On Christmas day, the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God,” with the even more provocative subtitle: “The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?”
The author was not a scientist, but Eric Metaxas, a Christian author best known for writing biographies and a book about miracles. Metaxas is an advocate for intelligent design, the scientific side of creationism which is generally regarded as pseudoscience. In the Wall Street Journal, Metaxas had his largest audience yet.
Metaxas made no new arguments, but simply restated old creationist claims.
Metaxas’s main stance is that since life on earth relies on so many variables that perfectly aligned- our atmosphere, our temperature, our position near other other planets, our creation is probably not a coincidence, life probably does not exist on other planets, and God purposely created Earth.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
Although Metaxas claims to be using science in his argument, actual scientists strongly disagree.
Clinical neurologist Steven Novella said that Metaxas jumped to conclusions and misrepresented research in order to ‘prove’ the existence of God. He also accused Metaxas of simply ignoring the numerous counter arguments to his bold claims. Novella concluded that even if we are the only planet with life, “that does not prove the existence of God by any means.”
“Perhaps we have won the cosmic lottery. That does not mean there is a purpose behind our existence” he said.
Astrophysicist and outspoken atheist Lawrence Krauss publicly attacked Metaxas’s argument as well. In a short open letter to Metaxas and the Wall Street Journal, Krauss dismantled Metaxas’s theory point-by-point.
First, Krauss took on the claim that life likely doesn’t exist on other planets because the conditions are so specific on Earth. Krauss said that Meaxas’s reasoning was false, as other planets may need completely other conditions for life.
The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.
Krauss then took on Metaxas’s claim that the odds of finding life on other planets has decreased, saying that Metaxas’s conclusion was simply incorrect.
We have discovered many more planets around stars in our galaxy than we previously imagined, and many more forms of life existing in extreme environments in our planet than were known when early estimates of the frequency of life in the universe were first made. If anything, the odds have increased, not decreased.
Ultimately, Krauss dismissed Metaxas’s article, concluding that the WSJ did its readers a disservice by publishing a Christian apologist’s argument as science.
Featured image: Lawrence Krauss (Flickr)