So claims writer Mark Strauss at Slate:
Ridiculing astrobiologists is a favorite sport at the Discovery Institute, which complains on its news site that “hardly a month goes by lately when the science media fail to breathlessly report the discovery of a new planet, in some star’s ‘habitable zone,’ that might hypothetically be capable of supporting life.” The institute attributes the coverage in part to hype purposefully generated by “organized science” to shake down the government for grant money.
But the creationists also see a more sinister agenda than naked greed. They place astrobiologists among the ranks of the “Darwin Brigades” who have always been “eager to undermine human exceptionalism,” since “the alleged ordinariness of the human race was vital in establishing common ancestry as a plausible theory.” Astrobiology, they argue, expands this line of thought, since it holds to the Darwinist belief that life started by accident and that—under the right conditions—it can emerge anywhere with a liquid solvent (preferably water), energy, and organic compounds. This delusion, the Discovery Institute adds, undermines human exceptionalism on a cosmic scale by proclaiming that the Earth is not particularly special, just one among billions of potentially life-bearing planets
The interesting thing about Strauss’s sneerfest is that what he describes is all true, and for good reason.
Hardly a month does go by without an unlikely theory marketed to the pop science media. I confess to having written skeptically about this stuff at Evolution News & Views and Uncommon Descent myself over the years.
And get this, from Strauss:
Astrobiology, they argue, expands this line of thought, since it holds to the Darwinist belief that life started by accident and that—under the right conditions—it can emerge anywhere with a liquid solvent (preferably water), energy, and organic compounds.
Yes, that is exactly what most of them do think. See, for example, Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place? And: Maybe if we throw enough models at the origin of life… some of them will stick?
Indeed, that is the most likely reason astrobiology is still a discipline without a subject.
I can only speak for myself but, if for some reason, I wanted to make sure extraterrestrial life was never found, based on the record, I would encourage them to stick to Darwin.
Anyway, Dan Bakken responds at ENV:
Strauss then accuses Discovery Institute of ridiculing astrobiology. On the contrary, Discovery is one of the few outlets publicizing the results of astrobiologists. The trouble for Mark Strauss is that the field has been giving us a lot of results that he doesn’t like. What may merit ridicule is the unwarranted optimism of those who would direct precious research funding to unrealistic projects seeking to demonstrate the existence of life elsewhere. We need to be sober about these things: bubbles in liquid methane aren’t enough to convince a reasonable person that there is life on Titan. More.
See also: Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
Also: A note on the use of the term creationist
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