This appeared at PhysOrg two weeks ago: An equation to quantify the origins of life on other planets. It says, with bold font added by us:
A pair of researchers, one with the Columbia Astrobiology Center in New York, the other with the University of Glasgow in the U.K. has come up with a mathematical equation that when solved is meant to offer a means for estimating how often life begins on other planets. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Caleb Scharf and Leroy Cronin describe their equation, how they came up with it and why they believe it might become more useful as scientists learn more about the true nature of other planets and solar systems.
This is a link to their paper: Quantifying the origins of life on a planetary scale. You can read it online without a subscription, but we’ll stay with PhysOrg:
Back in the 1960’s, an astronomer named Frank Drake came up with a formula for estimating the likely number of alien civilizations that might be capable of transmitting radio signals in such a way as to be recognizable by receivers here on earth. That equation, named quite naturally the Drake Equation has been the unofficial standard-bearer for half a century, despite it having no solution because some of the parameters are still unknown. The same holds true for the new equation developed by Scharf and Cronin, but the results given should the unknowns ever be discovered would offer a different sort of answer than Drake was looking for.
Let’s read on:
To build their formula, the duo came up with several parameters to solve for abiogenesis, which is the likelihood of an event occurring that leads to life beginning, they included the number of possible building blocks, the mean number of such blocks per possible organism, the availability of building blocks that might exist during a given time period, expressed as a fraction and the probability that the existence of the building blocks would actually lead to life starting in a given unit of time. It looks like this:
Nabiogenesis(t)= Nb · 1/no · fc · Pa · t
One more excerpt:
In essence the formula is meant to suggest that the probability of life beginning on a given planet is very likely connected to whether there are building blocks available on a given planet, and how much of them there might be. As more is learned by space researchers it is hoped that the formula could help narrow down search targets by offering a statistical probability of success for a given planet.
As you can imagine, none of that is acceptable to creationists, because they already know the answers. A typical response is at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute: Once Again, Astrobiologists Put a Veneer of Sophistication on Ignorance. It has no author’s byline, and it’s quite long. We’ll give you the guts of it, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
People who follow SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, likely know about the Drake equation. It was the brainchild of one of the founding fathers of SETI, Frank Drake. In order to estimate the probable number of other intelligent civilizations in the galaxy, he wrote his famous equation as the product of a series of factors … .
Yes, we all know about the Drake equation. Then they say:
An equation is only as useful as its inputs. Almost every variable in the Drake equation is pure guesswork. … Is there any value in such an exercise, when the answers can vary over many orders of magnitude? Perhaps. At least the equation drew attention to minimum requirements for intelligent life. … The bottom line is still ignorance, but a more sophisticated ignorance.
In the tradition of Drake, Caleb Scharf from the Columbia Astrobiology Center and Leroy Cronin of Glasgow University decided to hone in on the “entry point” for speculations about SETI, the origin of life (OoL). … Their resulting “OoL Frequency Equation” considers the following factors, which can be seen as expansions of Drake’s variable fl, the fraction of habitable planets on which life does arise.
They describe the factors in the new equation, but we don’t need to get into that. Moving along:
The last factor Pa is clearly the most significant of all. It’s about probability. Scharf and Cronin recognize that the origin of life, in their own perspective, boils down to one thing: a lucky accident.
The published paper doesn’t call it a “lucky accident.” Scharf and Cronin say: “We purposefully treat Pa as a catchall that circumvents the need to go into the (unknown) mechanical details.”
Another excerpt from the Discoveroids:
Unless the probability is sufficiently high for a minimal cell to self-assemble, the other terms don’t matter.
To show how improbable it is, they quote Fred Hoyle, famous for the junkyard tornado analogy, which is forever quoted by creationists. They also refer to remarks made by Discoveroids Doug Axe and Stephen Meyer. On with the article:
Evolutionists are eager to leap over the OoL hurdle so that they get where they feel more comfortable, with Darwinian evolution. Once life exists, natural selection becomes their magic wand, able to turn protocells into philosophers’ brains.
We’re skipping a load of Discoveroid blather, but this is from the end of their article:
If nothing but chance is available to sequence the ingredients needed for a minimal cell, the probability is so tremendously beyond the universal probability bound as to rule it out of court. By contrast, we know of a cause that can organize building blocks into functional complex structures. That cause, of course, is intelligence.
Aha — the Discoveroids have the magic answer! No fancy equations are necessary.
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