Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Privileged Planet

The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards

The debate over the origin of the universe has been one of the most contentious cultural conflicts in recent times. Many scientists insist that the origin of the universe is entirely natural, there is no supernatural, and Earth and humanity are are insignificant and mediocre.

This flies in the face of the beliefs of many people. But it must be true... because it's science, isn't it?

The authors of The Privileged Planet argue that it isn't. The truth is that Earth is unique. While naturalist scientists have assumed that other planets were teeming with alien life, they have repeatedly been surprised to discover more and more restrictive conditions for the existence of life. Beyond this, Earth's position is not only favorable for life, but also for scientific discovery.

Gonzalez and Richards marshal evidence from astronomy, cosmology, physics, climatology, chemistry, and geology. While they cover far too much to list here, they make a very strong case for a "correlation between habitability and measurability".

They then discuss the philosophical implications of these discoveries. They show how the history of the Copernican Revolution has been greatly distorted into something that Copernicus never supported. They discuss what has come to be known as the Copernican Principle, the notion that Earth must be mediocre because most places are mediocre. This is an assumption, not a conclusion, and its predictions have repeatedly been falsified.

They also discuss the Anthropic Principle, which says that conditions necessary for an observer to exist will be observed by the observer. While true, this principle does nothing to explain why such conditions exist at all.

They show that the hopes of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), built upon some scientists faith in naturalism, have repeatedly been dashed. Instead, the evidence suggests that the universe has been "designed for discovery".

The book is written from the perspective of intelligent design, including an "old-Earth" timescale. One of the authors was denied tenure due to his views on intelligent design. It offers lots of interesting information and is well worth reading for those interested in its subject.

1 comment: said...

I was going to give you props for highlighting what sounds like a really interesting read but then I realized that no one actually wrote this blog entry, it simply banged into existence.

You know, oppositely charged particles, quarks, neutrons, protons, they just sort of exploded and poof, blogger updated its servers.

That being the case, I won't say anything nice about your entry at all, what with "you" being nothing more than irradiated space dust.