Home » Extraterrestrial life, Media » Life on Europa: The dream never dies, and never grows up either

Life on Europa: The dream never dies, and never grows up either

Europa, seen from NASA's Galileo

In “Europa Plus Water Does Not Equal Life” (November 18, 2011), Creation-Evolution Headlines reports on pop science media coverage around NASA’s recent claim that “Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter, may have large lakes of liquid water under its icy shell, closer to the surface than the deep ocean long believed to exist miles down.” CEH’s emphasis here is surely right. The announcement itself is not spectacular. It’s been widely believed for some years now that there is water on Europa. So what’s really interesting to watch is what pop science media does with the story:

Every source made the biological connection, some with reckless abandon, some with caution. PhysOrg blazed it in the headline, “Scientists find evidence for ‘great lake’ on Jupiter’s moon Europa, potential new habitat for life.” The BBC News used life twice, telling readers that “Any liquid water could represent a potential habitat for life.” New Scientist was cautious, calling the possibility doubtful but not out of the question. Most restrained was Nola Taylor Redd at Live Science, who focused on the geology and merely ended with a quote from a planetary scientist who opined, “The material cycled into the ocean via these lakes may make Europa’s ocean even more habitable than previously imagined. “The lakes may even be habitats themselves.” But NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine was ecstatic, using the L-word three times, claiming that the discovery is “bolstering arguments that Europa could support habitats for life.” The NASA press release itself mentioned life twice, biology once, and habitability twice.

In fact, no evidence of life on Europa has ever surfaced.

In a story of this sort, the obligatory narrative is the thing to watch, far more compelling than fact: They Just Gotta Be Out There. A recent and highly convenient shift in cosmology toward determinism makes that conviction sound like science: Given the right conditions, life must emerge. Given the wrong conditions too. Given any conditions, actually. Life just must emerge.

One can never persuade people in the grip of this kind of thinking that heartfelt conviction is not a form of science. But as it happens, fortune may be dealing them a hand they never played before:

Breaking: Layoff notices are being handed out across CNN/U.S. today. Photographers, editors and other staffers in Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami are being let go. In all, at least 50 positions are being eliminated. As many as 12 staffers in the Washington, DC bureau alone, four of whom are longtime photojournalists.

This is no flash in the pan. Legacy mainstream media have been declining ever since the Internet became a serious source of news around the turn of the century.

It certainly doesn’t mean that the “They Just Gotta Be Out There” narrative will cease but that slowly decreasing numbers of media folk will be paid well to tell it. We shall see what changes that brings about.

See also: Jupiter’s moon Europa scene of latest hunt for life.

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16 Responses to Life on Europa: The dream never dies, and never grows up either

  1. 1

    Many ID folk seem to be conceding that if life is found on other planets, that would be spectacular confirmation of the materialistic thesis w.r.t. life, and fatal for ID. I don’t follow that logic. If the probability that life could emerge without design is so low that when life emerges once we have to infer design, if it happens more than once it seems we just have to infer design more than once. Discovery of life on other planets would just be one more item in the already long “a designer wouldn’t do things that way” argument list.

  2. I don’t see what is wrong with the kind of speculation that life could exist on other planets. Given the immense size of the universe, it is easy to understand why this question is asked. And after all, the reports that UD News cites are all full of “could”, “may”, “potential”. What’s wrong with asking the question. And in science it’s these kinds of questions that could lead to exciting new research? Questioning, wondering, pondering, speculating – these are all human traits that have been very fruitful in the past and will continue to do so.

    Would UD News rather we didn’t ask these questions? Perhaps she would like to see these avenues of research completely stopped because she already has the answers?

    Besides, one could argue that ID is also full of similar questions – is there a designer? Is there evidence of design in nature? When did this design process occur? Who is the designer? There are as of yet no clear conclusive answers to these questions, but of course that isn’t going to stop people asking the questions – as they should!

    It’s a shame UD News is always so negative and cynical.

  3. The media narrative is sloppy handling of facts, woodford. They so heavily weight the facts in one direction, there is no opportunity for thoughtful reflection on what they really demonstrate.

  4. Granville, you’re right. Life could well exist on other planets, doubtless by design. That said, the pop science media’s sloppy handling of the least faintest hope confuses speculation and evidence, leading to a general loss of judgment about probabilities.

  5. Why is speculating that there may be life where this is water “heavily weighting” in one direction? What other conclusions could one make from the presence of water? It rather seems that you are of the camp of “life-had-better-not-exist” elsewhere, whereas Granville has pointed, none of us can properly rule out such a possibility. I’m glad there are those still willing to ask the questions, even if it is just the stuff of dreams.

    Besides, you seem to think that if there is life elsewhere in the Universe it is “doubtless by design”. Not only is that of an equal heavy weight, but seems to go far beyond mere speculation or pondering. I admire your remarkable certainty, but cant help but not it rather seems of the kind that you so deplore with Darwinists.

  6. Woodford, we don’t know whether there is or isn’t life elsewhere, and no one does. If so, i would be good for the News desk, due to easy stories for years. But people have been saying it for over a century. The research is great, the hype is not.

    For one thing, the hype uses up words and phrases we would have used if anything had actually happened.

  7. I don’t think there is anything–at all–that a design hypothesis can’t accommodate.

  8. Not without first placing some limitations on the designer.

  9. DrREC:

    I don’t think there is anything–at all–that a design hypothesis can’t accommodate.

    Then you obviously do not understand how science operates.

    For example Newton’s First Rule would tell you that the design hypothesis cannot accomodate blind, undirected processes being able to account for what is being investigated.

  10. Nope, just need Newton’s First Rule- IOW you need a basic understanding of science.

  11. Sure it could. You yourself have described life and perhaps the universe as designed to evolve, with some conditions only specified at the beginning.

    It is also impossible to scientifically rule out design from any process.

  12. DrREC:

    Sure it could. You yourself have described life and perhaps the universe as designed to evolve, with some conditions only specified at the beginning.

    You are confused. If it was designed to evolve then blind, undirected processes were not responsible, duh.

    It is also impossible to scientifically rule out design from any process.

    Again Newton’s First Rule does that for us.

    Ya see if blind, undirected processes can account for something then we don’t even get to consider the design inference.

  13. Woodford, we don’t know whether there is or isn’t life elsewhere, and no one does.

    Totally agree.

    The research is great, the hype is not.

    Well, yes, hype is not welcome. But this site is not exactly immune from it, is it now? And given some of the titles that come from the UD “Newsroom”, I’d say hype is doing quite well around these parts. Oh, the irony.

  14. Me: “It is also impossible to scientifically rule out design from any process.”

    Joe at 1.1.1.2.2
    “Again Newton’s First Rule does that for us.

    Ya see if blind, undirected processes can account for something then we don’t even get to consider the design inference.”

    This is a stunning reversal for you Joe. How many times (say, when presented with the pathway for formation of a de novo gene) have you come back with a retort that I can’t prove that the process was blind and undirected and that I am begging the question.

    I maintain I cannot exclude design, but here you provide us a reason not to consider it-Newton’s first rule: “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” This sentiment is re-expressed in Occam’s razor:”Plurality must never be posited without necessity” and is used in defense of the presumption of methodological naturalism, which I thought you guys hated. My bad.

    Interesting. Joesph has informed us ID is not opposed to evolution. Most of you have admitted there is not a single observation of design (fsci greater than the universal probability bound arising at once) to point to.

    So Newton’s first rule would tell us the observed-evolution producing small incremental amounts of information should not require additional causes.

    Fine. Lately, ID seems more about origins-or the genetic code, the first cell, genes. Not much of a critique of evolution. The lack of a demonstrated path for abiogenesis cannot be taken as positive evidence for design. Newton’s first rule would provide no justification for presuming design until other possibilities are ruled out.

    I feel hesitant to thank Joe too much-for demonstrating that ID is compatible with evolution, and cannot serve as a viable critique of it; for helping reduce it to a slight argument about abiogenesis; for advocating against the evangelical Christian interpretation of design; and now for using Newton’s first law (as a backdoor version of methodological naturalism) to presume against it-lest he get banned here.

  15. “Again Newton’s First Rule does that for us.

    Ya see if blind, undirected processes can account for something then we don’t even get to consider the design inference.”

    DrREC:

    This is a stunning reversal for you Joe.

    Seeing that I have ALWAYS said that it cannot be a reversal. IOW your ignorance is showing again.

    How many times (say, when presented with the pathway for formation of a de novo gene) have you come back with a retort that I can’t prove that the process was blind and undirected and that I am begging the question.

    Well if you are using a living organism to get that new gene then you ARE begging the question- and I explained that to you. That means your ignorance runs deep.

    I maintain I cannot exclude design, but here you provide us a reason not to consider it-Newton’s first rule

    Newtion’s First Rule does NOT say to not consider design. It says to only consider design when the non-design alternatives cannot account for it.

    Interesting. Joesph has informed us ID is not opposed to evolution.

    Man you are DENSE!

    Behe, Wells, Dembski, Meyer et al. have said that ID is not anti-evolution.

    Most of you have admitted there is not a single observation of design (fsci greater than the universal probability bound arising at once) to point to.

    Your strawman aside-fsci greater than the universal probability bound arising at once)- IDists have presented plenty of positib=ve evidence for design.

    OTOH your position doesn’t have any positive evidence to support it.

    So Newton’s first rule would tell us the observed-evolution producing small incremental amounts of information should not require additional causes.

    The observed evolution has never been observed to construct new, useful and functional multi-part systems. And the incremental changes observed appear to be loss of function changes.

    Fine. Lately, ID seems more about origins-or the genetic code, the first cell, genes.

    Again with your ignorance. ID has ALWAYS been about the OoL- ALWAYS. And I have explained that to you too.

    Ya see if the ooL was designed then it is a given that evolution was also designed.

    The lack of a demonstrated path for abiogenesis cannot be taken as positive evidence for design.

    You have serious issues. In order to even consider design FIRST we have to eliminate nature, operating freely. And tehn we look at the positive side- the specified complexity.

    I feel hesitant to thank Joe too much-for demonstrating that ID is compatible with evolution, and cannot serve as a viable critique of it;

    Again ID is a viable critique of blind watchmaker evolution. It is not a critique of front-loaded evolution nor intelligent design evolution.

    and now for using Newton’s first law (as a backdoor version of methodological naturalism) to presume against it-lest he get banned here.

    Duude Newton’s First Rule is how ID has ALWAYS operated.

    Geez just a look at the explanatory filter makes that obviously clear.

    But thank YOU for continuing to expose your ignorance about ID. Unfortunately for you that ignorance is not a refutation.

  16. DrREC posted:

    Newton’s first rule: “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” This sentiment is re-expressed in Occam’s razor:”Plurality must never be posited without necessity”

    Now if we look at- ID Foundations: The design inference, warrant and “the” scientific method- we see that the explanatary filter is a mechanism that forces you to follow Newton’s first rule and Occam’s razor.

    This is NOT new stuff DrREC – shame on you.

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