Thursday, February 16, 2017

Panspermia in the News

If you ever question which comes first in modern science: scientific evidence or worldview, look no further than the theory taken seriously among many scientists called Panspermia which suggests life began by alien lifeforms depositing the first cells on earth. Francis Crick is often credited as being one of the first major scientists to popularize it.

Strikingly, this bizarre and philosophically motivated theory is in the news again, this time in the Boston Globe in an article entitled "A better theory of intelligent design." After dismissing the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, the author, Jacob Haqq-Misra, writes:
But there are other alternative ideas that can explain the origin of life on Earth. One needn’t be actively religious, or even reject evolution, to consider the possibility of intelligent design. That intelligence could have originated not on some spiritual plane whose existence can never be proven but simply elsewhere in the cosmos.
He later clarifies this theory to be, well, ancient aliens:
Modern science does offer a tenable theory of intelligent design, one that does not resort to religion or pseudoscience. When considering that humans were not far off from the technological ability to transport Earth-based life to other planets, astronomer Carl Sagan and his contemporaries hypothesized that extraterrestrial intelligent beings, if they exist, might try to do the same thing. From this speculation was born the concept that extraterrestrial intelligent designers are responsible for life on Earth.
(Pseudoscience is an interesting word choice)

He then goes on to seek to provide a scientific defense of Panspermia - the idea that life can transfer from one planet to another either directly or indirectly. To his credit, Haqq-Misra admits the unlikelihood of Panspermia taking place. Nevertheless, having conceded that life must have began by intelligent design - just not by Intelligent Design - rather than by unguided chance, he is left placing his faith in aliens.

He concludes:
Directed panspermia is not the best explanation of the data available today, but it remains a scientifically grounded idea that implicates an intelligent designer as responsible for life on Earth. It makes no claims that attach it to any particular religion or creed. There’s no reason it couldn’t be taught in schools.

We have nothing to fear from teaching a genuinely scientific theory of intelligent design in public schools. In fact, directed panspermia provides an excellent vehicle for students to understand the themes of astrobiology and the complexities of evolution. Let the students examine the evidence and decide for themselves which is more likely: origin of life on Earth, or origin from afar by extraterrestrial beings. Such an imaginative exercise will push students toward the frontiers of inquiry and inspire novel solutions toward a new, scientific theory of our origins.
There is a major problem to this theory. If life is transferred from another planet to ours, how did life on that planet begin? Panspermia does not explain the "origin of species" but moves the problem back another million to billion years. God remains the most obvious explanation for life. Rocks and dirt do not create life - even simple, single cells whether on our planet or one's on other galaxies.

In the end, Haqq-Misra reveals the worldview behind much of popular science. Having rejected God as a hypothesis, they are in search for aliens. So instead of allowing science to shape their worldview, which is what they want us to believe, much of the scientific community allow their worldview to shape their science. Panspermia is just one example of that.

I will let Albert Mohler have the last word:
Talk about magical thinking. For Christians, this simply reminds us that it’s the Christian biblical worldview when it comes to creation or it’s some other form of an understanding of how intelligent life in the entire cosmos came to be. And in this case, published in the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe is an argument that dismisses the Christian understanding of Intelligent Design, indeed, the biblical account of creation, and simply replaces it with the hypothesis of interplanetary panspermia. Now that is a form of truly magical thinking. It’s also a sign of intellectual desperation.
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