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Why Our Unique Solar System Points to God

Solar System

In an earlier post on this site titled "How Contemporary Physics Points to God", Fr. Robert Spitzer addresses the Big Bang and the five anthropic conditions that exist in of our universe. These anthropic conditions lead to intelligent life on our planet. Concerning the anthropic conditions Fr. Spitzer writes: “The odds against all five of the anthropic coincidences happening randomly is exceedingly and almost unimaginably improbable. Most reasonable and responsible individuals would not attribute this to random occurrence (because the odds are so overwhelmingly against it), and so, they look for another explanation which is more reasonable and responsible.”

The purpose of this posting is to point out additional, unique features of our solar system which are also very highly improbable. These features also allow for intelligent life on our planet. The discussion below is based on Lee Strobel’s book, The Case For A Creator. While Chapter 7 in Strobel’s book is excellent, he has two chapters justifying Intelligent Design and these chapters are extremely weak.. We can start from the general observation that in the universe there are billions of stars, and no doubt many of them have planets traveling around them. Surely there must be life on many of these planets. We can that demonstrate, using concrete facts, why Earth is indeed a very privileged and relatively unique planet. I would like to summarize a number of these arguments.

Stars exist in galaxies and there are three types of galaxies in the universe: spiral, elliptical, and irregular galaxies. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy and our Sun resides far out from the galaxy’s center. At the center of probably all galaxies is a black hole, which is so dense that light cannot escape from it. Any matter that comes near a black hole is attracted to it by gravity, and as the matter speeds up a large amount of radiation is emitted. Stars near the center of a galaxy and far enough from the black hole can survive its gravitational pull, but they are subject to much more intense radiation than stars far away from the center of a galaxy. Since radiation is not conducive to life, it is good that our Sun is not near the center of our galaxy. Further the Sun’s almost circular galactic orbit keeps it far away from the center. In the case of elliptical and irregular galaxies, stars have orbits that cause them to visit the center of their galaxies, and thus be exposed to the dangerous radiation that exits there.

If one picks stars at random, then the most likely choice would be a red dwarf, since 76% of stars are red dwarfs. I don’t want to consider all star categories but rather focus on red dwarfs since they are the most common. Red dwarfs are less massive than our Sun, which is among the 10% most massive stars in the universe. Since they are smaller, red dwarfs don’t emit as much energy as our Sun, and as a result vegetation would be more difficult to grow on a planet orbiting them. They emit radiation in the red spectrum, which makes photosynthesis, the process by which plants grow, less efficient. To prevent its liquid water from freezing, a planet would have to orbit closer to a red dwarf than we do to our Sun. However, as one moves closer, tidal forces would increase and a planet would end up in a tidal-locked state where one side of the planet always faces the red dwarf and one always faces away. The side that faces the dwarf would be very hot and the one facing away would be very cold. These facts mean that vegetation would be more difficult to grow on a planet orbiting a red dwarf. Finally, red dwarfs don’t produce much ultraviolet light. Early on in a planet’s existence, ultraviolet light is hypothesized to break up water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is a light gas and it escapes the planet’s gravitational pull and flows into space, while the oxygen, being a heavier gas, remains and supports life. By comparison not only is our Sun the right size but it produces the right mix of red and blue light. There are many more massive stars than our Sun, but they produce too much ultraviolet light compared to our Sun and planets orbiting them would be prone to experiencing strong ultraviolet radiation, which is not conducive to life. We are very fortunate to have a Sun with just the right properties to support life on Earth. If one picked a star at random, then the probability of finding one with just the right properties to sustain life on planets orbiting it would be astronomically small.

Next, consider our Moon, which, like the Sun, is critical to supporting life on the Earth. The Moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth stabilizes the tilt in the Earth’s axis of rotation. If this axis were not stable but varied, the result would be that over time the North Pole would migrate down toward the equator, and there would be tremendous changes in climate around the Earth. Areas that were once fertile, would become either too cold or too hot for crops to grow. As a result life would be confined to small compact niches and a large diversity of life probably would not exist. In fact, without the Moon, intelligent life might not exist at all. Mars has two moons but they are too small to stabilize its rotation, and thus, Mars’ axis of rotation varies widely. Our Moon is relatively large compared to the size of the Earth. The best hypothesis for its formation is that two planets collided just after the Earth’s formation. The collision angle had to be constrained. If the planets collided head on they would have annihilated one another; if the collision angle were too small the Earth’s gravity would not have been able to capture the Moon. How many times in the universe have two planets collided in the precisely necessary way that the Moon and Earth collided?

Now, finally, let's consider the Earth. If the Earth’s mass were much smaller, its gravity would not be strong enough to retain its atmosphere. If the Earth’s mass were too large then the pull of its gravity would be too large, and it would not be possible to have high mountains. There is so much water on the Earth that without mountains the entire surface of the Earth would be under water. Plate tectonics and the related continental drift are also important to sustaining life on Earth. Continental drift results in mountain formation and high ground for a diversity of life to exist. A planet also has to have a minimum size to keep the heat in its interior from being lost too quickly. Within the interior of the Earth radioactive reactions take place that generate heat. The result is that the iron in the Earth’s core remains molten, and the molten iron generates a magnetic field around the Earth. This magnetic field is crucial to life because it protects the Earth from damaging cosmic rays. Without the magnetic field more dangerous radiation from cosmic rays would reach the Earth’s surface and be harmful to life. The cosmic radiation would also strip away Earth’s atmosphere. How common is it in the universe to have a planet with a molten iron core? Not very.

In addition to the Earth's size and structure, consider its orbit, which is almost circular. If the orbit were more elliptical, then the Earth would either be too hot when it approached the Sun or too cold when it moved far away. If the radius of the Earth’s orbit were changed by ± 5% animal life would not be possible. The zone for animal life in the solar system is very narrow.

From these arguments one can conclude that only a very, very tiny fraction of stars would have just the right conditions for intelligent life as we know it to exist on a planet orbiting them. In our universe, primitive life is likely, but intelligent life is far more rare. When faced with the extremely low probability of these facts being a random occurrence one can look for explanations like the multiverse, which, while lacking any empirical evidence, posits millions of alternative universes. But in my own case I believe that the facts definitely point in the same direction that Fr. Spitzer discusses in his post, namely a super intellectual Creator.
 
 
(Image credit: New Scientist)

Thomas McAvoy

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Thomas McAvoy, PhD is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds joint appointments in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the Bioengineering Department, and the Institute for Systems Research. He earned his PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University in 1964. From 1964 until 1980 he taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. From 1980 until 2004 when he retired he taught at the University of Maryland. Dr. McAvoy’s research centered on chemical process systems engineering. He has written over 180 papers in this general area and one book, titled Interaction Analysis. Since his retirement Dr. McAvoy has carried out research in the general area of biomedical engineering. His projects in this area involved a novel radiation couch that moves to treat tumors that move due to breathing and a study of bacteria in a rare type of cancer, pseudomyxoma peritonei. Dr. McAvoy splits his time between Maryland and Massachusetts. His hobbies include fishing and reading.

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  • unique features of our solar system

    Unique? How could you possibly know that?

    From these arguments one can conclude that only a very, very tiny
    fraction of stars would have just the right conditions for intelligent
    life as we know it to exist on a planet orbiting them.

    Fine. So let's imagine that only 0.000,000,001% of stars have planets like ours. In truth it's probably way higher, but let's be generous to your position. Then there are "only" about 3,000,000,000,000 stars with planets like ours in the observable universe.

    Where's the problem?

  • The data is coming in on the frequency of habitable planets and it is looking very favourable for life. The first such study estimates 20 billion earth like planets in our galaxy alone. And there are estimated to be 500 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/11/04/243062655/scientists-estimate-20-billion-earth-like-planets-in-our-galaxy

    If you are interested in the science of finding exoplanets that might support life watch this.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GyC07eBvOb4

  • In general, I just don't understand how fine-tuning arguments for God can even get started.

    Just look at the universe. It's almost entirely frozen, irradiated vacuum. Virtually all the material in it is lone hydrogen particles whizzing through space. A rounding error in the material has clumped up due to gravity, and virtually of that is in the nuclear furnaces of young stars or the crushing gravity of stars that have spent their fuel and become dwarfs or black holes. A rounding error in that rounding error makes up planets, asteroids, comets, etc. Another rounding error in that one makes up small rocky planets like ours. And even on our beautiful planet, only a tiny fraction of its material in a tiny surface layer is living, and has only had complex life for about half its history, and that history has been pockmarked by frightening mass extinctions.

    ...and theists say this proves the universe is fine tuned for life by a creator God? A God who wanted to make a universe fit for life wouldn't start with a basic design that is incredibly inhospitable and then twiddle a few knobs just right. He'd start with a completely different design. If I were designing a universe fit for life, I'd personally start with a basic design like sci-fi's fluidic space and then customize the organic fluid to produce life by spontaneous generation, so it would be filled practically everywhere all the time with abundant and infinitely varied life. That would be a universe finely tuned for life. Not our cold irradiated vacuum.

    In wondering why our local environment (the land surface of the Earth at habitable lattitudes at this time in history) is so perfect for us, let's remember Douglas Adam's puddle:

    Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!

    • Ben Posin

      You do a great job explaining a real problem with the fine tuning argument. I look around this thread, and I'm looking for somewhere to stick my nose in, but it all seems to be said.
      So here's a link to a relevant cartoon. http://amultiverse.com/comic/2010/09/08/hot-tub-planet/

  • Kyle

    I would like to know the basis for the claim that a +- 5% change to orbit would result in no animal life. The earths distance to the sun already varies 3% during a full orbit. Saying just a little more variation would result in no animal life seems like an incredible claim...

  • Danny Getchell

    A God who is capable of creating a universe ex nihilo is certainly capable of creating intelligent beings who can live in environments far different from our own.

    I would convert to Catholicism, for example, if we were to discover a race of intelligent beings living under the ice cap of Europa who worshiped the Catholic God.

    Into the bargain, I would delight in the way that the inerrant-Bible fundies' heads would explode.

  • Peter

    I sympathise deeply with the author's motives but I'm afraid I have to disagree. Let me refer to Douglas Adams' puddle analogy, where the puddle believes the hole must have been tailor-made for the puddle to fit so well in it. This is precisely the same principle with life on planet earth.

    For example, the earth has a circular orbit not because life is vulnerable to extreme temperatures associated with an elliptical orbit, but rather life is vulnerable to extreme temperatures associated with an elliptical orbit because it has evolved on an earth with a circular orbit.

    The life of planet earth has evolved on an earth which possesses all the conditions associated with earth. Therefore it is obvious that the life of planet earth cannot tolerate any significant change in these conditions

    However, there is no reason why life cannot evolve in a different manner and attain complexity in a different way on planets with altogether different conditions . That's the author's mistake; he is too anthropocentric.

    • Peter,

      You gave a very clear summary of what is wrong with this article. Thank you.

      • btpcmsag

        This "wrong" to which you allude is an imaginary pseudo-reality in your own mind, with no substantive proof in the real world. What evidence do you have for any life having ever 'evolved' on planet earth?

        When one honestly prescinds from the false premise of 'evolution' doctrine, and looks at this article objectively, what then is "wrong" with it? Certainly none of Peter's objections make the grade, as Peter presumes from the start that 'evolution' is the fact of life, whereas it has nothing but imaginary presumptions and dogmatic hypotheses from day one.

        • Doug Shaver

          What evidence do you have for any life having ever 'evolved' on planet earth?

          I might have an answer to that question, if you will tell me your definition of "evidence."

    • Hi Peter,
      Puddle holes are random and the water will fit in it every time. Are you suggesting any random planet will evolve intelligent life every time? Can you find even one other time?

      • Given the extreme conditions in which we find life on earth, it seems possible that life could potentially survive on (or in) almost any planet discovered so far, and maybe even in the interstellar medium (see Hoyle, F., & Wickramasinghe, N. C. 1984. From grains to bacteria. Cardiff: University College Cardiff Press). We've barely started looking, so there's no way to know yet.

        As for intelligent life, it seems more fragile, but who knows how much more fragile and how much rarer? If it is only us, it seems like an awful waste of space.

        • [---
          If it is only us, it seems like an awful waste of space.
          ---]
          The odds of a low entropy universe (according to Roger Penrose) is 10^10^123 to one. So I would say that its majestic expanse is never wasteful, but rather part of a Providential fine tuning.

          • Susan

            Even if all the experts accepted Roger Penrose's speculations as fact... and they don't:

            Why are very, very low odds evidence of agency?

            No one ever explains how they get from A to Z like that.

            They just say A, therefore, Z.

          • I'm agnostic about whether there's extraterrestrial life. But, if I believed in a personal and free Creator God who could make the world any way He liked, I'd believe that there's probably lots of extraterrestrial life. David Wilkenson, the astronomer-theologian from Durham, introduced me to the argument from Christiaan Huygens for extraterrestrial life.

            But still the main and most diverting Point of the Enquiry is behind, which is the placing some Spectators in these new Discoveries, to enjoy these Creatures we have planted them with, and to admire their Beauty and Variety. And among all, that have never so slightly meddled with these matters, I don’t find any that have scrupled to allow them their Inhabitants: not Men perhaps like ours, but some Creatures or other endued with Reason. For all this Furniture and Beauty the Planets are stock’d with seem to have been made in vain, without any design or end, unless there were some in them that might at the same time enjoy the Fruits, and adore the wise Creator of them. Huygens, Cosmotheros, 1698, p. 36-37

            This argument was made more seriously by Huygens, I think, than Sagan, but it's pretty-much the same argument, and it's a deeply religious argument, although it need not be convincing to all religious people, it would convince me.

          • Peter

            The fertility of the universe, its widespread potential for life, has led the American Jesuit astronomer, Fr. George Coyne, former director of the Vatican observatory, to believe that God let the universe take its natural course to allow innumerable sentient species to randomly evolve, while freely choosing not to know in advance precisely what, when and where they would be.

            Needless to say, he fell out with the hierarchy and in particular Cardinal Shonborn of Vienna. While the Church can easily accommodate a universe configured from the outset for widespread sentient life, where the creation of life depends on natural processes and its development on local conditions, she still firmly maintains that God knows precisely what, when and where each instance of sentient life will be.

          • It would seem strange for God not to know the initial conditions for the universe. I suppose he could have closed his eyes when he set it off and never checked, just so he could be surprised later, but that kind of God would probably not be the Catholic God.

          • Peter

            Indeed, the English physicist and Anglican vicar, John Polkinghorne, who is also an adherent to this belief refers to it as divine temporality.

            All in all, these are different forms of process theology which subject God in one way or another to temporal processes.
            As such they are not compatible with Catholic doctrine.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Peter,

            You may know Polkinghorne's views better than I do, but based on this interview: http://meaningoflife.tv/video.php?speaker=polkinghorne&topic=complete, it does not seem to me that he is insisting on the random (i.e. ontologically random) evolution of the universe. In any event he explicitly rejects the label of "process theologian". He does interpret the inherent unpredictability of the universe (from a human perspective) as a sign that reality is not deterministic. He makes this metaphysical decision on the principal that human knowledge (which includes human knowledge of inherent unpredictability) is a guide to reality and it would be strange to interpret unpredictability as a sign of ontological determinism. He instead chooses to interpret observable unpredictability as a sign of the "open-ness" of reality. By "open-ness" he definitely does not mean "randomness" in the sense of ontological arbitrariness. It seems to me that the "open-ness" he is referring to is a sort of "freedom" of God's activity, which would certainly be compatible with Catholic doctrine.

            I would be discourage to learn that Polkinghorne's thinking on this subject is not compatible with Catholic doctrine, because it makes a lot of sense to me. In any event, I think it is insightful to realize that the phenomenon of unpredictability need not imply ontological randomness. It can just as easily -- and to my mind, more readily -- be interpreted as a sign of God's freedom as well as (though Polkinghorne doesn't go into this) God's hidden-ness (i.e. if some things are inherently unpredictable to us, maybe God wants to remain hidden to us to some degree).

          • Peter

            It's not what God chooses to be hidden from us that's the problem but what God chooses to be hidden from himself. On pp 118-119 of the paperback edition of his book, Exploring Reality, in Chapter 6, the Nature of Time, Polkinghorne says:

            "Atemporal knowledge is precisely how classical theology thought of God's relationship to creation, believing that the whole of history is known by the divine Observer totum simul, all at once...........Temporal knowledge on the other hand implies a true divine engagement with unfolding time. God's creative act must then be understood to have involved the gracious divine embracing of the experience of time, the acceptance of a temporal pole within divinity...........This restriction would be understood theologically as being kenotic, a chosen self-limitation on the part of the Creator to bringing into being an intrinsically temporal creation. It would be no defect in the divine perfection not to know the details of the future if that future is not yet in existence and available to be known."

            It is Catholic doctrine that "man, whole and entire, is willed by God" (CCC362). How could God have willed man if he had no knowledge of man's future evolution?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, I agree there is a conflict, or at least tension there.

            On the other hand, it seem like this tension, or something very similar to it, is already a part of Trinitarian theology. We already have God existing both beyond time and also as a tabernacled presence within history. We let that tension continue to exist as part of the irresolvable mystery of the Trinity.

            Anyway, thanks for the well-chosen excerpt and the explanation.

          • Danny Getchell

            But, if I believed in a personal and free Creator God who could make the world any way He liked, I'd believe that there's probably lots of extraterrestrial life.

            Yes. If there were a Christian heaven, I would want it to be as described in Alice Meynell's "Christ In The Universe"

            http://www.poetry-archive.com/m/christ_in_the_universe.html

          • Buzz Beez

            Wow! It would convince you if a creator acted the way you believe He should. Tremendous arrogance and pride on your part.

          • I don't understand your comment. Now, I'm all very happy with the pride and arrogance, but because I'm so joyfully arrogant, I'd like to find out everything I'm being arrogant about.

            What would I be convinced of if God acted the way I believe she should?

          • Buzz Beez

            Your words from above:

            "This argument was made more seriously by Huygens, I think, than Sagan, but it's pretty-much the same argument, and it's a deeply religious argument, although it need not be convincing to all religious people, it would convince me."

          • Do you not see how the fact that God is unfalsifiable renders these arguments pointless? God created the Universe just for us. But most of is is deadly to us. Then the vastness of it is evidence of his majesty. But given his power, the universe is tiny, he could have related a universe 100 trillion time larger. But god made it just vast enough to inspire awe in us.

            Because there is no evidence that could disprove God, it is rather pointless to talk about evidence that proves God.

          • [---
            Do you not see how the fact that God is unfalsifiable renders these arguments pointless?
            ---]
            I was not presenting an argument, just a personal observation.

            [---
            Then the vastness of it is evidence of his majesty.
            ---]
            I did not say that either, and for the record I don't believe that. I was rather saying that the fine tuning probably depends on things being just as they are. Therefore I would not call any of its expanse a waste.

            [---
            Because there is no evidence that could disprove God, it is rather pointless to talk about evidence that proves God.
            ---]

            But I was not providing evidence..... you misread it.

          • You seem to be saying that the vast majority of the universe being hostile to life does not mean it is a waste and has something to to with majesty. You have now clarified that you don't mean by this that God made it so big as to prove his power and show his majesty, but think the size of the universe was probably necessary.

            Are you saying that God did not then choose the laws of nature and cosmological constants but was constrained by them if he wanted to make a universe that can support life?

          • [---
            You seem to be saying that the vast majority of the universe being hostile to life does not mean it is a waste and has something to to with majesty
            ---]
            No. I said it has something to do with the odds of a low entropy universe. In other words, since the odds are so astronomically low, it is my intuition that the way things look now were probably necessary for the current conditions we observe.

          • Loreen Lee

            I have just always understood that the economy of providence involves a 'just in case' factor. After all, is the number of sperm produced a compensation made because it is a 'necessity' to fertilize one egg, (in order to avoid a situation based on 'chance'), i.e. is it 'necessary' to prevent the possibility that no eggs will be fertilized within a situation that is indeed unavoidably contingent, and is based on 'chance'? Maybe that's what low entropy 'means' Maybe I don't really understand my own question..
            The idea of Providence does, however, seem to be the same as a 'rule/law' within nature. I understand that the rule/law would change if our understanding of empirical conditions or even if our observations of empirical conditions changed, within a scientific definition of 'law'. Does this Humean definition conform to interpretation of what constitutes 'Natural Law'. Is what I understand to be Scientifically based laws more in keeping with the basis of Kant's moral imperative, i.e. that the rules of necessity and universality are merely regulative rather than constitutive? Are the laws science and religion (whether based on the idea of a Divine Providence or a Natural Law?) at odds with one another here?.

      • Michael Murray

        Can you find even one other time?

        That would be a useful criticism if we had looked but we haven't very much yet.

        Two data points we do have are SETI has produced nothing and we don't see alien probes or space-ships in orbit around the earth. Estimates (I've no idea how good they are) are that even with all the constraints on speed relativity makes a fleet of self-replicating robot probes could cover the galaxy in 500,000 years.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_spacecraft

        This is one aspect of the Fermi Paradox which asks if intelligent alien life is so common why haven't we met it yet ?

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

        • Peter

          There may be other factors affecting interstellar travel such as the viscosity of interstellar space which though insignificant at relatively low velocities, could be so at higher velocities.

          An extreme example is the Segue 1 dwarf galaxy, a satellite of the Milky Way, made up of just a few hundred stars yet whose sheer mass suggests a presence of dark matter one thousand times greater than the visible matter. Imagine navigating between the stars through that.

          While I am not so sure about aliens being able to visit us, I think it's highly likely that they are watching us with their own advanced telescopes, although depending on how far away they are they probably won't see any of our technology.

          When thinking of the leaps and bounds we are making in our own telescope technology, in a few centuries we could have vast telescopic arrays on the moons of Neptune or Uranus which would make today's projected telescopes look like magnifying glasses.

          • An extreme example is the Segue 1 dwarf galaxy, a satellite of the Milky Way, made up of just a few hundred stars yet whose sheer mass suggests a presence of dark matter one thousand times greater than the visible matter. Imagine navigating between the stars through that.

            But it wouldn't be that bad, would it, for interstellar travelers? Since the dark matter won't be interacting electromagnetically with the extraterrestrial spacecraft, and the gravitational forces can't be strong enough to to significantly slow the velocity of fast-moving objects (otherwise, wouldn't cosmic rays have trouble traveling through space?). I don't know. Has anyone tried to figure out what effects dark matter would have on space travel?

          • Buzz Beez

            What is the unassailable scientific evidence for the existence of dark matter and dark energy? Answer: there is none. Only a speculation about the alleged impact of gravity, etc. that leads to such speculations about things "dark."

            It is quite remarkable to see how many atheists and agnostics believe in a mysterious dark matter and a dark energy, yet such things have not been tested scientifically, but it fits in with their ideology of scientism. At the same time, the rational basis for the evidence of God is dismissed out of hand by such people, and why? Because they claim there is no scientific evidence for such a belief/understanding.

            Can you say hypocrite? Indeed, thy name is anyone who believes in dark matter and dark energy without proof, but insists that a belief in God must have the kind of proof that is not needed for their "darkness." :-) :-) :-)

          • Doug Shaver

            What is the unassailable scientific evidence for the existence of dark matter . . . ? Answer: there is none. Only a speculation about the alleged impact of gravity, etc. that leads to such speculations about things "dark."

            No, not speculation. Observation. We see how stars move in other galaxies. Their observed movement is inconsistent with the supposition that that the galaxies contain no matter except visible matter. It logically follows that they must contain dark matter.

          • Michael Murray

            Or our theories are wrong. That's an option also being explored with Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND).

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

            According to wiki Dark Matter is a more widely accepted solution to the observed behaviour.

          • Doug Shaver

            Or our theories are wrong.

            That's always a possibility, too. The point is, we have actually seen something that needs to be explained somehow, and those theories have worked too well for too long for revising them to be our first choice for an explanation.

          • Buzz Beez

            Ha! Ha! Precisely what I stated about the alleged impact of gravity. Pure speculation about something causing this or that, along with the claim that this something must be "dark matter." Objective/honest scientists admit they have no real evidence for the speculation. Perhaps in the future, but definitely not now. Not even close.

            "Logically follows"? Let's see. We don't know what is causing something, we haven't been able to test or directly observe what it is, so let's claim it "logically follows that what we don't know is causing something must actually be...hmmmm...how about invisible matter? No, that won't work. Dark matter is what we will call it, especially since something dark sounds more convincing about matter than what 'invisible' conveys. :-)

            And let's not forget that mysterious force called dark energy. That must "logically follow" as well, right?
            Now, here's a speculation worth considering: the notion of the speed of light as being a constant is starting to be questioned by more and more scientists/cosmologists, but they are still very much in the minority. Nevertheless, if it is ever demonstrated that the speed of light is slowing down, this will make the speculations about dark energy, dark matter, and other cherished hypotheses collapse like the proverbial house of cards.
            But unlike the advocates of the alleged existence of dark matter and dark energy, I need scientific proof of any scientific claim like "the speed of light is slowing down" before I will accept it.

          • Doug Shaver

            Objective/honest scientists admit they have no real evidence for the speculation.

            I don't equate disagreement with dishonesty. If you do, I have no wish to continue this discussion.

          • Buzz Beez

            I accept your admission of defeat, especially by your making a bogus claim, and also throwing in a cheap shot suggestion in a feeble attempt to discredit the undeniable truth of the following:

            Objective/honest scientists admit they have no real evidence for the speculation.

            This is not a matter of disagreement, but objective science. Only subjective/dishonest scientists claim to have real evidence when no such evidence currently exists. Perhaps such evidence will be found in the future, but it does not yet exist. Basic science 101.

            Oh well. Enjoy wallowing in the darkness of your own making, and nice try at the red herring off point to avoid the sole context of the true statement. :-) The truth hurts all those not committed to pursuing it honestly, or who don't like it if it exposes the errors of what some merely want to be the case.

          • Doug Shaver

            I accept your admission of defeat

            I made no such admission.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Objective/honest scientists admit they have no real evidence for the speculation.

            What speculation are you referring to?

          • Doug Shaver

            Now, here's a speculation worth considering: the notion of the speed of light as being a constant is starting to be questioned by more and more scientists/cosmologists, but they are still very much in the minority.

            What do you mean by "questioned"? I don't care how many scientists say "I don't think so." I want to know why they don't think so.

            Nevertheless, if it is ever demonstrated that the speed of light is slowing down, this will make the speculations about dark energy, dark matter, and other cherished hypotheses collapse like the proverbial house of cards.

            When I see that demonstration, I will give it due consideration. Until then, it is not due any consideration at all.

            [Apologies for the delayed response. For some reason, I didn't notice your reply when you made it.]

      • Peter

        Within the next ten years powerful telescopes, orbital and terrestrial, will peer into protoplanetary discs and exoplanetary atrmospheres to look for signs of complex organic compounds and perhaps even life itself.

        However, just as heavy elements have evolved from light elements, simple compounds from heavy elements, complex compounds from simple compounds, and presumably simple life from complex compounds, so too will complex life evolve from simple life.

        Once life establishes itself on whatever world, its long term action will be to absorb all the resources around it and increase in complexity in order to survive. Naturally, the form in which life establishes itself and the manner in which it complexifies will depend on the conditions of the planet itself.

        But life can probably take on many forms in many conditions. Our knowledge of these conditions is currently limited because we only experience the conditions of our home planet.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Peter, I like this statement very much:

          However, just as heavy elements have evolved from light elements, simple compounds from heavy elements, complex compounds from simple compounds, and presumably simple life from complex compounds, so too
          will complex life evolve from simple life.

          Scientifically speaking, isn't there a huge problem in the transition from complex compounds to simple life? Do we have any evidence of life simple enough that we can imagine going from a compound to a life?

          • No one knows how life evolves. It may be so unlikely that it shouldn't have happened even here. Or it may be so likely that the interstellar medium itself is full of simple life. No one knows yet.

          • Loreen Lee

            Given Leibniz' Identity of Indescernibles, and the great variation of species on this planet, would it not be a rational hypothesis to suggest that any extraterrestrial life would be as different as is the porpoise from the caterpillar. Just as a curiosity, I understand that there are planets that are only 'similar' to earth so this further suggests to me that there would be a wide variation. I also still can't help thinking that Spinoza said that mind and matter were only two of an infinite numbers of attributes of God. This thought boggles 'my mind'.

          • Michael Murray

            If earth is anything to go by then a cool surface and oceans are about 4500 million years ago, single cell life maybe 4000 years ago and multi cell life 2000 million years ago. So single cell took 500 million years and getting to multi cell another 2000 years. So that second step seems the hard one! Unless of course the single celled life came from space.

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

            I though there were some reasonable abiogenesis models now

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

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for the link to the abiogenesis article. I'll give it a read.

          • Peter

            There is admittedly a big gap between the building blocks of the building blocks of life which are increasingly found in space, and life itself.

            Soon orbital and terrestrial telescopes will peer into protoplanetary discs to see spectroscopically whether the strong tidal forces and intense radiation will have caused the building blocks of the building blocks to complexify one stage further into the building blocks of life.

            The next step will be to look into the atmosphere of exoplanets to see, again through spectroscopy, whether the building blocks of life have transformed one stage further into life itself. Of course, these processes are not so clear cut and it's possible that they could overlap.

            However, what is certain is that space is brimming with complex organic compounds and, as is becoming increasingly apparent, teeming with exoplanets. The fundamental ingredients are there, and so too is the well-established universal drive towards complexity. Therefore it would be a greater surprise not to find life than to find it.

    • Martin Sellers

      "The life of planet earth has evolved on an earth which possesses all the conditions associated with earth. Therefore it is obvious that the life of planet earth cannot tolerate any significant change in these conditions

      However, there is no reason why life cannot evolve in a different manner and attain complexity in a different way on planets with altogether different conditions . That's the author's mistake; he is too anthropocentric. We cannot even begin to image the many different forms life could take"

      ---except that we have yet to discover any sort of life that has evolved in any environment dissimilar to Earth's. That is why the author presupposed that life can only take place in conditions similar to Earth. It is the crux of fine tuning argument. I think it's a pretty reasonable supposition to make until further evidence of life having evolved in different conditions emerges.

      • David Nickol

        I think it's a pretty reasonable supposition to make until further
        evidence of life having evolved in different conditions emerges.

        For people forming their own opinions, it may be reasonable to assume that life can't begin, and intelligent life can't evolve, except in environments extraordinarily similar to earth's. But for someone like Thomas McAvoy to make an argument that depends on that assumption puts him in a very weak position. Based on the evidence we have, there is no way to know (or even make reliable guesses) if life on earth is the only life there is, if there are a few other instances of life, or if life is relatively abundant. It's simply going to boil down to what assumptions any given person makes.

        • "Based on the evidence we have, there is no way to know (or even make reliable guesses) if life on earth is the only life there is, if there are a few other instances of life, or if life is relatively abundant."

          Of course we can't know for certain whether life exists elsewhere, but we can take the available evidence (or lack of evidence) and weigh what is most *probable* given that background evidence. All the evidence we have suggests our universe is uniquely fine-tuned for human life and that no life exists elsewhere.

          • David Nickol

            All the evidence we have suggests our universe is uniquely fine-tuned for human life and that no life exists elsewhere.

            This is a puzzling statement. I think it's fair to say that no one expects to find human life anywhere other than on earth. It seems to me to be incorrect to say that the universe is fine-tuned for human life. It seems much more reasonable to say that the universe seems to be fine-tuned for "life as we know it." According to evolutionary theory, human life on earth was not foreordained or inevitable. It occurred by chance.

            If you mean that "all the evidence we have suggests . . . that no life [of any kind] exists elsewhere [other than on earth]," I don't know what you consider evidence. I think there is a presumption among life scientists that life very well might exist elsewhere in the universe. If life arose by accident on earth, given the huge number of similar planets there are bound to be, life may have arisen or might arise elsewhere. It is difficult to make any assumptions about intelligent life elsewhere, but unless it is very abundant, we should never expect to discover it.

          • " I think there is a presumption among life scientists that life very well might/em> exist elsewhere in the universe."

            Based on what evidence? And how does that hypothetical evidence weigh against the vast, incredibly fine-tuned constants that enable human life?

          • Because there is no good evidence or argument against there being life elsewhere in the universe. So it is considered possible. Life very-well might exist elsewhere.

          • Peter

            Indirect observation of individual planets is one thing, but the direct observation of protoplanetary discs around newly forming stars is in itself clear evidence that the galaxy must be positively teeming with planets. Not only that, but within the disc the proximity of organic compounds to intense stellar radiation for millions of years must have a mutating effect which leads to greater complexity.

            Not only is there no evidence against the existence of life elsewhere, but thanks to directly observable proplyds there is growing evidence in its favour. All that remains is for us to peer inside the proplyds themselves to look for signs of organic complexity, which is no doubt what the James Webb orbital infrared telescope will do.

          • We disagree about whether there is positive evidence for any non-terrestrial life. I don't think there is. Organic molecules aren't alive. They're far from.

            Even if every exoplanet out there had monocellular life, there are some astrobiologists that estimate that the probability of going from single celled life-forms to multicellular lifeforms is about 1 in 10^24. We'd then be the only example of multicellular life in the universe. The statistics isn't reliable, because we have only one datapoint. And that's the problem. You can't extrapolate off of only one datapoint. Maybe JWST will find life. I highly doubt it. I'd love it to. But I seriously doubt it will. It's not really what it's built for.

          • Peter

            There is evidence that organic compounds increase in complexity within protoplanetary disks and bombard newly formed planets. Glycine the smallest amino acid was detected in 2009 from cometary material collected by NASA's Stardust mission. The ESA's Rosetta mission will land on another comet in August of this year.

            Although JWST may not detect life, one of its objectives is to peer within protoplanetary disks to study the formation of planets and look for complex organic molecules. It will be the role of upcoming terrestrial telescopes like the extremely large European telescope to look for signs of life within planetary atmospheres.

          • Glycine is a very long way from life. The more we look, the more complexity we find, but we find less and less of it. The universe is mostly hydrogen and helium. The most common molecule in interstellar molecular clouds is H2. Then you find things in clouds like carbon monoxide at about 1 part in a thousand. Molecules with greater complexity, like acetylene, are at one part in a million or less. Glycine has not been observed yet in the interstellar medium, but it's likely there, but probably at less than one part in a trillion. Not much glycine in the universe. There will be less compounds made of amino acids, and even less life out there. Maybe only one place in the universe where there's life.

            If you want to find signs of life from rocky planets, you will probably have to go to space.And, as always, no one knows whether any will be found. There's no evidence for extraterrestrial life, or at least zero evidence that I find even slightly convincing.

          • Peter

            Some people call earth a fertile planet but its biomass is only one ten billionth of its total mass, so one part in a thousand or even a hundred million isn't that bad.

            I would expect highly complex compounds like glycine to be synthesised within the intense radiation and tidal forces of protoplanetary disks. That probably accounts for the increase in scarcity of molecules of greater complexity within open space.

          • Extrapolate from CO (2 atoms, 1 in a thousand) to glycine (7 atoms, 1 in one trillion) to life. 1 DNA strand is around 100 million atoms, so following the trend should be one part in 10^(102), or less than one in the volume of the universe on average. Of course chemical evolution doesn't actually work this way, but I don't know how chemical evolution, from glycine to life, should work. It seems difficult to determine the average function of chemical abundance as a function of chemical complexity, for molecules larger than about 10 atoms.

          • Doug Shaver

            Hypothetical evidence doesn't weigh against anything. Nothing counts as evidence unless it's an actual fact.

            I have done much reading, over many decades, about the evolution of scientific thinking about the (a) conditions necessary for life and (b) the likely processes of stellar and planetary formation. I have come across no facts that are inconsistent with a high probability of some kind of life existing on some worlds other than this one.

      • Peter

        The author did not presuppose that life can only take place in conditions similar to earth, but that life can only take place in conditions identical to earth.

        In fact, that's his whole point, which is that God tuned the conditions for life on earth so finely that if they were only altered to a slight degree life could not flourish at all. It is the exquisite degree of fine tuning of the conditions for life on earth which point the author to God.

        I would agree that conditions similar to earth's are necessary for carbon-based life to take hold and develop, if by similar you mean the abundance of surface water which would imply a planet with an atmosphere orbiting and rotating stably within the habitable zone of a star.

        The fact is that Kepler is beginning to discover what we believe are watery worlds, so the likelihood that they exist is significant. This acts as evidence which shifts the balance of probability in favour of a universe where life is common.

        In the light of this evidence which is growing all the time, and will grow exponentially when the new telescopes come on line, the author's claim that only the precise conditions of planet earth can harbour life is becoming outdated.

      • It is why astronomers look for Earth-like planets around their host stars. Fortunately, it seems likely that there are a great number of Earth-like planets in the universe. Depending on how like Earth an Earth-like planet should be.

        • Peter

          Rare-earthers argue that the protective magnetic field generated by earth's unique solid/liquid core was crucial in enabling life to flourish for so long and acquire complexity.

          However, I'm not too sure. We don't have a protective magnetic field because we would otherwise be vulnerable to solar radiation, but rather we are vulnerable to solar radiation because we evolved behind a powerful magnetic field.

          Perhaps life on other earth-like planets with less powerful magnetic fields evolved with a greater tolerance to stellar radiation.

          • Most archaic solar models involve an old sun with a stronger magnetic field (because of the correlation between stellar rotation and magnetic field strength). It is difficult to say how likely or unlikely it is for planets like the Earth to have a magnetic field. Mars did have a magnetic field, until its mantle cooled. There's currently attempts to measure the mean magnetic field strength for hot Jupiters (Jupiter-like planets close to their host star). Measuring the magnetic fields of Earth-like planets would be very difficult.
            Earth is the most massive rocky planet in our solar system, there are more massive rocky planets observed by transit surveys, and it seems likely to me that at least some of them will have strong magnetic fields.

            The question of whether life requires a protective magnetosphere is more difficult. No terrestrial life can survive on the surface of Mars, due to its lack of magnetosphere and tenuous atmosphere. There could still be life beneath the surface of Mars.

            A magnetosphere cannot be necessary for life all the time, since the Earth's magnetic field switches polarity, and during this change, the magnetosphere of the Earth is pretty-much non-existent. In my non-expert opinion, the magnetosphere seems most necessary not for protecting life but for keeping the atmosphere from evaporating away.

    • btpcmsag

      Your fallacy lies in there having been no evidence whatsoever that life has "evolved" at all. Your false premise therefore is the basis of your argument about the validity of the article you disdain. Who says (with a whit of credibility) that evolution is real, beyond subjectively 'real' in the imagination of grown-ups? That is the key issue, and it is one that far too many pundits refuse to acknowledge.

      When you begin with a false premise (because of evolution, therefore, &c.) you can only end up with false reasoning and fallacious conclusions, IOW, nonsense.

  • Hyder Noori

    I say this with all due respect to the author but this argument extremely weak and self refuting.

  • Cubico

    Theists are often like the dog with the "proverbial" old bone....especially Catholics. Sorry if I insulted anyone as that is not my intention.....but did you ever try to shake a dog loose from an old sweater or an old favorite bone. Not very philosophical or scientific, I admit....but I grow weary of the to and fro of the obvious. I do realize Brandon that I will most likely be deleted or banned....as that is seemingly what you do best on this venue.

    • Martin Sellers

      Fair point. But the same could be said of Atheist arguments.

  • Wallaby Jones

    Just stay out of science please, you can't have this dualistic view where you try to justify your faith with science. It just ends up looking desparate.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    I'm sorry, but this a remarkably poor article. It's not even original - it's a summary of a portion of a book written by a journalist with only the haziest grasp of science and statistics.

    Seriously, Brandon, in what fashion does thus article contribute to productive discussion between atheists and theists?

    And that really is a serious question.

  • David Nickol

    While I personally believe that there must be (or must have been, or will be) intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, nobody even knows if there is any life elsewhere in the universe. To make a point similar to an old Pogo cartoon, either we're alone in the universe, or there are others, and, "Either way, it's a mighty soberin' thought." But really, as Paul Davies argued in the New York Times, we only have one example of life, and you can't make an estimate or extrapolation with a sample of one.

    It seems to me it is not legitimate, even if intelligent life (or just plain life) exists only on earth, to claim it is so improbable that there must be a Creator. In order to have "proof" of a Creator, you have to prove that life is impossible! If life is so improbable that it happens only once in the lifetime of the universe, that still means it's going to happen once in the lifetime of the universe, and earth might be the place. I don't see how that has any bearing on whether there was a Creator or not.

    Calculating the odds of an event after it has happened sometimes tells you little or nothing. For example, shuffle a deck of 52 cards well, lay them all out in order in front of you, and the odds for getting that particular sequence of cards is

    1 in 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,
    766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000

    Those are truly astronomical odds! Every time you shuffle a deck of playing cards, something nearly miraculous happens. But after it happens, you can't claim it couldn't have happened because the odds of such a thing happening are so incredible.

    • mriehm

      It isn't too often in these modern days of ours that I see a Pogo reference. I'm glad to see there are a few fans out there. I've loved Pogo since I encountered it as a kid in the sixties. Thanks!

      (p.s. sorry for the off-topic spam.)

  • Michael Murray

    We can start from the general observation that in the universe there are billions of stars,

    Last time I counted it was more like 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. A rough aid to memory is 100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars each. Of course the latter number is an average. I think the human brain has 100 billion neurons as well and I'm surprised nobody has invented an argument for God out of the coincidence of these three numbers.

    Much of this article sounds like it is related to the rare earth hypothesis

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

    I don't know enough of the science to know what the consensus is on this amongst planetary scientists or even if there is one.

  • Tom Rafferty

    The God of the Gaps is a disease on this website.

  • To reject or to
    accept probability as an explanation because of its numerical value is
    illogical. Every value of probability in its range of definition is of equal
    validity. If probability is accepted in any instance as an explanation, then in
    no instance can it be rejected as an explanation on the basis of its numerical
    value, irrespective of how close it is to zero. Similarly, the acceptance of probability
    as an explanation is not bolstered by a value of probability closer to one.
    This OP as well as Fr. Spitzer’s argument implies rejection of probability as
    an explanation, if it is close to zero and acceptance of probability as an
    explanation, if it is close to one. The rejection argument is ‘The probability
    of this outcome is so close to zero that it cannot be due to chance’. In other
    words, ‘The fractional concentration of this element in this set is so close to
    zero, that it cannot be the fractional concentration of this element in this
    set’.

  • picklefactory

    You should be ashamed at attempting to address a Lee Strobel-derived article to atheists. His arguments are so weak as to actively work against your presumed intentions.

    • Danny Getchell

      The main reason I would be more inclined to engage in debate on a Catholic rather than an evangelical site is the supposed better intellectual grounding of Catholic thinkers.

      Citations here of the likes of Strobel and Craig aren't a good sign.

    • Pickle, please consider this a warning. Our Comment Policy specifically prohibits ad homienm attacks. You've offered no counter-argument in this comment. You've simply dismissed the original article after smearing the name of one his referents. Future ad hominem comments will be deleted.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        That's not an ad hominem. He points out that Smolin's arguments are considered weak, and they are. Smolin's arguments are considered weak by most people who've bothered to read them since they are simply the anthropic fallacy writ small.

        • Pickle's original statement ("You should be ashamed at attempting to address a Lee Strobel-derived article to atheists") insinuates not only that atheists should a priori dismiss an article simply because it was written by or referenced Lee Strobel, but that anyone posing it should be ashamed for sharing it. That's a shocking statement. And it's also an example of the general genetic fallacy (dismissing an argument because of its source) and, more specifically, an ad hominem fallacy (rejecting an argument because of the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.)

  • Mike

    In my short time here I've found many arguments concerning evidence for God (like the evidence we would have for science). I don't think of God as a science question, in that assuming that God exists and God is not bound by space and time I can't forsee a way to probe God scientifically (really spectroscopically). I believe therefore that science is neutral on the existence of God.

    I think my main objection to this general topic is that it seems to want to have it both ways. Either science has the ability to examine God, or it doesn't. I don't think it's helpful to claim that God's fingerprints are in the universe like a crime scene that needs to be reconstructed to find God.

    I would prefer a God that instead of remaining hidden would manifest himself to mankind. Tell us about his/her nature, what the purpose of my life should be, how one should conduct one's life, etc.

    • Martin Sellers

      To my knowledge of what the Christian/Catholic church claims, that is exactly what God does.

      • Mike

        Which aspect, leaving fingerprints scattered across the universe, or manifesting him/herself?

        • Martin Sellers

          "...manifest himself to mankind. Tell us about his/her nature, what the purpose of my life should be, how one should conduct one's life, etc."

          • Mike

            Sure. Which is one of the main reasons I'm Catholic.

          • Martin Sellers

            Me as well.- " I don't think it's helpful to claim that God's fingerprints are in the universe like a crime scene that needs to be reconstructed to find God."- However, I disagree here. I think it is very possible that God intends us to discover more about his nature through new science. If we do believe in an all powerful all knowing God, who created everything; the fact that we do not know everything already indicates that each new scientific discovery is actually a new discovery of God.

          • Mike

            I think we should be careful about this idea. What you've said is basically paraphrasing the Catechism with respect to faith and science. If we believe in God we can look at new discoveries and realize that the truth of what science uncovers is already known to God, and knowing what God knows would be good.

            However, I think we should be consistent with our engagements. Either God is a question science can answer or God isn't. It seems like this article wants to claim the former, and I just can't see how in principle God is a science question. A position I've stated here previously. Since God isn't a science question, God can't be threatened by scientific discoveries, and therefore my faith in God and science can't be in-congruent.

            However, if God is a science question then God and science can in principle (not necessarily in practice) be incompatible.

            Furthermore, in efforts to dialogue with people who have a different faith (or none at all) I don't think this is the best avenue by which Catholics should present God.

          • Martin Sellers

            "Either God is a question science can answer or God isn't."

            Well.. even if God isn't a question science can answer, I see no reason not to try. I, and I assume this site, tend to agree that understanding God is a matter of faith and reason.

            "Furthermore, in efforts to dialogue with people who have a different faith (or none at all) I don't think this is the best avenue by which Catholics should present God"

            --maybe- but can we think of a better way?

          • Mike

            Martin,

            I just don't think God is a science question. No more than the question of whether of not I love my wife is a science question, something that could be measured and quantified. It's not as though God is a science question, but science is currently unequipped to answer at the present time.

            I think one can and should also use reason, but we shouldn't make science and reason synonymous. I can use reason to make moral judgement, major life decisions, etc, but I wouldn't characterize any of those things as science questions either.

            I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, I never tire of hearing the great story. By coincidence we hear and experience it this week.

          • Martin Sellers

            I think I agree with you. No one "really" comes to know God through new scientific discovery or reason alone- as i'm sure many atheists here will attest- something deeper has to happen. However, far be it from me to say that science and reason cannot be a stepping stone by which someone may become more curious about God and seek to know him further. -alas I need to spend some time with with science and reason myself right now so I don't fail my mid term on Monday. so i'm leaving the conversation here. Happy Easter!

          • Mike

            Good luck on your midterm! Happy Holy week, and Happy Easter to you too.

  • Danny Getchell

    Dr. McAvoy:

    Approximately how many intelligent species would have to be discovered "out there" in order to weaken your assumption of a super intellectual creator??

    • Martin Sellers

      Only 1. We would just ask if they believed in a God. At that point the debate would be over.

  • Loreen Lee

    Congratulations on the newest and most beautiful project, Brandon Vogt. That definitely points to God.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Loreen!

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      What project is that?

      • Loreen Lee

        A New Life! A New Beginning! Perhaps you can Google his website to see the photos!

  • Joe Grech

    I contest that the only life existent in the universe, intelligent or otherwise, is to be found here on our very own planet Earth. I also contest that I have more reason to believe this than the atheists, agnostics, doubters, mockers, scoffers, pretenders and pseudo-intellectuals of the world, espousing a contrary view, have to believe otherwise. What proof do I have for my primary claim? Nil. What support do I have for it? Plenty - the absence of any evidence to the contrary. My point is made. Simple! You have more reason to believe in Casper The Friendly Ghost than you have to believe in alien lifeforms. Believe what you like, but don't expect intellectual assent when you speak out loud the absurd fantasies you'd prefer to be true to the truth that is the reality of God's creation.

    • Susan

      I contest that the only life existent in the universe, intelligent or otherwise, is to be found here on our very own planet Earth.

      What support do I have for it? Plenty - the absence of ANY EVIDENCE to the contrary.

      It's as silly to contest that the box is empty as to insist that there is an elephant in the box.

      Reality is very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, (inhale) very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very (gasp), very, Very, VERY (not even close to describing it) BIG.

      Thank goodness we have made any progress at all on coming up with tools to help us find boxes and maybe open them.

      That takes a lot of hard work and intelligence and training and teamwork from people who aren't sitting in armchairs making assertions they have no business making.

      You and I have no more idea than any human on this planet.

      the truth that is the reality of God's created universe.

      Darn it! There goes another brand new irony meter!

      • Loreen Lee

        I do agree in so far as there is need to develop more respect/appreciation by sapient humans for sentient beings here on earth as a priority to searching for aliens. From the example of how we treat non-aliens as aliens on earth somethings, I do not think we would be ready to meet a 'creature' from another 'galaxy'.

      • Joe Grech

        In spite of the 'very bigness' of your reality, some things just will not occur on their own - like life, for instance. Higher orders of complexity, empowering the form within its environment, are not selected preferentially by that environment which itself is made up of forms, many of which are also being selected preferentially it would seem. These evolving forms within even your 'very bigness' of reality are the stuff of fantasy for the homogeneity of entropy must have its way. Sorry! (Not really). Within your model (the bigger the reality, the better the chance - even for impossible processes that defy the science to which you only pay lip service - how ironic!) anything would be possible, like an outcome that is impossible. Just name it - it'll be there, somewhere, out there, in your very bigness.

        • Ben Posin

          Uh....to the extent that I follow what you're saying, I think you need to add some citations.

          • Joe Grech

            Citations???
            Joe Grech, Strange Notions, "Why Our Unique Solar System Points to God", Thomas McAvoy, April 14, 2014, Comments section.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Do you understand what a citation is?

          • Joe Grech

            You take yourself too seriously, M. I can't say I understand why.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You know nothing about me. Perhaps you would consider answering our questions rather than dodging them.

        • Susan

          I'm sorry Joe. I honestly don't understand what you are trying to say.

          • Joe Grech

            I wasn't trying to say anything; I said it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words it's nonsense?

            I'm puzzled.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I think that he's making two claims - both wrong. First, that entropy prevents evolution; therefore god did it. Second, that although science indicates a low probability of life forming, increasing the size of the occurrence space (the universe) doesn't help, because the chance is still so vanishingly small that god must have created life.

          The rest is filler and random insults.

          • Joe Grech

            Firstly, "Entropy prevents evolution" if you like, or, "out of mud you don't get mathematics, the physical sciences, art, poetry, reflective meditations on the nature of man, his origins and purpose, questions of morality (nor answers), the quality recognized as beauty, its recognizer, discussions like this one et cetera..." On this, not wrong but right (Let's see you argue that one!), and, secondly, "chance...so vanishingly small" is not the same as "no chance at all" so there I'm misquoted and not shown wrong, therefore I remain right till proven otherwise.
            My final point M., because your desperate sophomoric pretense is unbearable, will be this: if there is no God then the greatest wisdom and the most powerful intelligence in the known universe is you. With a genuine sense of humility you might claim that it's actually someone else whose a lot like you, but not actually you. Either way, it's a frightening thought. Thank God, you're wrong again.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            First, your post was so badly written that all that could be done was to take a stab at interpreting it. Second, if you think entropy prevents evolution, explain how. Third, your post is clearly so badly written that it cannot be understood.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "Desperate sophomoric pretense"? Even your attempted insults are incomprehensible gibberish. What are talking about? How am I desperate? I'm certainly not a sophomore. And where is the pretense? Show proof.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Oh, by the way, abiogenesis and evolution represent local decreases of entropy in an open system. Perfectly possible.

            You are simply wrong.

          • severalspeciesof

            if there is no God then the greatest wisdom and the most powerful intelligence in the known universe is you.

            One (the most powerful intelligence in the known universe is you) does not follow from the other (if there is no God then...).

            Glen

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Joe doesn't seem to be applying reason to his responses. Let's not demand more of him than he's willing to give.

          • It's fine to disagree, but it's not OK to be smug and uncharitable. We've warned you several times about your disrespectful attitude. This is your last warning.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            How have you sent other warnings? I haven't seen any. But certainly I apologize to Joe if you thought I was snarky. Do you consider his response to be in keeping with your posting guidelines?

          • Ben Posin

            Well, it was good having you around. It seems like the next comment you make that is either "smug" or "uncharitable" in Brendan's eyes will be your last. Given his bias towards finding smugness or "snark" in atheist comments, while ignoring it in Catholics, that probably won't take too long...

          • I think you have both issued several disrespectful comments, and so I've warned you both. Please tone down the snark or you'll have to take it elsewhere.

          • David Nickol

            Can we have a ruling on how you would classify Joe Grech's saying to M. Solange O'Brien, "[Y]our desperate sophomoric pretense is unbearable"? Isn't that smug and uncharitable? It seems to me that is a direct, personal attack. I know being a moderator is a thankless task, and no one is every going to appear scrupulously fair, but certainly what Joe Grech said directly to M. Solange O'Brien should be taken into consideration when judging her subsequent comments about him.

          • I agree. I missed Joe's comment--I only saw Solange's in the "Recent Comments" list. I've warned him, too. However, pointing the finger to other offenders in no way excuses the smugness and disrespect Solange continues to show other commenters. Responding, in essence, "Well he does it too!" does not justify one's own conduct. We don't want any of that here.

          • Joe, please read our Commenting Policy again (or for the first time) before commenting. Your comments are laced with over-the-top rhetoric and personal sneers. It's OK to disagree with others, but please do so charitably. If you're unable to do that, we'll have to remove your future comments.

    • Michael Murray

      I contest that the only life existent in the universe, intelligent or otherwise, is to be found here on our very own planet Earth. I also contest that I have more reason to believe this than the atheists, agnostics, doubters, mockers, scoffers, pretenders and pseudo-intellectuals of the world, espousing a contrary view, have to believe otherwise.

      I'm not really sure who you are responding to here ? I've followed the discussion on alien life here over a number of months and I think the person most convinced of it's inevitability is a theist. The atheists seem to be in the "interesting question, not enough evidence to decide" camp.

      Believe what you like, but don't expect intellectual assent when you speak out loud the absurd fantasies you'd prefer to be true to the truth that is the reality of God's created universe.

      "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye."

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      There is no evidence that god created the universe, just as there is no evidence for god.

      • Peter

        If the universe is found to have a purpose, which is to create life, wouldn't that indicate design? Even if simple life is found on many planets, that doesn't rule out intelligent life because life on earth was simple for billions of years.

        So if simple life is found, indicating the potential for intelligent life across the cosmos, would that not show that the universe was designed to ultimately achieve widespread consciousness and self-understanding?

        In my opinion everything hinges on the next ten years when we expect to discover signs of even more complex organic compounds and even of life itself. Such a discovery, even of the simplest life forms, will change human history forever.

        We would be surrounded by a galaxy and a universe potentially teeming with life. Mankind would no longer be a unique freak occurrence in a hostile indifferent universe but the expected outcome of a universe designed for that purpose.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          No. Why would finding simple life show that the universe was designed?

          • Peter

            Simple life will not remain simple forever. The very forces which allowed it to take hold on a planet in the first place will cause it to mutate over time, not least the cosmic rays which are known to cause genetic mutations.

            Eventually, in some cases at least, life will attain a degree of complexity which will allow it to achieve sentience, and it is the presence of sentient life across the cosmos which would indicate that the universe was designed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why? Why does the presence of sentient species constitute evidence that the universe is designed?

            And you've yet to provide any evidence that simple life invariably evolves to sentient life - despot being asked to show such evidence or argument multiple times.

          • Peter

            The overwhelming evidence is of a universe which is irreversibly driven from its very inception to progress from lesser to greater complexity, from the simplicity of a helium nucleus all the way to the intricacy of a sentient brain.

            The presence of sentient species would reveal the universe to be a cosmic factory which creates intelligent life from scratch. How could it have acquired that purpose unless it was designed to do so?

            Furthermore, to deny the inevitability of complex life evolving from simple life is to discount the evidence staring us in the face of a universe relentlessly driven to greater complexity.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There is nothing in your response but personal opinion. Unless you present actual evidence and something approaching a coherent argument for what is, for you, clearly a point if faith rather than logic, I'm afraid we have nothing to discuss.

            Either argue with facts or don't waste our time.

          • Peter

            On the contrary, my argument is grounded in actual evidence of a universe where matter evolves from lesser to greater complexity, culminating within the current limits of our observation in complex organic compounds which constitute the building blocks of life.

            Given the facts of a universe brimming with the ingredients for life and teeming with planets, it is logic rather than faith which leads one to conclude that life is inevitable.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, actually it's not. All the evidence we have is against the existence of sentient life elsewhere. What you have presented is again your personal opinion. Please give actual evidence and actual chains of logic to support your assertions.

          • Peter

            "All the evidence we have is against the existence of sentient life elsewhere"

            I strongly disagree.The current absence of evidence for sentient life is not evidence of its complete absence. It is only evidence of the fact that we haven't detected it.

            The visible cosmos contains at least 10^22 stars and the part of the cosmos which has expanded beyond our vision incalculably more. To proclaim that sentient life elsewhere is non-existent because we can't detect it is not a rational assumption when you consider:

            a. It already exists in at least once instance.
            b. the cosmos is brimming with the ingredients for life;
            c. the cosmos is teeming with planets and moons;
            d. stars are born within protoplanetary discs (leading to the formation of planets and irradiation of organic compounds).

            Evidence "against" the existence of sentient life elsewhere would be:

            a. the cosmos is devoid of complex ingredients for life;
            b. the cosmos is devoid of extrasolar planets and moons;
            c. stars are not born within protoplanetary discs.

            Clearly there is no such evidence and therefore, contrary to your claim, there is no evidence against the existence of sentient life elsewhere.

  • Peter

    We've had new earth creationism, big bang creationism, and now we have anthropic creationism. This is the notion that within the entire cosmos of trillions of stars only the earth was intentionally configured by God for the evolution of intelligent life. This suggests that the vast universe was created by God solely for the existence of man.

    God creates all that is visible and invisible. This also applies the cosmos which is partly visible to us, yet largely invisible, forever beyond our sight. Why would God on behalf of one intelligent species create a cosmos which for the most part is invisible to them and with which they can never have contact?

    Estimates of the unobservable universe range from 250 times the size of the observable universe to trillions of times bigger. It is absurd to imagine that God would create all this for man and forever deprive man of the means to experience it.

    It is far more rational for God to have configured the universe for widespread intelligent life so that each intelligent species would have their own overlapping sphere of the cosmos to observe.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    I am reporting the following comment I made in this thread. I am reporting it because it is a serious and honest question I would like to see Brandon address:

    I'm sorry, but this a remarkably poor article. It's not even original - it's a summary of a portion of a book written by a journalist with only the haziest grasp of science and statistics.

    Seriously, Brandon, in what fashion does thus article contribute to productive discussion between atheists and theists?

    And that really is a serious question.

  • Carl Earl

    The complete, point by point, refutation of everything in this article can be found here. http://allthebunk.blogspot.com/

  • James Phillips

    I would suggest that we can go way beyond our solar system as pointing to God. We have mounting evidence that our place/position in the universe points to God!

    "The Principle" Has A Major Announcement To Make!
    http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-principle-has-major-announcement-to.html

  • btpcmsag

    "In our universe, primitive life is likely, but intelligent life is far more rare." Where does Thomas McAvoy find support for this blanket statement? He does not provide any references and it appears to be an enormous leap from what he does provide.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Yes. That is correct. McAvoy appears to have taken that from an article by Strobel. As far as I know, Strobel made it up.

      • btpcmsag

        Okay, I don't doubt that someone made it up, but what about you, M.Solange O'Brien? Do you also find it ridiculous for someone with ostensible credibility to say that "In our universe primitive life is likely?" And if so, just how UNlikely is ANY kind of life, M.Solange O'Brien (in your reflected opinion), to spring up by its own impulse, out of nothingness and non-life?

  • btpcmsag

    It seems to me that Thomas McAvoy is missing a paragraph or two. Maybe when he finally sees "The Principle" (movie) on September 19th, he'll be able to write them. After recognizing the slim chance of our sun being in the right kind of galaxy at a right amount of distance from its center, with the right size of sun and the right type of sun (not a red dwarf, etc.), and the moon being the right size and distance, moving at the right speed, and the earth at the right distance from the sun, tilted at the right angle (23-1/2 degrees) and with the right amount of water and the right duration of annual rotations and all that stuff --- what about the nearly impossible alignment of the CMB from deep space with the equatorial plane of earth as well as the ecliptic of this one solar system? That could be two paragraphs, don't you think? If you don't think so, then you really DO need to see "The Principle," lest you be left out of the conversation. In the meantime, go watch the Mic'd Up session the Producers recorded at ChurchMilitantTV this evening (about 7 hours ago). http://new.livestream.com/churchmilitanttv/events/3016104

  • sciguybm

    A few generations of self-centered, egotistical "Me!" children who demand no rules, no morality and no consequences for their actions have determined that "there is no God" because they say so.... interesting philosophy. The elite demanding ascension to ultra-elite status.

    Well, fine. However, in coursing through the possible scenarios that this universe came from nothing, I find that no argument of how this "just happened" having any more merit than a Creator caused it to occur. No difference.

    All the laws and physics that exist in this universe are so select that only with this odd sets of physics and chemistry can life exist.

    And just as weirdly, even eerily, all the previous dominant species on this planet met their demise in unbelievable events that not just occurred but wiped them out COMPLETELY so they couldn't stage a come-back.
    All obviously coincidences that just happened......... so that the self-centered spoiled could point their fingers at themselves. hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.........whew, that almost killed me.