SETI Believers Are Lost in Space
How long can you say “watch this space” till onlookers lose interest?
Astrobiology: Despite cutting-edge science, the only life known in the universe is right here on Earth. Space.com reported on some of the new tools and projects shared at the 2015 Astrobiology Conference. The goals of astrobiology are much more modest than SETI; they would be happy to find any kind of simple life, even “rock-powered life” if such a thing exists. So far, though, no “glimmer of life” has appeared among the thousand-plus exoplanets known.
Habitability: To look in the right places, it’s helpful to identify the most likely locations for liquid water and a stable platform where life can take hold. Fraser Cain answers the question “What is a habitable zone?” on PhysOrg, with an infographic and video clip. He hopes knowledge of alien life can help humans deal with climate change. But by restricting his definition of habitable zone to the places where liquid water might exist, he overlooks a dozen other factors that could make or break habitability (6/06/14).
SETI: On the subject of life in space, most people gravitate to the question of intelligent life. SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) wants to detect “beings at least as clever as us,” as Seth Shostak describes space aliens in The Privileged Planet. Why no sightings after decades of looking? Enrico Fermi famously reasoned that beings much more clever than us should be here by now, having had time to evolve super-intelligence that should have allowed them to colonize the galaxy long ago. The silence is alarming. PhysOrg quotes Simon Conway Morris saying, “We should not be alone, but we are.” His new book The Runes of Evolution (a rune being a mystical script) makes the argument that “convergent evolution” should generate beings similar to the lifeforms we know on Earth.
Conway Morris argues that convergence is not just common, but everywhere, and that it has governed every aspect of life’s development on Earth. Proteins, eyes, limbs, intelligence, tool-making – even our capacity to experience orgasms – are, he argues, inevitable once life emerges.
The book claims that evolution is therefore far from random, but a predictable process that operates according to a fairly rigid set of rules.
He envisions planets filled with mushrooms, sharks, and other familiar things. The problem is: there’s no evidence. You can’t build a system from a sample of one, we’ve seen in the case of extrasolar planetary systems (7/05/14). In response, Conway Morris might argue that convergence here on Earth provides evidence for convergence in space. But this begs the question of whether convergent evolution is true. Other evolutionists deny it (see PhysOrg and PNAS, for instance), saying that evolution is radically contingent, unconstrained by any predictable process. Until there is evidence for extraterrestrials, SETI believers are lost in space, whistling in the dark.
People are free to speculate about whether life exists, but that’s all it is: speculation. Without data, you cannot have science.
Simon Conway Morris made a memorable appearance in Illustra’s film Darwin’s Dilemma, where he provided important confirmation for the abrupt appearance of all the animal phyla in the Cambrian Explosion. That data argues against any evolution, convergent or contingent.
Here, Conway Morris ignores the other inference from similarity: common design. Similarities occur in different animals (unrelated by Darwinian ancestry) because they were created by the same intelligence. This point is made clearly and cogently in Illustra’s hot new film, Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth. Available now on DVD, we encourage our readers to get copies of this high-quality documentary into the hands of everyone, particularly those swayed by evolutionary arguments. It’s winsome, it’s beautiful, it’s amazing. Darwinism will not be able to survive the cumulative evidence it presents… provided it gets seen widely.
Consider organizing a showing of Living Waters for a large group. If you’re involved with an organization, Illustra’s staff might be able to help you organize a premiere event, like the one in San Antonio on July 10, or the one the Discovery Institute is holding in Seattle on August 7. Similar premieres are being planned in California (Sept. 26) and in Florida. Order your copy today, then after watching it, think big!