Astrobiologists Whip Up False Hopes
Astrobiology long ago abandoned the kind of science that fostered the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century.
Nullius in verba, the motto of the Royal Society (“on the word of no one”), was a statement affirming the priority of evidence. Nothing in science should be taken on authority. In the natural sciences, evidence was to be the arbiter of truth. The Scientific Revolution was coming out of a period when Aristotle was taught uncritically by many university professors (although the extent of that in the Middle Ages is debatable). Enraptured by the glorious discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, Harvey, Boyle, and Newton, and invigorated with the empirical method espoused by Francis Bacon, the Royal Society made it their aim to “test everything: hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). They envisioned a cornucopia of fruitful benefits for humanity based on observation-tested hypotheses. Discoveries poured forth when natural philosophers (today called scientists) were liberated from thinking that quoting Aristotle, Plato and Galen provided sufficient authorization for their conclusions. No! To the evidence!
Note: Lest this simplified history be criticized, we should remember that influential medieval scholars, such as Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste, strongly advocated empiricism. Aristotle himself promoted observation and did not consider his findings the last word. Undoubtedly many throughout history have understood common-sense testing of options is superior to taking others’ words for things. There are always some sensible people in a crowd; how else did Egyptians build pyramids and Greco-Romans build magnificent aqueducts and machines for construction and warfare, if not by testing what works? The Scientific Revolution was less a brand-new thing than a movement to emphasize observation and de-emphasize authority. Lest we feel superior, look how many people today base their beliefs on Google or Wikipedia, or what a prof said in science class, without checking for themselves.
If those were the pillars of reasoning in the Scientific Revolution, what happened? In some quarters, Big Science is back to authority! A scientist must conform to the consensus in order to get along these days. Some non-controversial fields do well with empiricism, but it can be downright dangerous to buck the consensus in certain fields like climate, psychology or evolution (including cosmic, chemical, planetary and biological evolution). Within the consensus, scientists can and do engage in vigorous debates. But one must never question the authority of the consensus, which these days is founded on a religious worldview: scientific materialism. (We sometimes call this the Darwin Party, since Darwin symbolizes the approach of eliminating design from consideration, and legitimized the non-empirical Just-So Storytelling method.) Scientists wearing the D-Merit Badge are free to act as their own authorities, stating things to the press that have little or no empirical support, knowing that reporters will trust their word implicitly, because ‘scientists’ are modern authorities, not to be questioned. The sign Nullius in verba has fallen. It crumbles in the dust.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the pseudosciences of astrobiology and SETI. Authorities in this field are all scientific materialists. It’s not that they never do any observational, empirical science; they investigate the chemical and geological natures of exoplanets, for instance. But the reason for being of these fields is scientific materialism, with all the authority that consensus entails. On that authority, they can make crazy statements without any observational support at all. Look—
Life May Be Common in the Milky Way, Thanks to Comet Swapping (Space.com). To begin, remember that there is absolutely no evidence for any life outside the Earth (if you exclude the tardigrades that a failed Israeli spacecraft spilled on the moon, but those came from Earth; see Live Science). Has anyone seen comets bring life to our planet? No. Does panspermia have any evidence to support it? No. Forget Nullius in verba; Robert Zubrin, sporting his D-Merit Badge, engages in fact-free confabulation, using the power of suggestion, to sway the emotions of millions of readers of Space.com.
That’s 100% fabrication. But it “may” be the case, if one rejects Nullius in verba, accepts scientific materialism and imagines eons of unobserved mythical time. Zubrin says it; suckers believe it; that settles it.
Deadly Cyanide Might Help Us Better Understand Early Life (Space.com). Origin of life research (OOL) is utterly and completely devoid of relevant success; hear chemist James Tour wax emphatic about that at Science Uprising. But in this age of authority, an astrobiologist can become his own authority, as long as he swears allegiance to the Darwin Party and wears his consensus badge. Does any meteorite contain life? No. This astrobiologist found deadly cyanide in one! Off into fantasyland he leaps, raising the perhapsimaybecouldness level to astronomical heights, suggesting that the deadly poison brings “understanding” of life’s early history. Understanding. Isn’t that what mystics promise? Here you see it again: 21st century occultism dressed up in scientific costumery.
‘Snowball’ Planets Might Be Better Abodes for Life Than We Thought (Space.com). Has anyone seen life on a ‘snowball planet’? Mike Wall, using his authority bequeathed by the Darwin Party for fact-free speculation, says that such planets ‘might‘ be better abodes for life than ‘we’ thought, adding Tontologism to his scientific misdeeds.
E.T. Hunt Shouldn’t Be Limited to Earth-like Life, Scientists Say (Space.com). Well, if ‘scientists’ say, one must bow the knee to the Authority. Does any scientist know any life other than Earth-like life? No. Reporter Sarah Wells hands a blank check to astrobiologists, with endless funds in the bank of time, allowing unlimited searching for things nobody has observed or even knows how to observe. Darwin wouldn’t want to be restricted to empiricism now, would he?
No E.T. Life Yet? Here’s Why That’s Important (Live Science). Here was a perfect opportunity for reporter Kelsey Johnson to admit defeat for scientific materialism, and concede to intelligent design for a chance at explaining the lack of evidence for space aliens. What did she do? She ignored it. Completely excluding any alternatives to materialism, she shared only materialistic responses to Fermi’s old paradox: ‘if aliens exist, they should have visited us by now.’ Scientific materialism, the authority by consensus, is impregnable to observation or testing.
I was going to add Mindy Waisbergers’s goofy headline, “Exploding Stars May Have Put Humanity on Two Feet” (Live Science) to this entry, but had a barf attack.
Is this not a crime? To call this science after centuries of respect for testable, observable, evidence-driven factual knowledge, deserves to be shamed out of the lab and called for what it is: a new Dark Age. And to think that our tax money pays for much of this garbage makes us unwilling accomplices to quackery. Pity the students being brought up on this kind of “science.”