Soothsayer, say your sooths

Just a quick observation on the BBC radio news this morning. For some reason, despite Leicester City winning the league, they were short enough of news to run a piece on three possible earthlike planets orbiting (as I understand it) a single star. So what else is new?It seems they’re in the Goldilocks zone as regards the possibility of liquid water and so – wait for it – there is the possibility of their having life!!!!! You see, water is one of the building blocks of life, like atoms, which these planets also possess.

Granted, it’s believed that all three have rotational periods locked to their solar orbits so that the same side faces the sun all the time; like Venus, whose average surface temperature, under the sulphuric acid clouds, is 462 degrees Celsius. But somehow that doesn’t detract from the optimism.

Now the interesting thing was that one of the astronomers on discovery team was in the studio to be interviewed, mainly, of course, about the possibility of life. After all, one wants to keep up with what the cutting edge scientists know about such things, so as not to be caught on the hop when their securely-based expectations come true.

And the scientist in question intimated that she had, in fact, looked it up before the interview and found that THERE IS A 1:100 CHANCE OF FINDING E.T. LIFE BEFORE 2019. Which, of course, is lower odds than those of Leicester City winning the Premier League. It must be true, for Science™ says so, and it’s on the BBC!

The difference is, of course, that Leicester City is known to exist, as is the Premier League and their membership of it. The low odds for their winning it were the odds given by bookmakers backing their guesses against those of the punters. No science was to be seen.

There is even less science in any pretended “probability” for finding life – or even for the existence of life – whilst we still have only one example (us) in the known Universe.

Those dreamers who predict the odds of Christ returning in this generation at least base their speculations on (a) the known existence of Jesus Christ, (b) the known prediction of his return and (c) the observed state of the world. The scientist who believes a set of odds about the discovery of extraterrestrial life has rather fewer fixed points than that for their divination.

They may, of course, make up for that by being enthused by the spirit of the god located at that oracle.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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2 Responses to Soothsayer, say your sooths

  1. Avatar photo Sy Garte says:


    Welcome to the Anti Alien Society (membership = 2, you and I). I have been ranting about the incredible (in all meanings of the word) sight of scientists acting like 3rd graders going oooh and ahhh, about little green men all over the universe for some time. My blog post on the subject has a list of the requirements for a life sustaining planet, and of course, life does not equal animals and “advanced civilizations”.

    What is mysterious to me is why? Why are very highly educated, very intelligent scientists in many fields so willing and eager to throw out logic, knowledge, expertise and simple common sense to embrace something that is… well not to put too fine a point on it… absurd.

    All of a sudden, people who clearly see the fallacy of using probability to try to disprove evolution, are using the exact same nonsense to imagine “billions” of alien civilizations. Why? My guess is that a lot of folks are desperate that aliens must exist. Some are atheists who cant imagine that we are all there is. Others are believers who think that God must have made more people like us, because…. well, they cant imagine that we are all there is.

    I would like to propose to you, Jon, that the official motto of the Anti Alien League (more euphonius an acronym than AAS) be the following “We are all there is. Get over it.”

    • Avatar photo Jon Garvey says:


      As a rehabilitated UFOlogist and Sci-Fi buff in my childhood, my head tells me that the evidence for ET life is non-existent, and very definitely the confirmation bias amongst those investigating it is a sign of some deep pathology in society – probably to do with alienation from the billions of brothers and sisters on earth, and from God and a myriad of angels in the heavens.

      At the same time, I see little evidence against alien life, and as I’ve written before here, at one stage back in the 17th century, the default position for Evangelicals was that every world must be inhabited, and mainly by superior beings (the principle of plenitude demanded it).

      So maybe “AAL” would equally stand for the “Alien Agnostic League.”

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