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It takes a creationist to pack so much wrong in so little space

Apparently, Martin Cothran believes that there is no life elsewhere in the universe, and that this unimaginably vast emptiness is evidence that a god created us. I don’t understand the logic, but then I don’t understand most of his weird leaps in this post on how life on other planets is like believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

First, there is the naive scientific oversimplification.

We are told by many New Atheist scientists in particular (who like to mark their territory) that a belief can only be scientific if it is falsifiable. This is their demarcation criterion of choice and they use it to ruthlessly guard the borders of science. This is one of the reasons, they say, we must reject Intelligent Design. This idea comes generally from Karl Popper, a philosopher, who said that a theory cannot be considered scientific merely because it admits of possible verification, but only if it admits of possible falsification.

Oh, go away, Karl Popper. He seems to be the only philosopher of science the creationists have heard of. Falsification is one criterion; it’s part of a general effort to solve the demarcation problem, a problem I don’t think can be solved because the boundary between science and non-science is a grey murky haze. Personally, I think observation and evidence are more central to science than falsification.

How can a creationist even talk about applying falsification to science, though? They believe in so many things that have been falsified.

They don’t even get our jokes.

It is this general idea that is behind Richard Dawkin’s "Flying Spaghetti Monster." The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists just outside the range of the most powerful telescopes and the more powerful the telescopes, the further away the monster gets so that we are never able to actually detect him. There is therefore, no way in which belief in him may be disproven.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is Dawkin’s send-up of the belief in a theistic God, belief in Whom has the same status as his imaginary monster: there is no evidence that can possibly count against his existence. God can never be disproven.

Dawkins didn’t invent it. Bobby Henderson did.

The flying spaghetti monster is a collection of absurdities intended to mock religious goofballs like Martin Cothran, so I guess it’s unsurprising that he doesn’t get it. It was clearly made up out of whole cloth, so it lacks any supporting evidence — just like religion. It makes ridiculous claims, like that pirates prevent global warming, with no mechanistic relationship and that are clearly false — just like religion. It makes untestable promises of an afterlife — just like religion. You can’t distinguish pastafarianism from Christianity on any criterion, not just the Popperian one, so Cothran’s single-minded focus on falsification is inappropriate.

But come on, let’s get to the claims about life in outer space.

Okay, now take the belief that life exists somewhere else in the universe. This is a common belief among atheist scientists. In fact, Dawkin’s himself conjectured that life on earth may have come from other planets. But how can that belief possibly be falsified?

There is a possibility that, if true, it can be proven true simply by finding it somewhere in our outside our own solar system. But if it is false, how could we ever know that it was false? If it was false and the universe were infinite, as many scientists believe, then would could never know it to be false even theoretically. And if it was false but the universe was finite, there is no practical way we could ever know it to be false even though it is theoretically possible–although there is some question whether it is even theoretically possible for humans to investigate a universe as massive as we know ours to be.

Once again, Cothran fails to grasp the argument or understand the science.

Here’s the key point: the hypothesis that life exists on other worlds is not about astronomy. It’s about life. It’s a religious premise that the purpose of the universe is all about us, and you’ll find that the most fervent opponents of the idea of life beyond earth are religious people who dislike anything that detracts from their geocentric view of the universe. That’s unscientific. To be fair, you’ll also find many science-fictiony types who populate the universe with aliens because they can’t write a drama that doesn’t involve interactions between sentient beings. That’s understandable, but also unscientific.

But no one came up with a scientific hypothesis of extraplanetary life because they looked outward and saw signs. The primary evidence for that derives from the study of biology. Life is just chemistry. There is no clear sharp boundary between what is alive and what is a chemical reaction. Chemistry is a ubiquitous property of the universe; it’s really just a subset of physics. So if you want to say no life exists elsewhere, you have to argue that there is something unique about Earth to only allow that chemistry to occur here.

The creationists are actually on the right track when they try to claim that life is a historical product of a design intervention; that would be a kind of event that could be restricted to a tiny subset of worlds. Unfortunately, their work to date has consisted of shouting assertions (COMPLEXITY ONLY ARISES FROM DESIGN!) that have been falsified (oops, hoist by your own petard, Cothran), or that rely on vague and poorly stated premises (what the heck is specified complexity?) or require distorting and lying about the actual evidence.

Biology has not found anything unique, supernatural, or exclusively dependent on exceptional properties present only on this one planet. Absent a restriction, the null hypothesis is that other worlds with similar physical properties are also likely to contain self-propagating, energy utilizing chemical processes. If creationists want to claim otherwise, that Earth is unique, they are obligated to provide the specific and unique property of life that confines its origin to one planet.

They have to make the falsifiable claim, not us.

This doesn’t count. It’s just stupid.

Even in this latter case of a finite universe theism would be less problematic since a theist could simply say "Well, we will find out after we die." And since everyone will certainly die, at least he has that to go on.

So there you have it. Belief in extra-terrestrial life. The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Theoretically indistinguishable. And taking this into consideration, how is believing in God any more or less scientific that believing there is life on other planets?

Again, the expectation of extraterrestrial life is based on studying life on earth and knowing its properties. No one has studied any gods, including the flying spaghetti monster, in any scientific way. That makes the claims trivially distinguishable.

So theism is a more scientific idea because it’s falsifiable, and it’s criterion for falsification requires testing it by dying? By ceasing to exist?

That violates another criterion for science. How will you publish?

Comments

  1. robinjohnson says

    I thought the point of ‘falsifiable’ was less about being technologically able to test something, and more about whether a statement like “There is no life on other planets” makes sense. That’s why falsifiability doesn’t apply to the evasive god of wishy-washy theists (“Aaah, but God isn’t constrained by logic and reason!”), but does apply to the interventionist god of the fundies. Of course, just because it’s falsifiable, doesn’t mean it isn’t false.

  2. blf says

    [The FSM] was clearly made up out of whole cloth…

    I thought she/he† was mostly made of pasta.
    (ducks)

      † Hey, if assorted great sky faeries have various sexes, why can’t the FSM?

  3. Sastra says

    It’s also important to point out that scientists don’t go around saying “In my heart I know there is life on other planets” and make this belief a central part of their identity, a commitment which establishes their willingness to remain steadfast and true no matter what. When push comes to shove even the religious faith which purports to rest on good, solid evidence will start up with this identity commitment nonsense.

    I have actually heard belief in extra-terrestrials expressed as a faith. It comes not from scientists, but from New Agers whose spiritual beliefs involve wise and loving Beings from another planet either visiting us in UFOs or keeping track of us from afar. These advanced aliens are always deeply concerned with our spiritual development (or “evolution”) — as well as whatever cultural boogey monster is worrying these folks at the time (nuclear war, pollution, anger, “materialism” consumer version or “materialism” atheist version.) Crop circles, pyramids, alien abductions, and/or ancient runes always contain a very important, vitally significant message meant just for us. That is, the message is for those of us who have the sensitivity, the open-mindedness, and the spiritual capacity to discern it, ignoring all the materialist scientist skeptics who poo-poo the idea.

    Spoiler alert: the message usually comes down to telling us something about the need for love.

    Hey, Discovery Institute — THAT is what it looks like when belief in aliens is just like faith in God. We actually have a model for that.

    Now, contrast that New Age example with the cautious and reasonable assumption that “Absent a restriction, the null hypothesis is that other worlds with similar physical properties are also likely to contain self-propagating, energy utilizing chemical processes.”

    Not even in the same ballpark.

  4. says

    (what the heck is specified complexity?)

    Well, it’s tautological construct designed to smuggle the concept of design into biology via the word specified, which by its very nature requires intelligent discernment.

    Oh. Right. Rhetorical question.

  5. Alex says

    This is silly, and no, we don’t have to reject falsifiability as a criterion in our search for extraterrestrial life at all if you ask the right question.

    The hypothesis under test is

    “There is no extraterrestrial life”

    it is NOT

    “There is extraterrestrial life”.

    Duh.

  6. jamessweet says

    If I’m following this correctly, what Cothran has done is to combine Popper’s ideas about falsifiability with the maxim that one cannot prove a negative — and arrived at the conclusion that all negative statements are unscientific? As well as their inverse?!?

    Let me try… consider the hypothesis that I have milk in my fridge. I can’t see it right now, so I do not know for certain that it is true, but I infer that it is likely true based on certain facts, e.g. I bought a gallon just yesterday. However, the proposition that there is NO milk in my fridge is not falsifiable. There could always be some tiny bit of milk in an area where I wasn’t looking. Therefore, whether or not milk is in my fridge is not a scientific idea. My belief that there likely IS milk in my fridge is a faith-based idea, then, no more valid than the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    I done good?

  7. Alex says

    Addendum to meself:

    In this framework, the optimism of people like Dawkins that there is extraterrestrial life is justified because there are theoretical and indirect reasons from observations of biology, chemistry and astronomy to suggest that the falsifiable null hypothesis is wrong, although it hasn’t been directly falsified.

    This is not rocket science people!

    The hypothesis under test is

    “There is no extraterrestrial life”

    it is NOT

    “There is extraterrestrial life”.

  8. Alex says

    @robinjohnson

    Your distinction is important, but I don’t think everyone agrees: For example, if you are strict and demand technologically feasible falsification, String Theory is not science. If you are content with falsification in principle, it is science without making any prediction beyond the ones we already have.

  9. says

    ” can’t distinguish pastafarianism from Christianity on any criterion”

    …apart, of course, from the length of time between the invention of one and of the other.

    Over time the obvious frauds get hidden. I’ve often thought that one could see a vague sequence from things like Scientology that are recent enough to be glaringly, obviously made up by named persons, through Mormonism, where the history is recent enough for the fraud to still be pretty obvious, through to the older religions where the frauds are lost in the “dark backward and abysm of time”.

  10. beatgroover says

    That violates another criterion for science. How will you publish?

    Publish AND perish!

  11. carlie says

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster exists just outside the range of the most powerful telescopes and the more powerful the telescopes, the further away the monster gets so that we are never able to actually detect him. ,

    He’s obviously thinking of Russell’s pasta machine. Easy mistake.

  12. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    The title of the article has the phrase “scientific belief”. Right there you can drop it and walk away.

    Any discussion of life on other planets has already left the biblical universe.

  13. David Marjanović says

    Personally, I think observation and evidence are more central to science than falsification.

    Uh, that’s not a contradiction: the way to falsify anything is to observe evidence.

    What Popper did gloss over, as far as I know about his work, is parsimony. There’s a lot of parsimony hidden within falsification.

    † Hey, if assorted great sky faeries have various sexes, why can’t the FSM?

    I guess because of the [meat]balls and the Noodly Appendage. But I haven’t asked the Prophet (pesto be upon him).

    In this framework, the optimism of people like Dawkins that there is extraterrestrial life is justified because there are theoretical and indirect reasons from observations of biology, chemistry and astronomy to suggest that the falsifiable null hypothesis is wrong, although it hasn’t been directly falsified.

    In other words, you’re making an argument from parsimony. :-)

  14. says

    The primary evidence for that derives from the study of biology. Life is just chemistry. There is no clear sharp boundary between what is alive and what is a chemical reaction. Chemistry is a ubiquitous property of the universe; it’s really just a subset of physics

    Reminds me of an XKCD http://xkcd.com/435/

  15. gussnarp says

    I guess he’s right to some extent. I mean, there is some similarity between belief in extraterrestrial life and belief in gods. That’s why I don’t believe in either one. I’m also mostly agnostic about both: I think it’s extremely unlikely we’ll ever have direct evidence for or against extraterrestrial life. Well, there’s some chance we’ll have direct evidence of some microbial life form, but almost none that we’ll find large, multicellular, let alone intelligent, life off of our planet unless we send it there.

    On the other hand, I think it’s very mathematically likely that some form of extraterrestrial life exists. As you point out, you’d have to think there’s something incredibly special about Earth to propose that in all the vastness of the Universe, only our tiny speck has life. You’d have to be religious.

    But even if there were no extraterrestrial life, it would still not prove god. I think the conditions to initiate life and keep it going are extremely rare. I think the likelihood of that life evolving to become multicellular is rare. I think the likelihood of that life becoming intelligent enough to use complex language, tools, and mathematics is rare. It could be so rare that it never happened anywhere else, that’s just extremely unlikely. A little less unlikely if we’re talking about a space faring civilization. But I do think that’s rare enough that, unless something purely theoretical somehow becomes real and FTL travel becomes possible, we’ll never encounter that life.

    So I’m agnostic about gods, but I find them very unlikely, so much so that I feel pretty confident saying there’s no god. I’m agnostic about extraterrestrial life (particularly the intelligent kind), but I find it very likely. But it’s kind of like string theory, it’s all math and we don’t really know, so I wouldn’t say I actively believe in it. For now. But really, we’ve only just got our solar system to find life in, so unless some microbes or their byproducts turn up on Mars or one of the moons of the gas giants, we’ll never know.

  16. John Horstman says

    That violates another criterion for science. How will you publish?

    Posthumously, obvs. :-)

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    … observation and evidence are more central to science …

    Observation alone means little more than anecdote. Measurement gets you into science.

  18. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Dawkins tea cup analogy?

    Andrew Bowers, you are making the same mistake that Martin Cothran did.

  19. Alex says

    @David M.,

    Is the argument from parsimony the same as or similar to Occam’s Razor?
    I’m not sure whether it is employed in my example.

    It certainly is justified to employ it because one can always construct more complicated hypotheses e.g. by “tagging” on more assumptions, thus taking the endeavour ad absurdum without parsimony as a principle. Richard Carrier even makes an argument in his book Proving History that Occam’s Razor is a consequence of Bayesian statistics because additional assumptions automatically lower the prior probability.

  20. mnb0 says

    “You can’t distinguish pastafarianism from Christianity on any criterion.”
    So you understand what pastafarianism is good for. If you ever meet christians arguing how important it is that children learn about religion (open minded as they are not only christianity) then agree on the condition that those children learn about pastafarianism as well, say two weeks a year. Then lean back and take your time to study the shocked expression on the christian’s face.

  21. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    Perish, then publish seemed to have worked for Moses. The books attributed to his authorship include an account of his death and funeral. All it takes is a little faith.

  22. Scientismist says

    Way back in the 1970′s, in a book called The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism with separate sections written by Karl Popper and John Eccles, it was in one of Eccles’ chapters that he argued that the origin of life is such an unlikely event that it simply must have happened through the intervention of a pre-existing intelligence (call it God, if you wish). Then, just a few pages later, he argued that, since the origin of life is such an unusual and unlikely event, any search for life elsewhere in the universe would have to be futile.

    I really liked that argument — that life is so unlikely that a God would be necessary to create it, but it is also so unusual that not even a God could have done it twice. I couldn’t decide if that was worse as an example of scientific, or of theological reasoning. I have ever since called it “Eccles’ Folly”. I find it somehow reassuring that this idea continues to pop up today. Folly never dies, and as Erasmus concluded, life would be dull without her.

  23. mothra says

    Observation alone means little more than anecdote. Measurement gets you into science.

    Observation gets you into science- but you must publish or it is anecdote. Measurement allows more concise interpretations of observatio

    Galileo first observed (and so discovered) four moons of Jupiter. That in itself was science. When a taxonomist describes a new species, that is science. Measurement of observations increases the power of science. Noting that Uranus varied from its predicted orbital path (measurement and observation) resulted in finding Neptune.

  24. marcus says

    blf @ 2 “Hey, if assorted great sky faeries have various sexes, why can’t the FSM?”
    Obviously, FSM is no sex and every sex simultaneously. Any decent religion has to have philosophical paradoxes. How else to separate out the heretics?

  25. latecomer says

    Basically Cothran’s argument is just another version of the creationist argument where they claim that creationists and evolutionists have a belief (unproven hypothesis), therefore you have to teach both evolution and creationism. Of course, like every creationist, he’s sadly mistaken.

  26. says

    As one with a degree in engineering and a career spent designing things, I can assure anyone who is interested that complexity is NOT a sign of good design, and is in fact not a valid argument in favor of any kind of “design.” I earned a good living and a comfortable retirement by investing a lot of common sense in the design of many products that were–and still are–successful because their designs avoided unnecessary complexity. The essence of design is simplicity, not complexity.

  27. says

    Even in this latter case of a finite universe theism would be less problematic since a theist could simply say “Well, we will find out after we die.”

    A theist would assume their conclusion, no doubt.

  28. peterh says

    @ #22:

    I’ve always taken the Law of Parsimony to be “the simplest explanation which accounts for the known data is likely to be correct.” This, of course, is often thought of as Occam Razor which in actuality says, “Things should not be made more complex than circumstances necessitate.” (Non sunt multiplicanda
    entia praeter necessitatum.
    ) Plainly the two say basically the same thing, just slightly different starting points.

  29. unclefrogy says

    why yes they are, Raging bee, and for christians they are “manufactured” in sunday schools.

    though the use of the word intelligent might be an exaggeration.
    uncle frogy

  30. latecomer says

    ““Well, we will find out after we die.””
    If us atheists are right then we won’t find out. Even if there is a god, there’s still no guarantee that we’ll find out because god could a real asshole and prevent you from finding out.

  31. says

    Apparently, Martin Cothran believes that there is no life elsewhere in the universe, and that this unimaginably vast emptiness is evidence that a god created us.

    And the minute we do find extraterrestrial life, he’ll take THAT as evidence of a God, most likely using a probability argument to the tune of “The probability of life arising on TWO planets is even more essentially zero than on one! Therefore Jesus!”

  32. fentex says

    Biology has not found anything unique, supernatural, or exclusively dependent on exceptional properties present only on this one planet

    While the idea that Life on other planets is mostly about Life rather than Astronomy makes sense to me this statement reveals that part of it which is about astronomy – we presume from observation that those things (such as liquid water) about Earth that make biology work exist elsewhere because it seems likely from observation that Earth isn’t unique, but we haven’t proven it by finding another Earth yet.

    Though I’m sure one day we’ll have telescopes that can image planets well enough to find tell tale signs of biology on extra-solar planets.

  33. David Marjanović says

    Is the argument from parsimony the same as or similar to Occam’s Razor?

    The same, as explained in comment 34.

    I really liked that argument — that life is so unlikely that a God would be necessary to create it, but it is also so unusual that not even a God could have done it twice. I couldn’t decide if that was worse as an example of scientific, or of theological reasoning. I have ever since called it “Eccles’ Folly”. I find it somehow reassuring that this idea continues to pop up today. Folly never dies, and as Erasmus concluded, life would be dull without her.

    I love this.

    necessitatum

    necessitatem – you want the accusative singular, not the genetive plural.

    And the minute we do find extraterrestrial life, he’ll take THAT as evidence of a God, most likely using a probability argument to the tune of “The probability of life arising on TWO planets is even more essentially zero than on one! Therefore Jesus!”

    :-)

  34. Nick Gotts says

    I thought the point of ‘falsifiable’ was less about being technologically able to test something, and more about whether a statement like “There is no life on other planets” makes sense. – robinjohnson@1

    No: at least, not according to Popper, who IIRC came up with the term. He was absolutely explicit that he was not proposing a criterion for a claim to be meaningful.

    In any case, falsifiability is only necessary for universal generalizations to be scientific. “There is extra-terrestrial life” is not falsifiable, but it is a perfectly good scientific hypothesis.

  35. Nick Gotts says

    gussnarp@16,

    In the early 19th century, most astronomers were confident we would never know anything about the chemistry of the stars.

  36. gussnarp says

    @Nick Gotts – I did leave myself a lot of caveats. And like the early 19th century astronomers, I expect to be dead before I’m proved wrong ;-)

  37. says

    Though I’m sure one day we’ll have telescopes that can image planets well enough to find tell tale signs of biology on extra-solar planets.

    It’s already starting. Small steps, but it’s not just “one day”, it’s in the immediate future.

    Note, though:

    The best explanation for the new data is that there are high-altitude clouds in the atmosphere of the planet, though their composition is unknown.

    “Cloud” doesn’t necessarily mean “water”.

  38. abb3w says

    @13,

    What Popper did gloss over, as far as I know about his work, is parsimony. There’s a lot of parsimony hidden within falsification.

    Popper seems to have referred to it as “simplicity” in Conjectures and Refutations. He even seems to note that testibility/falsification is a special case of the general problem of simplicity/parsimony; however, he seems focused more on the anthropological reasons it’s used rather than mathematical/philosophical reasons why it is (pseudo)algorithmically correct to use. (I may be misreading or misrecalling.)

    Creationists usually misuse the concepts of both falsification and parsimony, however.

    And yes, evidence/observation seems comparably central, in that that’s what you have to be interested in parsimoniously describing to be doing “science”. However, that does not seem a sufficient condition — YEC types like Ken Ham are also interested in describing evidence; they just insist on some imperative need to come up with a description that also is in accord with the Bible.

  39. irritable says

    ““There is extra-terrestrial life” is not falsifiable, but it is a perfectly good scientific hypothesis.”

    Is it falsifiable by establishing that the Earth has a unique feature indispensable to the existence of life which is not observable anywhere else in the visible universe?

  40. A. R says

    One of my favourite examples to use when illustrating the grey area between life and non-life is the existence of viruses. Of course, viruses aren’t alive, one might say. And if you were thinking of one of the more well-known viruses like Influenza, or Rhinovirus, you would be absolutely right, but then consider the giant viruses, like the mimiviruses, megaviruses, and the newly discovered pandoraviruses. Every new giant virus drifts further into the grey, to the point that the “alive/not alive” paradigm is probably a bad one for the pandoraviruses, which have more genes than some bacteria. In fact, we don’t even recognize over 2,000 of them, and the proteins they encode are so foreign that we haven’t the slightest clue what they do. In any case, my point is that chemistry and biology are inseparable at a fundamental level.

  41. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is it falsifiable by establishing that the Earth has a unique feature indispensable to the existence of life which is not observable anywhere else in the visible universe?

    And what would that feature be, and how unique is it considering the number of third generation stars with planets in the universe?

  42. chrislawson says

    The FSM wasn’t so much a parody of religion as a parody of the teach-the-controversy argument. That is, Bobby Henderson created a deliberately ridiculous pseudo-religion for the purpose of saying “if you let creationism into the classroom using teach-the-controversy rules, you’ll have to teach every religious cosmology, no matter how bizarre and unscientific.”

  43. chrislawson says

    There are so many problems with falsifiability that I think it works better as a rule of thumb than as a definition of science. And the existence of intelligent alien life may be unfalsifiable, but specific relevant hypotheses are most definitely falsifiable, e.g. “if Dyson spheres are common, we should be able to observe their infrared signature” (an hypothesis that has actually been tested, although the results have been ambiguous and will require advances in telescope technology to resolve).

  44. irritable says

    “And what would that feature be, and how unique is it considering the number of third generation stars with planets in the universe?”

    The fact that the “unique feature” is difficult to imagine (and according to current knowledge, probably absent) is irrelevant to falsifiability.

    The point is that the discovery of such a feature would falsify the hypothesis that extraterrestrial life exists. Therefore – it can be argued – the hypothesis is falsifiable.

    Therefore Martin Cothran’s analogy fails.

  45. jnorris says

    That violates another criterion for science. How will you publish?

    Posthumously with John Edwards as co-author.

  46. brianpansky says

    @50

    indeed, evolution itself is falsifiable. if it were falsified that could (depending on the details) pose a great threat to the idea that it is possible for biological life to arise elsewhere at all.

  47. brianpansky says

    * also the falsifiability of the abiogenesis being possible in our universe, i guess.

    indeed chemistry has the opportunity to be falsified every day, it just happens to “pass the test”.

  48. kaleberg says

    It’s interesting how attitudes towards extraterrestrial life change. In the 13th century, the Scholastics at the Sorbonne argued that there was only life on Earth and nowhere else, but the Bishop of Paris warned them that arguing that God could only create intelligent beings on Earth and nowhere else was tantamount to blasphemy. Knowing the story gave a bit of extra depth to the four armed Jesus on a four armed cross National Lampoon cover.

  49. colnago80 says

    Re Alex @ #8

    It would be more accurate to say that strings is not a theory but a hypothesis that so far has no evidence to support it. Thus, one should refer to the string’s hypothesis, not string theory.

  50. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Nick Gotts

    “There is extra-terrestrial life” is not falsifiable

    Depends on the pedantics.

    It is possible that mere space-faring humans in the future could amass sufficient evidence to show that there is no extra-terrestrial life. What would that evidence be? Well, we stop and visit a million randomly selected planets in a million randomly selected galaxies. That’d be good enough for me to conclude that there is no extra-terrestrial life. It would be conclusively and demonstrably shown to be false.

    This is exactly the same as Sagan’s garage dragon parable.

    Also see PZ Myer’s encounter with Thor.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/03/thor/

    So, what does it mean to falsify something? I’d say that if the word has any meaning, it means “shown to be demonstrably false”. So, you’re simply wrong.

    Sagan is simply wrong with the maxim that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. If you have an idea which implies a prediction that we should see something, then every time we look where you say we should find it and we don’t, that is evidence against your proposition. Oddly enough, this is best refuted with Sagan’s garage dragon parable.

  51. kreativekaos says

    <q?Here’s the key point: the hypothesis that life exists on other worlds is not about astronomy. It’s about life.–PZ

    True, it is about life,.. biology, but it still involves astronomy as well as mathematics– in the form of statics, probabilities and large numbers. It’s knowledge drawn from the pinnacle of our present understanding of these disciplines that informs our speculations on the possibilities/probabilities of life elsewhere in the our universe.

    The tactic about falsification is just another attempt in the continuing effort to prop up the superstitious mindset of the hopeless myopia of the religious.