An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Interesting article, but it deserves a bit of a challenge - or at least Dr. Boss does.
A couple of points I would make.
"If you have a habitable world and let it evolve for a few billion years then inevitably some sort of life will form on it."
Okay, back the truck up and listen to the warning horn of it doing so. Evolution, as classically defined by neo-Darwinism and as popularly understood, cannot possibly begin to occur until you have some self-replicating molecule (sometimes known as LIFE) already in existence. Life cannot come into being by means of genetic mutation and natural selection...duh...because you don't have the genes to mutate yet! This is an absolutely silly statement that is as logically erroneous as anything the most die hard creationist has ever set forth.
And you'd think the doc would move on, but he doesn't:
"It is sort of running an experiment in your refrigerator - turn it off and something will grow in there. It would be impossible to stop life growing on these habitable planets."
Crap grows in my refrigerator because the crap was there to begin with, right? I mean, ummm, didn't the invention of the microscope rather end the "spontaneous generation" theory as to why meat (and what not) went bad? I mean, is this guy proposing that NEW and previously non-existent life forms are coming into being inside my fridge? Ummm...my wife may accuse some of my forgotten leftovers of doing just that, but I simply blame the environment and global warming. As far as I know, one will not find spontaneously generated self replicating lasagna molecules in my tupperware...though if we did I'd patent it and make a killing!
They are still not done:
Whether the life we find is intelligent is, however, less than inevitable.
"Intelligent life seems to be fleeting," he said. "In terms of the universe it only exists for a fraction of time."
Are they serious? First the guy is gung-ho about how easily life comes into being (through evolution?!?!?), but then goes on to suggest that he has some sort of statistical data about the rate of "intelligent" life in the universe? News flash brainiac: you only have ONE data point. One. That's us...I think.
We have absolutely know idea how life came into existence...none. We have many theories, but absolutely no empirical evidence or data or anything else to support such theories beyond good old-fashioned well thought out reasoning - the same sort that the history of science has demonstrated to have decidedly questionable rates of dependability. And yet if everything the neo-darwinists tell us is true, then once you have life, it seems reasonable to assume that, given enough time, intelligence would eventually come into being. It's the LIFE part that is the challenge - or so we are led to believe. Yet the doc here seems to be thinking in just the opposite terms: life is easy (which we still cannot explain at all) but intelligence is difficult (which we are told is easy to explain and demonstrate.)
I'm trying hard to find the science being done here.
One further point I would make:
We are certain of ONE and ONLY one example of life coming into being, to suggest this is NOT exceptional in the universe is as much a faith based statement as anything said by a creationist. We have no (0) data, nor any evidence to suggest that life comes into being easily. None. Nada. Anyone who says otherwise I'd simply ask for a second data point. Just one.
Don't get me wrong though, I've no concerns about life existing elsewhere...I rather expect we will find it someday. I believe the universe is impregnated with a propensity for LIFE. Somehow, our universe likes form, structure, and organization. Miraculously so.
So on that note, perhaps the doc and I have a fair amount in common.
In respect to how easy it is for life to come to a planet, we do have one data point, yes. But with intelligent life, we have a bit more data: there is no intelligent life within a pretty large radius of us that uses radio waves. It's not at all clear what the significance of that is, but it's something.
Good point Peter, but I'd still argue that the lack of evidence for life period combined with even more evidence for lack of intelligent life really isn't anywhere near being sufficient to conclude that INTELLIGENT life is hard to come by, but LIFE itself is easy.
We find these problems at the forefront of any scientific endeavour, combined with all sorts of theories to explain it - my favourite is string theory and loop quantum gravity to connect the theory of relativity (i.e. massive things) with quantum physics (i.e. miniscule things).
The difference between a hypothesis and a belief is that one doesn't live one's life by a hypothesis...and yet, we see many people living lives by so-called hypotheses. That's what makes it a belief, as much a belief as any religious or philosophical ideology, imho.