Thursday, May 22, 2008

Life could be just plain rare but not unique in universe, reader suggests

In response to some comments from fellow Toronto journalist David Warren, which I posted at "Life on Mars? Yes, when the Mars Hilton Convention Centre finally opens", reader Eric Anderson kindly writes to say,
I thought I would mention one item that jumped out at me on your Colliding Universes blog (I couldn't see a way to comment there, so I apologize if I missed the link). Specifically, your colleague, David Warren, is quoted as saying "Sentient life must either be extremely common in the universe, or absolutely unique to Earth."

I don't know if this issue will be part of your Colliding Universes book, but I just wanted to flag it because Mr. Warren's view is a false dichotomy and is not a winning position to take. Specifically, assuming that there is a Designer responsible for designing life in the universe, it is entirely possible that there would be other life outside Earth, but that it would not be "extremely common." Indeed, if the Privileged Planet hypothesis is correct, Earthlike habitats are rare, but not need not be "absolutely unique." As a result, if there are a small number of privileged locations for life in the universe, it is very possible that life would be in existence in these locations -- making life somewhat rare, but not absolutely unique to Earth. Incidentally, although I wouldn't support such a view, this same situation for life is also possible under a naturalistic scenario that combines a "life evolves easily" view with a "but it has to be just the right conditions" view.

Anyway, enough on that. I think Mr. Warren may be bringing a philosophical position to the table in the dichotomy he creates, so just wanted to point that out.

Well, I suppose that everyone brings a philosophical point of view to a discussion of this sort. When it comes to life in the universe, we now have a sample of exactly one type of instance. A study with one subject. Just the sort of situation well suited to philosophy.

Note: If, like Eric (he did ask), you want to know why you can't comment, go here and read the last part of the post, "Why no Comments box?"

As I said there,
Yes, I know it sounds loopy - loopier than a barrel of multiverses - but you can
read all about it here and in a growing number of other places as well, including the Free Mark Steyn blog. It is NOT a joke. Currently, our national police (the Mounties) are investigating the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
I did not create Canada's "human rights" mess. I do not support it. It humiliates every decent Canadian. Above all, I am not making this stuff up. The Mounties really are investigating the "human rights" commissions, and with good reason, and yes, the Commissions are totally backed by Stephen Harper's "Conservative" government (though not by all its MPs). If reform happens, I will offer a combox again.