Creation.com’s Argument from Ignorance and Exoplanet GJ 357 d


An article from Creation Ministries International by by Matthew Cserhati and Jonathan Sarfati has been making rounds on the internet. Entitled “Have astrobiologists really found a super-Earth?“, the article examines the recent news about scientific research that suggests GJ 357 d is a potentially habitable exoplanet.

Before launching into their analysis, Sarfati and Cserhati engage in the usual fearmongering:

“If this planet does harbor life, then secularists would draw the obvious conclusions, that Earth is not special, because life evolved elsewhere in the universe. Furthermore, they would claim that the Bible is incorrect when it says that God created life only on Earth.”

This entire paragraph is an example of a logical fallacy called an appeal to [bad] consequences (i.e., it must be false because look at the bad consequences if it’s true! gasp!)

It’s also a non sequitur (i.e., the argument doesn’t follow). First of all, back in Galileo’s day heliocentrism was opposed because it might displace Earth’s specialness. Give me a break. Earth is special because of God’s focus upon it, not because we’re the center of the universe or because we’re the only interesting thing around (everything else might be interesting on some level but if life only exists here, it’s really just rock, ice and gas in space).

Repeating a bad argument doesn’t make it better.

Furthermore, the Bible NEVER says “that God created life ONLY on Earth”; but major young earth creationist organizations do. The discovery of alien life wouldn’t destroy the credibility of the Bible or Christianity-at-large, but it would forever tarnish the reputation and authority of the ministries who were foolish enough to say, “This saith the Lord: there exists no extraterrestrial life!” when God has not spoken. I’m not saying alien life exists. It may or may not exist, but it is unwise to be dogmatic on any subject where the Scriptures are silent.

Their analysis of GJ 357 d is relatively benign; however, it is their conclusion that makes it clear that their analysis is beside the point. The conclusion isn’t about the exoplanet. It’s about an ill-advised, extrabiblical anti-alien agenda.

“This news story about a super Earth in another part of the universe is yet another false alarm together with all the previous 200 candidate exoplanets. Evolutionary astrophysicists have had the same success as 40 years of the SETI program of not finding intelligent life in the universe outside the Earth.”

I adore the way these guys pretend as if searching a hot tub’s worth of the ocean for life over the course of a 5 minute search using only a handful of search methods somehow renders further search futile. Yet they will turn around and praise God for the seeming infiniteness of the stars in the universe!

They go on to make a blatantly unscientific claim:

“Earth is the only place in the universe which has life on it.”

They can’t know this. This is a belief, not a fact. This fact is supported by, well, nothing, but let’s go over it anyway:

Isaiah 45:18 says:

“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’” (emphasis added)

Major young earth creationist ministries keep trying to make this verse say what it doesn’t. It says that God made the earth to be inhabited. It nowhere says that He made ONLY the earth to be inhabited.

“During the days of creation God describes in detail how He formed the Earth and created the different lifeforms on each of the six days. The sun and stars are only briefly mentioned on Day 4 (not even mentioning exoplanets).”

Yes, the Bible, the Word of God to Earthlings, focuses on Earth events and peoples. Go figure.

Btw, the Bible never mentions ANY planets, including those in our solar system. It calls all heavenly bodies except the sun and moon “stars.” It slso doesn’t mention microbes. This omission does not prevent their existence. We’d say the same thing about habitable exoplanets or aliens if we ever discovered them.

“To assume that life exists in some other parts of the universe is a huge argument from silence.”

Sigh.

I mean… It’s not even the right…

Sigh.

Seriously, I corrected Creation Ministries International’s CEO Gary Bateson the misuse of the logical fallacy they cite here in an exchange three years ago. Apparently, these guys never listen, but here is the problem.

An make an argument from silence is to express a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than their presence. You could argue that this is exactly what Creation.com is doing by making dogmatic claims about the nonexistence of aliens based on the Bible’s silence on the subject.

They really mean an argument from ignorance, where one asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false or a proposition is false because it has not yet been proven true. One could also argue that Creation.com is committing this logical fallacy by being dogmatic that aliens do not exist and never will be found because we’ve taken a brief, limited stab at searching for such life and came up with nothing so far.

For the record, leaving open the possibility in the face of insufficient evidence instead of making dogmatic claims one way or the other is NOT an example of n argument from ignorance. It’s simple humility.

I tried to contact Creation.com again regarding the wrong logical fallacy being named and explaining the difference between the two. Admottedly, it was written from my phone and it contained a few spelling and grammatical errors, notably an instance where the sentence should have read (in part), “…corrected Creation Ministries International’s CEO Gary Bates on the misuse of…” but I didn’t place a space between “Bates” and “on”. They took a few potshots at me for that in their unprofessional response:

“Dear Tony Breeden,

Thank you for your comment (see below) about the article on creation.com titled Have astrobiologists really found a super-Earth?.

Hello Tony,

Thank you for your email, but I think you are the one who is mistaken. First of all, our CEO’s name is Gary Bates. Furthermore, you could do better with your grammar and spelling.
An argument from silence (i.e., that the Bible doesn’t mention aliens) is a very weak one. Our is not an argument from silence. It is made via a logical deduction of Scripture, the purposes of creation and the implications for the Gospel. Our position is that of multiple specialists at our office, not one person’s position.

With respect, we do listen, but we simply do not agree with your position. This is our last comment. You’ve been banned from our Facebook page because of your comments. So we will not engage with you any longer.

Thanks, Matthew Cserhati”

In the interests of full disclosure, they did ban me from their Facebook page for daring to suggest that Christians as far back as the Middle Ages have answered many of their so-called theological objections and for offering alternative interpretations to the UFO phenomenon that contradicted the demonic hypothesis of Gary Bates’ money-making Alien Intrusion.

I want to point out three things. First, Creation.com really likes to belittle their opponents. Second, while Cserhati correctly cites an argument from silence in his response to me, the incorrectly cited logical fallacy remains on the website article (and elsewhere in their materials). Third, this is similar to Gary Bates’ response from three years ago:

“Moreover, unlike your individual considered opinion, the opinions espoused in these articles on creation.com are derived from a ‘multitude of counsellors’ including theologians and scientists with the aim of defending Genesis.”

That was more than a little condescending but when my opponents don’t engage the argument and instead resort to ad hominem, credentialism or expertism, I generally sense a glass chin.

Young Earth Creationism itself is premised upon the idea that the Bible is true and the consensus can be wrong. And of course history is full of instances where consensus science was wrong and one guy stood up to it. That’s the self-correcting aspect of science. I happen to think that consensus creation science has been recycling the same bad arguments against the possibility of extraterrestrial life for the past several years. These bad arguments have become entrenched as dogmas and I think it’s high time we reassessed them.

My argument is that they’re inferring the absence of aliens according to “Biblical principles” that happen to be based on logical fallacies. If I’m wrong, they could simply demonstrate it with a better argument. Instead, they can’t even be bothered to correct a falsely-attributed logical fallacy on their site.

I suspect they need to continue preaching to the choir as they whistle past criticism. If they cannot even meaningfully engage my points without resorting to expertism and ad hominem, I doubt they could ever come out of an open debate on the subject looking at all favorably.

This brings us to some bad theology.

“Most importantly, we know that intelligent life would not exist outside the Earth. Why would God curse intelligent beings on other planets because of Adam’s sin? The curse extended to the whole universe. That is why 2 Peter 3:13says:

“But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth inwhich righteousness dwells.” (emphasis added)
Revelation 21:1 describes the recreation of heaven and earth:“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (emphasis added).

I cover this bad theological argument and others like it in Alien Salvation: Ansering a Cartoon Argument Against ETs. It’s worth the read if you have questions about intelligent aliens and the Gospel.

Then we come to the final paragraph:

“God created life on Earth alone, so that He could have a special relationship with us.”

I’m sorry. I have four kids. I have a special relationship with each of them. It did not require that they exist alone. Likewise, if we have “space brothers” created by God elsewhere, our relationship with God is no less special because He had a different relationship with them. God was in no way required to create life on Earth alone in order to have the relationship He has with us. Point in fact, this relationship exists now even if life exists elsewhere right now.

“Only we humans bear God’s image.”

The Bible nowhere says that we are the exclusive bearers of God’s image. Just feel the need to point that overstatement out. It also never clarifies what that means, making it the subject of intense debate. Carry on.

“We alone are the special focus of God’s attention.”

How do they know that? God being omnipresent and omnipotent could show the same special focus on any number of beings at the same time. His eye is on the sparrow even as He watches us, whom He says are worth many sparrows.

“As such let us give glory to God alone.”

Should we not give “God alone” glory if He doesn’t focus on “we alone”? (I saw what you did there) Should we not give glory to God alone if we are not alone in the universe? Of course, no Bible-affirming Christian would ever say that, so why us this worded so weirdly. We should give glory to God as we explore the heavens because each new discovery continues to declare His power and creativity.

And we should have the humility to stop being dogmatic about things upon which the Bible is silent.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ray says:

    Having read the same article, and having the same (sighs), and having had a little engagement with subordinates at these ministries about the subject, I concluded it is time to conclude. They have their position and really do not want to discuss it, regardless of another biblical position. It is sad. It is reality. The same can probably be said for positions you hold that are complete in your mind. Religious convictions are deep and should be if they become life and death matters. Not that more life in the universe becomes a life and death matter, which, logically, should make it something that can be discussed without such condescension.

    On the other hand, when we make a position not only a conviction but, one which cannot be challenged, well, that is Romanism, is it not; and that which required a Reformation: itself saddled with positions in concrete that time has not kept all believers solidified in, thank God.

    One thing that always seems left out, at the very least, is life as it exists in the angelic host. They get tossed aside as if they do not exist. They do. They live, of whom we are made a little lower than, as well as the creatures beside God’s throne, and who knows what else exists in heaven, let alone a seemingly infinite universe.

    And when I have thought about it, seeing this planet has become the cesspool of the universe by its own rebellion, why would anybody else out there, in perfect harmony with God, want to interact with us? If they did, what is wrong with believing God has placed an injunction on such interaction until the war between Christ and the god of this world is finally over? I would expect man will discover life is out there until God is good and ready to reveal it.

    There are really many different issues that can be raised to discuss this matter. It is a shame CMI and others refuse to engage in such a discussion.

    Frankly, when they come up with exhaustive studies on exactly who the sons of God, in Job, are, biblically, cover to cover; and who the 99 sheep are that are not lost; and who, exactly, are the redeemed going to reign over when triumph is finally experienced, I’d have more respect for these ministries.

    Like you say, claiming they can possibly know what is out there, taking a teaspoon of water from the ocean, is not only foolish but, can be seen as downright arrogant. Sad, indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s