Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Daily Journal of San Mateo, California — in the middle of Silicon Valley. It’s titled Miraculous existence. The newspaper has a comments feature, with only one comment so far.
We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), but we have an exceptional situation here. The letter-writer is Jonathan Madison, described at the end as “A native of Pacifica [a city in San Mateo County, California], Jonathan Madison worked as professional policy staff for the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Financial Services, for two years. Jonathan currently [is in] his third year of law school.” He qualifies for full-name treatment. We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
Your life is a miracle. Do not just take my word for it. Today, scientists are increasingly making the case that, practically speaking, life on planet Earth should not exist.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Great beginning! Then he says:
In the 1960s, astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that the underlying factor determining whether a planet could sustain life in our universe was whether that planet was the right distance from the right kind of star. For several years, scientists accepted Sagan’s theory as the Holy Grail. With one simple requirement for a planet to sustain life, scientists reasoned that the number of planets capable of supporting life in our universe amounted to “1 septillion — 1 followed by 24 zeros,” according to a 2014 Wall Street Journal article. Today, the vast majority of scientists fundamentally disagree with that logic.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Sagan was aware of and agreed with the Drake equation, which describes several factors, not just a planet’s location within its star’s habitable zone In fact, the Wikipedia article on the Drake equation says:
The astronomer Carl Sagan speculated that all of the terms, except for the lifetime of a civilization, are relatively high and the determining factor in whether there are large or small numbers of civilizations in the universe is the civilization lifetime, or in other words, the ability of technological civilizations to avoid self-destruction. In Sagan’s case, the Drake equation was a strong motivating factor for his interest in environmental issues and his efforts to warn against the dangers of nuclear warfare.
Jonathan isn’t doing very well so far. Let’s read on:
Today, scientists believe that more than 200 prerequisite conditions must be met for a planet to support life. Take away just one of those conditions and life on that planet cannot exist. The startling reality is that, scientifically speaking, the likelihood of life surviving on our planet is less than probable. Nevertheless, human life has continued to survive and regenerate throughout the test of time.
Jonathan is repeating Discovery Institute propaganda, found in The Privileged Planet, a book by one of the Discoveroids’ “fellows.” We continue:
World-renowned physicist Adrian Bejan has provided, in my view, the greatest theory yet to explain how life forms on our planet have preserved themselves — the Constructal Law. According to Bejan, everything on our planet follows from a fundamental design or pattern that allows for the best possible flow of energy. Bejan references the unique way in which water travels from the roots of a tree trunk to the top branches, and ultimately, flows to the sky. Likewise, water travels from the sky down to Earth to recycle that same process. We can see this same flow pattern in rivers, plants, lightning bolts. We can even see those same patterns in our physical bodies. From the flow of electrons in our brains, oxygen flow in our lungs and blood flow from our hearts, everything is interdependent upon one another, according to Bejan.
Adrian Bejan? He’s not a physicist. He’s a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University — here’s his faculty page at Duke: Adrian Bejan. Wikipedia has an article on his Constructal law, which says:
The main criticism of the constructal law is that its formulation is vague. The constructal law states that “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it”, but there is neither a mention of what these “currents” are nor an explicit definition of what “providing easier access” means, nor precisely formulating the relationship with math. Without defining the physical quantities or their exact relationships, it is not physical or mathematical.
Bejan is a favorite of the Discoveroids — see Airplanes Evolve by Intelligent Design, Therefore … . Having adopted Bejan as his guru, Jonathan ends his letter with this:
As such, humanity should fall in line with nature’s flow phenomena. After all, we are each an integral part of the very fabric of our universe. We should exist not just with a goal of self-gratification, but with a purpose to help those around us, and preserve the existence of our universe’s greatest achievement: life itself.
So there you are. Jonathan is convinced that the Earth is unique, and that there are no other life-bearing planets in the universe. He’s also convinced that science is on his side. Nice letter!
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