Are we privileged, or merely lucky?

Each new discovery, even every new theory, is held at first to have the most wide-reaching theological and philosophical consequences. It is seized by unbelievers as the basis for a new attack on Christianity; it is often, and more embarrassingly, seized by injudicious believers as the basis for a new defense.

But usually, when the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before. So it was with Copernican astronomy, with Darwinism, with Biblical Criticism, with the new psychology. So, I cannot help expecting, it will be with the discovery of ‘life on other planets’ if that discovery is ever made.

from the essay ‘Religion and Rocketry’ by CS Lewis, 1958 featured an article today, detailing their reaction to the Discovery Institutes “schadenfreude” whenever scientist find an exoplanet which is not inhabitable. According to Slate writer, Mark Strauss, it seems that whenever astronomers find a world, which is not suitable to life as we know it, then the Intelligent Design crowd (ID) rejoices. Secular scientists want to show that there are other planets where life can evolve, just as easily as it happened here. The Discovery Institute, backed by its view of scripture, say that evolution is not how life formed. Furthermore, looking for sentient alien life is nothing more than a cash grab, at the expense of the tax payers. Read full article here

This guy looks friendly... tells "best pull my finger" joke ever

This guy looks friendly… tells “best pull my finger” joke ever

Whereas, I must admit that Slate painted Discovery Institute (DI) in the broadest of strokes, I was impressed over all with how fairly they approached DI’s philosophy of science.  Strauss did a good job quoting the pertinent sources, and contrasting the major worldview which each side represents.  However, I do not like it when one organization, in this case Discovery Institute, is set up as the representative of an entire approach to science, in this case Intelligent Design.  There are many different proponents of ID, besides The Discovery Institute, with various and sundry interpretations of creation.  The ID movement is bigger than Christianity in the sense that Jews, Sikhs, Moslems, etc also ascribe to the idea that the cosmos is created by and Intelligent Designer.  Even Deists, who say that God is a Mind, are in the ID camp.

The article, though well written, is not without its flaws.  The Discovery Institute , though well intentioned, is, also, not without its flaws.  Allow me enumerate and comment upon them by first saying that I found some inherent logical fallacies in my own camp (ID), but they don’t begin to approach the “self referentially” stupid logical errors of the Materialists. For the sake of ease for the reader, I will sequentially cite the error or fallacy from the article, then respond directly to it.

  1.  The article states the following, “But the creationists also see a more sinister agenda than naked greed. They place astrobiologists among the ranks of the “Darwin Brigades” who have always been“eager to undermine human exceptionalism,” since “the alleged ordinariness of the human race was vital in establishing common ancestry as a plausible theory.” Astrobiology, they argue, expands this line of thought, since it holds to the Darwinist belief that life started by accident and that—under the right conditions—it can emerge anywhere with a liquid solvent (preferably water), energy, and organic compounds. This delusion, the Discovery Institute adds, undermines human exceptionalism on a cosmic scale by proclaiming that the Earth is not particularly special, just one among billions of potentially life-bearing planets.”  My first issue is that they equate all creationists to the Discovery Institute.  This debases all Christians, and others, who seek to reconcile the science with the scriptures.  The Discovery Institutes seems to be married to the anthropic principal, which states that Humans are the pinnacle of creation (and, by extension, because of this our planet is the only one God pays much attention to.)  We aren’t all committed to this doctrine.  I, for one, am not.  For me, and many others, humans are exceptional in that God made us in His Image, but we are not exceptional in that God loves all of his creatures and all of his worlds. Also, it seems to me that even if the Earth is just one among billions of potentially life-bearing planets, that that would some how reduce the exceptionalism of Earth.
  2. The article claims that Discovery Institute wants scientists to fail in finding alien life, citing this, “the more data we gather about the Earth and other solar systems, the more clear it becomes that the cosmos was designed specifically with us in mind: “Someone decided that life should exist in this universe and made sure that Earth received all the proper protection and environmental benefits it needed to become the home of humankind.”  Its almost as if our entire faith is based on being the only intelligent life in the Universe.  Life on other planets does nothing to prove evolution, any more than spaceships prove aeronautics.  For me, nothing changes, if aliens land on the Capitol Mall and start selling intergalactic souvenirs to tourists.  God is still God.  Jesus still loves me.  The Bible still says what it says.  The bottom line is, humans are not the theological center of the universe, God is.  I, for one, welcome our capitalistic, memento hocking little green men.  I’ll take me one of those miniature flying saucers, with optional mind-controlled steering.
  3. The intellectual godfather of these views is Guillermo Gonzalez, a proponent of intelligent design who is an assistant professor of astronomy at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Gonzalez puts a theological twist on some of the theories proposed by his more secular-minded colleagues. Chief among these is the “rare Earth” hypothesis, which emphasizes that even the slightest deviations in cosmic and terrestrial events could have rendered our planet inhospitable to life.  Our planet is a rare thing indeed.  Yes, they’ve found thousands of planets, and some of them are even in the Goldilocks zone.  I can say with total confidence that no planet is uniquely suited for humans, they way Earth is.  And why is that? Because, God made it with us in mind.  One might say, He made us with Earth in mind.  Is a rock more important to God than a man?  Absolutely YES!  Is the continued suitability of our planet for human life more important than a single human life?  Absolutely MAYBE… I don’t know, but I;m leaning toward yes, because we all have to live here for the foreseeable future.  So what if other planets are not ideal for life as we know it, maybe they are the homes to life forms we don’t know about.  Basing all planets on the human criteria is silly, because Earth was made to fit the unique needs of Humans.  It is our planet.  We are its people.  These things go togetherm of course other planets don’t measure up.  God put us here for a reason. He predestined us to be earthlings, not martians, moon men, or Kryptonian.

There’s more here, much much more.  I have some choice words for the circular reasoning espoused over at Reasons to Believe.  For such a smart man, Hugh Ross sure does over do the whole human tech is evidence of God’s purposes for nature.  It goes something like this, “We were destined to become technologically advanced, that’s why God made certain animals.  We can know this to be true because the societies which used those animals became technologically advanced.”  This of course is circular logic, and, unfortunately, some of his best arguments are built on it.  But, I digress.

I suggest you read C.S. Lewis’ short essay entilted, Religion and Rocketry.  He answers all of these so called objections, and raises some very important questions about little green men.