Monday, June 04, 2007

Our priviledged planet

Guillermo Gonzales, an as it seems descent researcher, who was recently denied tenure at a major university has written a book "The Priviledged Planet". In it, he argues, as Casey Luskin says:

But in reality, Dr. Gonzalez’s entire thesis argues for design based upon a convergence of the requirements for both habitability and scientific discovery.
The idea is that since Earth is habitable for advanced creatures such as ourselves compounded with the fact that Earth is great for making scientific discoveries*, Earth was actually created to have these characteristics. Gonzales argues (perhaps rightly so ) that there probably exists only relatively few planets that are habitable and even fewer of those would be suitable for advanced beings such as ourselves. Add to that the fact that our rare planet is most excellent for making really cool scientific discoveries and you should really draw the conclusion that the probability of these conditions to be met is incredibly small. So small, in fact, that it would be virtually impossible. The conclusion we should draw from this is that our planet was created the way it was - so that we can discover things. I might give a bit of a critique to this in a later post, but what I really want to do here is to critisize something else Gonzales claims in his book: that if complex life is found elsewhere in the universe, then the world on which it is found will also be great for scientific discoveries. Gonzales is, in other words, making a prediction.

As I've argued numerous times before, ID (and by extension any "theory" that postulates a designer without saying anything about the designer) cannot make predictions. Even William Dembski agrees with this as, "Designers are inventors. We cannot predict what an inventor would do short of becoming that inventor.". The only way Gonzales would be justified in making that predictions (other than identifying his designer) would be if he assumed that his designer would make habitable worlds great for discoveries. But then his conclusion would be in his assumption, and circular reasoning is not how you want to justify anything. His prediction is, then, nothing but shoddy scholarship.

There are, of course, lots of books being printed and lots of these contain worse stuff than "The Priviledged Planet". The reason that Gonsalez's book is being singled out is because he is a bona fide astronomer. In this sense, the book carries a lot of authority - totally undeserved. I agree with one thing Gonzales says: our planet is a priviledged one. Too bad that an in other ways obviously clever man has come to some rather (from a scientific perspective) blatantly illogical conclusions.

* One of the reason Gonzales thinks that this is the case is because our planet sometimes experiences perfect solar eclipses (which, among other things, allowed us to test one of Einstein's more famous theories). As Gonzales say, there is no physical reason why the moon should be 400 times smaller than the Sun AND 400 times closer to us than the same Sun.


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