Klinghoffer Flip-Flops on Alien Life

For years, the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page — have been insisting that life on Earth is unique. For a recent example, see Discoveroids Disparage SETI Again,which links to several earlier posts on the same subject.

Today they are abandoning that dogma and swerving in the opposite direction. Their new post is If ETs Were Found, That Might Well Constitute Evidence for Intelligent Design. It’s by David Klinghoffer. He’s the Discoveroids’ journalistic slasher and poo flinger. He also fancies himself an expert on extra-terrestrial life.

Let’s watch as Klinghoffer executes a shameless about-face on what has heretofore been standard Discoveroid doctrine. He starts out talking about something by astrobiologist Paul Davies that appeared in the New York Times, which you can read here: Are We Alone in the Universe?, and then he gets to the meat of his post. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

When Davies was a young man, he says, the prevailing assumption was that we are indeed a freak phenomenon, unique in the stars. Now fashion has swung the other way. For no substantive reason, despite the silence from space, the science media abound with assurances that the universe teems with life.

What’s changed is not the evidence — for life elsewhere, there’s still zero — but just scientific mood: [then a quote from Davies].

Actually, a lot of evidence has been piling up — for example, see Maybe Billions of Habitable Planets — and it would seem that the Discoveroids are aware of it. Now they’re hedging their bets:

It’s not impossible that more information about the atmosphere on one or more of those non-Earth earths could tip us off with diagnostic signs of life. What if it did?

Shocking! Suddenly the existence of life elsewhere is “not impossible.” Then Klinghoffer asks: What’s the big deal? How does he manage this shift in policy? Let’s watch:

While herd opinion currently says that life’s getting itself started is easy, Davies recognizes that the most Earth-like planet we know — Earth — gives evidence so far of only one genesis of life, only one operating system. That can be explained as the result either of common descent or common design. If getting life started on a hospitable planet were indeed a snap, you’d think we would see “alien” life forms, operating systems at variance from our own, right here on Earth.

We dealt with that issue a year ago, in The Origin of Life — Miraculous or Mundane? We’ll quote what we said there, because that’s still our answer to the issue Klinghoffer raises:

[J]ust because we haven’t seen organic molecules self-assemble into something that could be described as life doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. The circumstances may be so unusual as to be a once-in-a-billion-years event; but with all the organic material drifting around in the oceans, it could be something that routinely happens from time to time — perhaps it happens quite often. However, given all the competing life that already exists, anything new that shows up probably doesn’t have much of a future, so we’re unlikely to ever become aware of it. Whether or not totally new life sometimes develops in the murky depths, we don’t search all the millions of cubic miles of ocean for such things, so they’re never seen. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen naturally, or that it hasn’t happened.

Klinghoffer sees it differently:

Yet while analyzing the life on our own planet is readily accessible, no such alien microbe has been found. That in turn confirms both common sense and other findings about how devilishly difficult it must be for life to kick-start on its own.

He quotes Davies again, and then focuses on the part that he likes:

So the evidence “under our very noses” suggests that left to its own devices, in the absence of design, dead matter does not spontaneously give forth life. Don’t misunderstand — I do not mean to read more into what Davies means to imply than is warranted. He, after all, includes in his article the required faith statement: “Although the pathway from microbes to complex thinking beings like humans may still be a very difficult one, at least we know the mechanism whereby it happens — Darwinian evolution.”

Then, for apparently no reason, he does the flip-flop our title promised you:

He’s not an advocate of intelligent design. But if so far all the data point toward life not spontaneously assembling, powered by the mere warming rays of our sun or another star, then if it were to turn out that the galaxy really does brim with life, wouldn’t that at least be highly suggestive of some intelligence, some designer, having seeded it there?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! For years, the Discoveroids have been relying on their “theory” of intelligent design, and on the amazing insights of one of their senior “fellows,” Guillermo Gonzalez, a co-author of the classic creationist book, The Privileged Planet. Now, suddenly, alien life may not be impossible; in fact, it would be evidence of intelligent design. This is shameless!

But it wasn’t shameless enough. Look at Klinghoffer’s last paragraph:

Of course if life exists on our planet alone, that’s also a problem for materialists. Sometimes it puzzles me that they keep pushing the notion of a widely inhabited cosmos. Whether the idea is true or not, it seems to be, for them, a lose-lose proposition while being for us a win-win.

It’s a miracle! It makes no difference to the Discoveroids what evidence turns up — it’s all proof of intelligent design. Some of you may have noticed that Klinghoffer is invoking the First Law of our Ten Laws of Creationism, which states:

Everything is Designed; therefore everything is evidence of ID. No evidence supports evolution.

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

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15 responses to “Klinghoffer Flip-Flops on Alien Life

  1. Pathetic.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    Klinghoffer pontificates:

    If getting life started on a hospitable planet were indeed a snap, you’d think we would see “alien” life forms, operating systems at variance from our own, right here on Earth.

    Which leads a rational person to ask the creationists:

    If getting life started on our own planet Earth were the result of a snap of the Intelligent Designer’s creationism, you’d think we should find at least one instance where the fossil of a squashed rabbit skeleton is found beneath the fossilized skeleton of a demised dinosaur.

  3. Ok, it’s to the medicine cabinet, this one surely gave me a splitting headache!


  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    Okay hotshot IDers, here is the question you were avoiding: would each inhabited planet have its own Intelligent Designer? That’s the only way to justify Earth’s creation as being ‘special’.

  5. That’s what I love (when I’m in a good mood and want to mock) and hate (when I’m in a bad mood or want a serious discussion) about IDiots.

    Earthly life is unique? Evidence for the Designer!
    Lots of planets with life similar to ours? Evidence for the Designer!
    Lots of planets with life dissimilar to ours? Evidence for the Designer!

    So much for ID making testable predictions (didn’t Luskin write some tripe about this?). Blessed be He/She/It!

  6. The Paul Davies article is an excellent read, thanks for the link.

    “no hint of such a principle has been found in laboratory experiments to re-create the basic building blocks of life.”
    I so hope to live long enough to see scientists succeed here.

  7. This article is absolutely no surprise. They have to CYA in case some form of alien life is discovered, otherwise their adamant statements that life is unique only on Earth would be false. It’s kind of like that little pet rock that on either side gently says “turn me over.”

  8. In other news, Klinghitler observed that a recent science report suggested that Neanderthals made “string” by twisting strands of grass pointed to “intelligent design,” that is, Neanderthals made string – on purpose. Therefore, DNA which is also twisted must have had an intelligent designer.

    No, that’s what Klinghitler wrote. I can’t make up this stuff!

  9. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Docbill So doesn’t that therefor mean that the Intelligent Designer is a neanderthal?

  10. Curm, sometimes I wondered why you tabulated the many examples of the IDiots saying the nonexistence of ET life was proof of Intelligent Design. Sure, you were waiting for them to flip-flop… but I thought it would take years for them to eat their words.
    I underestimated their shamelessness.

    But you called it. You knew they’d flip-flop without shame or remorse, and sooner than we all expected.

    You just kept pulling the lever on the slot machine that is the DI, knowing it would pay off someday. That day is today. But instead of a river of gold coins, you get a river of bull$%@!.

    — Diogenes

  11. Diogenes anonymously says: “You knew they’d flip-flop without shame or remorse, and sooner than we all expected.”

    There’s more to come. When we eventually detect an oxygen atmosphere on one of those habitable planets, virtually confirming the existence of life, the Discoveroids will claim that their theory predicted it.

  12. The notion that life might be common is backed up somewhat by the fact that it arose on earth fairly early in its history, not long after the planet became habitable.

    When we can drill on Mars, and take samples of deep rocks and aquifers, we might be able to address the odds question with more data. Mars was habitable for maybe a billion years, certainly longer than it took for life to originate on earth. Even if it appears dead today, there may be traces of biological activity in ancient, deep, rock. Or, life might have evolved with the changing environment and continue to exist in deep aquifers. If life happened on Mars, either way, it would mean that life was common. If no traces of life are found, then the early origin of life on earth was either a lucky roll of the dice or the environment on earth differed from early Mars in some important way. (We also have Europa and other moons to explore for potential additional samples.) So this question can be tested to some degree much closer to home.

    Suppose life is found which has a different “operating system”, so to speak, on earth or elsewhere. What would that say about intelligent design? Would that show the activities of different designers, or one designer who unaccountably used two different tool kits? That’s a puzzle I hope to see the discoveroids wrestle with.

  13. Whenever I see creationists talking about how common or uncommon life may be in the universe (and particularly when they “calculate” the odds against life existing on our planet), I immediately think about the sample size available to us for such statements. Sample size is important for such questions. If I look at one dog (sample size of 1) and that dog is brown, I really can’t calculate the odds of a dog being brown. If I looked at a thousand dogs (sample size of 1,000) and counted how many were brown, I could come up with something fairly reasonable. In the case of potentially habitable planets, we have examined a total sample size of one. There is only one known habitable planet that we have been able to examine thoroughly enough to know whether or not it actually has life: Earth. So based on a comparison of the number of planets in our sample to the number of life-supporting planets in our sample, we would actually calculate the “odds” to 1:1.

  14. “the Discoveroids will claim that their theory predicted it.”
    But of course! After all their theory did. Their theory also predicted the opposite. That’s why they are always right. Blessed be the Intelligent Designer!