Everyone knows about the Drake equation, developed by Frank Drake in 1961 to estimate of the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. It depends on several factors: the number of stars in our galaxy that have planets, the number of such planets that can potentially support life, the number of those that develop intelligent civilizations which then generate signals we can detect, and how long such civilizations exist.
We found an article at PhysOrg yesterday, Are we alone? Setting some limits to our uniqueness, describing a re-think of the Drake equation by Adam Frank, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, and Woodruff Sullivan of the astronomy department and astrobiology program at the University of Washington. It was published in Astrobiology. Here’s a link to that paper: A New Empirical Constraint on the Prevalence of Technological Species in the Universe , which you can read online without a subscription. PhysOrg quotes Frank who says:
We’ve known for a long time approximately how many stars exist. We didn’t know how many of those stars had planets that could potentially harbor life, how often life might evolve and lead to intelligent beings, and how long any civilizations might last before becoming extinct. Thanks to NASA’s Kepler satellite and other searches, we now know that roughly one-fifth of stars have planets in “habitable zones,” where temperatures could support life as we know it. So one of the three big uncertainties has now been constrained.
Yes, we know that. The new approach the authors took was this:
“Rather than asking how many civilizations may exist now, we ask ‘Are we the only technological species that has ever arisen?'” said Sullivan. “This shifted focus eliminates the uncertainty of the civilization lifetime question and allows us to address what we call the ‘cosmic archaeological question’ — how often in the history of the universe has life evolved to an advanced state?”
That still leaves huge uncertainties in calculating the probability for advanced life to evolve on habitable planets. It’s here that Frank and Sullivan flip the question around. Rather than guessing at the odds of advanced life developing, they calculate the odds against it occurring in order for humanity to be the only advanced civilization in the entire history of the observable universe. With that, Frank and Sullivan then calculated the line between a Universe where humanity has been the sole experiment in civilization and one where others have come before us. [Emphasis supplied.]
Interesting, but still quite speculative. We weren’t going to write about it, but then we saw that the Discovery Institute has jumped in. The latest article at their creationist blog is Cosmic Archaeology: Taking the Sting Out of the Drake Equation. 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.
What could the Discoveroids possibly contribute to this topic? We’ll give you a few excerpts from Klinghoffer’s essay, with bold font added by us for emphasis.
Frank Drake’s work has previously been a stumbling block for materialist understandings of the cosmos.
What? Let’s read on:
If our habitable planet is common currency and life evolves so easily, with intelligent life and civilization following readily in its wake, then why do we record no evidence of such life out there — no contact from ETs, not a peep? Could it be that life is so unlikely as to require a designer’s guidance for it to come into existence? Hence the anxiety.
Uh huh — the “anxiety” — which we all know as the Fermi paradox. Klinghoffer continues:
Ah, but you see, it’s because all the previous alien civilizations have gone extinct! Just as — so fashionable opinion never tires of telling us — our own threatens to do.
Then he talks about the new article in Astrobiology and says:
Whether Earth’s intelligent life has or had parallels elsewhere all depends on how readily previously dead matter evolves such an astonishing pattern. If it does so relatively easily, then many other inhabited planets like Earth have probably gone before us … . If you select the Milky Way as your area of interest and then a likelihood of evolving intelligent life at 1 in 10,000 (10^-4), then the result is some 6 million civilizations, past or present. If you choose 10^-24, then “We are the first advanced civilization.” There are, and have been, no others.
Okay. That’s not very difficult to figure out. Here comes Klinghoffer’s valuable contribution to the issue:
[W]e do know that evolving a civilization involves hurtles downstream from a far more basic problem — getting a functional protein. No building blocks of life means, inescapably, no life. ETs don’t need to be designed precisely as we are for this to be true.
Then he quotes Discoveroid Ann Gauger (a/k/a “Annie Green Screen”), who is now Casey’s replacement in the blogging department:
Proteins exhibit exquisite design, with extraordinary specified complexity embedded in their sequences. Too much to be the result of random processes.
Well, that settles the issue — at least as far as Klinghoffer is concerned. His conclusion is very weird, but here it is:
To speak of intelligent life developing, putting odds on that, seems beyond calculation. But reckoning on civilizations having extinguished themselves is an ingenious move and grants evolutionists a tenuous handhold. How can anyone prove there aren’t scads of dead Earths out there? It also fits well with the ethos of the moment, an apocalyptic one that sees civilization and technology’s advance, human flourishing itself, as an exercise in self-destruction.
That’s it, dear reader. Now you know the Discoveroids’ best thinking about whether we’re alone. They’re confident that we are, so there’s no need for any further research. Instead, we should spend all our time contemplating the glory of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who miraculously created us and our privileged planet.
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