Discoveroids: Denton’s Book Proves Everything

The Discovery Institute continues to post about Denton’s book. The last time we wrote about it was More About Denton’s New Book. Today they’re at it again. The latest at their creationist blog is Denton Turns Sagan’s “Humdrum Star” on Its Head, written by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

On a new ID the Future episode [Groan], biologist Michael Denton talks with host Sarah Chaffee about the remarkable fitness of a range of properties seen in water and in light. [Ooooooooooooh!] Download the podcast or listen to it here. [Link omitted.] It’s particularly satisfying to hear Denton turn a frequently heard dismissal of our Sun on its head.

What “dismissal of our Sun” is Klinghoffer talking about? He explains:

Carl Sagan in Cosmos gave the idea perhaps its most iconic expression. In Episode 7, he lectures to a classroom of Brooklyn schoolchildren about how it was once thought that Earth occupied an “important” place in the cosmos. Tut-tut, how silly the old people were, before we realized that our solar system is not at the center of things but way out on the edge of the galaxy, thereby guaranteeing (this leap doesn’t quite follow) our cosmic insignificance. He goes on to ponder:

[We haven’t verified this quote:] For as long as there have been humans we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

That sounds like Sagan. To a creationist, of course, it’s heresy, because we are the special creation of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! Klinghoffer tells us:

Yet the fact that the Sun is “humdrum” or “ordinary” may be the most extraordinary thing about it. [Huh?] Dr. Denton discusses the fortunate circumstances characterizing visual light, needed for vision and photosynthesis.

He quotes Denton:

The big deal is that being an ordinary star means that the vast majority of stars in the cosmos put out their energy in the visual and infrared area, bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. So being “ordinary,” what this means is that the universe — it’s somewhat ironic and it seems a bit counterintuitive — it means the universe is profoundly fit for biological systems like ourselves. The Sun is an ordinary star, and that’s a very big deal. The universe, as I describe it Children of Light, is flooded with the light of life.

As we mentioned before, Denton’s argument is like the puddle in the Douglas Adams story that wakes up one morning and thinks, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, [it] may have been made to have me in it!” Wikipedia quotes that in their article Fine-tuned Universe. Anyway, Klinghoffer continues:

“Flooded with the light of life”: What a beautiful way of putting it. [Yeah, we’re swooning.] You could add that it creates a double dilemma for materialists. [Huh?] The universe is “flooded with the light of life,” in Denton’s apt phrase. Yet so far as we know, life on Earth is a singularity. [Clumsy word choice.] This is certainly counter to Carl Sagan’s expectations. Yet it’s possible that Sagan, and Stephen Hawking and others, may prove right about the cosmos being home to many forms of extraterrestrial life, including intelligent forms. Only time can tell.

Whoa! The Discoveroids are doing a flip-flop on on their Privileged Planet dogma. Let’s read on:

If Sagan was correct, then Denton’s “ironic” observation about light’s insanely special fitness for life, life like ours, really comes to the fore. Light was finely tuned for life, whether in a multitude of homes in the cosmos or in just one. Either way, we’re prompted to ask the same question: Finely tuned by whom? And why?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It doesn’t matter if life on Earth is unique, or if it’s ubiquitous throughout the universe — either alternative is evidence for intelligent design. What a great theory — it’s compatible with everything!

The rest of Klinghoffer’s post is yet another plug for Denton’s book, so we’ll quit here. Make of it what you will, dear reader.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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35 responses to “Discoveroids: Denton’s Book Proves Everything

  1. Laurettte McGovern

    Heads I win; tails you lose. It’s beautiful in its symmetry.

  2. Finely tuned by whom? And why?
    And how, when, where?
    One thing for sure, Intelligent Design is not going to address such questions, or anyting else.
    Particularly if the “who” is not constrained by the laws of nature.
    “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle.” Galileo (see Wikiquote)

  3. The sun is slowly getting brighter. It’s unlikely that humans will be around when it happens, but eventually the earth’s life will be illuminated by far more of the sun’s light than it can withstand. All by design, of course.

  4. Our dear SC is a bit lazy today: “[We haven’t verified this quote:] ”
    Even for Klinkleclapper it’s too dangerous to tamper with.

    Cosmos, page 193.
    There are more quotes Klinkleclapper won’t like, so enjoy.

    “Denton’s argument is like the ….”
    That’s a nice and famous one, but being a Dutch chauvinist I like Herman Philipse’s version even better. I paraphraze: it’s like a fly landing on the White House, concluding that it has been designed to provide it with a cozy resting place; except that the ratio of Earth vs. Universe is immensely larger.

    “it creates a double dilemma …”
    It’s difficult to describe how tense I was when reading on.
    I still am. Because I’ve still no idea what the double dilemma is. There is not even a single dilemma.
    Oh wait, our dear SC helps me out:

    “either alternative is evidence for intelligent design. What a great theory — it’s compatible with everything!”
    That’s it?! Well, great, I already mentioned it yesterday. We can expand this endlessly. Each snowflake, each single grain of send in exactly the same way raises the question: “Finely designed by whom? And why?”
    Btw TomS made me realize that Klinkleclapper once again violates his own rule. IDiocy is (probably better was, because it appears to be something of the past) not supposed to try to identify the Grand Old Designer (blessed be MOFO!). That’s supposed to be theology. Now Klinkleclapper asks materialists to do exactly that by asking for who.

  5. Oops, nearly forgot! Like everybody else, including our dear SC. I have a little question for Klinkleclapper. How exaclty does

    “the remarkable fitness of a range of properties seen in water and in light”
    refute Evolution Theory and especially ape to man evolution? I can just as easily (and still incorrectly of course, but stay with me just a little bit longer) maintain that “the remarkable fitness of a range of properties seen in abiogenesis and evolution ……”
    Hmmmm, why would Old Geezer Denton, Savvy Sarah and Klinkleclapper not present this version of fine-tuning? Please help me out, the answer is somewhere hidden in a dark corner of my brains ….

  6. FrankB requests: “Please help me out”

    The answer is simple. You gotta have faith!

  7. @FrankB
    As long as Intelligent Design might be taken as distinct from Young Earth Creationism, why not present arguments such as these:

    * The remakable coincidence of the living things mentioned in the Bible with the those known in the Ancient Near East (no mention, for example, of microbes or of fauna of Australia) – who and why would limit themselves so?

  8. Michael Fugate

    DI theme song

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each little flower that opens,
    Each little bird that sings,
    He made their glowing colours,
    He made their tiny wings.

    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.

    The purple headed mountain,
    The river running by,
    The sunset and the morning,
    That brightens up the sky;−

    The cold wind in the winter,
    The pleasant summer sun,
    The ripe fruits in the garden,−
    He made them every one:

    The tall trees in the greenwood,
    The meadows where we play,
    The rushes by the water,
    We gather every day;−

    He gave us eyes to see them,
    And lips that we might tell,
    How great is God Almighty,
    Who has made all things well.
    Cecil Alexander

  9. The Wikipedia article suggests that “All Things Bright and Beautiful” may have drawn inspiration from Paley’s “Natural Theology”.

  10. Michael Fugate

    Interesting TomS.

  11. Mark Germano

    Denton forgot to mention that the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is at 98%! Design in action!

  12. Dave Luckett

    There is of course the Monty Python version, which is equally sound theology.

  13. Steve Gerrard

    “Dr. Denton discusses the fortunate circumstances characterizing visual light, needed for vision and photosynthesis.”

    Always backwards. Vision and photosynthesis came after light. To no one’s surprise, they work at the frequencies of light that are available. Had the dominant frequencies been different, vision and photosynthesis would work with those instead. I am struggling to avoid just saying the obvious – they evolved to match the circumstances.

  14. Yes, the Monty Python bit about “all creatures dull and squat” as a description of Klingy the Klown is a “beautiful way of putting it.”

    I believe Sagan was talking about our sun as “humdrum” — relative to other stars– in its overall mass and given stage in stellar evolution, about half-way through its life cycle. If Denton and co want to posit stars as life/light giving design, why not binary star systems: two for the price of one? Or would that be over egging the pudding? Or maybe not conducive to life on neighboring planets at all?

    It’s a double dilemma for for design proponents.

  15. Steve Gerrard’s comments remind me of those countless animals living in the ocean below @1,000 metres (the so-called midnight zone) where there is zero light. To say nothing of those animals living near the hydrothermal vents that employ chemosynthesis (as opposed to photosynthesis). But I suppose Dr Denton has considered them too.

  16. Dear SC
    Apologies to Steve “Gerrard”, and chomosynthesis is my Ipad’s spelling of “chemosynthesis “.

  17. Apropos nothing in particular. I was just correcting a “spelling” mistake which reminded me of that great Australian geologist and loon, Andrew “Snelling” (see the play on words, ha!). You’ll recall Snelling recently collected samples of something or other in the Grand Canyon which would enable him to scientifically confirm the YEC theory about “The Flood”.

    Well, that was about 12 months ago, and I would have thought we would have heard Snelling’s good news by now. Oh, wait! I guess he would want to publish these earth-shattering results in a quality, peer-reviewed journal. Of course, that’d explain it. Just a matter of time now. Oh wow, this is gonna turn the world of science on its head. How exciting…

  18. @SteveG tries to downplay the brilliancy of Old Geezer Denton: “To no one’s surprise …”
    Ah, but if there is one thing Klinkleclapper is good at it is pretending that he is surprised.

  19. Cruzing to Victory

    @tedinoz: Appendix A in Denton’s book entitled “Doing Without Sunlight” covers the animals you mention and chemosynthesis. You’re welcome

    @Steve Gerrard: It’s not so obvious. Omnipotent Evolution is not going to help you in this case. Only someone ignorant of bio- and photochemistry would say vision and photosynthesis “work at the frequencies of light that are available”. A higher frequency (energy) wavelength would strip away electrons and ionize atoms. Even if photosynthesis could interact with higher energy frequencies, DNA and RNA would not fare well. I imagine microwaves would not be good for life either. Don’t you agree?

    So you’ll need electrons to acquire an adaptive trait to resist being stripped away from atoms or rely on lower energy levels to perform chemical reactions in radiation outside visible light. Good luck with that 😉

    Oh yeah, water would also have to “evolve” its electro-magnetic absorption characteristics to allow either IR or UV radiation to penetrate the atmosphere, oceans, rivers and lakes. Otherwise your evolved chlorophyll will have no photons with which to work. Good luck with that too.

  20. We’ll leave that, in case anyone wants to play with it.

  21. Cruzing to Victory

    Why don’t you have a go at it, Curmie?

  22. Karl Goldsmith (@KarlGoldsmith)

    This sounds like creationists making a claim and then asserting it to non creationists. “Flooded with the light of life”: What a beautiful way of putting it. [Yeah, we’re swooning.] You could add that it creates a double dilemma for materialists. [Huh?]

  23. Michael Fugate

    Why would anyone expect that the molecules would be the same under those conditions?

  24. “.Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power.”
    William Paley, Natural Theology

  25. As our dear SC hasn’t answered yet I will:

    “Why don’t you have a go at it, Curmie?”
    Because you’re boring, as long as you are not meaningless. Example: ” if photosynthesis could interact with higher energy frequencies”. You could as well make arguments about the the wombs of grass. Good luck with that one.

  26. Cruzing to Victory

    @Michael Fugate: I anticipated your question. That’s why I concentrated on the electron. Apparently you didn’t grasp the significance.

    Interesting to note that my science-based arguments have been met with silence, rhetorical questions, a quote from Paley and inanity.

  27. Cruzing to Victory

    TSB, there are WordPress themes that allow replies directly under a comment so one doesn’t have to guess or use the @ to determine who the comment is directed at.

  28. Steve Gerrard

    To no one’s surprise, the biochemistry on Earth is functionally adapted to the dominant spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, generally known as light. There is a little wiggle room, so if sunlight didn’t include much red light, we could still see photosynthesis based on the blue range, but not on the red range. But yes, our Earthly organic chemistry limits what ranges could be used by life as we know it.

    The actual range of possibilities for different types of chemistries is a wider band, though. Who knows what spectrum would work well with silicon and methane based life forms, or if such forms are possible? It is tempting to think that life can only exist with Earthly biochemistry, but I don’t think that is a firm conclusion yet.

  29. “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle.” Galileo (see Wikiquote)
    The actual range of possibilities for different types of chemisries …
    For a sufficiently powerful agent, certainly for an omniscient and omnipotent one, how can we rule out “life” based on neutronium, helium and technetium?

  30. Cruzing to Victory

    @Steverino: Since the band of infrared, ultraviolet and visible light comprises only one 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 of the electro-magnetic spectrum, your phrase “dominant spectrum of electromagnetic radiation” makes no sense? You may be confused by linear vs logarithmic scaling.

    For those of you who didn’t read the book (most likely everyone here), that’s analogous to 1 playing card in a stack reaching from here to the Andromeda Galaxy or 1 second out of 1 million times the age of the universe.

    Oogity Boogity
    What Awesome Fortuity!

  31. Steve Gerrard

    I meant dominant in the spectrum of the radiation from the sun that hits us here on earth.

  32. Michael Fugate

    oooooooo! the argument from probability! I am impressed!

  33. Sorry, Klinghoffer; sorry, Dr. Denton: our sun isn’t that “ordinary.” It’s estimated that approximately 75 percent of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs, and then there are all the other stellar classes.

    You’re better off with the “privileged planet” argument. Not that much better off, though, since suggesting that Earth may be the only planet in the universe capable of bearing life says nothing whatever about whether, or how, life evolved thereafter on this planet once it appeared.

  34. Sorry about that first post; I goofed with my tags somewhere.

    [*Voice from above*] I’ve seen worse. It’s gone now.

  35. The expression “capable of bearing life” makes sense only as a limitation on the agency or process responsible for life.