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30th July, 2007

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Chase that wild goose!

Have we just plain lost our marbles? Has the entire human race gone nuts? Even the brilliant seem to cast aside all logic when it comes to the vainest of vain hopes that has ever been turned into a universal, robust tenet of belief. Just as tiny viruses can drop untold numbers of healthy bodies, an infinitesimally tiny thought virus has addled the biggest brains on earth. If they do know better (and surely they must), they sure aren't passing it on to the masses.

What are we on about? Every time some planet somewhere is found to harbor water the whole world gets into a lather of excited expectation that it may, nay, it probably does, harbor life. Let's get real.

When, in May of this year, the Mars rover, Spirit, gouged a deep track in the surface when one wheel stopped turning a cry of delight went up — this patch of ground was found to contain about 90 percent pure silica, a composition that would have required the presence of water. As reported by Science Daily,

The latest discovery adds compelling new evidence for ancient conditions that might have been favorable for life, according to members of the rover science team.

Conditions favorable for life are one thing, the existence of life is an entirely different matter!

The hoopla continues. A couple of weeks ago astronomers announced the discovery of water on a planet about 63 light years away. (See Water, water everywhere - on an extrasolar planet) The planet was discovered in 2005 as it dimmed the light of its parent star by some three percent when transiting in front of it. Analysis of the dimming led to the conclusion that water alone could produce the effects observed. Although everyone is quick to point out that conditions on this planet are not favorable for life, the discovery is used to provide hope for the faithful. Dr. Simon O'Toole, a researcher at the Anglo-Australian Observatory, is reported in “The Age” newspaper, July 12, to have said: “If you can

find the signature of water… then you can start to talk more about life, and could life exist on the planet”. True, where you don't find water you can forget about looking for life, but the notion that the presence of water gives hope is as far-removed from reality as you can get.

Even if you embrace the religion of a naturalistic origin of life you must recognize that the chances a broth of water, warmth, oxygen, carbon dioxide and other critical chemicals of life will cook up a batch of living molecules that respire, metabolize and make up a cell (the smallest unit of life) when struck by lightning are so slim we ought to give up dreaming about it. Even scientists committed to spontaneous generation of life acknowledge its improbability. Renowned scientist and student of life's' origins, Robert Shapiro, has this to say in his book, “Origins, a Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth”:

If one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal conditions… would be one chance in 10100,000,000,000 (New York Summit Books, p. 128).

The chances of it ever happening are so slim that many scientists believe in the existence of an infinite number of universes, each one governed by different laws of physics and chemistry. We can discuss questions such as these because the laws and physical values of our universe are, by chance, “just right” — we are here as a result of an infinitesimally tiny probability being turned into a reality due solely and simply to the existence of an infinity of universes. What faith, what faith, what faith! If it takes an infinity of universes to make life possible just once, we would have to be utterly nuts to think it could happen more than once in our own galaxy.

How paradoxical that a world that rejects the overwhelming evidence of intelligent design in creation will almost childishly embrace the illusion that favorable conditions will inevitably produce life.

If you found this editorial interesting, you should also read SETI


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