The discovery of intelligent life on worlds other than Earth would be extremely disconcerting for creationists. This is true not only for traditional creationists, who base their “science” entirely on the bible, but also for the crypto-creationists at the Discovery Institute, who claim — for litigation purposes — that their version of creationism isn’t based on the bible. Nevertheless, their “theory” proposes a transcendental designer (never named, because that would doom their educational efforts), who, like Yehweh, created the universe, the Earth, life, and us.
That’s why both flavors of creationism (honest and stealth) routinely post attacks on SETI, the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence, insisting that it’s a waste of time and money because they know — somehow — that we’re the only intelligent species in the universe. We wrote about such an effort by the Discoveroids six weeks ago — see Klinghoffer Thinks About the Drake Equation. It was an attack on a paper in Astrobiology 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.
Today the Discoveroids are at it again, with this new post at their creationist blog: Ice-Cold Water on Past Alien Civilizations Thesis. 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. We’ll give you a few excerpts from Klinghoffer’s essay, with bold font added by us for emphasis.
Astrophysicist Adam Frank at the University of Rochester and astronomer Woodruff Sullivan at the University of Washington have been getting some mileage out of their thesis that past alien civilizations are a near certainty.
It always bothers the Discoveroids that real scientists get a respectful hearing for their ideas, while creationists like themselves get virtually none. Klinghoffer then refers to his earlier attack on the same two scientists, which we wrote about six weeks ago, and says:
Ross Anderson at The Atlantic pours ice-cold water on that one (Fancy Math Can’t Make Aliens Real). The key lies in all the mega-assumptions that Frank elides concerning abiogenesis and evolution.
And the key to the argument of creationists is their assumption that both the origin of life and its evolution by natural means is somehow impossible.
Who is Ross Anderson, whose article Klinghoffer regards so favorably? We can’t find any information on his background, but the magazine says he is “a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Science, Technology, and Health sections.” Klinghoffer gives us a huge quote from Anderson’s article. A small sampling from that (which we haven’t verified) will be sufficient. We added some bold font for emphasis:
These arguments have their appeal, but it is an appeal to intuition. The simple fact is that no matter how much we wish to live in a universe that teems with life — and many of us wish quite fervently — we haven’t the slightest clue how often it evolves. Indeed, we aren’t even sure how life arose on this planet. We have our just-so stories about lightning strikes and volcanic vents, but no one has come close to duplicating abiogenesis in a lab. Nor do we know whether basic organisms reliably evolve into beings like us.
We can’t extrapolate from our experience on this planet, because it’s only one data point. We could be the only intelligent beings in the universe, or we could be one among trillions, and either way Earth’s natural history would look the exact same.
Frank compresses each of these important, billions-of-years-in-the-making leaps in evolution into a single “biotechnical” probability, which is meant to capture the likelihood of the whole sequence. For all we know, each step could be a highly contingent cosmic lottery win.
Klinghoffer seizes upon that “cosmic lottery” remark and says:
Or intelligent design.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, if one wants to get really speculative, he could also consider that. Klinghoffer continues:
So much hangs on the question of human exceptionalism. … What human beings are — cosmic flotsam or creatures potentially in a designer’s image — is the background dilemma to all discussions of evolution.
He’s right. If we truly are created “in His image,” that would be a vital factor in discussing evolution. Klinghoffer concludes with this:
Intelligent aliens are a requirement for materialists since human existence must be unexceptional, not only on the planet but in the cosmos. If ETs already died out, that’s fine too.
Actually, intelligent aliens aren’t required. Some kind of life out there is probably inevitable, and the creationists could tolerate it if we found only microbes. But if intelligent aliens really do (or ever did) exist, that would be a wooden stake through the heart of all creationists — including the Discoveroids. It’s amusing to see that they are aware of their vulnerabilities.
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