Extraterrestrial life Intelligent Design

At Forbes: About extraterrestrial life, “fancy probabilistic analysis” just isn’t science

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War-of-the-worlds-tripod.jpg
Alien tripod by Alvim Corréa, 1906 French edition of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”

From astrophysicist Ethan Siegel:

No amount of fancy probabilistic analysis can justify treating guesswork and wishful thinking as having any sort of scientific weight. Applying scientific techniques to an inherently unscientific endeavor, such as inventing estimates to unknowns about the Universe, doesn’t make it any more scientific. The opposite of knowledge isn’t ignorance; it’s the illusion of knowledge.

It’s still possible that life, and even intelligent life, is ubiquitous in our galaxy and the Universe. It’s also possible that one is common and one is uncommon, or that both are extraordinarily rare. Until we have more information, don’t be fooled by the headlines: these aren’t brilliant estimates or groundbreaking work. It’s guessing, in the absence of any good evidence. That’s no way to do science. In fact, until we have better evidence, it’s not science at all. More.

Color image of icy Enceladus.
Enceladus/NASA

All true. But that said, we have found complex organic molecules on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which should provide a basis for genuine research. From a minimalist perspective, what if we encounter a number of instances where the setting seems to be right but life or intelligent life is markedly absent? In certain situations, persistently not finding something can be a source of information.

See also: Are we doing theoretical physics all wrong? (Ethan Siegel)

Complex organic molecules found on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. At this point, it will be just as interesting if Enceladus has “all of the basic requirements for life as we know it” but does not have life. That would cast doubt on the thesis that life naturally evolves when the conditions are right. Of course, we will need quite a few examples to be sure.

Could Earth germs be contaminating other planets Life on other planets? Yes, for sure, if Earth’s microbes get there with our help

Looking for life in all the hard places – a guidebook Researcher: “We are using Earth to guide our search for life on other planets because it is the only known example we have,” said Timothy Lyons, a distinguished professor of biogeochemistry and director of the Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center.

and

Could alien life be buried in ET oceans?

7 Replies to “At Forbes: About extraterrestrial life, “fancy probabilistic analysis” just isn’t science

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Chides a more than reasonable estimate from what we DO KNOW as wishful thinking, after which he inserts his own unscientific wishful thinking as if it was anything but wishful thinking on his part. Go figure.

    To tell the truth, the estimate, based on what we do know, was far to lenient.

    An Open Letter to My Colleagues – James Tour – 2017
    Excerpt: We synthetic chemists should state the obvious. The appearance of life on earth is a mystery. We are nowhere near solving this problem. The proposals offered thus far to explain life’s origin make no scientific sense.
    Beyond our planet, all the others that have been probed are lifeless, a result in accord with our chemical expectations. The laws of physics and chemistry’s Periodic Table are universal, suggesting that life based upon amino acids, nucleotides, saccharides and lipids is an anomaly. Life should not exist anywhere in our universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the earth.17
    http://inference-review.com/ar.....colleagues
    James Tour is a synthetic organic chemist at Rice University.

  2. 2
    es58 says:

    I’d like to see Prof Tour debate Prof Szostak, and someone keep them on topic.

  3. 3
    ScuzzaMan says:

    The opposite of knowledge isn’t ignorance; it’s the illusion of knowledge.

    I’m not sure this sentence means what you think it means.

    If your knowledge is illusory then it is in fact non-existent. You might not know it but you ARE ignorant, in that case.

    The illusion of knowledge is exactly the same as ignorance. Ergo, if one is the opposite of knowledge, so too is the other.

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    If the researchers are claiming a higher degree of confidence in their estimates than is warranted by the available evidence then Siegel has grounds for his complaints. If it is journalists and publicists making the numbers sound more certain than it is then Siegel is criticizing the wrong people.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, might I suggest that before you, an atheistic materialist, offer others advise on what level of confidence we can have towards any particular evidence about reality that you first adopt a worldview that is capable of differentiating what is illusory from what is real in the first place?

    Darwin’s Theory vs Falsification – 39:45 minute mark
    https://youtu.be/8rzw0JkuKuQ?t=2387
    Excerpt: Basically, because of reductive materialism (and/or methodological naturalism), the atheistic materialist is forced to claim that he is merely a ‘neuronal illusion’ (Coyne, Dennett, etc..), who has the illusion of free will (Harris), who has unreliable beliefs about reality (Plantinga), who has illusory perceptions of reality (Hoffman), who, since he has no real time empirical evidence substantiating his grandiose claims, must make up illusory “just so stories” with the illusory, and impotent, ‘designer substitute’ of natural selection (Behe, Gould, Sternberg), so as to ‘explain away’ the appearance (i.e. illusion) of design (Crick, Dawkins), and who must make up illusory meanings and purposes for his life since the reality of the nihilism inherent in his atheistic worldview is too much for him to bear (Weikart), and who must also hold morality to be subjective and illusory since he has rejected God (Craig, Kreeft).
    Bottom line, nothing is real in the atheist’s worldview, least of all, morality, meaning and purposes for life.,,,
    Paper with references for each claim page; Page 37:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pAYmZpUWFEi3hu45FbQZEvGKsZ9GULzh8KM0CpqdePk/edit

    Thus, although the Darwinian Atheist firmly believes he is on the terra firma of science (in his appeal, even demand, for methodological naturalism), the fact of the matter is that, when examining the details of his materialistic/naturalistic worldview, it is found that Darwinists/Atheists are adrift in an ocean of fantasy and imagination with no discernible anchor for reality to grab on to.

    It would be hard to fathom a worldview more antagonistic to modern science than Atheistic materialism and/or methodological naturalism have turned out to be.

    2 Corinthians 10:5
    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    bornagain77 @ 5

    Seversky, might I suggest that before you, an atheistic materialist, offer others advise on what level of confidence we can have towards any particular evidence about reality that you first adopt a worldview that is capable of differentiating what is illusory from what is real in the first place?

    How would you distinguish between what is real and what is illusory?

    If you believe that we live in a real world, rather than a Matrix-like simulation, what observational data can you offer as evidence that such a belief is reliable?

    When you look at a red rose, is the color red that you see real or an illusion?

    If you believe in an entity called a soul, first, how would you define it and, second, what observational data can you offer as evidence that such a belief is reliable?

    I have previously cited that case of a girl who died at home of the complications of untreated diabetes while her devout family stood around her praying fervently for her to be cured. Would that indicate that belief in the efficacy of prayer was unreliable?

  7. 7
    OLV says:

    es58 (2):

    I’d like to see Prof Tour debate Prof Szostak, and someone keep them on topic.

    Is Prof Szostak available for debate?

    Wouldn’t it be easier to have a debate between gpuccio and Prof Szostak?

    Maybe even more interesting?

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