BiasBreakdown

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A Wizard Did It

Atheists lack imagination. Every once in a while, sci-fi nerds get their panties in a bunch when trying to figure out why we haven’t met other intelligent life.

First and foremost there’s the Rare Earth Hypothesis (REH), the suggestion that the emergence of life was extremely improbable for a confluence of reasons. The theory essentially suggests that we hit the jackpot here on Earth. This argument, which was first articulated by geologist Peter Ward and astrobiologist Donald E. Brownlee, turns the whole Copernican Principle on its head. Instead of saying that we’re nothing special or unique, the REH implies the exact opposite — that we are freakishly special and unique. What we see here on Earth in this solar system and in this part of the Galaxy may be a remarkable convergence of highly unlikely factors — factors that have resulted in a perfect storm of conditions suitable for the emergence of complex life. It’s important to note that Ward and Brownlee are not implying that it’s one or two conditions that can explain habitability, but rather an entire array of happy accidents. For example, stars might have to be of the right kind (including adequate metallicity and safe distance from dangerous celestial objects), and planets must be in a stable orbit with a large moon. Other factors include the presence of gas giants, plate tectonics, and many others. But even with all the right conditions, life was by no means guaranteed. It’s quite possible that the Great Filter involved the next set of steps: the emergence of life and its ongoing evolution.

“Happy accidents?” Just say it. Maybe God did it.

Many religious people never exclude the possibility of a scientific explanation. But by definition, all atheists must always rule out the possibility of the theological. Who is more limited in their ability to learn the truth? Maybe the universe is teeming with intelligent life, and maybe it isn’t. The question is a fun but useless exercise other than how usefully it demonstrates how far people will go to avoid the possibility of God.

Wherever you stand, humility is always in order. Whether it’s religion and God or science and advanced life forms, knowability has its limits:

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2 thoughts on “A Wizard Did It

  1. James on said:

    Atheists lack imagination says the guy who wants to just throw up his hands and say, “God did it!” I find it increasingly ridiculous how theists continually try to shoe horn their god/gods into these types of discussions, without an ounce of intellectual shame.Face it theist, you guys lost! There is no debate between creationism and evolution or any sort of serious scientific theory. Seriously its just getting to be sad now. On a side note, the Rare Earth Hypothesis in no way postulates any sort of half baked creationist ‘theory.’ It merely states that though simple lifeforms such as single celled organiss may be common, complex organisms likely require a large number of conditions that make intelligent life, let alone tool makers that we will be able to communicate with right now through radio waves, extremely rare. Thats it.

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    • I find it interesting that you assert that theists ‘lost.’ If you’re right, and there is no God, then we’ve all lost. We’re nothing more than complex interactions of matter with no ultimate or eternal meaning.

      I’m not sure how bringing up God in the context of the universe’s origin is ‘shoehorning’ him in. The universe has an origin. It is either another byproduct of the ‘multiverse’ or created by God. Each hypothesis is scientifically unprovable. The idea of a creating force, and asserting that God may be that creating force, is generating a hypothesis, not shoehorning. I’m not sure you understand what shoehorn means.

      The fact that you ‘shoehorned’ creationism into your comment tells me you don’t actually understand what that word means either. Creationism has to do with the creation of fully developed life by God snapping his fingers right after he popped everything else into existence in its present form. The Rare Earth Hypothesis, and this discussion, has to do with the underlying fundamentals of the universe, the probability of the conditions in which life could come into existence and develop. On a sidenote, I’m a Catholic and not just a theist, and actually find God’s use of the natural mechanisms of the universe to create the whole of human existence over billions of years to be a more awesome, subtle, and miraculous assertion of His power than one fell swoop of power that created the universe ‘as is’ along with all life within it. Also, the evolution of life (which is what actual Creationists contest) is something that occurred within the bounds of the universe and is therefore approachable by science and the scientific method.

      Question: Regarding the conditions of the universe, how extremely rare or improbable does something have to be before you would consider the possibility that it was designed to be that way? If you stumbled through the wilderness in Utah, and suddenly came upon the NSA’s Utah Data Center, would your first assumption be that in an infinity of universes, the data center had to assemble itself, or would your first assumption be that someone or something created it?

      My biggest beef with atheists is the astounding lack of humility. There’s a certain arrogance and hubris (as well as intellectual shallowness) in shouting “It’s Science!” during this argument, which is an argument that (as of now) can only be had in philosophical and theological terms, as the reach of the scientific method is bounded by the universe itself as well as the limits on mankind’s ability to observe it (and we certainly have no capacity to observe outside the universe). Also, it takes a remarkable lack of awareness to assert that Science ever ends any debate, since Science undergoes major evolutions and revolutions every 50-100 years that change our understanding of how the universe works. Until the 1960s, the steady state theory was in vogue and asserted that the universe had simply always been. Then we discovered the cosmic background radiation and shifted to the Big Bang. It happens that fast.

      Finally, under the need for humility, atheists never seem to consider the possibility that just as an ant will never be able to perform calculus, humans may not even have the capacity to fully understand how the universe works, much less the force or forces that created it. (Thus, aetheists lack the imagination to concede the possibility that not only do they not know, but that what they seek to grasp may be unknowable.)

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