January 9, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

How Astrobiology Could Be Scientific

Despite its propensity for wild speculation about life in space, there’s one way Astrobiology could provide useful science.

Our Darwin Dictionary defines astrobiology as equivalent to “bio-astrology,” because of its penchant for wild speculation. The new “science” that emerged in the 1990s after NASA announced bogus claims of fossil life in a Mars meteorite is nearly 30 years old, still without a shred of evidence for life beyond the Earth. There’s still no “bio” in astrobiology; that’s why it reduces to astrology. And yet its whole raison d’etre was to find evidence for life – even simple, microbial life. (This distinguishes it from SETI, which searches for intelligent life.)

Jewels in the Junk

Nevertheless, bio-astrology has generated a great deal of observational evidence about stars and planets, including the discovery of over 3,000 exoplanets around other stars, and details about stars, planetary atmospheres, and conditions for habitability. This evidence could be considered valuable scientific knowledge – with one important subtraction:

Take evolution out of it

The assumptions of evolution and its prerequisite—a naturalistic origin of life—are flies in the ointment of bio-astrology that spoil the whole field. Think of it this way: all human beings on Earth can profit from knowing just how great conditions for life are here on our home planet. We might take Earth for granted if Earthlike planets were a dime a dozen. Creationists and evolutionists will gain knowledge from the observational aspects of the field that allow us to compare conditions for habitability between different worlds.

Creationists, in fact, are not necessarily opposed to the existence of life on other worlds, or searching for it. It’s just the philosophical materialist worldview behind evolution that makes bio-astrology distasteful to many. Without that, research into conditions for habitability is interesting and profitable for everyone. For example, it’s interesting to learn that Enceladus is spewing water out of its south pole. Forcing that fact through hydrobioscopy filters, though, is uncalled for and betrays the materialist philosophy behind it.

A Darwin-free astrobiology could be dubbed “Habitability Science” instead. By analyzing the following NASA press release, we examine how a Darwin-ectomy could be performed (see Evolution News), purifying the field from materialist philosophy and leaving a healthier science in its place.

Goldilocks stars are best places to look for life (NASA Hubble Space Telescope). This article from NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency) has a great deal of valid observational science in it. Readers learn about red dwarf stars, orange dwarf stars, sunlike stars, their abundances in the galaxy, and more. They learn about how conditions of those stars govern the inner and outer radii of the habitable zones around them, defined as the area where liquid water could exist on the surface of a planet in the zone. This is the most obvious necessary (but not sufficient) condition for life. Readers learn about the radiation emitted by each star type and how that might impact habitability. All this is legitimate observational research.

From these observations, appropriate inferences can be drawn: for instance, knowing biological limits, scientists can infer whether bacteria or complex organisms might be able to survive on particular worlds. The press release explains this creatively, without materialist assumptions:

Despite their small size, the even more abundant red dwarf stars, also known as M dwarf stars, have even longer lifetimes and appear to be hostile to life as we know it. Planets that are located in a red dwarf’s comparatively narrow habitable zone, which is very close to the star, are exposed to extreme levels of X-ray and ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can be up to hundreds of thousands of times more intense than what Earth receives from the Sun. A relentless fireworks show of flares and coronal mass ejections bombard planets with a dragon’s breath of seething plasma and showers of penetrating high-energy particles. Red dwarf habitable-zone planets can be baked bone dry and have their atmospheres stripped away very early in their lives. This could likely prohibit the planets from evolving to be more hospitable a few billion years after red dwarf outbursts have subsided. “We’re not so optimistic anymore about the chances of finding advanced life around many M stars,” Guinan said.

The reference to planets “evolving” could be justified as a thought experiment: Given the physical conditions we observe, if the planet ‘were’ to last a few billion years, we can infer it would not likely ‘evolve’ (change, in this context) to become any more habitable than it is now, because its atmosphere would likely have been stripped away, its water (if it had any) would be gone, and it would be “baked bone dry.”

Everyone can also understand the terminology of a “Goldilocks Zone” in the article: not too hot, not too cold, but just right. So far, the observations help readers gain appreciation for some of the necessary conditions for life. They should not be misled, however, by confusing necessary with sufficient conditions. Life requires much more than water and lack of radiation. It needs the right atmosphere, crustal environment, and up to 20 or more conditions to be present if human beings or bacteria were sent to such a planet.

The article goes outside of science, though, wherever it assumes  life will emerge spontaneously and will evolve from simple to complex, given enough time. That is materialism masquerading as science. These statements reveal the philosophical bias:

  • K dwarfs seem like the ideal place to go looking for life, and these stars would allow time for highly evolved life to develop on planets.
  • Over the Sun’s entire lifetime — 10 billion years — K stars only increase their brightness by about 10-15%, giving biological evolution a much longer timespan to evolve advanced life forms than on Earth.

Unjustified Darwin Years

Another bias related to biological evolution is the assumption of long ages in stellar evolution. This bias is more ambiguous, because it could be taken to mean that ‘if this star burns at its current rate, it could theoretically last 100 billion years.’ That’s different than saying ‘This star is 100 billion years old” or ‘The sun is halfway through its 10-billion-year lifetime.’ Those inferences go beyond the observations, since nobody has observed billions of years. The ages are based on secular theories of stellar evolution. More importantly, biological evolution needs those billions of Darwin Years; without them, Darwinism is dead. To distinguish the meanings, notice how long ages are used in the article:

  • Because our Sun has nurtured life on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, conventional wisdom would suggest that stars like it would be prime candidates in the search for other potentially habitable worlds.
  • The longevity for red dwarf M stars can exceed 100 billion years. K dwarf ages can range from 15 to 45 billion years. And, our Sun only lasts for 10 billion years.
  • These so-called orange dwarfs live from 15 billion to 45 billion years.
  • By contrast, our Sun, now already halfway through its lifetime, lasts for only 10 billion years. Its comparatively rapid rate of stellar evolution will leave the Earth largely uninhabitable in just another 1 or 2 billion years.
  • a billion or so years from now, Earth will orbit inside the hotter (inner) edge of the Sun’s habitable zone…
  • By an age of 9 billion years the Sun will have swelled up to become a red giant that could engulf the Earth.
  • Over the Sun’s entire lifetime — 10 billion years — K stars only increase their brightness by about 10-15%, giving biological evolution a much longer timespan to evolve advanced life forms than on Earth.

The reader must exercise care to determine whether the long-age statements are hypothetical inferences from present observations, or rather statements of materialist dogma pretending to be scientific facts.

Bonus Benefit of Purified Astrobiology

After a complete Darwin-ectomy, astrobiology could claim a legitimate place as a science.* And when people begin to realize how precisely balanced planet Earth is for life, it will provide another benefit to all mankind: gratitude. Social scientists keep reporting that gratitude generates human thriving and a sense of well-being (e.g., 24 Dec 2018).

*It would have to change its name, though, because it has no subject matter – no life beyond Earth. Call it Habitability Science, or habitabiology for short.

Dr Richter’s book examines many amazing finely-tuned “coincidences” that make our planet habitable.

One of our goals at CEH is teaching people discernment. When you read a ‘science’ article, it is mandatory to differentiate between observation and philosophy. This is a tricky skill, because every statement about the world—even an observation—requires a baseline of philosophy (i.e., that reality exists beyond experience, that our senses can be trusted to correspond to external reality, that the laws of logic are trustworthy at all times and places, that we can communicate with other human beings effectively, and that our communications are based on truth and morality). Those baseline assumptions are necessary to do science (and, notice, they do not arise from particles and forces, which are the only things materialists believe exist).

Above the baseline assumptions, which are necessary presuppositions for all scientists, one’s worldviews about origins can easily influence the inferences made and conclusions drawn. Darwinians like to blur the distinctions between worldview and inference, because they assume that every scientist agrees with them; thus, they speak glibly about billions of years and “time to evolve” in a habitable zone. Darwin skeptics need to be more discerning than they are, because the evolutionists’ comfort in consensus makes them lazy. Biblical creationists, of all people, need to be champions at discernment, because there are varieties of creationists that make themselves comfortable in the social warmth of consensus views about the age of the universe and even about Darwinian evolution. It is up to the Biblical creationists, therefore, to be skilled at separating science from pseudoscience, assumption from observation, and darkness from light. Keep reading CEH, where you will get a lot of real-world experience in this vital skill.

 

 

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