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SETI’s Seth Shostak: “Life is not all that special”

In conversation with CNN’s John Zarrella (November 22, 2011),

Every time we learn something new about the universe, what we learn is that our situation doesn’t seem all that special. And that suggests that life is not all that special either.

Curious words coming from a man whose project of finding intelligent life outside of Earth has been rewarded with 100 per cent failure so far.

Some have wondered what the effect on ID would be of finding such life. Nothing in particular because the reasons for thinking that life – as we know it – is designed would apply wherever it is found.

Some of us do question current science media’s handling of ET questions, an abysmal low point.

For example, how many hosts think of challenging Shostak’s claim that “our situation doesn’t seem all that special,” in the light of known facts about Earth, his own zilch track record, and the failure of any research group so far to find exoplanets likely to host life?

The only reasonable conclusion one can draw from the evidence is that, for whatever reason, Earth is special. But if pop science media figures started drawing reasonable conclusions, they would probably collapse, leaving a void to be filled later by reality-based thinking. Won’t be any time soon.

See also: Tom Bethell reflects on ET’s no-show, and what it means for popular culture

Extraterrestrial life: Wood alcohol one of the keys?

Extraterrestrial life: UFO fans assail White House, demand disclosure

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3 Responses to SETI’s Seth Shostak: “Life is not all that special”

  1. It seems to be the life goal of many athiest to convince themselves of how “un-special” we all are. Why is that?

  2. Yes, it’s curious. Especially when one considers that theistic religion does not necessarily follow. The specialness of Earth is a matter of evidence, really – and in the case of Shostak’s project, the lack of evidence for another view.

    Of course it could be true that some other planets out there are also special. You are perceptive in saying is that what he and others need to get over is the compulsion to believe in “nothing special” contra evidence.

  3. The only reasonable conclusion one can draw from the evidence is that, for whatever reason, Earth is special.

    I don’t see how one comes up with such a conclusion or why it is reasonable.

    An equally reasonable conclusion is to simply say “we don’t know”. We do have some data on the size of the Universe and also how much of it we have searched – and it is an extraordinary small percentage!! So far only just over 700 exoplanets discovered. Which is probably about 0.00000001% of the total in just our galaxy alone.

    Best we can probably say right now is that we seem rather special in our own backyard but we haven’t even been outside of our front door yet – let alone down the street or to the next town.

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