Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Hillary said today that she's open to being Obama's VP, but I doubt he'll ask her. Why would he want Bill looking over his shoulder?

What's going to keep me awake for the next couple of nights is the gnawing fear that McCain will ask her - and that she'll accept!



My friend Caleb writes with a fun question:

I saw this article a few weeks ago where the Vatican said it was OK to believe in aliens and God. I know you have mentioned the book Rare Earth, which suggests that Earth may be the only planet capable of supporting life, but what do you think personally on this subject? Do you think that there is the possibility of life on other planets, or do you think Earth is the only planet with life? Or, is it impossible to know for sure? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Here's part of my reply to him with one or two thoughts tacked on:

I agree with the Vatican, Caleb, that it's perfectly okay to keep an open mind on the possibility of extra-terrestrial life (ETL). Such a phenomenon, if it existed, would have no bearing on the existence of God. Everything that exists in the cosmos is a product of God's creative effort and there's really no theological reason to think that we are the only life forms He has chosen to create.

Indeed, it seems to me that although most people might think that the discovery of ETL would be a blow to theism, I think it would be just the opposite. If there is no Creator then the origin of life is so astronomically improbable as to be quite miraculous. No one knows how it could have happened given that chance and physical law are the only factors operating in the universe. The sheer improbability of abiogenesis occurring through purely naturalistic means suggests to me, then, that if there's sentient life elsewhere it's more probable, not less, that there's an intelligence guiding its origin and development.

Having said that I think that there are scientific reasons to be skeptical of ETL. You mentioned the "Rare Earth" problem which for me is the biggest barrier to ETL.

For instance, only a fraction of the 300 billion galaxies in the universe are suitable for higher life, and of that fraction, only a portion of their stars are capable of sustaining life. Of those stars only a fraction would possess the appropriate satellites, and of those that do have planets, there are so many (hundreds) highly improbable physical conditions that the planet would have to meet in order to provide a haven for higher life forms that the odds are not in ETL's favor. See here for some of the qualifications any life sustaining planet would have to have.

To me, then, it seems most reasonable, scientifically speaking, to assume that intelligent life probably exists nowhere else but here.


Global Warming Skepticism

I've had this in the queue to be added to Viewpoint for about a week so it's old news by now, but in case some readers may have missed it, here's an interesting story about one very prominent global warming skeptic:

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Tuesday he is ready to debate Al Gore about global warming, as he presented the English version of his latest book that argues environmentalism poses a threat to basic human freedoms. "I many times tried to talk to have a public exchange of views with him, and he's not too much willing to make such a conversation," Klaus said. "So I'm ready to do it."

Klaus was speaking a the National Press Building in Washington to present his new book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?, before meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday.

"My answer is it is our freedom and, I might add, our prosperity," he said.

Klaus, an economist, said he opposed the "climate alarmism" perpetuated by environmentalism trying to impose their ideals, comparing it to the decades of communist rule he experienced growing up in Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia.

"Like their (communist) predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality," he said.

"In the past, it was in the name of the Marxists or of the proletariat - this time, in the name of the planet," he added.

Klaus said a free market should be used to address environmental concerns and said he opposed as unrealistic regulations or greenhouse gas capping systems designed to reduce the impact of climate change.

"It could be even true that we are now at a stage where mere facts, reason and truths are powerless in the face of the global warming propaganda," he said.

Klaus alleged that global warming was being championed by scientists and other environmentalists whose careers and funding requires selling the public on global warming.

"It is in the hands of climatologists and other related scientists who are highly motivated to look in one direction only," Klaus said.

It would be interesting to hear Al Gore, or anyone on his side of the issue, debate a knowledgeable critic. The global warming people, however, seem unwilling to engage their opponents in public dialogue. Or have there been debates that I am not aware of?