It might be easy to pick on creationists, but it’s so much fun… this time by Mark Strauss at Slate:
Could primordial soup be served ice-cold and made with a liquid other than water? Astrobiologists believe that it’s possible on Titan.
Although the temperature on Saturn’s massive moon is a chilly minus 179 degrees Celsius, it has a thick nitrogen atmosphere rich in organic molecules and a surface speckled with methane lakes. These ingredients, according to computer simulations recently conducted at Cornell University, could combine to form cellular membranes, which are crucial for the evolution of complex cells. “Ours is the first concrete blueprint of life not as we know it,” said one of the researchers in a news release. Another expressed hope that we might someday send a probe “to float on the seas of this amazing moon.”
But the creationists at the hilariously misnamed Discovery Institute, a prominent advocate for intelligent design theory, had a different spin on the story. It described the Cornell researchers as hucksters who had proved nothing: “Get out your checkbook, U.S Congress. Coming up: a search across the Solar System for stone-cold dead BUBBLES.”
Ridiculing astrobiologists is a favorite sport at the Discovery Institute, which complains on its news site that “hardly a month goes by lately when the science media fail to breathlessly report the discovery of a new planet, in some star’s ‘habitable zone,’ that might hypothetically be capable of supporting life.” The institute attributes the coverage in part to hype purposefully generated by “organized science” to shake down the government for grant money.
But the creationists also see a more sinister agenda than naked greed. They place astrobiologists among the ranks of the “Darwin Brigades” who have always been“eager to undermine human exceptionalism,” since “the alleged ordinariness of the human race was vital in establishing common ancestry as a plausible theory.” Astrobiology, they argue, expands this line of thought, since it holds to the Darwinist belief that life started by accident and that—under the right conditions—it can emerge anywhere with a liquid solvent (preferably water), energy, and organic compounds. This delusion, the Discovery Institute adds, undermines human exceptionalism on a cosmic scale by proclaiming that the Earth is not particularly special, just one among billions of potentially life-bearing planets.
The Discovery Institute claims instead that, the more data we gather about the Earth and other solar systems, the more clear it becomes that the cosmos was designed specifically with us in mind: “Someone decided that life should exist in this universe and made sure that Earth received all the proper protection and environmental benefits it needed to become the home of humankind.” And, of course, scripture is always available to provide supporting evidence…
[continues at at Slate]