Earth's habitability Fine tuning Intelligent Design

The Drake Equation and Extraterrestrial Life

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Physicist Eric Hedin writes:

The idea of advanced life on planets beyond Earth and our solar system has become so popularized through blockbuster movies and the genre of science fiction that one can almost forget that the existence of such life has never actually been established. Quite the contrary. There is no scientifically valid evidence of life outside of planet Earth. And not for lack of trying.

This stunning image by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy NGC 5643 in the constellation of Lupus (The Wolf).

People have spent tens of millions of dollars over several decades looking for (or listening for) some signal from an alien culture in a distant star system. Something that undoubtedly propels this ongoing search is an estimate of the expected number of intelligent alien races in our galaxy, as given by the so-called Drake equation. Astronomer Frank Drake proposed this mathematical estimate for the likelihood of extraterrestrial life in 1961. His equation attempted to take into account factors that Drake supposed were necessary for the existence of advanced life.

In its modern form, presented in most introductory astronomy texts, the Drake equation for the number of communicating civilizations in the galaxy is given by the product of six factors: 1) the number of stars in our galaxy, 2) the fraction of stars that have planets, 3) the number of planets in each system that exist in the habitable zone (at the right distance from their parent star so that the planet has liquid water), 4) the fraction of suitable planets on which life begins, 5) the fraction of those planets on which life evolves to intelligence, and 6) the fraction of a star’s life during which the life there is communicative (presumably via radio, or perhaps laser pulses).

We can estimate that about 200 billion stars exist in our galaxy, and it’s likely that 1/10th to ½ of them have planets, and at least 1% of those planets should lie within the habitable zone.[i] So far, this is just astronomy research.

However, estimating the values of the latter three parameters in the Drake equation is a much dicier affair. What’s astounding is that reputable astronomy texts will state, for example, that life begins naturally on anywhere from 1% to 100% of all suitable planets, and evolves to intelligence with the same probability.[ii]

That’s not merely wild guesswork; it’s wild guesswork that ignores much of what astrobiologists have discovered about the cosmos in recent decades. The Drake equation ignores multitudes of factors that cumulatively downgrade any realistic estimate of hearing from E.T., at least if we must depend on purely natural process for evolving alien life.

Combine this factor with others we’ve discussed, such as the need to have the right kind of star, avoiding binary star systems, getting the right kind of planet at the right distance from its host star, and combine those with various other constraints we haven’t yet discussed, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that truly habitable planets are likely to be exceedingly rare among the stars in our galaxy. It may even be that, due to the growing list of requirements for long term habitability, there is only one habitable planet in our galaxy, ours.[iii]

Excerpt from Canceled Science: What Some Atheists Don’t Want You to See, by Eric Hedin (Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 2021), ch. 7.


[i] Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit, The Cosmic Perspective (2014), 442-443.

[ii] Bennett, Donahue, Schneider, and Voit, The Cosmic Perspective (2014), 443.

[iii] Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (2011), 195-196.

4 Replies to “The Drake Equation and Extraterrestrial Life

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “However, estimating the values of the latter three parameters in the Drake equation is a much dicier affair. What’s astounding is that reputable astronomy texts will state, for example, that life begins naturally on anywhere from 1% to 100% of all suitable planets, and evolves to intelligence with the same probability.[ii]
    That’s not merely wild guesswork; it’s wild guesswork that ignores much of what astrobiologists have discovered about the cosmos in recent decades. The Drake equation ignores multitudes of factors that cumulatively downgrade any realistic estimate of hearing from E.T., at least if we must depend on purely natural process for evolving alien life.”
    – Eric Heiden – PhD physics

    In the following video, Carl Sagan, using those ‘wild guesswork’ numbers, via the Drake equation, calculates that ten technologically advanced civilizations may exist in the milky way galaxy alone.

    Carl Sagan – Cosmos – Drake Equation – video
    https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xhp3hc

    Yet, and much to the disappointment of Star Trek fans, an avalanche of recent scientific evidence has found the probability of finding another planet with the ability to host advanced life in this universe is not nearly as likely as astronomer Frank Drake, and Carl Sagan, had originally predicted with their ‘wild guesswork’ equation..

    Eric Metaxas – Does Science Argue for or against God? – (Sagan’s estimate based on the Drake equation shown to be simplistic and drastically overly optimistic) – animated video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjGPHF5A6Po

    Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross’s book, ‘Why the Universe Is the Way It Is’;?Probability Estimates for the Features Required by Various Life Forms:
    Excerpt:
    Requirements to sustain bacteria for 90 days or less:
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10-614
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 501 parameters approx. 10^-333
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^311 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.

    Requirements to sustain unicellar life for three billion year:
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-859
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-303
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^22
    Probability for occurrence of all 676 parameters approx. 10^-578
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^556 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle

    Requirements to sustain intelligent physical life:
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate approx. 10^-324
    longevity requirements estimate approx. 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters approx. 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe approx. 10^22
    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracle
    http://d4bge0zxg5qba.cloudfron.....3_ver2.pdf

    And that is just the probability of getting a life supporting planet in the universe. That probability does not even take into account the probability against ‘simple’ life spontaneously popping into existence on that life supporting planet,,,

    DID LIFE START BY CHANCE?
    Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Harold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias)
    http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html
    Of note: Harold Joseph Morowitz (Yale) was an American biophysicist who studied the application of thermodynamics to living systems. Author of numerous books and articles, his work includes technical monographs as well as essays. The origin of life was his primary research interest for more than fifty years.

    Nor does it take into consideration the probability against scientifically advanced, i.e. intelligent, life accidentally evolving from that ‘simple’ life on that life supporting planet,,

    16 Steps to Generating Advanced Life | Dr Hugh Ross – July 13, 2017
    Excerpt: Naturalists, materialists, deists, and most theistic evolutionists would answer that the chemicals on early Earth spontaneously self-assembled into a simple cell that was able to reproduce. From there, the cell’s daughters evolved to produce all the life-forms that have ever existed throughout the past 3.8 billion years. Such a history requires that life make at least 16 transitional steps in order to generate advanced life-forms.,,,
    ,,, Evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala notes that, from a Darwinian perspective, each step is highly improbable. Taking into account just a few of these steps, Ayala determined that the probability of intelligent life arising from bacteria to be less than one chance in 10^1,000,000.(1)
    Physicists John Barrow, Brandon Carter, and Frank Tipler calculated the probability of all 16 steps occurring to be less than one chance in 10^24,000,000.(2) To get a feel for how miniscule this probability is, it is roughly equivalent to someone winning the California lottery 3,000,000 consecutive times where that individual purchases just one lottery ticket each time. Realistically, this probability is indistinguishable from someone winning the California lottery 3,000,000 consecutive times where the individual purchases no tickets at all.
    https://bcooper.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/16-steps-to-generating-advanced-life-dr-hugh-ross/

    Moreover, and unsurprisingly, the fundamental flaw in the formulation of the Drake equation is that Drake and Sagan falsely presupposed the ‘principle of mediocrity’ (extended from the Copernican principle) to be true,

    Rare Earth hypothesis
    Excerpt: In the 1970s and 1980s, Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, among others, argued that Earth is a typical rocky planet in a typical planetary system, located in a non-exceptional region of a common barred-spiral galaxy. From the principle of mediocrity (extended from the Copernican principle), they argued that the evolution of life on Earth, including human beings, was also typical, and therefore that the universe teems with complex life. However, Ward and Brownlee argue that planets, planetary systems, and galactic regions that are as accommodating for complex life as are the Earth, the Solar System, and our own galactic region are not typical at all, but actually exceedingly rare.,,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_Earth_hypothesis

    Copernican principle
    Excerpt: In physical cosmology, the Copernican principle, is an alternative name of the mediocrity principle,,, stating that humans (the Earth, or the Solar system) are not privileged observers of the universe.[1]
    Named for Copernican heliocentrism, it is a working assumption that arises from a modified cosmological extension of Copernicus’s argument of a moving Earth.[2] In some sense, it is equivalent to the mediocrity principle.
    – per wikipedia

    Carl Sagan coined the term ‘principle of mediocrity’ to refer to the idea that scientists should assume that nothing is special about humanity’s situation
    https://books.google.com/books?id=rR5BCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA187#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Mediocrity principle
    Excerpt: The (Mediocrity) principle has been taken to suggest that there is nothing very unusual about the evolution of the Solar System, Earth’s history, the evolution of biological complexity, human evolution, or any one nation. It is a heuristic in the vein of the Copernican principle, and is sometimes used as a philosophical statement about the place of humanity. The idea is to assume mediocrity, rather than starting with the assumption that a phenomenon is special, privileged, exceptional, or even superior.[2][3]
    – per wikipedia

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    And yet, despite the fact that virtually everyone, including the vast majority of Christians today, presently hold that the Copernican Principle is unquestionably true, (and therefore concede the necessary premise of the Principle of Mediocrity to atheists), the fact of the matter is that the Copernican Principal is now shown, via our most powerful theories in science, to be a false assumption.
    https://uncommondescent.com/evolution/neil-thomas-on-evolutionary-theory-as-magical-thinking/#comment-748883

    Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence overturning the ‘principle of mediocrity’ is the fact that anomalies in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), (anomalies that were recently discovered by the WMAP and Planck telescopes), are found to ‘strangely’ line up with the earth and solar system,

    Here is an excellent clip from “The Principle” that explains these ‘anomalies’ in the CMBR, that ‘unexpectedly’ line up with the earth and solar system, in an easy to understand manner.

    Cosmic Microwave Background Proves Intelligent Design (disproves Copernican principle) (clip of “The Principle”) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htV8WTyo4rw

    Moreover, as the following paper highlights, we find that Radio Astronomy now reveals a surprising rotational coincidence for Earth in relation to the quasar and radio galaxy distributions in the universe, “implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which the standard cosmological model is based upon”,,,

    A large anisotropy in the sky distribution of 3CRR quasars and other radio galaxies
    – Ashok K. Singal
    Astrophysics and Space Science volume 357, Article number: 152 (2015)
    Abstract
    We report the presence of large anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars as well as some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR survey, the most reliable and most intensively studied complete sample of strong steep-spectrum radio sources. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the equinoxes and the north celestial pole. Out of a total of 48 quasars in the sample, 33 of them lie in one half of the observed sky and the remaining 15 in the other half. The probability that in a random distribution of 3CRR quasars in the sky, statistical fluctuations could give rise to an asymmetry in observed numbers up to this level is only ?1 %. Also only about 1/4th of Fanaroff-Riley 1 (FR1) type of radio galaxies lie in the first half of the observed sky and the remainder in the second half. If we include all the observed asymmetries in the sky distributions of quasars and radio galaxies in the 3CRR sample, the probability of their occurrence by a chance combination reduces to ?2×10?5. Two pertinent but disturbing questions that could be raised here are—firstly why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the strongest and most distant discrete sources, implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? Secondly why should such anisotropies lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It seems yet more curious when we consider the other anisotropies, e.g., an alignment of the four normals to the quadrupole and octopole planes in the CMBR with the cosmological dipole and the equinoxes. Then there is the other recently reported large dipole anisotropy in the NVSS radio source distribution differing in magnitude from the CMBR dipole by a factor of four, and therefore not explained as due to the peculiar motion of the Solar system, yet aligned with the CMBR dipole which itself lies close to the line joining the equinoxes. Are these alignments a mere coincidence or do they imply that these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which the standard cosmological model is based upon?
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10509-015-2388-2

    And it is these large scale structures of the universe, combined on top of the CMBR anomalies, which, amazingly, overturn the Copernican principle and strongly support the ‘medieval’ belief that the earth should be considered to have a ‘central’ position in the universe.

    As the following article, (with an illustration) explains,

    Debunking Palm and MacAndrew on the CMB Evidence”, p. 8
    Excerpt: “Of course to have an exact position, (or what we would call an ‘exact center’ in the universe), we would need an X axis, a Y axis, and a Z axis, since that will give us three dimensions in Euclidean space. The CMB dipole and quadrupole gives us the X axis and Y axis but not a Z axis. Hence, the X and Y axis of the CMB provide a direction, but only an approximate position. That is why we have continually said that the CMB puts Earth “at or near the center of the universe.”
    For the Z-axis we depend on other information, such as quasars and galaxy alignment that the CMB cannot provide. For example, it has been discovered that the anisotropies of extended quasars and radio galaxies are aligned with the Earth’s equator and the North celestial pole (NCP)4.,,, Ashok K. Singal describes his shocking discovery in those terms:
    “What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.”
    – Ashok K. Singal4 “Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky,” Ashok K. Singal, Astronomy and Astrophysics Division, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, India, May 17, 2103,..
    Signal states: “We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations.”
    – R. Sungenis – (“Debunking Palm and MacAndrew on the CMB Evidence”, p. 8).
    – article
    http://debunkingalecmacandrew......mb_22.html
    – illustration
    https://i.postimg.cc/L8G3CbXN/DOUBLE-AXIS.png

    Thus, contrary to the ‘mediocre’ presumption of atheists, (i.e. reductive materialists), far from the small temperature variations in the CMBR being a product of random quantum fluctuations, (as they falsely presupposed with their inflation model), the small temperature variations in the CMBR combine with the ‘largest scale structures of the observable universe’ to reveal teleology, (i.e. a goal directed purpose, a plan, a reason), that specifically included the earth and solar system from the very start of the creation of the universe itself.,,, The earth and solar system, (from what our best science can now tell us), is not just the result of some random quantum fluctuation as atheists had erroneously presupposed with their ad hoc inflation model, (a model which was ‘invented’ solely to ‘explain away’ the fine-tuning of the flatness of the universe and the homogeneity of the CMBR.

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    Of supplemental note: also see Michael Denton’s recent book, “The Miracle of Man: The Fine Tuning of Nature for Human Existence”;

    The Miracle of Man: The Fine Tuning of Nature for Human Existence (Privileged Species Series) – May 6, 2022
    https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Man-Existence-Privileged-Species/dp/1637120125

    The Miracle of Man: Extraordinary “Coincidences” All the Way Down –
    Excerpt: On today’s ID the Future, Miracle of Man author and biologist Michael Denton continues his conversation with host Eric Anderson. Here Denton does a rapid flyover of several more anthropic “coincidences” in chemistry, biochemistry, and Earth science that are fine tuned to allow air-breathing, bipedal, technology-developing terrestrial creatures like ourselves to exist and thrive. The fine tuning, what Denton calls anthropic prior fitness, would seem to require foresight and planning on literally a cosmic scale.
    – Podcast:
    The Miracle of Man: Extraordinary “Coincidences” All the Way Down – Michael Denton interview
    https://idthefuture.com/1609/

  3. 3
    Red Reader says:

    There may very well be life, even intelligent life on other planets, who knows? Our “scholars” seem to believe Enoch was taken to heaven, but maybe he was taken to another planet. Who knows?

    But the Drake equation is just an expression of wishful thinking, a symptom of the insanity that has plagued mankind from the days of Adam and Eve. Back then, it was, “If I eat this apple, I’ll be as wise as God.” Nowadays, it’s “Gee, we sure hope evolution is true because the idea of an Intelligent Creator is racist. So, since space/time just popped out of zip, zero, nada, then evolution must be true, too—life on earth must’ve just popped out of nothing because ‘the conditions’ were right. Therefore, since it happened that way here, it must be happening all over the universe. And moreover, since it is happening everywhere, we can put together a mathematical formula which will actually tell us how many other planets out there probably have intelligent life.”

    This is “House of Cards” thinking; it is insanity and leads to more insanity.

  4. 4
    relatd says:

    After years of helping to create fictional worlds, a few thoughts. I think there is life in the universe. It may not resemble human beings but it could be humanoid and intelligent. Otherwise, I think it very likely that primitive organisms and perhaps plants will be found underground on Mars. At the least, I think bacteria will be found on Europa.

    I heard the following on TV: If a planet is the right distance from its sun, has water, and the building blocks of life – amino acids – then life would appear there. It took me a while to realize: They don’t know that. They cannot prove that.

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