Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Tilting at the Windmill

Science strains to reduce human life to a universal commodity, but only underscores the likelihood of our uniqueness.

Iain Murray has written an intriguing essay, surveying the current state of scientific efforts to detect extraterrestrial life, at American Enterprise Online.

Like John J. Murray, who links to this piece at The Corner, I find Iain Murray’s conclusions persuasive. I feel gratified that I now have something a bit more than my own highly subjective and spiritually informed opinion as grounds for my belief.

Do read the whole thing, but for the purposes of commentary, Murray concludes that we are probably “alone in the universe:”
For life as we know it, we are today left with the unpalatable but rational conclusion that instead of Carl Sagan's millions of civilizations, there is a very good chance we are the only one. The latest decade's discoveries and arguments do not mean that we are alone for certain, but they are probabilities that point strongly in that direction.
Iain’s conclusion is one I have come to myself, but without much of a knowledge basis, rather more of a sense that probability and statistics are against us. Murray indulges one of many hopeful hypotheses, that what seems to us the rigidly determinism of the mathematics involved, may not need to apply across the entirety of the physical universe.

Sure, but maybe only in that exact spot where God happens to be sitting. I’m joking, of course, but it seems a hungry science indeed, that at the point of statistical near-certainties, one needs to invoke a “time-out” for the applicability of mathematic principles. Ack, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Here’s Murray again, by means of clarity:
Those who want to believe sometimes argue that the mathematical probabilities against intelligent life may be less certain than we think. They cite "complexity theory"--which suggests there may be a certain irregularity and unpredictability even in the laws of nature. But others think the mathematical odds must be respected. "Nobody knows why equations work so well in describing things. Maybe it's the handprint of God, or an ancient, advanced, powerful alien race," says NASA scientist David Grinspoon, but "there is something spooky about the way mathematical relationships are so enmeshed with the physical nature of our universe." For the moment, cold rationality suggests that Jacques Monod was right when he said that "Man at last knows he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he has emerged only by chance."
Monod sees Life on Earth, alone in the Universe, and sees the speck against the immensity, revelatory of nothing more than unfathomable loneliness, like a child somehow alone on a deserted isle in barren seas.

Full disclosure, for those who don’t know: I am a born-again Christian. I first found faith on a path from atheism, that led by means of rational introspection and logic to convincing proof of deity, on to revelation (with the help of scripture, people, prayer, and circumstances).

I retain a faith in scientific method, but only to a point, and never beyond the constraints and limitations of those areas of life where science can inform, rather than portray. And as science advances in its ways, and the mysteries of this world get defined in greater detail, I am powerfully struck by an overriding fact.

The more science explains, the more questions it creates. That, and the probability that this only world we know was the product of pure chance, becomes ever more absurd. Those who become most familiar with the most extreme details that form the basis for the mechanics and processes of this world, are ever more bewildered by the completeness and consistency of its design.

If not “intelligent” in itself, certainly reflective of a consistency of structure and order, beyond our feeble attempts to tease out the chaos from the design.

I vote for the handprint of God, myself, and feel no shame in saying so.

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