Friday, June 14, 2013

Hunting for Creationism - Round 8 - Earth Was Created for Life

I'm on the hunt for evidence for Creationism/Intelligent Design (hereby C/ID). Here, I set the ground rules and mission. Here, I have an index of my search.

Continuing on icr.org (they have a bunch of arguments). Today's argument, "Earth Was Created for Life".

Let's hop right in!

The Argument

Our solar system is filled with amazing planets, but none are perfect for life except the earth.
Oy, it's surprising how much there is to say about this first sentence.

I'll start with a nitpicky one - What does this person mean by "filled"? Our solar system could be small in comparison to most solar systems. Keep in mind, that for this wondrous argument, we have a whopping sample size of 1 solar system, and 8 planets (9 if you count Pluto - Screw you Tyson!).

Calling the Earth "perfect for life"... I don't understand this assertion. The Earth is covered with climates that are constantly trying to kill us, from the frigid winters, to the molten summers. The deserts are death traps, and the oceans that cover three quarters of the surface are essentially uninhabitable. There's almost nowhere on the planet that isn't susceptible to a number of natural disasters - hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, thunderstorms, floods, etc. Very few spots on the planet could be considered, for the most part, mostly "good enough" for habitability on a regular basis. It could be argued that Earth is ideal for parasites, bacteria and viruses... but humans are not on good terms with those types of life. Don't event get me started on Australia.

No, the Earth isn't "perfect" for life, at least by any definition that I'm familiar.

Life exists on this planet, despite the planet trying to kill it at every turn.

The author is significantly overplaying the "fine-tuning" of this planet, and severely downplaying the robustness of life itself.

I'm going to do the next bits a little out of order, for the sake of organization. The author starts discussing the other planets.

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. It gets very hot and very cold. It has a very slow spin. The side facing the sun is heated to 800 (F) while the side away from the sun is cooled to –298 degrees (F).
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. It is ten times smaller than the sun and ten times larger than the earth. Jupiter spins faster than any other planet, with a day of 9 hours and 55.5 minutes. Its fast spin causes tremendous storms. The big red spot on Jupiter is a huge hurricane.
Saturn is the second-largest planet in our solar system and has the largest set of rings. It is almost twice as far away from the sun as Jupiter is. Saturn is a gas giant. As one descends into the atmosphere, the pressure, temperature, and gravity greatly increase. The core of the planet is boiling hot and radiates more heat out into space than it receives from the sun.
Uranus is tilted on its side with its axis pointed at the sun. If the earth's axis was pointed at the sun, one hemisphere would always be boiling hot and the other would be freezing cold. Uranus is four times as far from the sun as Jupiter and twice as far from the sun as Saturn.
Neptune is the farthest gas giant from the sun. It is almost four times larger than the earth. Its strong gravity traps harmful gases in its atmosphere.
Okay.

I'm not going to fact-check all that. Seems valid on the surface... but it would have sufficed to simply say that the other planets aren't habitable. Most of us are familiar with why that's the case.

I find it odd that ICR's author would spend so much time on essentially irrelevant details... but not even attempt to explain the logical connection of the argument, which we'll shortly see.

Mars is similar to earth in many ways. A day on Mars is 24.7 hours. It is tilted 25 degrees, just two more degrees than earth. At its warmest, it can get to be a comfortable 67 degrees (F). It has two small moons. But Mars is smaller than earth. The gravity on Mars is only a third of the earth’s. Without enough gravity, Mars is unable to hold a larger atmosphere. What atmosphere it has is made of the gases we cannot breathe. Without much of an atmosphere, many meteoroids hit Mars. It also gets very cold at night.
In my previous post, I mentioned that a big part of Mars' history is that it's magnetic field was shut down by a "supergiant" asteroid (link to article). This resulted in a number of deteriorations of the planet, where we're pretty sure it had running water on the surface, the atmosphere was thicker, etc. If Mars hadn't been smacked by that asteroid, it may be mostly a habitable planet now, even with oxygen if life spawned there. The magnetic field loss was the starting point to most of the degradation.

... but it's not like Earth came with oxygen by default. Oxygen is a very unstable element. It doesn't take much to oxidize it into CO2, for instance, which is what Mars' atmosphere is mostly constituted. Plants are what generate oxygen... not the planet itself. In this case, he's falsely attributing the oxygen to the creation of the Earth itself.

Venus is hotter than Mercury, yet farther away from the sun. Venus has an atmosphere 90 times thicker than earth's. Heat is trapped in the clouds and heats the entire planet to 931 degrees (F).
I separated this one out for one reason - to point out a contradiction. Venus has a mass slightly less than Earth... yet it has a thicker atmosphere. Gravity may play a factor in how much atmosphere is retained, but it's by far the only factor. Magnetic fields and composition also play important roles.

The utter lifelessness of other planets in our solar system illustrates the fact that earth is unique and specially created for life.
Here we go again. The author spouts off a bunch of scientific facts, and then at the end, merely asserts a conclusion, with no explanation, reasoning, argument or evidence, as to why the conclusion follows.

Given what I know about how the universe works, I'll be willing to say that the statistical rate of potentially habitable planets are probably rare... let's say 1:1,000,000. That's actually 6 orders of magnitude more pessimistic than what the author can establish here, at 1:8.

... yet there's no reasoning provided as to why "rare instance" = "created by invisible magic man in the sky".

We'd expect to see a wide variety of planets, with random characteristics... just look at our own solar system, as the author describes it (those planets are apparently present merely to look pretty once we invented telescopes). Even if the prerequisites for life are rare, that means that, scanning across the universe, statistically speaking, we should find a large quantity of life-compatible planets.

We're already building that list (Wiki article).

We'd also expect to see, if the rate is that low, that any planets that do spawn life will find themselves in a solar system where they're the only habitable planet. If the other solar systems have 8 planets on average, that'd mean there's only a 7:1,000,000 chance that one of the other planets would also be habitable... and that's a very rudimentary statistical analysis.

So basically, what we see in our solar system, with all things considered, is what we'd expect to see in a godless universe... and yet, the author merely states that it indicates a god-created universe.

Meta Analysis

The argument does not stack up against the preponderance of evidence. It's also a complete non-sequitur, with no explanation as to how they get from A to B.

Zero attempt was made to explain why the author thought Earth was "perfect for life", outside of showing that the other planets weren't (i.e. negative tangential evidence). Zero attempt was made to explain why "rare" = "god", which appears to be an underlying presupposition of creationists.

As far as I can tell, the argument, once corrected for reality, is "One out of eight planets in this solar system is habitable. Magic man must have done it!"

Man, I almost feel bad for going through ICR's best arguments for creationism. It's shooting fish in a barrel... with a formation B-52s carpet-bombing the countryside. I'm not kidding... this is their best material. ICR is serious here.. this isn't some satirical or amateur apologist site. This is the Institute for Creation Research!

This is the best they've got!

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