Klinghoffer Insists Earth Is Unique

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.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Klinghoffer Insists Earth Is Unique

  1. “… 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.” PhysOrg

    “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.” Klinghoffer

    So perhaps life arose, and like on earth, they, if dumb humanoids like us, destroyed their planet through their careless actions and they just faded away. And contrary to Klinghoffer, denialism, superstition and ignorance runs rampant throughout our humanoid species with a refusal to accept responsibility for our despoiling our home planet.

  2. michaelfugate

    What Klinghoffer believes for certain is that everything is evidence for god and the special uniqueness of the earth and humans.

  3. So there are fewer “earth-like” planets in the universe than was previously thought. The quoted article estimates that there are “700 million trillion exoplanets”. That’s a cumbersome way to present it; I presume that they are trying to say that the number is 7 x 10^17! That’s a truly staggering count. With a number like that it is only necessary for an extremely small percentage of them to be earth-like for there to be a HUGE number that are habitable. I’ll still bet that our existence is not a unique occurrence in the university, especially if accept the possibility of life that has come and gone since the big bang

  4. I think we need a new logical fallacy, the “Fermi Paradox Fallacy.” People seem to automatically think that since some (huge number) of planets have been around longer than ours there should be flying saucers zipping around like mosquitoes in a Minnesota swamp. There are thousands of reasons why one does not follow the other, but the biggest is that evolution does not have a sense of direction. “Intelligence” is not an evolutionary property, only replication is. The dinosaurs existed for millions of years without a single sit-com, much less a warp drive. They might exist still if it were not for a well timed meteorite. Out of whatever number of habitable planets we find probably the majority will be covered with some kind of what we call bacteria.

  5. EARTH is VERY SPECIAL!!!! It is the planet I live on and the only place I can live with out using special gear! Its also special in the fact we humans live here. But that is very different from …’the universe thinks we are special!’ Maybe we are but if so it is a very sad universe to live in!!

  6. Perhaps other intelligent life is actually intelligent – in the sense that they are not going to reveal themselves to us until we become much less warlike and much more protective of planetary ecosystems. Why release a dangerous intelligent life-form into the galaxy?

    Or maybe they are like our future selves in Star Trek, with a proscription against interfering with non space faring civilizations. Who knows?

    Virtual models are just that – they are models, and can be adjusted with new data as necessary. The bottom line is that there are far more planets than we can possibly imagine, and it is an act of extreme hubris to assert that we are the only intelligent life-forms in the vast universe. Even on our own planet, other creatures exist with considerable intelligence, such as dolphins, elephants, ravens, octopi, etc. Intelligence cannot be that rare.

  7. There is, of course, the problem that the model is only as good as the data. GIGO, the ancient curse of computers. The performed a “virtual census”, and I’m sure the math was rigorous. But how good were the values that they plugged into the calculations?

  8. The important point here isn’t that Earth is unique, or nearly so—if the new model is correct. Rather, it’s that even if it’s so, that doesn’t prove creationism is true, only that life, and especially intelligent life, is a fluke. It certainly doesn’t prove the universe is only a few thousand years old!

    About the only thing Klinghoffer has right is that if Earth is “unique” among “700 quintillion” planets, that’s more than a “mild statistical anomaly.” (Though as is pointed out by the Curmudgeon, that isn’t actually what the researchers say.) Personally, though, I’d be cautious about accepting such claims. I remember that in the 1980s another study claimed that the habitable zone around our sun was only five million miles wide, making it fabulously good luck that Earth lay within it. I’ll bet the creationists back then oohed and ahhed over that study, too, but the model it used is accepted by few people today.

  9. To me, to say that life on Earth is unique among quintillions of possibilities is to say that life is virtually impossible. That the universe is not designed to make it possible for life.

  10. Egad, it is not with regard to theology these researchers are missing the mark, it is with regard to the English language. “If correct, the models suggest that Earth is much more unique than other models have been showing in the past few years.” The Earth is “much more unique”? WTF?
    Shouldn’t that be uniquer? Or maybe uniquest? How can something be more “one of a kind”?
    And the clue for the creationists is in the line “than we previously thought” you see, D’roids, scientists adjust their thinking based upon evidence. Creationists never adjust their thinking they just keep pointing to things in ever shrinking gaps in our knowledge and understanding (See, see, we told you so!).