Friday, August 22, 2014

The Privileged Planet: The rare confluence of conditions that allow Earth to support complex life also make the Earth the best location from which to make scientific discoveries. Those scientific discoveries reveal that the universe is understandable to humankind. All this indicates a purpose to the universe: to support intelligent life and to allow intelligent life to discover that the universe was created.

The Privileged Planet is a video about the conditions required for a planet to support intelligent life. It is based on a book by the same name by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. The video starts out discussing the scientific discoveries that led to the belief that the earth is ordinary - the earth orbits the sun, the sun is just one of many stars in our galaxy, and our galaxy is just one of the many galaxies in the universe. But the video goes on to point out there are about twenty conditions needed for a planet to be able to support life. These conditions are not individually likely to occur by chance, and they are exceedingly unlikely to occur together. It is also an odd coincidence that planets like earth that can support complex life, ie. that can support intelligent observers, are also the best platforms for observing the universe and making scientific discoveries. Furthermore, it surprising that our complicated universe seems to be fine-tuned to support life and natural laws are discoverable to humans All of this taken together, the conditions for a planet to be able to support intelligent life are very unlikely, those same conditions that make life possible also provide the best conditions for making scientific discoveries, the universe is finely tuned to support life, and natural laws are intelligible to humankind, suggest that there is a purpose to the universe. That purpose is to support intelligent life and provide a place where intelligent life can understand the universe and ultimately understand that the universe was created.

The video is in 12 short parts included in the youtube

Conditions necessary for a planet to support life.

The factors necessary for a planet to support complex life include:

  • Liquid water.

  • The planet must be within the circumstellar habitable zone around its star - the distance from the star that liquid water and an oxygen rich atmosphere can exist.

  • The planet must be in the galactic habitable zone. Being too close to the center of the galaxy would expose the planet to too much radiation. Too far from the center there are not enough heavy elements to support life.

  • Orbiting main sequence G2 dwarf star, which is not too hot and not too cool. A smaller star would have a habitable zone too close to itself and the gravity of the star would keep the same side of any planet within the zone constantly facing the star. The side facing the star would be too hot and receive too much radiation to support life, the side facing away from the star would be too cold.

  • Protected by gas giant planets that shield the inner planets from comet impacts.

  • Nearly circular orbit.

  • Oxygen-rich atmosphere.

  • Correct mass.

  • Orbited by large moon - "if the moon didn't exist, neither would we". The moon is 1/4 the size of the earth. The moon's gravity stabilizes the angle of the earth's axis insuring temperate seasonal changes. It also helps to circulate the warm and cold waters of the ocean stabilizing the climate and distributing elements, chemicals, and nutrients needed for life.

  • Magnetic field - generated by the movement of liquid iron deep in the planet's interior, protects the atmosphere from being stripped away by the solar wind.

  • Plate tectonics - regulates interior temperature of the planet, recycles carbon, mixes elements necessary for life, shapes the continents ensuring land as well as ocean environments.

  • Enough heat in the interior to circulate liquid iron.

  • Ratio of liquid water and continents to allow the diversity of life and an active biosphere needed to support complex life.

  • Moderate rate of rotation

  • Oxygen / Nitrogen atmosphere. Assures temperate climate, provides protection from sun's radiation, is the correct combination of gases for liquid water and complex life.

The video states the the probability of a planet having all the conditions needed to support life is 10-15. There are about 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Most sources say there are between 100 and 500 billion galaxies in the universe. By chance, there should be less than one habitable planet per galaxy but a few million habitable planets throughout the universe.

The conditions necessary for a planet to support life make a planet the best location for making scientific discoveries.

  • The Moon The best place in our solar system to observe a solar eclipse is the earth which is also the one place that has observers. During an eclipse, the moon appears to be about the same size as the sun. In order for this to happen, the earth has to be the right distance from the sun and it has to have a large moon. These are both factors that also allow the earth to support life.

    An eclipse also provides an opportunity to make scientific discoveries. When the moon blocks the sun during an eclipse, stars near the sun become visible. Also the sun's atmosphere, the chromosphere, which extends beyond the surface of the sun, becomes visible too. Observations of the positions of stars near the sun allowed scientists to confirm that the gravity of the sun bends light that passes near it confirming Einstein's theory of relativity. Observations made of the sun's chromosphere allowed scientists to discover helium in it. Other observations allowed scientists to discover how the spectrum of sunlight is produced. This led to the understanding of how the spectra of distant stars are produced which is crucial to our understanding of astrophysics.

  • The Atmosphere The Earth's atmosphere has the right mixes of gasses to support life and is transparent which allows us to observe the universe around our planet: the other planets, the sun, stars in our galaxy and other galaxies. There are 70 planets and moons in our solar system. Only seven have a substantial atmosphere, and only the earth has an atmosphere that is transparent and can support life. The sun, super novae, and other sources in the universe emit electromagnetic radiation, including gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infra-red light, microwaves and radio waves. Visible light is less than one trillionth of a trillionth of the natural range of the electromagnetic spectrum but visible light is useful for life processes. For example, photosynthesis could not make use of gamma rays or microwaves. Visible light is also the most informative about the structures in the universe. Visible light is produced in abundance by the sun and it most easily penetrates the atmosphere of earth. The atmosphere that is needed to support life allows us to observe the distant universe.

The universe is finely-tuned to support life.

The forces and mathematical constants of the laws of physics that apply in our universe are finely tuned to support life. Gravity causes planets, stars and galaxies to form. If the force of gravity was even slightly stronger, intelligent life could not exist. The strong nuclear force is necessary to holds protons and neutrons together to make the atoms which make up our environment and our bodies. If there were no electromagnetic force, there would be no light and no bonding between the atoms which is needed to construct our environment and our bodies. If the masses of subatomic particles were different, life as we know it could not exist. A slight change in any of the forces of nature or physical constants or if they were chosen at random, would make the universe unable to support life. The forces and constants are another example of the correlation between life and discovery. They are finely tuned to support life, and they can also be discovered and understood by humankind.

The universe is intelligible.

The human mind can understand the universe. Natural laws are discoverable because they obey simple mathematical relationships. Many of the most important theories in physics can be written on a single sheet of paper. This intelligibility cannot be explained by naturalistic assumptions. The discoverablity of natural laws is not needed for survival. According to materialist belief, human reason supposedly developed to hunt and survive in the wild. Our ability to discover and understand atoms or black holes, is unnecessary for Darwinian survival.

There is a plan for the universe.

The founders of modern science Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Kepler, all believed the universe was the product of a mind and that it was intelligible to us because it was the product of an intelligent being. In those times, science was part of religion, it was the study of the mind of God.

Modern science shows us that the universe seems to have been intended to contain observers who can understand it. The conditions that make a planet habitable also provide the best conditions to make scientific discoveries. The earth's atmosphere, its location in the solar system, its moon, the arrangement of other planets in its solar system, its star, and its location in galaxy are the most important conditions needed to support life, and also are ideal for making a wide range of scientific discoveries. The laws of nature are intelligible by humankind and from studying them we understand that the universe is finely tuned to support life. All of this cannot be explained by coincidence. It is too improbable to be the result of chance. It cannot be explained by impersonal forces of nature. It indicates a plan. Something beyond the universe must account for it. The universe seems to have been designed by a transcendent creator in order to support intelligent life, and allow intelligent life to discover that.

Many modern scientists believe the evidence that the universe was designed. These scientists include Nobel prize winners such as Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Guglielmo Marconi, Brian Josephson, William Phillips, Richard Smalley, Arno Penzias, Charles Townes Arthur Compton, Antony Hewish, Christian Anfinsen, Walter Kohn, Arthur Schawlow, and other scientists, Charles Darwin, Sir Fred Hoyle, John von Neumann, Wernher von Braun, Louis Pasteur.


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