Discovery Institute Opines on Alien Intelligence

We’ve written before about the Discoveroids’ Reaction to Extra-Solar Planets. They’re confident there’s no life out there because their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — created our own little world to be unique. A year ago they hedged a bit — see Klinghoffer Flip-Flops on Alien Life — but they still insist that whatever is or is not found will be evidence for intelligent design.

The Discoveroids are now returning to that subject. Their latest post, On Fermi’s Paradox: Challenging the Principle of Mediocrity, introduces what promises to be a whole series. Their introductory paragraph says:

With the release last week of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Interstellar, dealing with the prospect of colonizing worlds beyond our planet, we are pleased to present a new series at ENV, “Exoplanets.” Daniel Bakken is an engineer who teaches astronomy at the college level, and an entrepreneur in compound semiconductor crystal growth. In a series of articles he will critically examine recent claims about exoplanets beyond our solar system, asking whether our own planet Earth is a rarity, or common, in the cosmos.

We’ve seen a number of reviews about Interstellar. Creationists all despise it, so it’s probably good. Anyway, here are some excerpts from Daniel Bakken’s new post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Since there are so many planets in the galaxy and universe, it’s natural to assume that there must be other intelligent life forms out there. … Fermi’s Paradox states that if extraterrestrial civilizations are common in our galaxy, then we should have been visited, colonized, or at least heard from them by now.

We’re all familiar with the Fermi paradox. Let’s read on:

One of the obvious potential answers to Fermi’s Paradox is that technological races are exceedingly rare. The astronomical community has been encouraged to look for life, or at least habitable planets, in the universe for a long time, but only in recent years has the technology been gradually made available for us to start to answer these questions directly. SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, has been operating since 1960, and has not found any reproducible signal.

We know that too. He continues:

Most researchers bring to their work the philosophical bias of methodological naturalism, which has become synonymous with science. They assume that the origin of life happens whenever conditions allow, and that evolutionary processes will inevitably lead to intelligence, and technology.

Uh, no. Such research is mindful of Drake equation, which describes each of those factors as an unknown (although the presence of extra-solar planets is unknown no longer). And methodological naturalism isn’t a bias. It’s inherent in the scientific method, because (unlike the Discoveroids) we can’t investigate the supernatural. Here’s more:

The principle of mediocrity, which has helped science in the past, may be giving us rose-colored glasses in this search. The principle of mediocrity says that when dealing with a single sample, you must assume that it is the common case; therefore there is “nothing special about humans or the Earth.” [Footnote to the source of that phrase.] So it is assumed that Earth-like planets, life, and technological civilizations are common in the rest of the universe. The principle of mediocrity is an extension of what has become known as the Copernican Principle.

That isn’t, to our knowledge, a common assumption; it’s only a possibility. Okay, after all of that, let’s find out where Bakken is going. Moving along:

An example of use of the principle of mediocrity is that most researchers assume that since life appeared on Earth very early in its history, life appears whenever conditions allow it. … The extreme difficulty the origin-of-life research community has had in coming up with a robust theory explaining how this actually occurred is swept away by the researchers’ philosophical commitments to naturalism, and the principle of mediocrity. Since no non-natural forces are allowed in science, life must have arisen easily no matter what the difficulties, they say. We just don’t understand how, yet.

Foolish scientists — they ignore the Oogity Boogity factor, which the Discoveroids know is essential for life to begin. Another excerpt:

Observer bias is difficult to overcome because we are so used to assuming most examples will be of the common case. But we as the observer may not, in fact, be the common case. If you pick up a rock on the ground at random, it is a safe bet that it is an average kind of rock. Yet it may in fact be a large gold nugget, or a diamond to rival the Hope Diamond. So it is with the Earth, its life, and human civilization. We are immersed in a culture of science fiction, where aliens abound in the galaxy. In the majority of science-fiction media, alien technologies far surpass our own.

Bakken seems to have difficulty separating science from science fiction. Is that because he’s a creationist? Skipping some references to authors who speculate that intelligent life may be rare, he says:

Recent astrobiological research now points to the realization that environments, intergalactic, galactic, planetary system, stellar, and planetary, which are stable enough to allow life to arise and develop over several billion years as it has on Earth, are so rare that few if any civilizations will actually make it to the point where they can communicate beyond their planet.

Maybe. But maybe not. No one knows yet. It’s a big galaxy, with millions — possibly billions — of planets, and we’ve only just begun to look. He concludes with this:

New discoveries about our sun and solar system’s unique history have significant bearing on the issue of habitability. In addition, the Moon, the event that formed it, and its present existence also have important consequences for the issue of Earth’s habitability.

That’s all there is, and it’s nothing new. But it’s only the first in a promised series of such posts. The Discoveroids are already certain that our little world and our wonderful species are the deliberate, intelligently designed climax of creation, so we have no doubt what their conclusion will be, but there may be some fun times along the way. We’ll be watching for later installments.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Discovery Institute Opines on Alien Intelligence

  1. Here is Bakken’s website
    He is a day-age creationist and teaches at Spokane Falls CC on a part-time basis. Nothing new here….

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    michaelfugate says “Nothing new here …”

    I think he was meaning to make a technical reference to the ‘principle of mediocrity’

  3. So, what happened to the fine tuning of the universe to permit life? Would a random universe be teeming with intelligent life, but Our Blessed Designer stepped in to ensure that only one miserable planet was actually capable of supporting life?

  4. michaelfugate

    “Would a random universe be teeming with intelligent life, but Our Blessed Designer stepped in to ensure that only one miserable planet was actually capable of supporting life?”

    Just like he stepped in to give us and only us amongst all living things a soul?

  5. The DI continually claims that they can only identify ID, not the ID’er, so to speak. If they cannot describe the designer(s) in any manner, how can they even speculate about whether or not the designer created other earth-like worlds or not, created intelligent aliens on other planets or not, and so on. It would be logical to assume in such a vast universe, if there were one or more designers, that they would plant their designs for life on trillions of worlds. In fact, one near-absolute proof that ID is true would be to find an alien world with the same history of life as ours.

    Speculating that “we are alone” argues against the concept of a designer. It may be consonant with some religious philosophies, but it isn’t a logical consequence of ID as the DI has framed it.

  6. Ed says:

    Speculating that “we are alone” argues against the concept of a designer. It may be consonant with some religious philosophies, but it isn’t a logical consequence of ID as the DI has framed it.

    Beep! Wrong! You don’t get it yet. Everything — no matter what is or is not found — is consistent with intelligent design, because that’s the way things were intended to be.

  7. Wow, I’m so late to the party all the snacks are gone!

    Principle of mediocrity, indeed, personified by the Disco Tutes latest credential-free Young Earth Creationist, D. Bakken.

    I smelled a rat when the write-up listed Bakken as “teaching at the college” level rather than listing him as a Professor of Cosmology at MIT. Bit of a giveaway.

    Part-time instructor at a small, 2-year community college is only teaching at the college level if you squint hard. Furthermore, working at a semiconductor plant and growing crystals in your basement hardly qualifies one to expound on extrasolar planets no matter how hard you squint.

    The Disco Tute has really fallen on hard times to rely upon random YEC’s to spread the Word. What happened to Gonzo? Too busy doing a real job to mess up his life further with the Tooters?

  8. If I played basketball on the weekends with my friends, did I participate in athletics at the college level?

  9. michaelfugate

    If I once visited a university campus, can I claim I attended college?

  10. I once rebounded shots for Reggie Miller, so I guess that I played pro ball!!

  11. I think that it is a good thing to teach an astronomy course in a junior college. It is perfectly possible to cover things of interest and even importance without getting into mathematics. If they have access to a telescope, that would be nice. I would hope that the students would take the course with at least some interest in the subject, not just because they have to take it, maybe you get adults from the community. j

  12. What the DI types essentially want us to believe is that if life, and particularly intelligent life, is rare in the universe, that’s the same as admitting it’s unique to Earth. In other words, that “few” is the same as “one.” This is a statement of faith, not logic.

    That’s especially true because they don’t explain why the Designer couldn’t Design life on more than one world. They don’t even get that out of the Bible, which doesn’t say anywhere that Earth is the only inhabited world. (Of course it does contain hints that the world is flat and stationary, with everything else revolving around it, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.)

  13. michaelfugate

    “I think that it is a good thing to teach an astronomy course in a junior college. ”

    how about one taught by a creationist?

  14. docbill, according to his website, Bakken is an old earth creationist — which makes him a wee bit less insane than Hambo. But, still insane as a March hare.

  15. Wald-O, I didn’t read Bakken’s website all that closely, only the part about “literal and historical truth and accuracy” blah blah blah. That’s usually a sign of a YEC but po-TAY-toe, po-TAH-toe, your mileage may vary, batteries required, not intended for children under 5. I don’t know, were you there?

    Bakken is probably a nice, hard-working family guy and probably met Luskin at a tent revival in Tall Weeds, Washington, or wherever, but the main point is that he’s a amateur astronomer, a hobbyist, and don’t get me wrong, those folks can run the rings of Saturn around my knowledge which, although astronomical is not so much astronomically, if you get my drift.

    But, the DI are promoting this hapless schmuck as some kind of exoplanet expert which clearly he is not. And that’s typical of the kind of reporting we get out of the Toot these days – random, arbitrary fellow travelers who are willing to spill out a few thousand words (for free, I’ll bet).

    The big question remains: Where’s Gonzo?

  16. docbill1351 asks: “The big question remains: Where’s Gonzo?”

    He’s still at Ball State, keeping his head down and his nose clean, knowing that this is his last chance to get tenure at a real university, rather than being Expelled! (i.e., denied tenure) and thus being once again exiled to teach at some bible college. If he ever does get tenure, he’ll burst forth as an unashamed Discoveroid, and become another Behe.

  17. I saw that movie, “Cocoon!” No doubt Gonzo has received extensive counseling from Behe and Wells. The irony is that Gonzo is going to actually work to get tenure, he can’t just sit around for 6 years for the Tenure Fairy to anoint him. He’ll have to do some teaching, research, publishing and all the stuff the other junior professors are doing to secure tenure.

    You’re right, of course, he’ll keep himself out of the ID limelight until he reaches Nirvana – then what? Maybe he doesn’t want to go through life like Behe, laughed at, a sign on his door disclaiming his views, a campus pariah and just doing time to retirement.

  18. Once again we have dims mouthing idiot things they KNOW nothing about. If they want to KNOW about it, the entire ID group should build a leaky rocket ship and go find out, then tell us about it.

  19. If indeed the Earth is unique (or very rare) for having technological life, there is a naturalistic explanation. So, rather than just saying that we are the doing of a G.O.D., it’s much more productive to explore to find the natural explanation.

    Notice that I use the term “technological life”, not “intelligent life”. Compared to plant life, practically all species of animals are intelligent — and even plants show signs of adaptation that could be perceived as intelligence. And within the animal kingdom, it’s not just the vertebrates that display high intelligence — octopi and squid have demonstrated that they’re pretty smart, for example.

    But to be technological takes not only 1) high intelligence, but also 2) a means of manipulating your environment (hands, for example), and 3) an incentive for doing so. For example, porpoises are extremely intelligent, but even if they did have hands, they would have no incentive to manipulate their environment, because they can get everything they need to thrive just the way they are.

    Another thought — there would be no science of astronomy if our planet were permanently cloud-shrouded. Likewise for any advanced civilization that might be out there on a cloud-covered planet. It’s interesting to speculate on whether we would have developed aviation if we were totally socked-in 24/7/365. In fact, we probably wouldn’t even know about 24/7/365 if we were always clouded up.

    A big incentive to develop radio technology was to facilitate ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. If earth had no oceans, would we have developed radios? After all, if we were just on land, we already had telegraphs and telephones.

    H. sapiens has been around with high intelligence for, what — 60,000 years? And how long have we had radio astronomy? 60 years?

    To summarize, there may well be plenty of intelligence in the universe, but not so much technology.

  20. Pope Retiredsciguy, claims

    porpoises are extremely intelligent, but even if they did have hands, they would have no incentive to manipulate their environment, because they can get everything they need to thrive just the way they are.

    Oh yeah? Can they get cable TV? Or potato chips? Or a leaf blower?

    Your infallibility is slipping…

  21. @Cardinal Megs: Yeah, but do they really need cable? After all, the Flintstones and Rubbles got along just fine with their rabbit ears. And potato chips? They got soggy under water. Not sure about their need for a leaf blower, either.

    Now, an immoral porpoise could use a vibrator…

  22. All the dolphins I know use Amazom Prime.