Everybody knows about the recent astronomical discovery which PhysOrg wrote about here: Temperate earth-sized worlds found in extraordinarily rich planetary system (Update).
The discovery has had a depressing effect on creationists, who still cling to the Genesis model of the universe, in which Earth is the only habitable world, and there is no life — certainly no intelligent life — anywhere else.
The Discovery Institute has been especially negative in their reactions — see Discoveroids: A Means Not-A. They insist that the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — made Earth as The Privileged Planet to be a home for us (whom he also created), and there’s nothing else of any importance out there, anywhere.
It’s not surprising that their outlook is consistent with that of the more traditional creationists, who cling to the concept of the universe described in the bible — a cozy arrangement, with the Earth created as the only world in existence, in the center of what seemed to be a rather limited universe, consisting of the Sun and the Moon, with the stars as lights set in a presumably solid firmament rotating around us, just below the glorious realm of Yahweh.
The more planets we discover orbiting other stars, the more depressed they get, but they’re temporarily comforted by the the fact that we can’t yet examine the atmospheres of those worlds, so we don’t yet know if there’s any life out there. They hope there isn’t, because if there is, then something’s wrong with their Earth-centered cosmos, and — gasp! — maybe those secular Darwinists are right.
The Discoveroids imagine that they’ve just received some good news, and it’s reported at their creationist blog by Klinghoffer. His headline is Remember Those Exciting “Earth-Like” Planets of the TRAPPIST-1 System? The Honeymoon Is Over . Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Do you recall the hubbub only one month ago about TRAPPIST-1, a dim red dwarf star some 40 light years from Earth? This star has seven planet [sic], three of which, roughly Earth-sized, were announced as being potentially habitable. This led to excited speculation about alien evolution: [list of headlines].
Those were depressing times for creationists. But maybe the crisis is over. Klinghoffer says:
Well, not so fast. Much of the breathlessness about the system stemmed from a thoroughly imaginative artist’s rendering courtesy of NASA. … Today, the TRAPPIST-1 bubble looks to have popped, with 3D computer climate modeling showing major problems with the system.
Whoopie — except for Earth, the universe is a lifeless desert! Klinghoffer is thrilled! He tells us:
According to Eric T. Wolf of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the inner three planets would be barren, the outer three frozen. And the middle, planet e? In NASA’s rendering, it looks the most Earth-like. However, in a system like this centering on a dim red dwarf, planet e would need to have been stocked, to start, with seven times the volume of Earth’s oceans.
He refers to this article which discusses Wolf’s work: Trappist-1: Hopes for life dwindle. It says:
At least three of the planets looked like they were within the star’s “habitable zone” – the region in which water will remain liquid. On that level, at least, the trio seemed like very good candidates for hosting life.
Now, however, 3D climate modelling is dampening expectations, suggesting that at most only one of Trappist-1’s satellites could support life. The modelling has been completed by Eric Wolf from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In doing so, he made the assumption that the seven planets are – or had once been – ocean-covered, with atmospheres comprising nitrogen, carbon-dioxide and water vapour. Orbital and geophysical properties were derived or deduced from collected data. When Wolf ran the numbers, the results were rather depressing.
This is what Klinghoffer quotes from that article:
However, even one habitable planet may turn out to be a forlorn hope. Ultracool dwarf stars, Wolf says, may take as long as one billion years to settle into a stable system, during which orbiting planets are exposed to intense solar radiation, producing extreme greenhouse conditions. If this was the case with Trappist-1, then for the middle planet to retain abundant water today it would have to originally held seven times the ocean volume of Earth.
He was careful not to quote the very next paragraph, which says:
Wolf, however, is not the only scientist investigating the possibility of life in the Trappist-1 system. Also lodged on arxiv during March was a paper by Harvard astrophysicists Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb, in which they explore the idea that life may have arisen on a single planet orbiting the star, then spread to “multiple” others by a process known as panspermia.
Lingham and Loeb contend that because the seven planets in Trappist-1 are very close together – the distance between adjacent ones being far less than the distance between Earth and Mars – then microbial panspermia is likely to be robust.
After his quote-mining — or model-mining — Klinghoffer continues:
Materialists must have alien life, to assure themselves that Earth’s biology is nothing special, easily replicable by unguided evolutionary processes many other places in the cosmos. It seems unlikely the planets around TRAPPIST-1 support life, which means they cannot support evolutionary speculation, either.
[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Darwin is doomed again! Klinghoffer smugly ends his little essay with this:
Now it’s time to sit back and wait for the next half-baked “Earth-like” exoplanet to be wheeled out onstage by the popular science media. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.
So there you are. The cozy creationist universe seems secure — for the moment. But they’re worried. Very worried. As they should be.
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