Here’s a comment to “Extraterrestrials: Looking back a decade on ‘Are we alone?’”:
Anything that is intelligent but is not living on this planet is an extra-terrestrial intelligence, and that is what Intelligent Design proponents believe is the best explanation for life on Earth. But here you present a post that concludes there probably is no such thing as extra-terrestrial intelligence! Looks like you’ve figured out that ID was wrong after all, huh?
The commenter has doubtless offered himself an award for cleverness so I won’t go there, and will only say that his is an interesting attempt to deflect discussion from genuine issues:
1. On the evidence, there is no justification for the claims about billions of habitable worlds (and lots of inhabited ones) that I have been addressing in the series linked below.
Probability calculations (“billions and billions”) are about as reliable as a claim that there must be more than one type of rational life form on Earth because there are just so many types. No matter how many, there is only one rational form.
That fact should prompt caution about mere probability calculations when we do not know basic facts such as how life forms (or how higher intelligence forms, for that matter), or the details of the supposed matrix in either case.
Such evidence as we have suggests that complex life in the galaxy is rare. Even microorganisms may not be as common as we would hope. Not if we go by our experience so far with Mars.
Granted, we do not have enough evidence. But there is no warrant for concluding the opposite of what Mars has so far shown us.
2. Intelligent design is about recognition of patterns that, so far as we know require a high level of information, typically associated with an intelligence. Extrapolations about the nature of the intelligence involve additional assumptions (theism, pantheism, the Way, etc., and—off the beaten track—advanced space aliens). These assumptions are interesting but they take us off the immediate topic, a specific manifestation of that intelligence.
The only widely accepted alternative is a Ponzi scheme known as neo-Darwinism, by which the elimination of life forms that are unfit in a given environment somehow produces over time mechanisms overwhelmingly more complex than the most sophisticated computer system known to be designed by an intelligence. If you believe that, invest with whoever replaced Bernie Madoff—provided your country has some kind of social safety net. The fact that the crowning achievement of the neo-Darwinian discipline is “evolutionary” psychology speaks for itself.
3. Discussion of all these issues is vitiated by underlying assumptions such as the Copernican Principle, whereby Earth must be a usual and normal planet, when all reason and evidence suggest otherwise. And by the undisguised dislike many cosmologists feel for the Big Bang, which accounts well enough for the evidence but violates their beliefs about what the universe should be like. Sorry guys, next universe over might suit you better. Check it out.
One problem right now is that most science writers see their job as purveying these attitudes, assumptions, values, prejudices, and beliefs to the public, all of which I think are overdue for a challenge.
See also: What has materialism done for science?
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!
– O’Leary for News