Discoveroids Disparage SETI Again

The Discovery Institute hates not only SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, they don’t like the idea of any kind of extraterrestrial life? Why?

Because they’re creationists, and they think that life — intelligent or not — couldn’t appear naturally, here or anywhere else in the universe. It’s a miracle, wrought by their magical, mystical intelligent designer — blessed be he! — and because it happened here, that means we’re oh so special. If any kind of life were found — gasp! — out there, it would really upset them. See SETI Will Eventually Destroy Creationism.

We’ve posted before about their attitude. For example, see Klinghoffer Opines on SETI (their lack of results so far is proof that we were intelligent designed), and also Discoveroids React to the Martian Landing (it’s a desperate attempt to disprove intelligent design), and also Discoveroids’ Reaction to Extra-Solar Planets (they don’t like ’em), and also SETI Uses Intelligent Design Theory (it doesn’t), and also Klinghoffer: The View from Bizarro World (more of the same).

Now they’re at it again. At the Discoveroids’ blog we find this new gem: The Anxious Search for Extraterrestrials. Anxious? That gets explained at the end. This thing is by Tom Bethell. He’s not officially a Discoveroid, but they publish his essays, and Wikipedia says he advocates intelligent design and other fringe science.

After gloating that “NASA’s Curiosity rover had failed to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere,” and then devoting many paragraphs to derisively explaining SETI and its failure to produce any results (yet), Bethell asks:

Why have we invested so much hope in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

Before answering that, he takes a few swipes at Carl Sagan for his prediction of numerous extraterrestrial civilizations, and says:

Built into this is the assumption that self-replicating life can easily get started on its own. No divine intervention is allowed, of course. That has been the underlying assumption since Darwin’s day. If so, life must have arisen by accident. Then it keeps climbing onward and upward, through random variation and natural selection.

Yes, Bethell reveals the secret — all those SETI boys are Darwinists! Then he touches on the Fermi paradox and the Drake equation. Those topics are essential background for SETI work, but you know that stuff. Then he finally gets around to telling us what he and the Discoveroids think about SETI. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

If the origin of life is easy, why can’t we make it happen in our own laboratories, by deliberate and ceaseless effort? Furthermore, Frank Drake and colleagues have been listening for over fifty years now but they haven’t heard anything much beyond background hiss.

Yeah, all those smarty-pants SETI guys haven’t found anything — they’re Darwinist fools! Let’s read on:

There is another consideration. Some scientists want to believe in extraterrestrials because it is an article of our secular faith that there is nothing exceptional about human life. The Earth, its life, mankind and civilization are routine things; nothing out of the ordinary. If so, of course, we should expect to find such life all over the Galaxy.

We wouldn’t describe it as an article of faith — scientific curiosity is a better term. It is, however, an article of faith with creationists that we’re all alone. They insist that life can’t occur naturally and evolution is impossible; therefore, they say, we’re here as the result of a divine miracle. Bethell continues:

The anti-religious physicist Lawrence Krauss wrote that the discovery of extraterrestrial life “would be far more jolting — and not just to orthodox Christians — than was the revelation that the Earth is not the center of the solar system.”

Yes, no doubt. But Bethell takes issue with part of that. He claims:

Actually, the Copernican system wasn’t jolting at all. That is a modern invention, promoted by people like Gould and Krauss.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’ll let you read Bethell’s explanation of that. Here’s more:

We have spent so much time putting mankind in the basement that it takes an effort to consider that we might be exceptional. Yet if we are alone in the cosmos — well, you can’t get more exceptional than that.

Here’s the last paragraph:

If we can’t find life on Mars, we are unlikely to find it anywhere else in our solar system. Maybe life takes a designer? You can see why SETI makes some of us anxious.

Right. If there’s no life on Mars, we’ll have to give up on Darwin. At least that’s the Discoveroid view of things. Aren’t they wonderful? All the evidence in this world hasn’t made a dent in their Babylonian era science, but if something as simple as a cactus were found on another world — their religious fantasies couldn’t handle it.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Discoveroids Disparage SETI Again

  1. Charles Deetz ;)

    Well, they could point their SETI antennas toward Seattle and get about the same results in searching for signs of intelligence. BA-zinga!

  2. I made a quick check at Wikipedia and learned there are an estimated 170 billion galaxies in the universe. Maybe more. We’re in one solar system of one of those galaxies. It’s arrogance to the nth degree to think we’re the only life in the universe.

  3. And today we have some fresh dishonesty from our good friends the Discoveroids: Intelligent Design Comes to UC Irvine. The ‘news’ in that item is that dear Casey Luskin spoke on campus, and was favourably received, as evidenced by

    A biomedical engineering major, Daryl Arreza, is quoted as saying, “Intelligent design is a valid explanation that should be able to be freely taught on a scientific campus.” Correct.

    But the DI, in quoting from the campus newspaper, omitted the rest of Mr. Arreza’s bio:

    Arreza, co-president of Ratio Christi, the Christian apologetics campus group that sponsored the recent talk, said the lecture was needed to expose students to the theory of intelligent design, which is ignored in campus science classes.

    More on Ratio Christi here, and confirmation of Arreza’s role here.

    Hmmm…would there be a reason why the DI would present Mr. Arreza as only a humble “biomedical engineering major” and organiser of Luskin’s appearance on campus?

  4. “If the origin of life is easy, why can’t we make it happen in our own laboratories, by deliberate and ceaseless effort?”

    Because there’s no money for it. Just try to get a grant for research that doesn’t have some demonstrable application. That sort of funding dried up decades ago. So, no one has been working on it.

    If you want to do purely curiosity-driven research, you have to already have a Nobel, so you’ll get funding for anything you want to do, and you have to be at a very rich institution which will buy you all the expensive instruments you’ll need.

  5. If the origin of life is easy, why can’t we make it happen in our own laboratories, by deliberate and ceaseless effort?

    If the origin of life is by design, why can’t we design it into existence?

  6. Bethell, a believer in all-powerful supernatural intelligence(s), takes aim at those who speculate that natural intelligences might exist elsewhere in the universe.

    Someone should tell Bethell that extraterrestrial life is a testable proposition – especially as our instruments become more and more sensitive. One requirement of any creationist hypothesis is that it not be falsifiable, therefore, to be safe, it is best to make only hypotheses that can never be tested. In this case, the hypothesis that we are alone in the universe can be falsified, but it can never be proven true (unless we can search the entire universe), which is the direct opposite of good creationist practice. It’s a no-win for the ID movement.

  7. The researchers on the SETI project for years have turned their instruments towards the dishonesty institute in Seattle and have yet to find even a smattering of any signs of intelligence whatsoever.

  8. “If we can’t find life on Mars, we are unlikely to find it anywhere else in our solar system …”

    Very strange view. After all, Mars is just one big, cold, largely dry desert. The real test will happen the moment we can send a probe down into the ocean known to exist beneath the ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa. That would be an environment where complex marine animals, not just microorganisms, might conceivably exist. Somehow the notion of an entire ocean of absolutely sterile water seems like a contradiction in terms, if anyone is interested in my gut feeling.

    But of course, even the discovery of European medusae would be hijacked by the believers: Ah, the “designer” has evidently been busy elsewhere as well! Blessed be he, indeed.

    Rest assured that the instant definite evidence for extraterrestrial life has been found, this will STOP being a potential argument for the fact of evolution and rather become a new argument FOR intelligent design. You know, if it is oh-so-improbable that life could get started by “chance” here on earth, it is obviously FAR MORE IMPROBABLE that it could have happened on (say) Europa as well.

    Hence there must be oogity boogity all over the Solar System!

  9. Stephen Kennedy

    Enrico Fermi was a brilliant physicist but I do not think that he had a true appreciation of the vast distances in interstellar space and how difficult it makes the task of detecting alien civilizations.

    For example, at a distance of one parsec, and there are no stars that close to us other than the Sun, a typical 50,000 watt radio or television signal on Earth would have a flux of only 4*10^-30 W/m^2. Radio astronomers on Earth observe objects with radio telescopes that measure fluxes of extra-terrestrial objects in units called janskies. One jansky represents a flux of 10^-26 W/m^2, one 10,000th of the flux of a 50,000 watt signal at one parsec.

    Unless an alien civilization aimed an exceptionally powerful radio signal directly at our solar system it is very unlikely we would be able to detect alien signals with current technology. Also, alien radio astronomers would not be able to detect radio transmissions from the Earth unless they have far more advanced detection technology than exists on Earth.

  10. Stephen Kennedy says: “Enrico Fermi was a brilliant physicist but I do not think that he had a true appreciation of the vast distances in interstellar space and how difficult it makes the task of detecting alien civilizations.”

    I have doubts that searching for radio signals is going to be fruitful. First of all, we weren’t using them until the 1900s, yet we’ve had civilization for thousands of years. The galaxy could be full of intelligent species that don’t use radio. Second, even if a species develops radio, the time that they use it may be fairly brief — they may develop something better that doesn’t leak out into the universe. At least not so that we could detect it with our present technology.

    I think you have to actually go out there to look for them, or send probes. Given the limits of the speeds that are attainable, and the fact that it can take centuries to get back some useful information, it may not be a practical thing to do. There could be a lot of intelligent species out there that aren’t using radio, but they’re all limited to their own little region.

  11. @sc

    i suspect you’re right. the earth’s rf bubble is already less powerful as we use more fiber optics. radio works well over short distances but omnidirectional transmissions would not be a good way to communicate over interstellar distances.