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Is there Life Elsewhere in the Cosmos?

Cosmos

The December Wall Street Journal editorial by Eric Metaxas, "Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God", has generated significant interest and discussion. Metaxas’ main point is that the probability of life existing in our inhospitable universe is so close to zero that only a supernatural explanation (i.e., God) can account for our existence here on Earth.

We agree with Mr. Metaxas that the odds against an anthropic universe are staggeringly high, but we’re not as convinced that extraterrestrial life is as improbable as his article implies. Metaxas theorizes that the high number of factors necessary to support life here on earth makes it virtually impossible that life exists elsewhere. But because we now have the ability to detect and even categorize remote planets, the research has gone beyond the purely theoretical to now include observational data. It is our purpose here to summarize this new data.

Science is just beginning to probe the skies for exoplanets. The first confirmed planet orbiting a star similar to our sun was discovered in 1996 by the Swiss team of Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz. Discoveries accelerated a decade later with the launch of the 2006 French CoRoT and the 2009 NASA Kepler space missions, and currently there are over 1800 confirmed exoplanets with thousands more under investigation.

Bearing in mind that all of these planets are located in our galaxy—the Milky Way, which houses 100-200 billion stars, and is but one of an estimated 100-200 billion galaxies, one quickly realize that there are a lot of places to look. Current technology however, limits our search to neighboring regions of the Milky Way. Still, as evidenced by the numbers above, our stellar neighborhood has proven to be a fruitful starting point.

The next question is whether or not any of these planets are habitable by life forms similar to those found on earth? To be clear, our use of the term “life” refers to any living organism more complex than microbes (e.g., bacteria) This is not a slight on bacteria, which are amazingly interesting and adaptable organisms, but rather a recognition that bacteria on earth live in temperatures that would fry or freeze other forms of life and thrive in pressure and radiation that would kill anything else in minutes. In other words, because bacteria could theoretically exist almost anywhere, we need to find planets with conditions capable of supporting more fragile species for the research to be meaningful.

To this end, hundreds of scientists around the world are working on the problem of identifying habitable planets. The largest effort by far is NASA’s in-house research of the data collected by its Kepler Spacecraft.  To provide a perspective of the scope of this effort, a search of the NASA ADS (academic papers library) for papers with the keyword ‘habitability’ will return a list of some 18000 papers!  Furthermore, because most of the data collected by Kepler is publicly available other researchers can analyze it and draw their own conclusions.

One such researcher is Louis Irwin, Ph.D., a biologist at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Irwin’s team has formulated a “biological complexity index” (BCI), which rates planets on a scale of 0 to 1.0 according to the number and degree of characteristics assumed to be important for supporting multicellular life. Dr. Irwin’s team surveyed 637 exoplanets and found that 11 had a BCI rating higher than Jupiter’s moon Europa, which has both oxygen and water, and possibly even a subsurface global ocean. Based on these findings, the Irwin group estimated that there could be 100 million habitable planets in the galaxy.

Dr. Irwin’s figure of 11 habitable planets correlates with NASA’s finding that 10 out of the 603 planets they studied are in the ‘habitable zone”, but because of a different way of calculating the number of planets per stars in our galaxy, the Kepler scientists estimated that up to whopping 4 billion exoplanets in the Milky Way could support life.

Curiosity has us look up at a starlit sky and wonder if we’re alone. Could life exist out there? Most astronomers will say yes to this because science believes that the universe is fairly homogeneous - such that Earth does not inhabit a special place in space. If life could develop in our corner of the Universe, which has no unique physical properties, then perhaps it could develop in another corner of the Universe.

Still, the universe is a really big place and the distance between us and other stars (even in our own galaxy) is so large that finding indications of planet habitability by careful analysis of light (the present technique) is child’s play in comparison to actually sending a spaceship to another solar system to verify our suspicions. To illustrate, in May of 1980 the Voyager 1 rocket concluded its exploration of Jupiter and Saturn and started its journey towards interstellar space. Twenty -two years later in August 2012 it crossed the Heliopause, the theoretical boundary of the solar system. At Voyager’s current speed of 38,000 mph it would take 80,000 years for the ship to reach our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, which is a “mere” 4.2 light years away.

The discovery and classification of exoplanets based on habitability is an exciting new field that is worthy of our interest and attention, and it’s far too early in the investigation to conclude whether or not we are alone in the galaxy, much less the universe. But it’s also important to keep in mind that even if our research indicates that there are potentially billions of habitable planets out there, the vast distances between the stars may mean that, without a dramatic increase in our technological capabilities, we’ll really never know if any of these exoplanets support life.
 
 
This article was co-written by Joseph G. Miller, the Executive Director of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, and Marisa Cristina March, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Penn.
 
 
(Image credit: Pichost)

Magis Center of Reason and Faith

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  • William Davis

    I think we also make a mistake when we assume that life can only work one way. Here is one example that we've found here on earth that doesn't need oxygen:
    http://phys.org/news189836027.html

    All life really needs is some method to use chemical energy for it's own purposes, I think silicon based life is quite possible. Here's a wiki article on hypothetical possibilities:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothetical_types_of_biochemistry

    • neil_ogi

      is wikipedia a 'holy' book of evolutionists and atheists?

      • William Davis

        You should use it, tons of information, pretty accurate. Being in an encyclopedia doesn't necessarily mean a topic is true, but it means it exists. There is a ton of stuff about Christianity on Wikipedia too. I'm not exactly an atheist, I'm a Spinozist when it comes to God, so you have to make wiki the 'holy' book of deists too.

        You seem to have a problem with evolution. Evolution is actually a fact (it is observed in the fossil record, in the wild, and in the lab) and their are various theories on the nature of evolution, none of them exactly proven. That doesn't mean evolution isn't a fact.

        Here are some non-wiki links that demonstrate the fact of evolution. What we can do with it is very useful. Denying evolution at this point simply serves to make you appear terribly uneducated.

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html

        We used directed evolution to evolve bacteria that can directly convert algae into fuel (a pretty impressive feat)

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863401/

        artificially evolved "singing" mice

        http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/84060-accelerated-evolution-in-mice-leads-to-singing-rodents

        We have recently programmed bacteria by adding alien letters to the genetic alphabet

        http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/business/researchers-report-breakthrough-in-creating-artificial-genetic-code.html?_r=0

        At this point denying evolution is like denying gravity. Evolution is a fact. One can debate theories of evolution, and there is likely more to it than just natural selection.

        • neil_ogi

          quote" 'We used directed evolution to evolve bacteria that can directly convert algae into fuel (a pretty impressive feat)' - because scientists use their 'intelligence' and not 'natural processes',, and it debunked evolutionists theory that oil is the product of million years process when it's proven that it only happen it just minutes or hours!

          • William Davis

            I see you are a troll. You aren't here to converse, if you beleive in Jesus im sure he would be ashamed of you. I will never respond to you again, have a nice life.

          • neil_ogi

            you're changing the subject. you opened up your claim ('We used directed evolution to evolve bacteria that can directly convert algae into fuel (a pretty impressive feat)' and i answered you very simple. so you're using Jesus' name as if He already judge me!! that's so classic with atheists. you're just expert in ridiculing, bashing, mocking and ad homs.

          • William Davis

            You've been using ad hom the whole time. You get what you give ;) I'll stop if you change your town and calm down.

          • neil_ogi

            am i using ad hom? i didn't make statements that mock atheists.. it's just your opinion

          • Kraker Jak

            Neil is coming up fast into second place right behind me William and you are dropping into third.:-) I love it!

          • Kraker Jak

            I am thinking of coming up with an A of the month Graphic award as a tongue in cheek presentation, if it would be acceptable to commenters in general. It could be awarded arbitrarily on my part...or could be posted after due consideration re comments and upvotes. Just trying to inject a bit of levity here, especially considering that there are many posts where the emperor has no clothes on.

          • Kraker Jak

            A message from the big guy.

        • neil_ogi

          quote: 'artificially evolved "singing" mice' - scientists use their 'intelligence' to evolve a mice into a 'singing' mice!

        • neil_ogi

          quote: 'We have recently programmed bacteria by adding alien letters to the genetic alphabet' - scientists use their 'intelligence' to alter letters of genetic alphabet, therefore, no natural processes did them

        • neil_ogi

          quote: 'denying evolution is like denying gravity. Evolution is a fact.' - but where are the evidences? it only happenes in disney movie where a 'frog evolved to become a prince'

          • William Davis

            I'll grace you with one last link

            http://biologos.org/

            Christians who believe in evolution and have a site dedicated to it. Some of the cases in the lab are evolution by artificial selection (i.e. human intelligence). The most prominent theory of evolution outside a lab is natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is a theory, evolution itself is a fact, I just showed you evolution in a lab. You can think God was controlling natural selection if you want, that's what the Christians here at SN think and the ones at biologos. Troll someone else please, I prefer to spend my time on humans, not trolls.

          • neil_ogi

            why would i believe in some christians who believe in evolution as natural occurrence? evolutionists believe it is a natural cause, and some christians don't. while my position is that evolution did occur at micro-level (micro-evolution) only. im not a troll, and all i want is just answer all my questions. my questions are simple, and yet you ignore them, just like the rest of your colleagues. if you can just answer this: what food was consumed by your common ancestor? no answer.. will it survive the first few days in a prebiotic world? no answer.. and now you're accusing me as a troll?

            some christians during medieval times kill 'in the name of Christ'.. but i'm a christian and i condemned these christians who killed their fellow men.. what Christ has taught me is 'to love your neighbor'

          • William Davis

            Maybe you're not a troll, just really upset for some reason. I'll try to give you the benefit of the doubt when you ask specific question. You never asked me these question. Everyone person is individual, and may have different views on any given subject, so try not to stereo-type "atheists" if you don't mind.

            We've seen amino acids form on their own in the lab, so they were likely one of the first foods. There could have been enzymatic action that directly used sunlight as well. This article is very short and addresses some of your questions.

            http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17987-how-life-evolved-10-steps-to-the-first-cells.html#.VVX3r_lVhBc

            If you be willing to listen, I can explain to you how I know the creation myth in Genesis is just a retelling of an older Sumerian myth. There are many creation myths from ancient civilizations, there is absolutely no reason to believe them to be factually correct. The stories are still fascinating though :)

          • neil_ogi

            then why atheists don't try to answer these 2 fundamental questions i already posted?:1. what was the food eaten by your common ancestor? 2. how it would survive in a prebiotic soup in the first few days? again, no answers from 'bright' atheists. you said that 'non-living things evolving into living things' are extremely rare cases.. is that another 'just-so' stories? maybe next time atheists will say that macro-evolution is 'rare cases' that's why we don't see them evolving today.. atheists will say that cambrian fossils were examples of 'rare cases' that's why there were no transitional fossil that preceeded them. so atheists are adding new excuses for their belief systems: 'rare cases'

            quote: 'We've seen amino acids form on their own in the lab, so they were likely one of the first foods. There could have been enzymatic action that directly used sunlight as well' - then your common ancestor self-digest itself! hahaha! the first self-cannibal. granted that it is true, will it survive the first few days, months, years? then why scientists didn't perform this in the lab?

            genesis account of creation is different from sumerian and other eastern mythologies. the ancient israelites were the witness for the creation of universe, as God told them.

        • Foreign grid

          Evolution is not a fact since it is defined as a theory. I'm not saying that it doesn't apply to reality (because I think it does apply and is very logical) however understand that science claims no absolute truth. This is evident through an elementary study on the scientific method. Even my high school Chemistry teacher will tell you that we can prove and prove a scientific law over and over again, however science does not tell you that anything is set in stone. If by some chance the law of gravity does not hold in one test, then revisions must be made to the hypothesis in according to the results of the test. One shouldn't assert what they believe to be the truth on the findings of science alone since there is a relativism about it.

          • Michael Murray

            Surely it depends what you mean by the word "evolution". Do you mean it as shorthand for

            "the bunch of facts we observe that indicate that living things and their species change over time"

            or as shorthand for

            "that theory of natural selection which explains the above collection of facts about living things changing over time"

          • William Davis

            I'd argue that there is enough brute evidence to call evolution a fact. A theory of evolution describes the mechanisms through which this occurs, the oldest theory of evolution is by natural selection. Modern theories bring in more than just natural selection. I think there some serious weaknesses in natural selection alone, Christians like to bring God's hand into the direction of evolution.
            While more obvious, a similar fact is gravity. Gravity is not a theory, it's a fact...just drop something. Theories of gravity describe how it works mathematically, and postulate causation.

          • neil_ogi

            where are those brute evidences? you claimed that almost 99% of scientists do believe in evolution, then why they are hesitant to elevate that theory into 'laws of evolution'?

          • William Davis

            I thought I would add this link, it might help some:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_fact_and_theory

            Did you take any college level science classes? They tend to get into more nuanced details here, and better classes tend to bring in some philosophy of science. Largely what we are speaking of here involves philosophy of science.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'Did you take any college level science classes?' - insulting comments? i thought you are a civilized person.. if someone don't believe in your evolution, you name-called him/her ignorant of science

          • William Davis

            Asking someone if they have taken college science classes is an insult? Seriously?

          • neil_ogi

            yeah.. as if you only has entitled to sciences..

    • neil_ogi

      so another 'just-so' story happening only in papers and not on evidence? it's easy to publish a story and declare it hyothetical possibility and yet not really a reality. evolutionists and atheists are very expert on that (fairy tales)

      • William Davis

        Have you ever taken a science class? Science works through hypothesis testing. Hypotheses can come from anywhere and be formed for a variety of reason. Some are very difficult to prove or disprove, and we won't know how life got here until we do. Until then there is plenty of room for speculation. Why on earth would speculation upset you?

        • neil_ogi

          but sciences disproved evolution, thru direct or undirect observations and experimentations. i haven't seen a spider evolve into spiderman

    • neil_ogi

      quote: ' I think silicon based life is quite possible' - then why wiki don't subject it to experiment and tests? it's all hooplas, it's all mega fairies..

    • neil_ogi

      who says that life always requires oxygen in order to live? if oxygen is not required, then why no life forms exists on planet mars, jupiter, saturn, and even our moon?

    • neil_ogi

      silicon based life? then why scientists can't do that!! again, another 'just so' stories compliment by wiki

    • neil_ogi

      quote: 'Here is one example that we've found here on earth that doesn't need oxygen:' - nobody disputes that. anaerobic microbes (tetanus) live without oxygen's presence. moon has no atmospheric oxygen, why no living things exist there!

  • Peter

    Some observers say that life on earth is unique because a freak planetary collision created a molten iron core which is responsible for earth's powerful magnetic field. Without such a strong magnetic field, they argue, which protected the earth from lethal solar radiation, life could not have developed at all.

    However, that is not the right way to look at it. All this tells us is that the type of life which developed on earth is a type which developed in an environment of low solar radiation. It is blindingly obvious that this type of life cannot tolerate any environment other than that of low solar radiation. It would perish under the sudden removal of the protective magnetic field.

    The correct observation to make is not that life is unique to earth because of its magnetic field, but that the type of life which developed on earth because of its magnetic field is unique to earth.

    There may be countless other examples of lifeforms which developed on planets either with such strong solar radiation that it would be lethal to us, or with such low solar radiation that ours on earth would be lethal to them.

    • William Davis

      In general, I actually agree with you this time ;)

    • neil_ogi

      you don't need to go further in space to look for another life, because there's no other place like earth. on this planet alone, you can see different millions of species of life.

  • Mike

    Didn't JC say that he had "flocks" in our "houses" or something like that?

    BTW that there is life at all anywhere is what's mind blowing to me and that it's the kind that seems strangely obsessed with thinking about its origins and destiny and something called "right and wrong"...very curious planet.

  • "We agree with Mr. Metaxas that the odds against an anthropic universe are staggeringly high". We are in no position to place probabilities on such a question. You need to have some understanding of how universes come into being before placing probabilities on how likely a certain manifestation of a universe will be. We have no such understanding.

    I agree with pretty much the rest of the article, and would only say that we probably will be able to assess the probability of "earth-like" planets in the universe. If we also get tot the point where we can assess the probability of abiogenesis in a planet like primordial earth, we likely could come up with a reasonable probability estimate for life like ours on other planets. Intelligence, is another question.

    But at the end of the day, I think this topic has little to do with whether or not Catholicism, theism, or atheism is true, unless Catholicism or theism would be false if extraterrestrial life were found to exist. I do not see why it would.

  • Luc Regis

    Planet earth may be the only place that life exists, in not only the galaxy but in the universe itself. Until we know more, that is a safe bet. But if we are, that in itself is not evidence that God or a creator exists. One can argue odds. possibilities and probabilities all they want and really not get anywhere. We actually may be alone in the universe.

    • neil_ogi

      then tell me who or what created you? or the universe and life just 'pop'? so we're no longer studying science. if the universe just 'pop' then all its contents just 'pop'... and now scientists are just fooling themselves, trying to know the origins of these, or that. why spend hundreds of millions of dollars if the only answer for all the causes and events is: 'pop'

      even r. dawkins didn't address the origins of lens, retina, optic nerve, etc when he is trying to explain the 'evolution' of vertebrate eye. he just says: they 'pop' LOL

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Any statement regarding the probability of life elsewhere is premature, since there is no such thing as probability absent some model.

    The output of a model is not data, even if there are lots of outputs.

    It is easy to hypothesize that there are "other" kinds of life, but this can only be proven by producing an example. The contrary is incapable of proof except by examining every planet in the universe and finding no life on each of them. Otherwise, the answer can always be "Well, maybe we'll find something on the next planet we look at."

    The expectation of alien life stems from the Drake "Equation", which predicts that we darned well ought to have seen evidence by now, leading to the Fermi Paradox, which says "Where the @#$% are they?" But the Drake "Equation" is more like a prayer and is built on a small set of probabilities, none of which can be known, multiplied by the number of opportunities, which is likewise unknowable.

    The probability of life elsewhere, however it might be "calculated", is irrelevant to the question of God's existence. Any argument of the form "The probability of X is small, therefore God" is bogus.

    • Good on you YOS... The anthropic coincidences are suggestive, but not in a scientific or logical way. No more so than Psalm 19a, "The Heavens declare the glory of God..

    • William Davis

      It is easy to hypothesize that there are "other" kinds of life, but this can only be proven by producing an example.

      I agree, and we have yet to even produce the type of life here on earth from scratch in a laboratory. It's seem we can add letters to DNA, however, which is kind of surprising. So many mysteries yet to solve :)

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/first-life-with-alien-dna-created-in-lab/

      • neil_ogi

        quote: 'we have yet to even produce the type of life here on earth from scratch in a laboratory.' - if intelligent beings (scientists) can't produce it, let alone 'natural processes'

        quote: ' It's seem we can add letters to DNA...' - yes scientists can but not natural processes

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Any argument of the form "The probability of X is small, therefore God" is bogus.

      Besides Cosmological and Ontological arguments, I think all God arguments can be reduced to that form. We have had quite a few here, such as the recent series by Kreeft.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Besides Cosmological and Ontological arguments, I think all God arguments can be reduced to that form.

        As also a number of un-God arguments. But ignorance of probability is widespread in the Late Modern world and affects people on all sides of an issue.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Was there a particular un-God argument that you had in mind?

          Probability was invented by the moderns in the 1600s. Or is that not yet the modern age?

          I hear measure theory is based on a lost work of Aristotle. Us late moderns know quite a bit about probability theory and its applications. I don't think 21st century people know any less about probability than people in previous centuries.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But often not enough to avoid making statements like "the probability of life arising by chance is..." There is no such thing as probability without a prior model. Even so simple a thing as the probability of rolling a 6 on the dice depends on a host of prior assumptions, or "I believes" attached to it.

            There are even people who think that randomness is a cause of things!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Usually these are theist arguments.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I've heard such things from both sides of the aisle. Evolution is random, for example, means it cannot be intelligently designed. On the other hand, if evolution is random there has not been enough time to produce the diversity of kinds we observe. Same misapprehension of "randomness" as causal.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would not contend that random things cannot be designed. I would contend that a benevolent being would not design a process like evolution.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Dang. Where did them goal posts go this time?

            All you can reasonably contend is that you would not do so.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I hold that random things can be designed. I try to be only responsible for my arguments. I don't think you would want to be responsible for every Aristotelian argument that a Catholic puts forward. I have not seen it argued that evolution is random, therefore not God, but maybe I should get out more.

    • Andrew Y.

      > The probability of life elsewhere, however it might be "calculated", is irrelevant to the question of God's existence. Any argument of the form "The probability of X is small, therefore God" is bogus.

      Indeed. The real argument—in case you haven't heard— is that the probability of intelligent life occurring randomly is lower than the probability of it occurring by means of an existing intelligence.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        The real argument... is that the probability of
        intelligent life occurring randomly is lower than the probability of it
        occurring by means of an existing intelligence.

        How would such probabilities be calculated, in either case?

        I doubt that anything occurs "randomly," since randomness is not a cause of anything at all. It is a reified abstraction.

        • Andrew Y.

          I have no idea how such a number would be calculated, I am neither scientist nor statistician.

          But based on my own understanding, the probability of non-supernatural abiogenesis is extremely low, so low in fact that the explanation that life on earth occurred by means of a non-material intelligent being hardly deserves to be labelled "bogus".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            based on my own understanding, the probability of non-supernatural abiogenesis is extremely low

            There is no possible way to know this. It is the argument that is bogus, not the conclusion, which may be true or false by some other argument. It is astonishing that anyone would think that the author of nature would be negated by the discovery of the natural causes of which he is the author. Remember, Aquinas' fifth way was based on the lawfulness of nature; not exceptions to those laws.

          • Andrew Y.

            Ok I agree with you there. And I do apologize for the sarcasm in my original reply, it was uncalled for.

            But let's say for the sake of argument that the probability of incidental abiogenesis could be shown to be extremely low with as much confidence as any other generally accepted scientific theory. So low in fact that even since the theoretical beginning of the universe not nearly enough time has passed for it to be bearly more than impossible. Would this not add credence to the explanation of supernatural intervention?

          • William Davis

            Personally, I think God is so good at engineering that he doesn't need supernatural intervention. To intervene (to me at least) would indicate he didn't create the universe right to begin with. If God doesn't err, he doesn't need to intervene.

          • Andrew Y.

            I don't think so either, and in general I have difficulty reconciling my beliefs with the idea that "God snaps his fingers at certain points in time to initiate otherwise impossible occurrences." Perhaps what we call supernatural intervention is for God a mere special case in the laws that govern the universe.

          • William Davis

            I can concede that possibility :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can think of three instances in which the natural world "needs" divine intervention. First, if the human soul is, indeed, immaterial, then it needs a divine intervention to create each one and unite it to an animal body. Second, if creation is, indeed, fallen due to the actions of angels and of men, then at times it is appropriate for God to intervene to perform miracles. Third, if God wanted to come down to earth as man, he could intervene in uniting a human nature to himself.

          • William Davis

            Sure. Personally I think there is only 1 substance, therefore the universe is contained within God, as opposed to being apart God, therefore everything is material, but that isn't a bad thing (we are learning from science that "material" gets stranger and more mystical the more we learn about it). I can link an SN post from recent where I show that both DNA and human memory are material information, it's a fascinating topic I'm more than willing to discuss.
            I think there is no need to explain death and decay, it was always part of the plan (even though humans don't like it for evolutionary reasons), therefore there is no need for Original Sin as an explanation of death.
            I actually wonder if God could make himself a man. I know people like to think God can do anything, but I'm not sure that is true. I think any view of God is too speculative to say much, but without original sin, I don't see any reason for God to incarnate himself. I just think Jesus was a great moral teacher who, with the help of Paul, Justin Martyr and the Roman empire, transformed the "west" for the better (in general at least, nothings perfect).
            Obviously you don't think the same, but I'd argue that I have a lot in common with Thomists philosophically, I just diverge when it comes to matters of faith (Thomas did a good job of separating these from what I've read, he was a great philosopher, and my own thinking has been improved by reading his views and the views of other old philosophers :) I'm probably closer to Aristotle than am to Thomas, though, and I diverge from both when it comes to intelligence, but that is because we have just recently come to better understanding of what intelligence is. John Searle is probably the closest to my view of mind. I appreciate what this web site has done for my philosophical views.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, because it suggests that things that come about by natural means are not willed by the author of nature. It nestles one's belief in the unreliable arms of scientific progress.

          • Peter

            "It is astonishing that anyone would think that the author of nature would be negated by the discovery of the natural causes of which he is the author"

            It is indeed astonishing but that is what new atheists think in general. For them, the discovery of natural causes invalidates belief in the author of nature. This is because they neither understand nor want to understand that the author of nature is the author of natural causes.

          • William Davis

            I agree with you, but how the author of nature has any relationship to Christianity (in general) is beyond me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why don't you read the prologue of the Gospel of John? That prologue shows a relationship between the author of nature and the author of Christianity. You might not agree with it but it should not be beyond you.

          • William Davis

            Ah yes, the Logos. That's a well written passage. In general I prefer Mark to John, primarily because I can't believe Jesus wouldn't have been stoned by the Jews for blasphemy. The Jews have always been quite serious when it comes to blasphemy (until recently of course).

          • ben

            1. Under the Roman domination, it was forbidden for the Jews to execute anyone. The Sanhedrin condemned Him for blasphemy; they took Him to Pilate, but charged that He was calling Himself a king (revolution, sedition, ...)
            2. Their hatred was such that they wanted the most violent, painful, slowest and disgraceful death possible: crucifixion.

          • William Davis

            If John was right, why would they have waited so long? In Mark (the oldest gospel) Jesus doesn't say any of this, plus Herod was still around in the beginning and he had John the Baptist executed right?

            My view (though goes with Mark pretty well) is that Jesus had private teachings to his disciples that, after the coming of the Son of Man, the disciples would all be kings of their tribes, and he will be their king. I think Judas gave this info to the Jewish authorities. Betraying Jesus's location doesn't make sense, they could have found Jesus easily. There is a HUGE difference between being God, and being King of the Jews.

            If you know much about the Hebrew Bible, you'll know that the entire line of David were "sons of God" but they were all perfectly human. Here is a verse from Mark 15 (I can go into this in massive detail if you wish, Jesus is NOT God in Mark)

            39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[j] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”[k]

            [k] Mark 15:39 Or a son of God

            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2015

            Notice the note, [k]. The oldest sources say a son of God. Just one of an entire line of sons of God. The Greeks and Romans understood a son of God to be something else. If you take the outline of Romulus and Remus (who were sons of Mars) and add it to the gospel of Mark, you get Matthew and Luke. John is unique but there is not reason to think it is historical where it conflicts with Mark.

            Here is a good article on the comparison to Romulus and Remus legend, I have a recent comment I can link if you want more info :)

            http://serene-musings.blogspot.com/2007/01/romulus-remus-lesson-for-christianity.html

          • Pofarmer

            "Under the Roman domination, it was forbidden for the Jews to execute anyone. "

            Are you positive about that?

          • Peter

            It is Church doctrine that the existence of the Creator can be known through his authorship of nature.

          • George

            yeah, why is that church doctrine? how do they know that?

          • George

            so the question that pops into my head after reading what you folks have been tossing back and forth is: if the challenge from the last couple articles had been met by atheists/naturalists/whatever, that would have just meant god existed anyway? meeting the criteria for a materialist/physical/natural explanation of consciousness would have just been yet another support for the god belief? have I got that right?

            are you, Peter, and YOS going to believe in Yahweh absolutely, no matter what you learn in the future? have you, or would you, ever put your belief on the line over a scientific question? should any catholic do that?

          • Pofarmer

            Yep they have set up an unfalsifiable worldview. Everything, no matter what, can be shoehorned into their theology.

          • VicqRuiz

            The more that natural causes are found to be sufficient unto themselves to produce the universe as we observe it, the greater the argument for a creator who is deistic, rather than personally involved in the universe's daily workings.

            Imagine someone using Legos to build a complete scale model of the city of Paris. Every street, every building, every tree, every vehicle, every person. What an outstanding achievement it would be!!

            Now imagine someone creating a single Lego which, when set upon the ground, would begin to replicate itself into the various shapes and sizes needed to produce that same model, each part moving precisely into place according to instructions coded within the ur-Lego, without any intervention by the original creator. How much greater and more admirable would that creation be!

          • George

            "not exceptions to those laws."

            Okay.

            Are there exceptions? Ever? According to your belief?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There can be exceptions, just as any author may use exceptions to the laws of grammar in a work. But Aquinas did not argue from apparent exceptions. Regarding miracles -- the word "mirabilium" actually means "marvel"-- says, We marvel when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause; and since the cause may be known to one person and not to another, some marvel and some do not. IOW, it is a slender reed upon which to lean. Hence, he argued to God from the lawfulness of Nature.

          • George

            another question: can the concepts of lawfulness and rationality apply to Yahweh? is it accurate to say that Yahweh is NOT chaotic or random?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Of course, God is not chaos or randomness. For one thing, most folks have no real understanding of what randomness entails; but for another, order does not come out of chaos.

          • George

            But the lawfulness of the universe is contingent and must be explained by positing an outside source?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Lawfulness" is not a thing and so is neither contingent nor otherwise. The "universe" is not a thing, but a mereological sum of things. At least as I understand ousia (substantia, thing).

            Obviously, contingency cannot regress indefinitely and must terminate in necessary being, and necessity must term in something necessary in itself.

          • George

            has the failure, so far, of science to reproduce the abiogenesis event in a lab had a positive, negative, or neutral effect on your god belief?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No effect whatsoever. The existence of God is not affected by the laboratory skills of his creatures. Humans can act by moving matter around -- transformation. But God creates and while it is sometimes convenient to imagine God creating as if a workman at a bench, creation is why there is a natural order in the first place. To use another analogy, it would be foolish to say that Michelangelo did not produce the David, a chisel did. Just so, to say that the universe was produced by the natural order elides the question: Who was using the chisel?

            Recall, too, that in Genesis, God is portrayed as telling the earth to bring forth the living kinds and while it is usually a mistake to be too fussy about such things, Augustine wrote:

            It is therefore causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.
            --On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

            This was the root of the doctrine of secondary causation which Aquinas described thusly:

            Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
            -- Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

            It was the active denial of this secondary causation that smothered the development of natural science in the House of Submission.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Those are two prescient quotes.

    • Michael Murray

      The Drake equation wasn't really written down to estimate the probability of intelligent life so much as to stimulate thinking about what we might need to know to estimate that probability:

      The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. The equation was written in 1961 by Frank Drake not for purposes of quantifying the number of civilizations,[1] but intended as a way to stimulate scientific dialogue at the world's first search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) meeting, in Green Bank, West Virginia.

      as wikipedia puts it. There are so many variables which are unknown that it isn't hard to put in reasonable values and get any answer you want.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

      The Fermi Paradox is a more interesting issue for those who think intelligent life is likely

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

      Even if you think that interstellar travel is technologically difficult there are estimates that self-replicating probes could explore the galaxy in some 500,000 years and yet we see none in our solar system.

    • Peter

      "The probability of life elsewhere, however it might be "calculated", is irrelevant to the question of God's existence."

      I'm not sure about that. Sean Carroll argues that the conditions of the early universe were far too fine-tuned for the creation of life in one mere location.

      Any teaching that the cosmos was created by God just for the existence of life on earth is contradicted by the calculation that the universe is configured for life to occur in more than one place. Had God wanted to create a universe which would produce only one instance of life, he could have done so without tuning the conditions of the early universe so finely as to produce hundreds of billions of galaxies, but far less finely to produce only one galaxy, ours.

      Any claim that God created the universe just for mankind would render God clumsy and inefficient since he would have used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. An omnipotent and omniscient God could therefore not exist in these circumstances.

      • Andrew Y.

        Any claim that God created the universe just for mankind would render God clumsy and inefficient since he would have used a sledgehammer to crack a nut. An omnipotent and omniscient God could therefore not exist in these circumstances.

        I disagree. Since no one among us understands (or will ever understand) the complexity of designing an entire universe, how could we possibly know for sure that 100 billion galaxies are unnecessary in order to produce a single life-sustaining planet?

        • Peter

          Don't forget that the hundreds of billions of galaxies we can see belong the observable universe which is estimated to be a fraction of the size of the unobservable universe.

          The unobservable universe that part which has expanded beyond the threshold where light from it could ever reach us.
          By that reckoning there are not a mere hundred or so billions of galaxies but untold trillions of them.

          This would render absurd any notion that the cosmos is created just for us.

          • Andrew Y.

            Why would the God of reason create a stupendously immense universe which we can never see just for our benefit?

            One explanation is that a stupendously immense universe is required in order to produce a single life-sustaining planet. Whether or not this is true, I haven't the slightest idea, but arguments to the contrary are as speculative as any other as far as I can tell.

            I don't see how the size of the universe (or any theoretical multiverse) makes any difference. None of us has the authority to claim that God is any more "clumsy and inefficient" or less likely to exist for making 100 trillion galaxies than he would be for making 100 billion or even a 100 thousand.

          • Peter

            While the multiverse is pure hypothesis, the unobservable universe's existence is based on the observation of receding galaxies. It is mistaken to lump both together as having equal viability.

            The Church states that God is known by his works through the light of human reason. As Catholics we have the right to appeal to reason because the Church makes no demands on us which contradict reason, while at the same time always encouraging us to follow it.

            By this token we have the right to label unreasonable the assumption that a wildly excessive material creation which can never be seen and never be known is brought into existence purely for our own benefit.

          • Andrew Y.

            But by what standard can we determine whether the size of the universe is excessive? Surely it is naive to draw conclusions about God's intent for life in the universe based only on its enormity.

            Did we benefit from the earth taking some 4.5 billion years to prepare for our coming instead of, say, 4.4 billion? What possible explanation could account for those largely unknowable 100 million years when earth was entirely suitable for human life though we were not here? It was simply God's will for us to come into existence at this point in time. Perhaps some day we might know why, but today, the light of human reason is not bright enough to make a guess that is anything more than a shot in the dark.

            I agree that appealing to reason is the correct way to approach this issue. But I do not think extra-terrestrial life is the only reasonable explanation for a material creation which appears wildly excessive by our standards. Perhaps earth is to be the origin of all life, and God intends for us to journey and habitate even the most remote corners of the universe many trillions of years in the future. Perhaps he at least intends for us to leave our solar system before the point at which the earth can no longer sustain life. I don't know if either is the case but I believe that neither is unreasonable.

          • Peter

            It makes no sense for the earth to be the origin from which life spreads throughout the cosmos if the vast bulk of the cosmos is permanently beyond our reach and becomes increasingly so in the future as the universe's expansion accelerates.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Any teaching that the cosmos was created by God just for the existence
        of life on earth is contradicted by the calculation that the universe is
        configured for life to occur in more than one place.

        This can easily be demonstrated by pointing to the life that occurred in some other place. Or even by pointing to more than one place on Earth where life occurred a second time. After all, we know that, whether or not the whole universe is
        " configured for life to occur," the Earth at least is.

        Arguments that the universe is "too big" overlook the current state of physical science. If the universe were any less massive, it would have dispersed to the point that no stars would have formed. If it had been any more massive, gravitational collapse would have ended things very soon after the Bang. That is, the universe appears to be just big enough to produce life, whether on a single world or on many. It is thus not in itself an argument for either conclusion, let alone a "contradiction" to one of them.

        Millions of sperm are expended to make a person. Millions of seeds are scattered to make a dandelion. Most of the stuff in Leonardo's workshop is scrap, not statue. Why would it not take a universe to make a world?

        • George

          I don't know. was da vinci omnipotent? what does that word mean? can we argue for the immaterial using just material examples?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's simply an illustration of the fact that the size of the universe is irrelevant to whether there is life on other planets. The universe would have to be the same size, whether there was one such world or millions.

            That there would be a universe left over from making a world is no more remarkable than that DaVinci would have lots of stone chips, rags, tools, etc. left over from making a statue.

          • Peter

            If Leonardo da Vinci had 10>24 times the amount of material left over after making a statute, there would not be enough material on earth. He would have had to use up the moon and and all the other rocky planets and moons in the solar system as well, just to make a statue.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Oh dear. The illicit offspring of excessive quantitativism wed to fundamentalist literalism.

          • Peter

            I am only pointing out that it would be incredible if Da Vinci had to use up all the rocky planets of the solar system just to make a statue, just as it appears incredible for God to have to discard a similar proportion of material just to make the solar system.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            IOW, the Argument from Incredulity. "I can't imagine how it might be true, therefore it is false."

            It remains that insofar as natural science can tell today, the universe would have to be as massive as it is whether there was one inhabited world or billions. Therefore, the size of the universe is not an argument either for or against the uniqueness of life on earth. That's all.

          • Andre V.

            A close companion to the Argument from Credulity - I can imagine it to be true, so therefore it is true.

          • Ye Olde Statistician
          • Peter

            No, natural science does not tell us that. The size of the universe is a measure of the low entropy of the early universe. The entropy of the early universe, tuned to one part in ten to the power of 10>120, was far lower than what was necessary to produce life in one instance.

            This is an issue which needs addressing before proclaiming that even one solitary occurrence of life - ourselves - would have justified an entire universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies.

            If the object of the argument is to convince sceptics that there is nothing wrong with God creating such a vast universe just for human life, then the argument not only fails buts drives sceptics further away.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The entropy of the early universe, tuned to one part in ten to the power of 10>120, was far lower than what was necessary to produce life in one instance

            And you know this from which experiment?

            It's the total mass of the universe. If it was much higher than it is, everything would have collapsed shortly after the Big Bang, leaving no time for the formation of any stars. If it was much less, the expansion would have spread out too thin to make stars.

            This is an issue which needs addressing before proclaiming that even one solitary occurrence of life - ourselves - would have justified an entire universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies.

            Justified?

        • Peter

          "the universe appears to be just big enough to produce life"

          The argument that the universe needs to be the enormous size it is in order to exist at all is flawed because it makes God the servant and not the master of the laws of physics.

          It assumes that the laws of physics are immutable so much so that God had no choice but to make the universe that precise size, since any less massive it would disperse and any more massive it would collapse.

          Therefore, the argument goes, even if God's objective had been to produce only one sentient species, ourselves, he would still have been constrained to creating a universe of that enormous size.

          The response of course is, if God had wanted to create one sentient species alone, why couldn't he have created laws of physics which allow the universe to be stable at a much smaller size, or at least at a size where it is fully observable?

          The only possible answer to this question is that, in creating laws which necessitate such a vast, excessive and largely unobservable universe, his intentions were to create far more than one sentient species.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Church has always held that God can perform any act that is logically possible. He cannot perform a logical impossibility, such as creating a married bachelor or a square circle.

            So the question is:
            Is such a universe logically possible? (Not everything imaginable if possible.) That is, would the Logos required for such laws hold together coherently? (So that someone might look on the works and think it was good.)

    • William Davis

      You might find this interesting. Nick Bostrom argues that the fact that we haven't found life yet is a good thing. His argument makes sense, and involves what some call "The Great Filter".

      http://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/fermi.pdf

      Here's a video:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GnkAcdRgcI

    • Pofarmer

      Victor Stenger writes about the Fermi Paradox. I need to revisit him on that. I think the problem we have here is the distances we are talking our vast, and the energies we are looking for currently are miniscule.

  • From my experience, it is more non-religious people that are fascinated by science, and science fiction, that are full of speculations about making contact with
    intelligent cosmic dwellers – if only our instruments could be delicate enough
    or set in the right direction. Seems we are reluctant to accept our loneliness in the
    universe. It seems, somehow, "wrong".

    • William Davis

      I find the concept of extraterrestrial life interesting because of how much we could potentially learn from it. It doesn't need to be intelligent to be a treasure trove for biologists. Having a comparable would shed tremendous light on evolution. Perhaps this is the link between those interested in science, and those interested in extraterrestrial life that you mention.

      • Agreed.
        I would add that searching for knowledge in general is one thing, a strong desire to find human-like intelligence outside of humanity is another.

        • William Davis

          I'm curious, why do you distinguish between the two? Isn't there more knowledge to be gained by finding human-like intelligence? Personally, I think we are first going to build human-like (probably surpassing human over time) intelligence here first, we already have a great start now that we realize computation isn't thinking and that intelligence is inherently non-linear. We will be able to send AI places we could never go ourselves.
          Of course human-like and human surpassing intelligence does bring a degree of existential risk. Nick Bostrom has convinced people like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk to be thinking about this ahead of time. Bostrom's book "Superintelligence" should be on any thinkers reading list, but I haven't gotten to it yet.
          Even though it is risky, I think creating the greatest intelligence possible is something we definitely should do (and I don't think we can actually help ourselves here). If nothing else, AI could potentially survive an extinction level event, guaranteeing the continuation of intelligence even if humans can't make it (let's hope it never comes to that, but it is something to consider). Heck, AI could potentially resurrect Man from stored DNA if conditions became suitable again. Who knows what a super-human intelligence could teach us and what theories it could derive.
          P.S. If you want to learn about where AI is at currently I have plenty of links I can provide :)

    • Nanchoz

      The bottom line is that human beings need a meaning for their existence.
      We can't avoid the search for truth.
      Evidence so far hasn't show us the existence of life anywhere outside this planet
      Until that evidence is shown this subject remains a matter of faith .
      .A kind of faith based on materialism.
      The point is that we don't want to be special . We want to be simply just another part of nature. We can't afford a spiritual soul, we don't need that burden. if we aren't special then there shouldn't be nothing special in our actions neither and that would seem at first sight a very comfortable truth for many of us.
      We want to believe that life flourishes in every part of the universe. We want this universe to be infinite in time and space or that there were infinite universes.
      If it were so then life inexorably would evolve to intelligent beings everywhere everytime.
      JL Borges in "The library of babel" argues that in an infinite library where every possible combination of the letters of the alphabet is displayed in books, we would necessarily find Cervantes's Quixote... But I wonder : even if that was the case, would that mean that the Quixote could have been written by itself?

      • George

        You speak for other people so eloquently.

      • Peter

        The discovery of other sentient races in the cosmos will not make us any less special. On the contrary, it will make us even more special since we will know for a fact that the whole wide universe has been created for us and others like us.

        • Michael Murray

          What if we meet a far more advanced sentient race who find our religions laughable, our science tens of thousands of years behind theirs, our technologically tens of thousands of years inferior and they want our resources. Something like what happened to most of the indigenous tribes in the world when they met western civilisation. We will be wiped out or maybe a few of us will be allowed to hang around as pets.

          • Peter

            First, you cannot compare the self-interested motives of western invaders with the motives of highly advanced aliens who would be very old and therefore very wise and very civilised.

            Second, if the cosmos is teeming with planets containing all manner of minerals and compounds, why would aliens traverse countless light years and consume immeasurable resources to come here to get them?

          • Michael Murray

            You have no reason to believe that any more technologically advanced civilisation will be wise and noble. Maybe, like us westerners, they are just the same kinds of bastards with better weapons. You don't even have any reason to believe that their idea of wise and noble will coincide with ours. Even if they are wise and noble they may not be able to stop the clash of their civilisation and ours destroying ours. Look at how badly the Western nations do at that even when they have good intentions.

            As for you second point I have a sudden vision of a bunch of PNG highlanders sitting around wondering why the strange white people came vast distances over the seas to dig enormous holes in the ground and poison the highlanders rivers when surely they had enough pigs in their own countries.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I'm a religious "people" who is fascinated by science and who writes science fiction, which requires there to be intelligent cosmic dwellers.

      • Luc Regis

        Can you tell us what you have published? I love sci-fi. I would love to see some of your stuff, even if it is self published online in a zine. especially from a religious Catholic perspective. Thanks

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Gladly.

          http://www.amazon.com/Benjamin-Paradise-Project-Kevin-Aldrich/dp/1448660300

          I've just finished the second book and am in the process of self-publishing it.

          • Luc Regis

            Thanks for the link Kevin. I read the outline and the reviews. Though your book is aimed at a younger audience than old duffers like myself, I think that a continuing series will do well. I started reading sci-fi when I was ten or eleven and my interest has not waned since.

        • Michael Murray

          You can find Kevin on Amazon if you just google.

          EDIT: Ah sorry Kevin had already posted that link.

  • Peter

    "Metaxas theorizes that the high number of factors necessary to support life here on earth makes it virtually impossible that life exists elsewhere."

    No, all it demonstrates is that the type of life found on earth would be virtually impossible to exist elsewhere, which is blindingly obvious since the type of life on earth is peculiar to the unique conditions of earth. Life may well exist throughout the cosmos other forms, having developed under and being peculiar to the unique conditions of their own planet.

    What Metaxas is actually saying is that it is virtually impossible that other identical earths exists elsewhere with identical conditions which is a fair point. But it is misleading to claim that, because our earth is unique and impossible to replicate elsewhere, so too is the occurrence of life throughout the cosmos.

    • Nanchoz

      The problem with your line of thinking is that it can lead you dangerously close to R Dawkings 's flying spaghetti monster .
      Given your apparent mistrust in human experience you have no means to rule out the possible existence of PASTA planet

      • Michael Murray

        R Dawkings

        Hawking or Dawkins but as far as I know they have no shared offspring.

        By the way the FSM (all praise His noodly appendages) is not a result of Dawkins or Hawking but arose in the US:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

      • Peter

        I don't understand what you mean by mistrust in human experience. And since pasta is made from organic material that originates from earth, the likelihood of finding pasta in the cosmos is the same as finding another identical earth.

        • Nanchoz

          I just tried to be funny, guess it didn't work.
          What I meant is that when scientists talk about life they refer specifically to the kind of life that we can in fact observe in our planet which is based in C, N, o, h2o , DNA and RNA molecules and so on.
          that would be the reason they look specifically for planets that are similar to our own.
          The search could be broaden only if they would discover absolutely new kinds of life forms (not based in C,N,O,etc) in the most hostile places on earth (like the poles, volcanoes, oceanic trenches, etc) or neighbors planets.
          Until then speculation on alternate life forms is SCi FI territory.

  • It's great seeing the Kepler mission and exoplanet research discussed! I agree with the authors that exoplanets are a promising candidate for housing life, and that the discovery of so many of them has definitely shifted the discussion about alien life. Before exoplanets were discovered, it was within the realm of possibility that we were the only solar system. Now we've found many other solar systems, the probability that there is life elsewhere in the universe has increased substantially, by orders of magnitude!

    This makes the research all the more important, but the answer, whether there is any life in the universe besides us, is still uncertain. Multiplying a (probably) very big number (the number of habitable planets) and an unknown number (the chance of life to evolve on a habitable planet) can yield a very small number, if that unknown number itself is tiny.

    No one knows whether there is life elsewhere in the universe, but now more than ever we should try to find out!

    • Luc Regis

      the probability that there is life elsewhere in the universe has increased substantially, by orders of magnitude!

      Would not the possibility of life in the universe be a more accurate term rather than probability?

      • I take the word probability to mean the chance that something is the case. I take the word possibility to mean when something has a probability greater than zero. Possibility cannot increase or decrease. Something either is possible or it is not. Probability can be assigned a value, between 0 and 1. So, the way I use the terms, probability rather than possibility is the more accurate term.

        • Luc Regis

          Ok....that sounds reasonable and makes sense . If life on other planets is probable rather than simply possible, I really wonder why Catholics in particular are not more accepting that life on other planets is probably the reality of the situation?

          • It's a good question. We don't yet know that life is probable.

            If some situation is probable, that means that the probability of that situation being the case is greater than 50%. I don't know if life probably exists on other worlds. Just that the probability that life exists on other worlds has increased substantially, now that we know those other worlds exist.

    • neil_ogi

      then why atheists don't believe in the existence of God? the more science digs, the more the sciences point to His existence

      • Doug Shaver

        then why atheists don't believe in the existence of God?

        Because the definition of atheism is not "belief in science."

        the more science digs, the more the sciences point to His existence

        So say those who are already convinced of his existence.

        • neil_ogi

          because atheists believe in an 'alien' who seeded life on earth (because they are at loss in explaining the origin of life, that's why they resort to 'aliens' seeding life on earth LOL.. you think that is science? i thought science only deals with 'natural' cause, and avoid 'supernatural' cause).. atheists are guilty of 'atheist-of-the-gap' argument

          • Doug Shaver

            atheists believe in an 'alien' who seeded life on earth

            Name one who says so.

          • neil_ogi

            dawkins: the co-discover of DNA: wickramasenghe.. why atheists don't know about this? denial mode?

          • Doug Shaver

            atheists believe in an 'alien' who seeded life on earth

            Name one who says so.

            dawkins: the co-discover of DNA: wickramasenghe.. why atheists don't know about this? denial mode?

            Chandra Wickramasinghe's theism is unorthodox, but I don't think he denies believing in a god of some kind.

            Dawkins's atheism is undisputed, but I have read many of his books and articles and listened to several hours of his lectures and debates on YouTube. I cannot recall his affirming any belief that life on earth was seeded by an alien.

            the co-discover of DNA

            I assume you're referring to either Francis Crick or James Watson. Neither of them discovered DNA. The molecule now called deoxyribonucleic acid was discovered in 1869 by Friedrich Miescher. What Crick and Watson discovered was its three-dimensional structure, which was crucial for figuring out how it did its job of transmitting genetic information.

            Crick was an avowed humanist, and during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he, along with Leslie Orgel, promoted a hypothesis called "directed panspermia," which does posit an extraterrestrial origin for life on this world. He is also on record conceding that at least one key premise in the argument for that hypothesis might be unjustified. More to the point, Crick never said, "This is how it must have happened." He said instead, "This is how it could have happened, and the possibility merits further study."

            Scientifically speaking, the actual origin of life remains an unsolved problem in terms of specifics, but we are continuing to learn more about the possibilities, and every new discovery has undermined the supposition that it required supernatural intervention. Among those discoveries is the abundance of numerous organic molecules in interstellar space. By this time, the question of whether the origin of terrestrial life was a strictly terrestrial phenomenon has become as much a matter of semantics as of empirical fact.

          • Michael Murray

            It might have splashed to earth from a meteorite impact on Mars. That's one of the things that makes exploring Mars so interesting. We might all be Martians.

          • neil_ogi

            'abundance of numerous organic molecules in interstellar space' -- even if there are lots of organic molecules, etc that are existing in space, if there is no 'prime mover', they remain useless in space.. just like i've said earlier, a fat person if he want to be muscular, even if he is surrounded by exercise machines and weights, if he (prime mover) will not use them, he will remain a fat person!

          • Doug Shaver

            if there is no 'prime mover',

            To make what happen?

          • neil_ogi

            of course, a 'prime mover' is needed for those existing 'organic molecules' to become a useful molecules (e.g. life). why not experiement it for yourself. throw some 'organic molecules' in a room and wait what happen to them.

          • Doug Shaver

            of course, a 'prime mover' is needed for those existing 'organic molecules' to become a useful molecules (e.g. life).

            Is that true of all chemical processes, or just those involving organic chemicals? For example, do sodium and chlorine need a prime mover to form salt? Or do hydrogen and oxygen need a prime mover to become water?

          • neil_ogi

            chemicals just react. they don't create! so what else sodium and chloride do? what else hydrogen and oxygen do? can they create complex things?

          • Doug Shaver

            chemicals just react. they don't create!

            You said nothing about creation in the statement to which I was responding. You seem to be moving the goal posts.

          • neil_ogi

            so what's your points? sodium and chloride? hydrogen and oxygen? you rely on blind faith and not facts

          • Doug Shaver

            you rely on blind faith

            For what? What have I said that requires blind faith?

          • neil_ogi

            you said that sodium and chlorine will form salt and needed no 'prime mover'.. so i answered you, chemicals just react with each other and form another chemical, and i further ask you, what else can sodium and chlorine do aside from forming salt?

          • neil_ogi

            you believe that all the events in this universe (e.g. life) don't require the 'prime mover'.. you rely on blind faith that the prime mover is not necessary, and you cited examples (sodium and chlorine don't require a 'prime mover' to form salt, and i gave you answer that chemicals just react and don't create)

          • Doug Shaver

            What have I said that requires blind faith?

            you believe that all the events in this universe (e.g. life) don't require the 'prime mover'

            I have not said that.

          • neil_ogi

            just to ask you: who or what created you? are you created fully-grown and matured? or once a one-celled organism?

            evolutionists are studying the already existing diverse forms of living things. i just want evolutionists to create a cell without using the already existing cells. i wonder what happens! i wonder if they can!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is nothing in atheism that entails alien seeding as the origin of life on earth (and anyway that just kicks the can down the road of where did the aliens get their life?), but Carl Sagan at least for a time believed that Jesus was an alien.

            Seriously.

          • Michael Murray

            Do you know where that is discussed ? All I could find online was

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_astronaut_hypothesis

            where Sagan is mentioned as being interested in the general idea of whether we could notice in historical records an alien visitation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Giberson & Artigas. Oracles of Science. p. 149.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Kevin that's an interesting anecdote. I don't know that much about Sagan as he didn't have the impact in Australia when I was younger that he seemed to have in the US. I don't know if we didn't get the TV programs or I just missed them. There was no internet of course. The world was a lot bigger!

            (If anyone else wants to read that bit you can find it on google books.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are welcome. I would not hold Sagan to that. He was an exuberant grad student at the time.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is nothing in atheism that entails alien seeding as the origin of life on earth

            Which is a good enough reason to suspect that if anybody says atheists believe it, they're probably wrong.

          • Michael Murray

            Do you mean intelligent aliens seeding life on earth like in the movie Prometheus or do you mean some version of panspermia

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia

            The weakest of these doesn't say much more than organic chemicals being created in space and being already on earth when the planet formed. I guess that would account for the apparent rapidity of abiogenesis. If the history of life on earth is any guide the tricky bit seems to be getting to multicellular life.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_evolutionary_history_of_life

          • neil_ogi

            the bottom line here is that atheists abd evolutionists are now have a 'god' on their side.. just be honest, scientists now have difficulty explaining how life came to be.. no matter what you say (prometheus, etc), these are 'conscious' and 'intelligent agencies'.. all i complain is that science doesn't deal with these supernatural stuff or else evolutionists are dead in water

      • Atheists by definition don't believe in the existence of God. It an atheist came to believe God exists, he'd get disqualified as an atheist.

        • neil_ogi

          tell me, what's the difference between your 'aliens' and God? you believe aliens exist even thought there's no tangible proofs they exists, and yet you don't believe in God, even though there were thousands of people witnessed Him? (He even visited our planet to die for our sins)

          • I don't have any aliens. My aliens don't exist. Maybe that's what they have in common with God?

          • neil_ogi

            if evolutionists don't have any answer for the origin of life, then, just be honest.. just say 'we don't know' .. they say that sciences backed them up and yet they use 'supernatural' cause for the origin of life! they don't allow 'intelligent agency' as the cause for the origin of life.

          • "I don't know" is what I do say. One of my main research areas is on the origin of life question, so I hope to work with others to find out how life on Earth started. But I'd like to try to find the answer without first deciding what that answer is.

          • neil_ogi

            origin of life issues are actually not a 'natural' cause, because if it is, then we expect spontaneous 'popping' of life everywhere in space, and even in our backyard

          • Why do you think "natural" is synonymous with "common"?

          • neil_ogi

            what i mean for it (natural) is, science should not deal with something like 'supernatural' causes (eg. conscious agents, intelligent agents), when science talks about the origin of life. as quoted from richard lewontin:
            ‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
            It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

          • Michael Murray

            You missed as sentence. It ends thus

            Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

            http://evolutionwiki.org/wiki/Lewontin_on_materialism

          • neil_ogi

            i'm informing you that the greatest miracle humans ever witnessed: 1. universe 2. life. now tell me how a 'natural' will create them?

          • What evidence is there that the origin of life requires a supernatural cause, anymore than the formation of snowflakes does?

            Imagine that the origin of life is supernatural:
            If we look for a scientific explanation we won't find it.
            If we don't look for a scientific explanation we won't find it.

            Imagine that the origin of life is natural:
            If we look for a scientific explanation, we might find it.
            If we don't look for a scientific explanation, we won't find it.

            Our only chance for finding a scientific explanation for life's origin is if we look for one. So I spend much of my time looking for one.

          • neil_ogi

            'What evidence is there that the origin of life requires a supernatural cause'- then how come intelligent scientists can't produce life in the lab, let alone blind forces?

          • Life may have formed over a much longer time-scale than can be directly reproduced in a lab; it may require millions or tens of millions of years. The conditions under which life arose are also unknown, and are likely of some importance to the origin of life.

            Most importantly, laboratory experiments are often set up to explore particular mechanisms. Since no successful mechanism for the origin of life has been determined, it's an open question how life originated, and neither laboratories nor theoretical models have yet been able to solve this problem. The solution may well require radically new and different ideas to the ones we presently have.

          • neil_ogi

            so this is another 'just-so' stories i often read from evolutionists' literature. even if you left alone the sperm in the water, it will die sooner. cells do not survive the million years, but only in days. that's proven and that's not the 'just-so' stories.

          • First, sperm would have been far from the first instances of life, which almost certainly reproduced asexually. Second, it is the fact that cells have short life-spans (and short time-scales for reproduction), compared to the age of the Earth, that evolution by natural selection could possibly explain the diversity of life on Earth. If the original organisms on Earth took millions of years to reproduce, multicellular life would probably never have come to exist (let alone plants, animals, etc.).

            I think you have some severe and fundamental misconceptions about elementary biology that would need to be resolved before proceeding to discussions of evolutionary biology, let along discussing the origins of life. I'd recommend Richard Dawkins's Greatest Show on Earth and Francis Collins's Language of God. TalkOrigins might also help answer specific questions. But it might be more profitable to educate yourself before continuing the discussion here.

          • neil_ogi

            as if your evolutionists writers have personally witness and observe the creation of life. this is ridiculous. all their writings are merely, again, 'just-so' stories, without presenting facts!

          • Try it out! Maybe you'll be surprised. I'd recommend Francis Collins's book first, followed by Dawkins's.

          • neil_ogi

            just ask you a simple questions: evolutionists just tell that a 'self-replicating' cell 'happens to be there' (whew, yet they never explain how that cell came to be, or why that cell should exists); sperm is already designed to be another progenitor of new organisms

            i quoted you: 'that evolution by natural selection 'COULD POSSIBLY' explain the diversity of life on Earth.--why 'could possible'? you see, even you, you are using the so-called 'just-so' stories that are common in evolutionary paradigm. why not explain it accurately or without any guess, conjecture or assumptions? evolutionists are very expert on that.

          • I'd like to answer your simple questions, but I don't understand any of them.

          • neil_ogi

            tell me the first replicating cell? tell me its origins, or i want talkorigins explain it, and not just 'just-so' stories! (im sorry if i always use 'just-so' stories). why 'could possibly'? or you just don't know the answer!

          • Oh, I have no idea, and I don't think anyone's anywhere near knowing that yet. People work on the problem from both ends. Some at simple monocellular life. I look at the other end, and work with chemical models to see if I can explain under what conditions glycine might form.

            The problems right at both ends are currently unsettled. No one yet knows much about what the first monocellular organism was like, and no one yet knows how the first molecular building blocks arose. These seem like problems that will eventually be solved, I would guess within the next 20 years. But even when these problems are solved, that won't answer the question about the origin of life. That question is much harder, and I suspect it involves revolutionary breakthroughs and new ways of thinking that haven't been developed yet.

          • neil_ogi

            if that is so, then evolutionists have no right to declare that creationists are all wrong (in all aspects of origins issues)!

          • I don't recall saying that anyone's wrong about everything. Creationists probably have many accurate beliefs. For example, about the current price of milk at their local grocery.

          • neil_ogi

            well said! i just know that atheists don't believe in sciences anymore! why, because atheists' theories are not verified by sciences

          • neil_ogi

            is it possible for a unicellular organism to survive in a prebiotic environment in the first few days of its life? if you will answer, yes, then you have lots of explanations to answer it, and you will require so much blind faith to defend it

          • neil_ogi

            or you're just not paying real attention to my questions or comments?

          • If you're going to accuse me of deception, we can end our conversation right here.

          • neil_ogi

            you are the one who said that, not me!

            well, im curious how your common ancestor survived the first 3 days of its existence in a prebiotic soup? what food didi it eat? why it need to replicate/divide itself and evolved into numerous forms of life! .. you're so silent about these issues! i'm just like a toddler who ask simple questions about your common ancestor, and seemed you're ignoring them!

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'sperm would have been far from the first instances of life, which almost certainly reproduced asexually'- asexually? wow, i need thorough explanations, and not just assumptions

          • Most life on the present Earth reproduces asexually. Bacteria, for example, do so. A bacterium is a single cell that reproduces via cell division, becoming two cells.

          • neil_ogi

            so tell me how a cell will eventually become a human? so tell me why that cell should divide itself? on what purposes? if cell is just a collection of chemicals, then why scientists can't create it in the lab?

          • neil_ogi

            once upon a time, the earth was void, and suddenly there was a prebiotic soup and a cell is born -- so will somebody from talkorigins explain the details of their origins? assumptions, conjectures, and 'just-so' stories are not accepted here! or talkorigins just say so that they just 'pop' out of nothing.. just like the universe, 'pop' out of nothing naturally? you're not doing sciences, you're doing science fictions!

          • neil_ogi

            ok, let's forget the origin of the first cell, suppose that this microscopic cell existed, what would it eat? will it survive the first few hours, days, or months floating at the surface of prebiotic environment? or it's 'just happens' to be IMMORTAL?

          • That's a good question, one which actually is well answered (with an interesting laboratory example) in Dawkins's Greatest Show on Earth.

          • neil_ogi

            so what happens next in that 'lab' life? did it evolve? another fantasy- story-telling? no factuality? all i need is concrete evidence that scientists can now have constructed life out of scratch

          • As far as I know, construction of life "from scratch" (depending on what you mean by that) has already happened, or it's probably decades away from being realized.

            Why would it help for you personally to know that scientists can make life in the lab? That's almost certainly not how life first came about!

          • neil_ogi

            it's because atheists believe that life's origin is a natural one!

            quoted: 'That's almost certainly not how life first came about' - then tell me how life began?

          • William Davis

            The wiki article might answer some of your questions if you are interested

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis

          • neil_ogi

            abiogenesis was already dead in a coffin. it's been debunked already a long time ago by Pasteur. do you still believe in it? the mountains are still 'dead'.. just one example of non-living things!

          • William Davis

            Abiogenesis is a possibility, and if it occurs it is extremely rare. It is one thing to believe something is possible, something else to believe it to be true. You do realize that Pasteur didn't even know what DNA was made out of right? Pasteur was a great scientist, but he didn't know that much in the grand scheme of things. We know more, but we still probably don't know that much.
            If God created life, it would be up to him how he did it, not you, not the Jews, not Christians. People claim God is behind the Bible. To me, that's a joke. God is so much greater than such a contradictory pile of books. Some nice stories in there though.

          • neil_ogi

            darwin didn't even know DNA, right? he even described the cell as a 'bleb'.. so how did you arrive to the idea that abiogenesis is 'extremely rare'? If non-living things would evolve into living things, then explain it how? you are questioning how God created life.. i remind you that He is a 'conscious' agent, and only conscious agent would do the creation and not unconscious one, like rocks, which is a non-living things

          • neil_ogi

            what?? extremely rare? so what happens to: law of biogenesis? then why panspermia? tell me why it's rare.. or just you can't prove it.. another excuse!

          • William Davis

            It's rare because it doesn't happen very often at all. We don't have enough information to come close to proving it yet. Anyone telling you can prove it is lying. I just told you it was a "possibility" what about that do you not understand?

          • neil_ogi

            another lies from evolutionary pseudo-scientists: evolving non-life to life was an 'extremely rare' occurences/events. next time they will say that the planets mars, saturn, jupiter, and the farthest galaxies don't produce any life forms because these planets are 'rare' planet that don't produce life. why evolutionists always employ 'excuses' when they can't prove their claims?

          • William Davis

            I'd recommend you comment on the new article just posted here at SN. It's right up your alley :)

            https://strangenotions.com/the-appropriate-reaction-to-a-physical-theory-of-life/

          • neil_ogi

            stanley miller's experiments in the lab produced 'amino acids' and 'ammonia' that are necessary for life, that's true, but ammonia is still amonia, and amino acids stay the same as amino acids. just like computer parts, you mix all its parts and they remain the same UNLESS Someone arrange those parts cautiously and becomes computer. amino acids and ammonia are just 'dead' unless someone gives 'animating' force (life) to them

          • William Davis

            We are getting a bit close, rna in the lab. These researchers didn't do that much special to get it to organize itself, demonstrating that rna is self forming in the right conditions. Still not life, but another step close. I think we'll figure it out, it's just a matter of time :)
            http://www.wired.com/2009/05/ribonucleotides/

            I think the key to helping you is showing how Genesis can't be true, but I don't want to talk about that unless you do.

          • neil_ogi

            because even if it doesn't prove anything, you claim that it is a 'possibility'.. then what are requirements of calling creationists wrong? what are the standard procedures? you can't call something 'truth' even if it's just a theory. i will accept the 'theory of evolution' if it 'evolves' into the 'laws of evolution'

          • William Davis

            Try this video. It's pretty good and demonstrates new theories of how biological evolution fits into physics. Natural laws are set up to make life possible. I agree that we could give God the credit for the natural unchanging laws. We only disagree on how God did it. Again, just ask and I'll show you why the Genesis account is impossible, leaving the question open :)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e91D5UAz-f4

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ' Natural laws are set up to make life possible. I agree that we could give God the credit for the natural unchanging laws.' - i agree with your view here.

            quote: 'We only disagree on how God did it' - the genesis account of creation was just a summary, the author didn't delve intricate details on how God creates. remember, the bible is not written as a 'science' book or literature, it's concern is to reveal that God is the creator of the 'heaven and earth' (universe), and to reveal how evil entered into the universe, and to reveal how God will save.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'why the Genesis account is impossible' - i believe God created the first phyla of living things. (micro-evolution, from the common ancestor of, let's say, cat family, and they evolved into different forms, like tiger, lion, domestic cat, leopard, jaguar), i believe that God created all living things with 'appearance of age' (means, they didn't undergo from infancy, because they won't survive), adam and eve were created 'fully mature'..

          • William Davis

            Why would God create things with the "appearance of age". The only reason to think that would be to treat Genesis as a science claim. The appearance of age hypothesis is completely un-testable. I could claim the universe was created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age. God created us with memories ready to go, and we were created with memories of our previous conversations even though they didn't actually happen. In other words, God is a deceiver (making think look like something they aren't is deception). Why would God be a deceiver and make things look like they evolved but didn't allow that to happen?

            Evolution could have been easily disproved if we had discovered that horses have a different genetic alphabet than humans. We discovered what we would expect if evolution were true. Chimpanzees have very similar DNA to human That is very specific molecular evidence that we have a common ancestor. Nothing this article says in AiG is wrong, however it still demonstrates the point that are DNA is quite similar, though there are some significant difference. We aren't chimpanzees (thankfully) after all.

            We'll go with AiG's 95% similarity. 95% is pretty darn close.

            Will evolution be called into question now that the similarity of chimpanzee and human DNA has been reduced from >98.5% to ~95%? Probably not. Regardless of whether the similarity was reduced even below 90%, evolutionists would still believe that humans and apes shared a common ancestor. Moreover, using percentages hides an important fact. If 5% of the DNA is different, this amounts to 150,000,000 DNA base pairs that are different between them!

            https://answersingenesis.org/genetics/dna-similarities/greater-than-98-chimphuman-dna-similarity-not-any-more/

            That this is the best defense AiG can muster is incredibly telling.

            Evolution could also be disproven if we found some 100 million year old human skeletons. The fossil records are completely consistent with evolution. There are many other ways evolution could be disproved, but it hasn't been. Your only defense is that God make it "look like" evolution is true. I find that claim to be ridiculous on face value. Like I said, God could have created you fully grown, and made you believe you had all the memories you have, even though they are false. Do you believe that?

          • neil_ogi

            i have questions for you: 1. if the theory of common acestor be true, then what was it look like? 2. granted that this common ancestor of all living things survived the first few days without food (because there was no food yet to nourish it), how it evolvde to become our ancestor ('molecules to man')? did it started from 'infancy' period and became 'adult' and reproduced? 3. what happened if this common ancestor evolved into butterfly? did it started from caterpillar then to butterfly? 4. then what happened to the butterfly when it is starting to 'evolve' into a new form of life?

            i have one week old 2 kittens here in my backyard.. and i know that they will not survive the in few days if they are left alone.

            so the Bible's claim that the creation was fully created with 'appearance of age'..

          • William Davis

            i have questions for you: 1. if the theory of common acestor be true, then what was it look like?

            Exactly how the first life came into being is still a question (if you want to inject God working a miracle here I'm fine with that, even though I personally don't think God does miracles, he seems to work purely by rules), but the first life was probably an extremely simple single celled organism. Most scientist think it was Archea, an extremely primitive organism with no nucleus. This organism is called an extremophile because it can survive environments that would kill most complex forms of life. What did it eat? Chemicals and sunlight all readily available with no other life around. We know this because archea are still around. Just because one archea evolved in a different direction than it's siblings, doesn't mean they all will evolve.

            Archaeans dine on a variety of substances for energy, including hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and sulfur. One type of salt-loving archaean uses sunlight to make energy, but not the way plants do it. This archaean has a light-harvesting pigment in the membrane surrounding its cell. This pigment, called bacteriorhodopsin (back-tear-ee-oh-row-dop-sin), reacts with light and enables the cell to make ATP, an energy molecule.

            http://archives.microbeworld.org/microbes/archaea/eat.aspx

            http://paleobiology.si.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/archean3.html

            Typically evolution takes place when the environment changes. Archea thrive in specific environment, and if they stay in those environments they will stay Archea. As some of these archea floated away from their normal habitats, they began to experience various pressure from different directions. Archea themselves began changing the oceans, adding enzymes, ect. that could be "food" for higher organisms. All it takes is a change that allows Archea to consume a different food, and it will change it's course of adaptation.

            We've seen this happen in the lab:

            Mostly, the patterns Lenski saw were similar in each separate population. All 12 evolved larger cells, for example, as well as faster growth rates on the glucose they were fed, and lower peak population densities.

            But sometime around the 31,500th generation, something dramatic happened in just one of the populations - the bacteria suddenly acquired the ability to metabolise citrate, a second nutrient in their culture medium that E. colinormally cannot use.

            Indeed, the inability to use citrate is one of the traits by which bacteriologists distinguish E. coli from other species. The citrate-using mutants increased in population size and diversity.

            http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html#.VV8nCvlVhBc

            E. coli never consume citrate, therefore this new species is not e. coli. It is a new species descended from e.coli. Accumulate enough of these adaptations, and you get farther and farther away from the original e. coli. Species are a human concept anyway, nature isn't so picky. Plenty of species interbreed, for example a donkey and zebra can mate to create a Zdonk. Donkey's and Zebras are different species.

            https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f1/9c/4a/f19c4a76794206a5312b3bd3fdd2c487.jpg

            Also think about this. Why are there different species on different continents? There are completely different species in Australia than anywhere else in the world. You find Kangaroos no where else. Africa has specific species that only exist there, the entire world is like this. Often if you take a species out of it's natural habitat it will die. That's because it evolved to survive in it's specific habitat. Evidence for evolution is everywhere you just have to open your eyes.

            Here is a great link on specific evidence for macroevolution. Like I said, evolution is a fact, though there is more to it than just natural selection.

            http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

            Depending on the study, between 97% and 99% of all scientists agree with evolution, though they debate the specifics. That is simply because evolution is true, even if we don't completely understand it :)

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ', but the first life was probably an extremely simple single celled organism. Most scientist think it was Archea, an extremely primitive organism with no nucleus.'- this is just an assumption, 'just-so' story! all cells have nucleus, and this mythical archea is an exemptions.. how did you know that archea was the common ancestor? pretty good scientific story, hahaha!

            even today, single celled organisms exist, only show that macro-evolution never happened. we don't find any 2-celled organisms exist, if that's so, then evolution never occurred.

            quote: '. Archea themselves began changing the oceans, adding enzymes, ect. that could be "food" for higher organisms. All it takes is a change that allows Archea to consume a different food, and it will change it's course of adaptation' - so did you really believe this happened, even though nobody observed it? these were just assumptions. assumptions are in no way scientific. they are 'just-so' story (forgive me if i always use this). so what's the origin of other 'higher organisms'? were these higher organisms evolved from archea? so where's your proof?

            i read on article about e.coli experiments, that after thousands of mutations, they are still e.coli. no evolution occurred. even if these e.coli resist some insecticides, it doesn't mean evolution occurred. all organisms have some 'defense' in their system, like our body, we have wbc to combat infections and other harmful forces (virus, fungi, bacteria, etc) but that doesn't mean that organism is going to evolve.

            horse's common ancestor that evolve into different species (horse, donkey, zebra) are under the umbrella of horse phyla. they can mate and produce offsprings only on their family. just like the cat phyla. we have liger (lion-tiger). if you try to mate dog with a horse, they don't produce offsprings, therefore macro-evolution will stop there.

            quote: ' between 97% and 99% of all scientists agree with evolution, though they debate the specifics. That is simply because evolution is true, even if we don't completely understand it :)' - even if 100% of all scientists in the world totally agree with the 'factuality' of evolution, it is still a theory.. why not upgrade it to the Laws of Evolution? so even if you don't know its mechanism, you still believe it? so it's your blind faith that dictates it is true. macro-evolution is never observed, never tested, and never experimented. it's like the operation of a computer, i marvelled the computer's usefulness. if someone will ask a computer-makers how it works, then he can absolutely explain that detail by detail (because he knows well its mechanism).. if i ask your 99% scientists about the mechanism of evolution, and they don't know/understand it well, well i will suspect that they are just using conjectures, assumptions and 'just-so' stories, claiming that these are the 'unknown' mechanisms for evolution. do you think i can buy that?

          • William Davis

            This link from Berkeley is pretty good, and it can help you understand the way evolution tends to "flow". I think your questions are pretty good, and if you interested in reading a book on it, I can give some references :)

            http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_04

          • neil_ogi

            tell me, did your common ancestor undergone infancy period? - if so, do you think it will survive? you can even experiment it on your own backyard. leave a newly born kittens in a large box for days and see what happen to them. even a human baby won't survive in just a few days. that's why God created all living things with 'appearance of age' so that they will survive in the wild

            so do you think God created your common ancestor (only one-celled organism), then tell me how it survived in the wild, and why it is to evolve? (therefore it has goals to achieve, therefore it is operating not under unguided process) (remember after the creation, God allowed the laws of nature to operate on its own, miracles would be rare cases now)

            quote: 'The fossil records are completely consistent with evolution. There are many other ways evolution could be disproved, but it hasn't been.' - the cambrian explosion already debunked evolution. there were no intermediate or transitional fossils found even during pre-cambrian period. (even soft-tissue organisms were found in the layers of cambrian era)

          • neil_ogi

            sea anemones and apes are closely related with humans! so do you honestly believe that you are related with sea anemones?

          • William Davis

            Why do you think sea anemones and apes are closely related? Related far enough back, sure, but I don't know where you get "closely" from. Looks like they might be closely related to plants too:

            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318113816.htm

          • neil_ogi

            i didn't claim that sea anemones are closely related with humans. scientists made that claim.

            quote: ' Looks like they might be closely related to plants too:' - then how come evolution be true? what were the 'common ancestors' of plants and trees? and how plants/trees evolve into animals?

          • William Davis

            What scientist claimed sea anemones are closely related to humans? Either he was taken out of context or he's a quack. There are quack scientists just like anything.

            Here is a good article on common plant an animal ancestry:

            http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/02/17/plant-and-animal-development-c/

            I hope you are at least looking at these articles, if not kindly let me know so I'm not wasting my time. That would be the Christian thing to do...

          • neil_ogi

            why should i read the link/s you provided? isn't just a waste of time? another 'just-so' stories? if they can prove their claim, then give them experiments so that they are verified if the claims are true or false.. this is what i call science, and not science fiction.

            again, you never provide the origin of your 'common ancestor'.. or it just 'happen to be around'!! before evolutionists study the existing life, they must first solve the origins issues. were the origins a supernatural cause or just a natural cause? natural cause comes after supernatural cause.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: ' The fossil records are completely consistent with evolution' - but where are the transitional fossils?

          • William Davis

            The list of transitional fossils is nothing but massive.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

            I'm sure you'll say they are all "just so" stories, but at least it is a great number of them, lol.

          • neil_ogi

            one of them is the tiktaalik. so how come evolutionists conclude that this fossilised 'tiktaalik' was the common ancestor of land-dwelling animals? yes, that's another 'just-so' stories!

          • neil_ogi

            God never created in a gradual, slow, step by step process. even Jesus miraculously turned to wine an ordinary water!

            anyway, according to the big bang, after 3 minutes of initial explosion, 98% of the universe's matter was created!

          • William Davis

            anyway, according to the big bang, after 3 minutes of initial explosion, 98% of the universe's matter was created!

            Sure, but it took the matter 14 billion years to reach the configuration it's currently in. You do realize we don't like to use slow, step by step processes in stories like those in the Bible, right? Do you know why? Most people find them boring. Sudden events are more interesting, and thus more often used in literature.

            Question for you. If God created light before the sun and stars (as Genesis says) where did the light come from? Light always has a source, I don't think the Genesis writers even knew that much about the way the universe works. Pretty bad.

          • neil_ogi

            cosmologists said: '98% of matter is created', it means all are finished - then how come that it took 14 billion years 'to reach the configuration it's currently in'... these claim is disputable since nobody was there to observe the creation. just like the creation of life on earth, every living things were created with 'appearance of age' simply because, if they start from infancy period, the probability for them to survive is very nil. i ask you about it and yet no answers from you.

            quote: Question for you. If God created light before the sun and stars (as Genesis says) where did the light come from? Light always has a source, I don't think the Genesis writers even knew that much about the way the universe works' - first of all, the Bible speaks of God as 'light' (i am the light of the world (john 8:12). this refers to Jesus as the source of all light. and since you ask me, 'where did light come from' ? then tell me where did all these billions of light (stars) come from? from nothing? did all these lights have wick? the bible writers only reported of what they just observed, just like the moon, they observed it as 'lesser light' but in fact it's just a reflection of sun to the moon. as i've said, the Bible is not written as 100% science book, its primary concern is to inform the readers that there is a Creator.

          • William Davis

            I'll take this as an admission that the Genesis account was scientifically wrong about light. It was clearly talking about visible light, not metaphorical good "light" that you just tried to drag in.

            The Genesis account also says that the plants were created before the sun and the insects/animals. What did these plants eat, since photosynthesis would be impossible? How did these plants pollinate since there were no insects to pollinate them?

            You'll find the more you talk to me, the more ridiculous trying to hold to the Genesis account appears. While abiogensis is rare and unlikely, the Genesis account is completely impossible, at can be dismissed after a single reading. There are a plenty of other mythical creation accounts like this one.

            Stars are formed by gravity pulling matter together. The pressure of gravity causes the release of energy to prevent the collapse of matter, but eventually gravity wins and causes a major release of energy called a nova, and explosion. This releases newly formed elements into space. If the star is big enough, gravity actually wins and causes a black hole.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_formation

            the bible writers only reported of what they just observed, just like the moon, they observed it as 'lesser light' but in fact it's just a reflection of sun to the moon. as i've said, the Bible is not written as 100% science book, its primary concern is to inform the readers that there is a Creator.

            I'm confused. Do you actually think the Bible writers were present for creation? Isn't that impossible and in contradiction to the Genesis account (man was created last). If so, there was no one there to observe your postulated account of origins either. Who do you thing wrote Genesis, when do you think they wrote it, and what do you think their source of information was?
            I'd also like to see you respond to the question, "What did the plants eat before the sun existed and how did they pollinate before insects?" You asked me this question, and the view I hold to be true has a good answer. Does yours?

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'The Genesis account also says that the plants were created before the sun and the insects/animals. What did these plants eat, since photosynthesis would be impossible? How did these plants pollinate since there were no insects to pollinate them? - remember the creation account of plants was created only one day old, and on this process, God is still sustaining it (He's not yet assigning his 'laws' of nature to sustain them). that's why i repeatedly say to you that plants and all living things were created with 'appearance of age'.. and since you are a believer of one common ancestor of all life, i ask you the same questions you have for me.. what's the food it eat? did it survive the first few days, not to count the millions of years for it to evolve into different forms of life?

            quote: 'there was no one there to observe your postulated account of origins either. Who do you thing wrote Genesis, when do you think they wrote it, and what do you think their source of information was?'- the creation was told to moses directly by God himself.

            quote: 'Genesis account was scientifically wrong about light. It was clearly talking about visible light, not metaphorical good "light" that you just tried to drag in' - as ive said, genesis creation account is not considered to be scientific, they just observe the light. Jesus' claims that He is the 'light' is not a metaphor, God is spirit and light.

          • William Davis

            remember the creation account of plants was created only one day old, and on this process, God is still sustaining it (He's not yet assigning his 'laws' of nature to sustain them)

            First, how do you know any of that? The text does not say it. You're making it up and adding it to the "Word of God". Why didn't God just make the sun first, and then the plants would have at least had the light they needed for photosynthesis. I think that would have been much smarter and more efficient.

            My employment is engineering, I build things for a living. In creation, you paint God as an engineer, and I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with is you making God out to be a BAD engineer. A good engineer is efficient, builds things in an order that isn't wasterful, and that is logical. Genesis makes some bad engineering claims, and in spite of your claims, you are taking it as a science book. You are using it to make scientific claims, saying otherwise does NOT change that fact.

            genesis creation account is not considered to be scientific, they just observe the light. Jesus' claims that He is the 'light' is not a metaphor, God is spirit and light.

            If Genesis isn't scientific, forget it and accept the scientific consensus. What the heck does the light metaphor have to do with anything?

          • neil_ogi

            i just want you answer these: 1. what was the food of your common ancestor? ,you provided no answer. 2. what's the probability that it would survive in the first few days on the earth? you provided no answer.. then, evolution was dead in the water!

            atheists and you never gave any explanations of how your 'common ancestor' came! again, as i always repeat, it just 'pop'.. just like the universe.. it just 'pop'.... therefore, what shall we do with sciences now if everything in the universe, the universe itself..just 'pop'? do you think those 'thoughts' are rational?

            i'm a nurse by profession. i witnessed every struggle patients have experienced. i witnessed how the dying people experienced death. (of course, in atheistic 'science', there is no death because non-living things become living things, death for them is just an illusion. i know one day death will come to me, to everyone. atheists claim that Jesus was not ressurrected again because a 'dead body will not be alive again because science says so' and yet they believe that inorganic non-living things become living things! do you think that is rational thinking?

            regarding your claim that God is a bad designer, how do you know? appendix is one organ that has no real function at all, that's the claim of evolutionists, and now science says it participates in immune function.

          • William Davis

            i just want you answer these: 1. what was the food of your common ancestor? ,you provided no answer. 2. what's the probability that it would survive in the first few days on the earth? you provided no answer.. then, evolution was dead in the water!

            I did answer, right here:

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/is_there_life_elsewhere_in_the_cosmos/#comment-2039343383

            Now you are making yourself out to be an even bigger liar. What do you think other Christians see when they read our conversation? Me, the non-Christian being civil and answering questions, you, the Christian, being uncivil, lying, and calling people names. To a Christian reading this, that would make you a stumbling block. You know what the Bible says about stumbling blocks?

            Mark 9

            42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me,[k] it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell,[l] to the unquenchable fire.[m] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell.[n][o] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell,[p] 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

            The gospels words not mine. At least I'm here in good faith. If the Bible is right, you have some really bad things in store for you bud ;)
            Honestly at this point I could care less about talking to you about evolution. I'd rather convince you to actually be a Christian instead of a liar.

          • neil_ogi

            quote: '. If the Bible is right..' - why quoted the verses in the bible when you don't believe it? it seemed you are so upset at me.. don't be because i'm here to discuss about our 'belief systems'.. nothing personal here.. maybe it's because you accept the silly explanations of your evolutionists that i found it very irrational and obviously unscientific..

          • neil_ogi

            quote; 'I did answer, right here:

            https://disqus.com/home/discus...' - i already debunked the claim of wiki about it. if you really believe that it really happened, you displayed huge faith in believing a 'just so' story concocted by wiki.

          • William Davis

            Lol, you haven't debunked anything. It's fascinating that the Philippines is 86% Catholic. You are surrounded by a MASSIVE status quo bias. Status quo bias is something you should learn about.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_quo_bias

            The only reason you are Catholic is because the Spanish colonized the country. If the British had you would be protestant. It's fascinating that the countries that the Spanish colonized (and are Catholic) are generally poor, unproductive third world countries. Look at South America, generally completely unimpressive. Your country, the Philippines, is similiar. I know of no technological or scientific achievements from the Philippines, it has done nothing of value for the world. In fact it is one of the most unhappy countries in the whole world, ranked 103 out of 155. I have no doubt that the high percentage of Catholics is to blame.

            http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/325968/lifestyle/peopleandevents/it-s-less-happy-in-the-philippines-2013-un-world-happiness-report-says

            You seem like a very unhappy person, if you can I'd move somewhere else. Otherwise, why should I care what you think? You a very angry person from a relatively useless country, and you repeatedly lie, or you just aren't smart enough to remember what's going on. Considering how bad Philippino education is, that's probably your problem. I can't help you with that, sorry.

            http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/business/06/14/11/philippine-education-ranked-poor

          • neil_ogi

            we are talking only about evolution/creation issues here.. why are you talking about something else?

            i'm not a catholic, FYI.

            you can say negatively about the philippnes, south america being predominantly catholic-controlled countries.. i don't care!

            you have bad arguments..

            if i were you, just stick to the issues,ok!

          • William Davis

            I'm a long way from having a heart attack. That was my way of saying: "Our conversation is pointless, have a nice life :)" Seriously, all the best, but just let scientists do their thing. It doesn't have to threaten you.

          • neil_ogi

            i really admired you.. you talked lots of nonsense things. you've been talking issues that were not part of the evolution/creation controversy. it's better for you to go to other sites, like politics and economy.

            be nice to others, even if their views are different from yours.

          • neil_ogi

            you are a civilized person,but i hate you use 'red herring'.... i'm so disappointed

          • neil_ogi

            quote: 'light has a source..' - i know, its source is from the universe.. and the source of the universe is from 'nothing'....

          • neil_ogi

            wiki? bunch of fairy tales articles that are not really factual? not even pass hypotheses

          • neil_ogi

            but evolutionists are quick to say that life is just a 'natural' process? so tell me why?

      • Boris

        Oh please. I was abducted by aliens and forced to mate with a female alien. I wrote it all off as a dream until about ten years later there was a knock on my door. I answered and imagine my shock and horror when I see a three-foot tall child with a huge green head that glows in the dark. He said, "Hello father it is I, Ragnad, your illegitimate space child from the planet Zovirax." So there's life in space for sure. Ragnad tells me that on Zovirax they have vodka rivers and lakes and giant onion dip pits. So sounds like a really nice place to live. My daughters took Ragnad to the mall today. I hope they put something on that weird looking head he got from his mother's side of the family.

    • Peter

      Indeed, the discovery of life elsewhere will put paid to that pet atheist argument that God was extremely cruel for sanctioning millions of years of multiple extinctions and animal predation, just to create human beings. If God's objective, they argue, was to create a sentient species to worship him, then, were he good, he would have done so without all the prehistoric suffering of countless innocent animals.

      This argument may hold water if life on earth were the only life in the cosmos. If God created life only once why did he have to do it in that single instance with such utter cruelty when he could have done it benignly? The argument becomes much weaker, however, if the cosmos is seeded for the widespread creation of life.

      In such a scenario, life would be designed to take hold and evolve in whichever planetary conditions it found itself, ultimately evolving to sentience. The evolution histories of life on each planet would be different, depending on prevailing conditions, so much so that it would be wrong at this stage to generalise that all life would have had to suffer in order to evolve.

      More importantly, the accusation could no longer be levelled at God that he chose to be particularly cruel in the one and only instance he decided to create life. Rather than creating one instance of life, and doing it with deliberate cruelty, God would simply have laid the foundations for a fertile cosmos where life would develop naturally in whatever conditions it could.

      This would, of course, not have ruled out animal suffering throughout the universe, but it does rule out the accusation that, in the evolution of life on earth, God was deliberately cruel.

      • the discovery of life elsewhere will put paid to that pet atheist
        argument that God was extremely cruel for deliberately sanctioning
        millions of years of multiple extinctions and animal predation

        Evolving life discovered elsewhere will further multiply God's cruelty. He won't simply have been cruel with life on one planet, but with life on millions of planets. Suffering no longer on a global scale but on a cosmic scale.

        Suffering that God is either utterly incapable or absolutely unwilling to prevent.

        • Peter

          There is a big difference between deliberately sanctioning and being unwilling to prevent and one mustn't conflate the two.

          Where life develops on a cosmic scale, there would undoubtedly be occasions of animal suffering, and it is true that God would be unwilling to prevent them in order to allow the same laws of nature to take their course across the cosmos.

          But take the scenario where God intends life to be only on earth. There would be no need for the same laws of nature to apply elsewhere in the cosmos and therefore no need for God to allow the suffering which the widespread application of those laws would naturally necessitate.

          Yet there has been animal suffering on earth on a great scale, which means either that life is limited to earth and God is deliberately and actively cruel, or that life extends throughout the cosmos and God is merely indifferent to animal suffering.

          God's indifference to animal suffering I can live with; God's deliberate cruelty to them I cannot.

          • God's indifference to animal suffering I can live with; God's deliberate cruelty to them I cannot.

            But isn't it deliberate cruelty to use the method of evolution, which entails millions of years and (according to you) millions of planets worth of animal torture, instead of a special creation that would have vastly reduced both the time and extent of that torture?

          • Peter

            First, we do not know if the method of evolution on every other planet would necessarily entail animal suffering. We do not even know whether lifeforms could be classed as animals as we know them nor what would constitute suffering to them.

            As for special creation, you are still thinking as a new-atheist who cannot avoid the knee-jerk reaction of conflating theism with creationism. Where creation is concerned, forget about creationism, about conjuring tricks or magic, about divine sorcery or supernatural manipulation.

            The world is created to be natural. It is as it is. Extinction and predation are natural means by which life becomes more complex, culminating in sentience possessed by ourselves.

            Your moralising is futile. Had those animals not suffered in the past you wouldn't be here to moralise about it. The fact that you are means that what happened was worthwhile.

          • It's true. We might discover an alien civilization, and then learn that suffering throughout their evolutionary history was absent or greatly reduced compared to our own. If and when that happens, I'll convert to whatever religion they believe, if any.

            God could have chosen special creation, magic tricks, what have you. That would have meant a lot less animal suffering. He could have chosen to make life extremely rare (maybe he has!). That would also reduce animal suffering. He chose a method involving a degree and extent of animal torture that rivals the most depraved imagination. Did he do this because he didn't want to practice some divine sorcery? Maybe he should have reconsidered.

            Your moralising is futile. Had those animals not suffered in the past you wouldn't be here to moralise about it.

            Unless a smarter, kinder God was involved, that is.

          • Peter

            "God could have chosen special creation....."

            Why are you still mired in that (anti) creationist mindset which regards God as possessing magical creative capabilities mixed with human sentimentality?

            The stubborn insistence by sceptics of seeing God through a creationist prism and ascribing their own emotionalism to him, blinds them from the true nature of the Creator.

          • Do you think God incapable of enacting special creation on principle?

            On the contrary, since that would be a natural progression from lesser to greater complexity leading to widespread sentience, it supports the notion that the cosmos is designed to that end.

            God thinks the ends justify the means? The sort of God, then, that would have dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima? A God incapable of conceiving of other better options?

          • Peter

            God is no more incapable of enacting special creation as juggling coconuts, and both are equally irrelevant.

            And why would God's means need justifying? That's human thinking based on accountability. God is accountable to no-one. And why would God perform a human action anyway?

          • And why would God's means need justifying?

            It depends on how comfortable God is with the universe-wide billions of years long torture of animals he's set up.

          • Peter

            God is neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. It's like saying how hot is the colour green. Nor is the Creator given over to gross exaggeration, sensationalism or mawkishness. Those are human characteristics.

          • I'm very open to the "God = the Force" idea. God doesn't care about what happens to animals, even human animals. The holocaust didn't give God a second thought. God has no purpose or plan for us. God is the ground of being, the ultimate explanation for the cosmos.

            There is grandeur in this view of the world.

          • Peter

            On the contrary.

            If God's design is for the universe to culminate naturally in consciousness, then of course we, as possessors of that consciousness, would be highly cared about by the Creator.

          • Some creator cares about us. And yet, we witness all this suffering multiplied, under your theology, by millions of worlds. You admit that this suffering could easily have been avoided; God could have magicked up the universe, but didn't. Instead he chose a method of creation that involves billions of years (and, if you're right, millions of planets) worth of abject torture.

            I'd count the suffering as strong evidence against a creator who cares about us. And each further example of life in the universe, if any is ever found, will be that much more evidence against such a creator.

          • Peter

            You are digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole of negativism. What you call billions of years of abject torture, what you paint in deepest black with exaggerated sensationalism and affected sentimentalism, are in fact billions of years of vibrant life, with extinctions occurring slowly and predation at the margins.

            It is almost as though you are accusing God of creating life, as though you hate the principle of life itself. The natural course of animal life is to be born and die, so inevitably one will follow from the other. The only way to satisfy you, it seems, is if God had created all animals to live forever which, of course, wouldn't be natural.

          • If God created life, I'm happy for it. I'm just wondering why he decided to bother with all this needless torture to do it. Multiple periods of near total extinction (see http://www.pnas.org/content/91/15/6758.full.pdf , their Table 1). He should have magicked it and saved all the needless death. If he'd had me as an adviser, I could have helped him avoid this moral monstrosity, a blunder of cosmic proportions that you think he's made not simply once, but millions of times.

          • Andre V.

            And even if we pretend to look away as to the past, what can be his motivation in keeping the shop of horrors open for another 24 hrs. Imagine the number of children dying in agony (Nepal, anyone), the obscene human and animal suffering recorded in those hours - for what possible purpose. More worship, more souls, more ...?

          • Michael Murray

            What about:

            "freewill -- people choose to live on fault lines",

            "The Fall -- we didn't use to have earthquakes but that damn woman nicked that apple"

            "think of all the opportunities for good that came out of it"

            "animals don't suffer they don't have rational souls"

            "you can't prove it would be possible for God to make a world without earthquakes"

            "we can't understand the mind of God"

            "Satan"

            Did I miss one ?

          • Andre V.

            A good list but you missed "Remember, God suffers with us", a reply that I have never understood as a meaningful response.

          • Alexandra

            What is your explanation?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't believe there is a God so the question of "what can be his motivation in keeping the shop of horrors open for another 24 hrs" doesn't arise for me.

          • Alexandra

            Right. I meant what is your point of view as to why all this suffering occurred. (Not why does God allow it - that's a question to a theist).

          • Michael Murray

            That's OK. I'm not sure what kind of answer you are looking for. There are lots and lots of interconnected reasons. Natural selection, tectonic plate movement, human pain receptors ... But I assume you aren't looking for an answer that unravels the mechanics of why humans and other animals suffer ?

          • Alexandra

            Correct, not mechanisms. What is your perspective on the question of suffering? Does it have meaning for you?
            And if I may, if the focus could be narrowed to human suffering that is not human caused (acts of evil.)

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. But what is the "question of suffering" ? It has no meaning for me besides wishing to avoid it and relieve it when it happens to others.

          • Alexandra

            Thank you Michael. Your response is very helpful to me.

          • Peter

            Now you are entering the realms of surrealism. The mass extinction of 252 million years ago spanned a period of up to 60,000 years.

            http://www.smithsonianmag.com/ist/?next=/science-nature/how-long-mass-extinction-180949711/

            Considering the thousands of generations within this period, would any individual creature have noticed? And if not how can you call it a moral monstrosity?

          • Yes, you're right. It's even worse than all that. All animals die. Many of them in gruesome, horrible, exceedingly painful ways. E.g. being eaten alive. If an all powerful God exists, he's no animal lover. Not even a lover of the human animal!

          • Michael Murray

            Many of them in gruesome, horrible, exceedingly painful ways. E.g. being eaten alive.

            Like being paralysed and implanted with an egg which grows inside you and eats you from the inside out. Slowly.

          • Peter

            So now you're switching your argument from extinction back to predation. Fair enough. If one fails you can always rely on the other. Not quite,though.

            Didn't one of your ancient heroes, Epicurus, say that continuous bodily pain doesn't last long; instead, pain, if extreme, is present a very short time? So much for your exceedingly painful ways.

            And anyway, none of this in any way precludes the existence of a Creator and so can never be used as justification for withholding belief in one.

          • The utter lack of evidence is justification enough.

            After all, if there were evidence for an all powerful God, and that God chose evolution over millions of worlds instead of magicking life, then I'd accept such a God existed, and that he was a jerk. A cosmic barbarian with no real concern for the extensive animal or human suffering he causes.

            But where is the evidence for this cosmic barbarian?

          • Peter

            The cosmos has the overwhelming appearance of design and I see nothing at all to suggest that the cosmos is anything other than what it overwhelmingly appears to be.

            But let's for argument's sake say that the universe is its own God, a brute fact infinite and eternal in a cyclic way, that continually evolves from simplicity to complexity, from non-life to life and ultimately consciousness.

            Why would such a universe having achieved consciousness, criticise itself and call itself barbaric just as you, an individual manifestation of the universe's consciousness, are doing?

            Surely if you are a conscious manifestation of the universe, you would be in harmony with it, not at odds with it? The very fact that you are would indicate that you are more than a mere material manifestation of the cosmos.

          • But let's for argument's sake say that the universe is its own God, a
            brute fact infinite and eternal in a cyclic way, that continually
            evolves from simplicity to complexity, from non-life to life and
            ultimately consciousness.

            Alright. We can pretend that this is true. This is not my own view for (at least) two reasons. First, I accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason, so I don't think that anything is a brute fact. Second, I think that the universe is, in a sense, evolving from simple to complex right now, but that's part of the universe's ultimate trajectory toward heat death (which is very simple indeed).

            But yes, I can imagine this.

            Why would such a universe having achieved consciousness, criticise
            itself and call itself barbaric just as you, an individual manifestation
            of the universe's consciousness, are doing?

            The God I'm mocking is not this God. For one thing, this God wouldn't be all powerful. But, let's imagine that I am mocking the universe. If the universe is a brute fact, then there need be no reason why I mock it. Maybe I just do.

            Surely if you are a conscious manifestation of the universe, you would be in harmony with it, not at odds with it?

            Why would this be the case? Many people have inner conflicts. If the universe is a single thing, then parts of it have consciousness, and parts are at odds with other parts in many sundry ways. Why should this be unexpected?

          • Peter

            "Maybe I just do"

            The question then is: why would you just mock the universe and animals wouldn't? What makes you different? Why would you represent the critical point in the evolution of the universe where it switches from self-indifference to self-abasement?

            Finally I am not talking about conflict between different parts of the universe, such as stars stealing matter from each other or bulls locking horns. I am talking about the universe reaching a point where it questions the validity of its own evolution. Why do you represent that point and no other and everything else doesn't. What makes you different?

          • Maybe dolphins mock the universe. I wouldn't know. ;)

            But probably, in order to mock the universe, you need to first know that there is one.

          • Peter

            More reason why you are different.

          • I'm special.

          • Andre V.

            I like parts of your argument, but ultimately I tink it's quite damaging for your cause.

            Firstly, it would imply that the creator is putting all of this together to be in harmony with itself. Then, let's consider some of the necessary questions and consequences flowing from your argument. Was it not in harmony before creation? Does the cost justify the eventual harmony? And why is it possible for Paul, and myself, and the majority of people on earth and through the ages to be so disharmonious? Could that disharmony be a part of its intention?

          • Peter

            The discontentment with the universe, with the nature of its evolution, manifested by yourselves, as opposed to the mere indifference of animals, would suggest that you cannot be explained exclusively as a material component of the cosmos.

            Your capability to overview the universe, observe its behaviour past and present, and evaluate it on many levels including the moral level, sets you apart from anything the universe has created since its inception.

            Whether the universe was created by God, created itself or has always existed, the same argument applies. Stars and planets and everything they contain are indifferent to the cosmos; you are not. You hold the universe morally accountable for its behaviour while nothing else does.

            If you are wholly and exclusively part of the universe, your discontentment would be tantamount to the universe being disharmonious with itself. This would be absurd because nothing else in the evolution of the universe is disharmonious; it couldn't be otherwise the universe wouldn't have evolved.

            One can only conclude, on this basis, that you do not wholly and exclusively belong the universe. Part of you must originate elsewhere.

          • Andre V.

            That argument helps you less than you may think. If we are so set apart, why are we (or at least some of us) required to not only condone the creator of our discontent, but glorify and worship him? You are arguing that we have been created so that we can notice that the emperor has no clothes.

          • Peter

            I would apply the reverse argument. Our unique ability to morally evaluate the cosmos should make us realise that we do not entirely belong to it, but that a part of us belongs to something external and separate, something quite different which the universe does not create.

            If that part of us is not created by cosmic evolution within time and space but originates outside time and space, it must be timeless and spaceless or, in other words, eternal and immaterial. An eternal and immaterial realm is the realm of the Creator, and so it is not inconsistent to conclude that part of us comes directly from there.

          • Andre V.

            Why are we created there, sent here, and presumably to return? What mad, wasteful, senseless mission is that, and what possible type of creator could conceive it, implement it and worst of all, maintain it year after year?

          • Peter

            I wouldn't say it's mad, wasteful or senseless; quite, the contrary in fact.

            We are thrown into a world of moral contradictions because we are being tested, that's all. How do we respond, benignly or malevolently?

          • Andre V.

            That's where you lose me, Peter. How anyone can accept, live accordingly to and condone such a theology, where our creator (an omnimax God) "throws" us to be "tested". The rules of this discussion board prohibit me from expressing myself fully when it comes to such a proposition.

          • Peter

            Of course, how you respond to finding yourself in this "vale of tears" is entirely up to you.

          • Andre V.

            Please explain how, in this instance, there is a meaningful moral difference between that indifference and cruelty.

  • bdlaacmm

    The big problem with figures like "100 million habitable planets in the galaxy" is they're too often based on too few variables, such as mass and distance from the planet's star. But that's just the beginning of things necessary for life. A few other requirements:

    - No Jupiter-sized planets in the habitable zone.
    - But you still need a Jupiter out there (and far enough away) to sweep up interplanetary hazards such as asteroids.
    - A big moon (like ours) to stabilize the planet's axial tilt.
    - A liquid iron core, to generate a magnetic field (and shield the planet's surface from radiation).
    - Not too many comets (or any potential life would be repeatedly bombarded out of existence).
    - The star has to stay away from nearby supernovae (to avoid its planets being sterilized by gamma radiation).
    - Plate tectonics, to prevent the surface from fossilizing and essentially making a dead world (and we still have no idea why the Earth is the only body in our Solar System with plate tectonics).
    - No tidal locking around the parent star (to prevent any atmosphere from freezing out on the planet's night side).
    - Not too much vulcanism (or you'd end up like Venus - basically a good imitation of Hell).
    - The right kind of star (and don't get me started here - I could add a good 15 to 20 bullet points just on this factor alone).

    The above just scratches the surface. When you solve the Drake Equation with all the variables necessary, and not just the handful that are usually used, you end up with a figure for habitable planets in the Milky Way of about... //wait for it// ... one (1).

    Us.

  • This post initially implies its topic is probability. Yet, it reports only calculations based on density. Totals of one hundred million or four billion habitable planets in the Milky Way are the results of calculations based on densities of 11 habitable planets per 673 planets or 10 habitable planets per 603 planets and two different estimations of the number of all planets in the Milky Way. These are not calculations of probability, but of density. Richard Dawkins makes the same error on page 138 of “The God Delusion”. Based on a density of 0.25 blue marbles per marble, a package of one dozen marbles contains 3 blue marbles. Based on a probability of blue marbles of 0.25, a package of one dozen marbles may contain 0 to 12 blue marbles.

  • Jeff Manning

    Since light itself from distant galaxies takes a long time to to reach Earth giving us a picture of the distant past, wouldn't that mean we wouldn't see evidence of complex life through telescopes anyway? Because of the gradual process of evolution, life, at least carbon based forms, wouldn't have formed yet to be seen in the "pictures" we receive of other galaxies. So our only way of discovering life, if it exists elsewhere, is for our technology to find a shortcut to travel to other stars, as this article suggests, or for us to wait around for aliens, who might have more advanced technology, to reach us. And if general relativity's idea about time-space dilation is correct, then a close encounter might not happen for generations to come.