Icons of ID: Privileged Planet Authors respond to ‘unnamed’ critic


The authors of Privileged Planet have posted the following response at Discovery’s Center for the renewal of science and culture Was Starlight Deflection Important for the Acceptance of General Relativity? A Response to Critics

I find it interesting as to what critics the authors are referring? Because in the first paragraph they mention a single criticism posted to various places. Surely the authors do understand the difference between a single datapoint counted many times and multiple independent data pojnts? Or perhaps not as I intend to show.

For earlier reviews of Privileged Planet see:

From the response I quote:

PP Authors Wrote:

Of course, as we say several times in the book, we don’t argue that the Earth is optimal for observing every particular type of phenomenon we cite. Rather, it’s optimal in the constrained sense of providing the best overall place for discovery.

Notice the vagueness of the statement. ‘Optimal in the constrained sense’… Notice also the lack of much supporting evidence that this is indeed the case. Other than cherry picking some examples which the authors believe support their argument while ignoring or objecting to examples which any reasonable observer would consider to be detrimental to their arguments using the ‘escape clause’ of vagueness. This further supports my thesis that the authors of PP have not only poorly quantified the terms measurability and habitability but also have failed to show that there is significant correlation or even some optimization (in a constrained) sense. When the earth is a better place for discovery it is hailed as evidenc in support, when the earth is a worse place for discovery it is hailed as evidence for ‘constrained optimization’.

The authors should by now be quite exhausted flapping their arms.

PP Authors Wrote:

So, even if it were easier to measure the perihelion advance from Mercury or Venus (neglecting its thick cloudy atmosphere), this would have to be balanced with other important scientific discoveries that depend on distance from the Sun. For instance, Mercury and Venus would offer poorer platforms for measuring stellar parallax because they orbit closer to the Sun.

Again, unquantified arguments to support some form of ‘constrained optimization’ are not very helpful in furthering their claims. Of course we can focus on specific examples supporting their thesis while ignoring the many other examples which disprove their thesis but that would be ‘cherry picking’. In fact, let’s assume that the earth is a horrible place to observe the more interesting aspects of astronomy, how would we know?

Self contradiction

PP Authors Wrote:

Finally, we don’t argue that Earth is unique. Discovering another planet around another star in the Galaxy would be quite compatible with our hypothesis, so long as that planet is genuinely Earth-like. Finding a fundamentally different planet with (native) complex life on it, in contrast, would contradict our argument that the conditions for life and scientific discovery correlate in the universe.

Why? That statement does not make sense at all. Is the argument suddenly that it is not the correlation of habitability and discovery but rather earth-like life and earth-like discovery. Surely the authors must realize that their claim is self-contradictory. Let’s assume we find a non-earth like planet with complex life which is able to perform scientific discoveries, does this negate the authors’ claim about correlation between life and scientific discovery? Not really. But it does show the underlying problem with the authors’ premise that the earth is special which leads them to make this self contradictory statement.

The authors may wish to argue that earth-like is synonymous with habitable or measurable but such an approach would make their argument tautological.

Of course if one takes the earth as a standard for habitability AND scientific discovery then it is no wonder that one may conflate the two concepts. But it is hardly impressive to hear the authors comment on an observation of 1 to infer a correlation between habitability and discoverability. And before the authors object by saying that they show several such examples, let it be clear that the authors themself are arguing for a ‘constrained optimization’ which means that a single observation cannot be independent from another observation but rather that when taking into consideration all evidence of habitability and discoverability for a single planet one has exactly one example of a constrained optimization (in a statistical sense). Otherwise any observation which contradicts the authors’ viewpoint would count as an example against their thesis. But they insist that such observations do not affect their arguments. Hence the conclusion is simple, earth can be at most a single datapoint of an ‘constrained optimization’.

Of course this does not even address how the optimization is ‘constrained’ or in what sense one has to determine optimality.

From an apologetic perspective of course it is not surprising that one may reach the premise that the earth is special. But one should also be aware that such premise may lead one to ignore facts contrary to such a premise under the argument of ‘constrained optimization’. Such an argument however merely indicates the weakness of the premise.

Assuming that the earth was indeed created by an omnipotent Creator, why should we expect that such a Creator would place the earth in a position of ‘constrained optimum’? Do we really want to assume that the Creator was constrained in what could be achieved?

Scientifically and theologically I believe such a position becomes quickly untenable.

I will address in a followup posting their comments on the relevance of the perihelion to the theory of relativity. This posting intends to address their self contradicting statement which reveals the underlying premise of their argument .


I try hard, I really try hard, I REALLY try HARD, to REALLY listen and pay real close attention when creationists try to talk science, but it’s damnably difficult when I’m laughing so hard I can’t see straight.

Tell me if I’ve got it - Those attributes of Earth’s physical position in the universe that we can discover and best observe from Earth, and that indicate how perfectly situated Earth is for the presence of Earthlike attributes, prove that Earth was Designed for precisely those lifeforms, especially us, which possess Earthlike forms and also inhabit Earth; and stuff that we can observe better from somewhere else is more or less irrelevant, unless we happen to discover or observe another, different, non-Earhlike lifeform on another, differemt, non-Earthlike planet - in which case the whole thing’s bullshit and The PP is all wet and not worth the paper it’s printed on. Is that close? Can I start laughing again?

I refer to “CSC” as the Center for Apologetics and Propaganda. Adopt my nomenclature and these things will no longer surprise you.

It’s hard to believe that Dr Gonzales can’t tell the difference between Mercury’s orbit (evidently caused by deformations in space from the Sun’s gravity), and light being bent by gravity.

Einstein’s calculations exactly matched observations.

He also got the value of the starlight bent past the eclipsing sun.

Deflection came first (1919), then the Mercury orbit. Both are confirmations, but they’re different phenomena. Both are mass, but still, two different experiments.

But saying that since the Earth is in a good place for observing things, that’s proof of a Designer, doesn’t carry much weight. It’s sort of like asking how a thermos bottle knows how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold.

I’d be more impressed by the Physical Constants argument: if any one of the 5 or 6 fundamental physical constants (electron rest mass, Hubble constant, speed of light, G…) were different by even a few percent, this universe we know wouldn’t be here.

Another one would.

Primarily two things happen on this board. First, actual scientists and science-oriented people come here and discuss real research and discoveries related to evolution. That’s why I come here. I find that to be a very productive thing. PvM, PZ, Jason, everybody who posts articles and essays here does a great job.

Second, creationists show up and loudly, and often insultingly, make one of a half-dozen old and stupid arguments against evolution. For instance, some of them are so brainless they’re still making 2nd Law arguments. Some of the scientists and science-oriented people here then engage in voluminous discussions, trying to talk some sense into them. It never works. You can’t talk sense into a CW. You can’t talk sense into R O’B. You can’t talk sense into people who say “Evolution is a theory, not a proven fact.”

Have you noticed that lately more and more creationists have been trolling here. The creationists look like they might soon outnumber the researchers and educated laymen. As long as they’re fed, they’ll return. If you think TPT should become yet another place creationists endlessly repeat the same arguments, keep feeding them. If, like me, and a few others, you want them to just leave, don’t feed them, and they’ll find somewhere else to pick fights with their betters. Even though I don’t agree, I understand why the lords of this site don’t relegate the creationists to a ghetto thread. I suggest, however, that they’ll give up and leave if nobody takes their primitive, faith-based bait.

From the linked DI article:

When a new theory is proposed, scientists try to confirm it both with existing observations and with proposed novel observations.

So that explains all the proposed novel observations ID ‘theorists’ predict. Funny, I can’t recall any off the top of my head, anyone want to help me out here?

btw, interesting link here r.e. whales and worms evolved from the hydrothermal vent worms

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 4, 2004 12:45 PM.

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