Imagining Worlds – No Evidence Required

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Posted on January 11, 2014 in Astronomy, Darwin and Evolution, Dumb Ideas, Media, Origin of Life, Philosophy of Science

Science fiction is fun, but science demands evidence, not imagination.

Imagination sometimes leads to scientific discovery, but until it does, it remains imagination – better suited for theaters.  The demands on science for empirical verification are stringent.  Yet often, in the secular science press and even in the journals, speculation is allowed to wander unleashed.  Three recent examples illustrate the problem.

Life from the ashes:  We usually think of meteor strikes as destructive – but not Live Science: “a remarkable discovery has cast these aerial assaults into a surprising new light — because, as well as destroying life, it now seems that ancient collisions might also have helped create it.”   From that phrase “remarkable discovery,” the reader expects empirical support for life crawling out of a meteorite, but gets only eight amino acids (see online book).  Yet the reader is told this “remarkable discovery” has “the potential to radically change our perception of how life might first have arisen.”

Life from the depths:  Water is a pretty simple molecule: H2O.   It has no carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, or other elements life uses.  Moreover, it is not arranged into any orderly informational code.  Its mere presence, though, conjures up living worlds where no life has been observed.  PhysOrg reported on a “study” that alleges “life on other planets could be far more widespread,” just because it is conceivable that some worlds outside their stars’ habitable zones might have subsurface oceans.  Astrobiology (the “science without a subject”) has made this kind of plot so common (cf. hydrobioscopy) that most readers don’t even consider it unusual.

Life from the unseenNew Scientist (note: not “New Science Fiction”) reviewed three books about life in outer space that exhibit varying degrees of speculation: From Dust to Life: The origin and evolution of our solar system by John Chambers and Jacqueline Mitton; Life Beyond Earth: The search for habitable worlds in the universe by Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz; and Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial life in our minds and in the cosmos by Don Lincoln.  Reviewer Marcus Chown leaps into the realm of alien life from one empirical fact: the vastness of space.  “Yet, in all this immensity, there is only one place where we know there is life – the tiny, fragile ‘blue dot’ we call Earth,” he acknowledges. “This rather handicaps our speculations about life elsewhere.”  No kidding.

Since none of these articles can produce empirical evidence for life beyond Earth, it seems only fair that anyone should be able to participate in the speculation game.  What’s to stop someone from claiming Earth alone has life?  That idea is, at least so far, supported by observation.

The speculation from these guys is more pernicious than it appears.  Speculation can be productive if it is rooted in sound, reproducible science and leads to actual demonstration within a reasonable time.  When it contradicts all known science (life from nonlife) and logic (rationality from irrational material), it should be scorned, not encouraged.

The Darwinbots have such an iron grip on “science media,” they are able to speculate about evolution of space aliens with reckless abandon, never fearing the repercussions of critics or alternative views that are more logical or empirically sound.  If  Darwinist reporters were required to keep their mouths shut about anything that could not be backed up with evidence, it would spoil all their fun.  It would be good for the environment, though.  It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their oral smokestacks substantially, contributing to a cool, calm, rational atmosphere in which true science could be conducted.  Support climate change!  Handicap evolutionary speculation.

 

One Comment

rockyway January 11, 2014

…life on other planets could be far more widespread,” just because it is conceivable that some worlds outside their stars’ habitable zones might have subsurface oceans.’

- Left to its own devices, water can no more create life than a coffee pot can create a cup of coffee.

- Left to its own devices, water can no more create life than a science fiction writer can create an alien.

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