May 4, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Solar Eclipses Unique to Earth, SETI Researcher “Finds”

Like many before him, Seth Shostak pondered the significance of total solar eclipses for the one planet with observers to appreciate them.  “OK, I’ve done the math,” the SETI Institute director said for SETI Thursday on  “What you always suspected might be true … is true: namely that the best place in the solar system to see a total solar eclipse is Earth.”
    Shostak appeared briefly in the intelligent-design film The Privileged Planet, which makes a case that the universe and earth are designed for discovery, not only for habitability.  An evolutionist, Shostak was not promoting the premise of the film, but merely pointing out that unless the the earth were very special – miraculous almost – we should expect that other beings like us would inhabit the universe.  Shostak subsequently tried to differentiate the work of SETI from that of intelligent design, however (see 12/03/2005) – a comparison made in another Illustra film, Unlocking the Mystery of Life.  Undoubtedly he has been dogged by questions from listeners about how SETI differs from the principles of design detection promoted by I.D.
    In this article on solar eclipses, however, Shostak’s own research arrived at two similar conclusions stated in the film: (1) solar eclipses have allowed humans to make significant scientific discoveries, such as the detection of helium and confirmation of Einstein’s theory of relativity, and (2) the presence of a moon like ours able to produce eclipses is probably linked to the hability of our planet.  “If tides really do encourage life, then worlds with tides similar to ours are also likely to enjoy total eclipses,” he conjectured.  “Maybe eclipse chasers are a common cosmic breed.”

He came to the same conclusions because the conclusions are scientifically reasonable and based on observational facts.  What is shameful is that Shostak gave no credit for prior research done more thoroughly on this question by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards in the book The Privileged Planet.  He pretends as if he were the first to think of these things.  He obviously knows that he appears in the film, and undoubtedly has watched it and understands its notoriety in the mainstream scientific community.  So we challenge Seth Shostak to come forward and admit that he got his best ideas (that design detection is a scientifically valid reasoning process, and that the earth is designed for discovery) from his predecessors in the intelligent design movement.  Intellectual property demonstrates the ontological character of information.  Acknowledging someone else’s intellectual contribution is the only “ethical” thing to do (and ethics don’t evolve).

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