Okay, so Earth IS rare … and who predicted that?
|May 17, 2011||Posted by News under Exoplanets, Extraterrestrial life|
Here’s Lee Billings at New Scientist coming to the point with admirable swiftness:
Two decades of searching have failed to turn up another planetary system like ours. Should we be worried?- “No place like home: Our lonesome solar system” (11 May 2011)
He answers his own question, in part:
It was clear we had ignored a fundamental rule of science. “We had been judging the cosmic diversity of planetary systems based on a sample size of one,” says Marcy.
If these were the first hints that our solar system was not normal, they were not the last. Other planets were soon caught breaking all sorts of rules: orbiting in the opposite direction to their star’s spin, coming packed in close orbits like sardines in a can, or revolving on wildly tilted orbits far away from their star’s equator.
Soon “theorists began to supply the necessary creation stories.”
Billings brings us up to date on how planets are detected, then comes the punch line:
All this makes the status of our solar system increasingly clear. “Our system is a rarity, there’s no longer a question about that,” says Marcy. “The only question that remains is, just how rare is it?”
When all of these factors occur together, they create a region of space that Gonzalez calls a “Galactic Habitable Zone.” Gonzalez believes every form of life on our planet – from the simplest bacteria to the most complex animal – owes its existence to the balance of these unique conditions.Because of this, states Gonzalez, “I believe both simple life and complex life are very rare, but complex life, like us, is probably unique in the observable Universe.”
– Leslie Mullen, “Galactic Habitable Zones,” Astrobiology Magazine, 05/18/01
Gonzalez was then Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington (1999-2001). Mullen’s decade-old article is free of the hostility that later dogged Gonzalez when, at Iowa State University,
After the release of Privileged Planet, ISU religious studies professor Hector Avalos–faculty advisor to the campus Atheist and Agnostic Society–began publicly campaigning against Dr. Gonzalez and his work. Although Dr. Gonzalez had never introduced intelligent design into his classes, Avalos helped spearhead a faculty petition urging “all faculty” at ISU to “uphold the integrity of our university” by “reject[ing] efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.” Avalos later conceded to a local newspaper that Gonzalez was the key motive for the petition. The logical conclusion of this campaign against Dr. Gonzalez came in the spring of 2007, when ISU President Gregory Geoffroy denied Dr. Gonzalez’s application for tenure.
Avalos’ success has been widely considered a great victory for “science.”