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:
- The Privileged Planet Part 1: Where Purpose and Natural Law freely Mix Part 1
- The Privileged Planet Part 2: The failure of the ‘Design Inference’
- Amazon review of Privileged Planet
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?
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 .