When we saw this at PhysOrg yesterday, we knew it wouldn’t be long before the creationists jumped all over it: Researchers conclude the universe contains fewer Earth-like planets than previously thought. It says:
A small team of researchers, three with Swedish Institutions and one from the U.S. has created a computer model of the known universe and in using it to estimate the number of likely other exoplanets able to hold life, has found that there might be fewer Earth-like planets than has been thought.
We’re told that the paper will appear in The Astrophysical Journal, but it’s not there yet. You can read a pre-print here: Terrestrial planets across space and time. PhysOrg says the researchers:
… took a virtual census and found the model had “created” approximately 700 million trillion exoplanets — but, to the surprise of the researchers, the vast majority of them were far older than planet Earth. If correct, the models suggest that Earth is much more unique than other models have been showing in the past few years. This is because it is assumed that if life began on other planets far earlier than on Earth, because it would be much older, it should have matured beyond what we have here on Earth to the point that it would be not only noticeable to us, but likely dominant. But because we have not seen any sign of other life, it appears likely that none is there, or is close enough to spot, which suggests that Earth actually is much more unique than other recent models have been suggesting.
But they also caution:
The researchers acknowledge that their model is based on data that is still only partly understood, and that much of what we have observed to date is still somewhat hazy, thus, it is not clear just how accurate their model really is.
That disclaimer is wise, because the study seems to contrast with recent observations — for example, last month we wrote: More Earth-Like Planets Found.
Although creationists never hesitate to dismiss undeniable evidence that supports well-established theories, they readily accept results such as the model described above — if the results can be interpreted to support creationism. A good example is found at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute, titled One in 700 Quintillion: Exoplanet Study Confirms Terran Exceptionalism.
It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Rare privilege carries with it exceptional responsibility. That might be why many people resist the conclusion of what our colleague Wesley Smith calls human exceptionalism. The unique status and dignity of human beings compared to animals is affirmed by daily experience. The uniquely privileged status of our planet and our species in relationship to the cosmos isn’t obvious in the same way. It needs rigorous scientific confirmation that goes beyond the instructions of common sense.
Then he gives the expected link to a book co-authored by a Discoveroid: Privileged Planet, which declares that Earth was uniquely created. After that he tells us:
The thesis of what you might call terran exceptionalism received impressive additional support this week from [the work we described above].
Even more impressive support than a Discoveroid book? Wowie! After that, Klinghoffer quotes extensively — not from the actual paper, but from a magazine article about the paper. Then he declares:
One in 700 quintillion is “a fairly lucky hand,” a “mild statistical anomaly”?
The study said there were that many planets — itself a big jolt to creationists who used to say that our solar system is unique — but it didn’t say Earth is literally unique among all those planets. Klinghoffer doesn’t worry about such things. He concludes with this:
That’s “terrifying” all right if the image of humanity you carry around in your head is the one associated with materialism, insisting that we are ordinary, unexceptional, hairless apes, cosmic flotsam, hardly worth a yawn.
From that, we assume that the image of humanity in Klinghoffer’s head is the usual creationist concept — our species was uniquely created in the image of the designer, on a uniquely created planet. We’re not surprised.
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