September 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Questioning Earth’s Privileges

51; Two articles this week downplayed considerations that would make the Earth seem like a special place in the universe.  Both have ties to NASA.
    Are life-friendly stars limited to a narrow band in the galaxy called the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ)?  NASA-supported Astrobiology Magazine cast doubt on the idea.  Citing a study by a doctoral student at the University of Washington, the article claims stars can migrate in the galactic disk and end up at radial distances very far from where they formed.  If that is true, it must not be a requirement for a star to be in the GHZ to obtain the heavy elements necessary for rocky planets and life.
    The article does not mention the work of Guillermo Gonzalez (a former U of Washington assistant professor) who proposed the GHZ, but references at the end of the article point to a 2001 entry on Astrobiology Magazine that entertained his GHZ hypothesis as a “very, very interesting idea.”  Since then, many remember, Gonzalez was “expelled” from Iowa State (05/22/2007, bullet 5), for his involvement with the intelligent design movement – in particular, his co-authorship of an ID book The Privileged Planet (06/24/2004) and appearance in a documentary of the same name.
    Gonzalez never suggested that the radial extent of the GHZ was well constrained.  In Privileged Planet, he used it as just one of many cosmic “coincidences” that suggest the universe is designed to permit scientific discovery.
    On a related subject, Edna DeVore asked on “How rare is the Earth?”  She didn’t answer the question.  Instead, as co-investigator for the upcoming Kepler mission that will search for earth-like planets, she encouraged citizens to write NASA an email that will be placed on the spacecraft.  Anyone can submit a 500-word statement about the search for planets like Earth”  DeVore (who is also Director of Education and Outreach for the SETI Institute) did not mention anything about Johannes Kepler, for whom the mission is named.  Though interested in the possibility of other inhabited worlds, Kepler was a strong Protestant Christian who would most likely have stood with Gonzalez arguing that our world was intelligently designed.

This new NASA propaganda article is a weak response to the GHZ hypothesis.  For one thing, it is a half-truth as a counter-argument.  The abundance of heavy elements only applied to the outer edge of the GHZ.  The inner edge may have plenty of heavy elements, but it has other problems – radiation, collisions and no clear view of the cosmos.  In addition, the article did nothing to constrain the locales where a star could get its heavy elements.  Presumably there is still a GHZ outside of which stars could not gather enough heavy elements for rocky planets.
    Even if one were to grant that stars can migrate radially, it does not eliminate or reduce the argument for intelligent design of the Earth.  Assume for the moment the evolutionist’s timeline and origin stories.  One has to ask why our planet’s location just “happens” to be at a prime location between the spiral arms for an unobstructed view of the distant universe just in time for the rise of modern science to take advantage of the situation.
    The GHZ argument is not a clincher by itself.  It is one of a number of independent evidences that collectively point to the reasonableness of the design explanation.  Watch the film to see how the combined evidence makes a compelling case that even materialists like Paul Davies and Robert Jastrow could not ignore.
    DeVore needs to watch it, too.  She parroted the typical Copernican myth: “It’s been about four centuries since Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo began to displace the Earth from the center of the universe,” she claimed.  “Less than one hundred years ago, we discovered that the sun was not near the center either, and that the Milky Way galaxy was just one of billions of galaxies and that the universe has no center.”  Not only is this a misrepresentation of the views of three great Christian theists, it is a distortion of the Copernican revolution.  Watch the film and you will learn why.

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