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Old 07-04-2004, 10:01 PM   #5
SpaceTiger
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 4,548
Default Re: Digging Up Old Arguments

> Here is a link to the probabilities of various parameters of
> Earth's location/set up that point at creation rather than
> chance occurrance.

Ok, I see the general point being made here. These arguments are problematic for many reasons:

The first problem is entirely logical. Imagine that you're walking around outside and you see something startling (maybe a license plate with your name and part of your SS or a cloud shaped like Dick Clark). Then imagine that you go home and calculate the probability of this event occurring. Chances are that you'll find that the probability of seeing that particular event in your lifetime is small. Does this mean that it's a miracle?

No, because you have a selection bias: you wouldn't be asking the question if the event hadn't occurred. This reasoning applies even more strongly to calculations about the probability of life because, in the absense of life, we wouldn't even be around to ask the question. If their science were done correctly, then this probability would instead be an indication of how likely we are to find life elsewhere. In other words, if I pick a random star out of a hat, their number would be the probability that the star contained life...

...but not really. The numbers they give there are not only extremely crude estimates, but also based on highly dubious reasoning. For example, in the first one they talk about certain types of galaxy clusters being inappropriate for life because they would "disrupt the solar orbit." What they fail to realize is that this doesn't matter. If the sun were suddenly flung out of the galaxy, it would have no noticable impact on life or the formation of life (except in the unlikely event that life was brought here from another star). In fact, nearby stars are more of an impediment to life than anything else.

Venturing even further into the absurd, I see that they give probabilities for the decay rates of particles. In other words, they claim that in any conceivable universe, there is an 5% chance that the dark matter decay rates fall within the range necessary for life. Not only is this crude, but it's complete bullshit. There's no way to put probabilities on that sort of thing.

Even the http://www.activemind.com/Mysterious..._equation.htmlDrake Equation</a>, an equation for calculating the probability of intelligent life only within our galaxy, gives numbers that could be greater than 1 with our current scientific understanding. If scientists believed that the probability of finding life around other stars were as low as that website claims, then they wouldn't be investing so much money and effort into things like the http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/TPF/tpf_index.htmlTerrestrial Planet Finder</a>.

Basically, I think we are unlikely to find evidence for religion or creation within the realm of science, but then we may never be able to refute such things either. Religious questions are best left to the philosophers and theologians. <img src=smilies/thumb.gif>

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