve been deep in the Amazon Jungle the last couple of decades, perhaps I could recommend a recent book on the subject that goes through the problems for the naturalistic Origin of Life in fairly exhausting detail.

    SIGNATURE IN THE CELL by Stephen C. Meyer
    http://www.signatureinthecell.com/

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    Jay W. Richards, of Privileged Planet fame, has weighed in on this topic:

    Science Reporters Should Quit Crying “Life!”
    Excerpt: The article is referring to the circumstellar habitable zone, though presumably it is also in the galactic habitable zone since it’s so close to Earth. That means that Gliese 581g may have two of the major factors needed to make a planet hospitable to life.,,, The planet in question is tidally locked, so the same face perpetually faces its star. So it won’t have a pleasing climate. It’s about three times more massive than Earth, and it’s quite close to its star, which is an M dwarf. Such stars are probably not good hosts for habitable planets due to their high activity levels.,,, First, Venus and Mars are much more Earth-like that this or any other extrasolar planet we’ve yet been able to detect. For instance, they’re around a star known to host a habitable planet, and they’re both quite close in orbit to that habitable planet. And yet, neither is home to life of any sort.

    Second, even if a planet has all of the necessary conditions for hosting life, it doesn’t follow that it has life. There’s a difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Astronomers often seem to forget this in the excitement of discovering extrasolar planets. In this story, Steven Vogt of the University of California at Santa Cruz (co-discover of the new planet) is quoted as saying: “It’s pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions.” I have no idea what the empirical basis for such a claim would be. Water doesn’t spontaneously create reproducing organisms.

    I’m not dismissing the possibility of life on extrasolar planets. I maintain an open mind on the question. Many people think that Guillermo Gonzalez and I argued in The Privileged Planet that life must be unique to Earth. Not so. We argued only that complex life, if it exists elsewhere, will be found only around very Earth-like planets. Nothing has caused us to doubt that claim. But while Gliese 581g may have a couple of features in common with Earth, it is still vastly more different than Earth compared to Venus and Mars.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....38781.html

  20. 20
    Bantay says:

    When evidence shows that an extrasolar planet has as least 75 known necessary conditions for simple life to exist, then that will be a planet that is “earth like”. Until that time, I’m wouldn’t buy the hot air some of these publicized researchers of late are emitting.

  21. 21
    Lurker says:

    Intelligence is no guarantee for wisdom.

    I friend of mind quipped about this one day, saying:

    “Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing to not put tomatoes in the fruit salad.”

    🙂

  22. 22
    Peepul says:

    Upright Biped,

    by post I actually meant article – what a silly article. As indeed it is.

    ‘ID is not trying to prove that evolution is wrong’.

    I could produce endless articles that disprove this, but it’s so obviously untrue I’m not even going to bother.

  23. 23
    Peepul says:

    Bornagain,

    I agree with you that we are still way off having any evidence that life actually exists elsewhere. I think people are being carried away by enthusiasm!

  24. 24
    Peepul says:

    Hi Bornagain,

    you said

    ‘Peepul, and the studied showed, as you yourself noted, was that the probability for getting a planet with the correct chemical composition was much lower than original supposed.’

    This may well be true – but can you tell me who did the original supposing?

  25. 25
    Upright BiPed says:

    Peepul,

    You failed to acknowledge that the post you were referring to did not mention “evolution” – as you suggested it did.

    As for evolution, I am quite certain that ID theorist fully acknowledge that things change over time (descent with modification). We have, after all, been performing directed evolution for centuries.

    It is the mechanisms of undirected or natural evolution which are in doubt. Given the evidence, they should be.

    Cheers…

  26. 26
    ellijacket says:

    I wouldn’t call what we’ve been doing ‘directed evolution’. We haven’t produced a new kind of animal. We’ve made different kinds of dogs or horses but nothing that falls into the realm of evolution.

  27. 27
    bornagain77 says:

    Peepul you ask:

    This may well be true – but can you tell me who did the original supposing? (as to proposing the finding of planets that would be able to sustain life)

    Well, Peepul, off the top of my head, as deep as I can go would be to Frank Drake and Carl Sagan.

    Drake equation
    Excerpt: The Drake equation (sometimes called the Green Bank equation or the Green Bank Formula) is an equation used to estimate the potential number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

    Considerable disagreement on the values of most of these parameters exists, but the values used by Drake and his colleagues in 1961 were:

    * R* = 10/year (10 stars formed per year, on the average over the life of the galaxy)
    * fp = 0.5 (half of all stars formed will have planets)
    * ne = 2 (stars with planets will have 2 planets capable of developing life)
    * fl = 1 (100% of these planets will develop life)
    * fi = 0.01 (1% of which will be intelligent life)
    * fc = 0.01 (1% of which will be able to communicate)
    * L = 10,000 years (which will last 10,000 years).

    Drake’s values give N = 10 × 0.5 × 2 × 1 × 0.01 × 0.01 × 10,000 = 10
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

    Thus to get the number able to host any life whatsoever fi and fc,, but notice their presupposition that 100% will have life though the origin of life is more of mystery than at first realized! ne=2 is the one that was severely compromised.

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    correction: Thus to get the ‘target’ number for planet able to host any life whatsoever ‘subtract’ fi and fc

    As well peepul further critique could be derived from what we presently know about Venus’s and Mar’s ‘chemical barriers’ to life.

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