Rebuttal to "The Probability of Life by Mike Friedman"
by Rich Deem

This is a rebuttal to page on an anti-Christian site operated by Mike Friedman, who is a 20 year old computer programming student. Mr. Friedman states on his page that GodAndScience.org "is falsifying scientific truth". As proof of the "falsification" of science on this site, Mr. Friedman presents only two links to outside sources and zero citations of the scientific literature to support his claims. In other words, we are to take his word as an "expert" in the field. In contrast to Mr. Friedman's lack of evidence, the main design page, The Incredible Design of the Earth, cites 48 references, nearly all of which are from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, instead of citing the main page, Mr. Friedman cites the summary page, which includes no references. It is possible that this is an unintentional oversight on his part. However, there are limited entry points into this page. The main entry point is The Incredible Design of the Earth, the main page. Other entry points include the Apologetics main page (which lists the The Incredible Design of the Earth above the summary page. It can also be found in the Site Map, which lists all pages on the site, and the index frame. We will assume for now that Mr. Friedman's citation of the summary page was just an unintended oversight.

Mr. Friedman's first objection is to the statistics presented and the conclusions reached. According to Mr. Friedman, "The author here illustrates a shockingly poor understanding of mathematics." He then states that even if the chance of all necessary parameters for life is only 1 in 1099, and there are only 1023 planets, that there is still a chance that the proper conditions could be met by chance. He gives the example of bag of ten colored marbles marbles. Mr. Friedman states (correctly) that if you randomly draw a marble five times from the bag, each time a marble is drawn, the probability of selecting one color is 1 in 10. Mr. Friedman concludes that selecting randomly 5 times, "does not make drawing the red marble impossible" Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman does not continue the example to include the example at hand. Let's help him out with the "trivial" math. In Mr. Friedman's example, the math works out as follows:

Probability = (number of draws) x (probability of each draw)

Probability = 5 x 1/10 = 5/10 = 1/2

In Mr. Friedman's example, the overall probability is 1 in 2, not bad odds. Let's do the same math for the example given for the probability of life:

Probability = (number of draws) x (probability of each draw)

Probability = 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 (1023) x 1/1,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 (1099)
= 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000/1,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000
= 1/10, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 (10-76)

Now 1 in 1076 may seem like good odds to Mr. Friedman, but to the rest of us, I don't think that we would be willing to place any money on this kind of wager. So much for Mr. Friedman's "trivial details of math."

Now, let's look at Mr. Friedman's specific objections to the parameters required for life.

"The type and size of galaxy a given planet is in has little to do with the possibility of life."

This is definitely not true. Small galaxies do not support the formation of planets. In a recent survey of the small galaxy globular cluster 47 Tucanae, scientists found zero extrasolar planets out of 37,000 stars searched (Astronomers Ponder Lack of Planets in Globular Cluster [http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2000/33] from the Space Telescope Science Institute). The type of galaxy is also crucial. Galaxies must undergo multiple generations of star formation in order to get rocky planets, since no heavy elements were formed in the Big Bang. Globular clusters and irregular galaxies (which make up more than 90% of all galaxies) do not support continued star formation. Only spiral galaxies can support the formation of rocky planets.

As for "galaxy location," we're still trying to figure out what that means. (There are few frames of reference bigger than a galaxy.)

Apparently, Mr. Friedman has failed to figure out that galaxies are part of galaxy clusters. We are in a very small galaxy cluster (known as the "local group"), in which we are the "big guys" among the members of the cluster. The closest galaxy to ours is Andromeda, which is 2 million light years distant. This may seem like a large distance (and it is relative to other galaxy clusters), but even so, we are scheduled for collision with Andromeda in 3 billion years. In fact, the Andromeda galaxy is closing on our galaxy at 500, 000 kilometers per hour. This pace will accelerate until the two galaxies collide in 3 billion years. According to astrophysicist Chris Mihos of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, "It will be a major car wreck, and we're the Yugo in this one." (Irion, R. 2000. A Crushing End for Our Galaxy. Science 287: 62-64.) Other galaxy clusters are much more dense then ours, resulting in frequent galactic collisions (see picture at right). When galaxies collide, bad things happen to stellar and planetary orbits. The long term stability of our Solar System and galaxy would not be possible in most other galaxy clusters.

A star's distance from a spiral arm (assuming we're dealing with a spiral galaxy; galaxies come in many shapes) is just another way of measuring the exact same feature [as star location relative to galactic center].

Again, Mr. Friedman seems to be unaware of the conditions required for planet formation. If the distance from a spiral arm is too great, the quantity of heavy elements would be insufficient for formation of life-supportable planets. If the planet is within a spiral arm (or too near the center of the galaxy) radiation from other stars (from supernova explosions) would be too intense and the stellar density would disturb orbits of life-supportable planets. The location of our planet is unique not only in that it is in a relatively unpopulated region outside of a spiral arm, but it is also in the �galactic co-rotation radius.� Typically, the stars in our galaxy orbit the center of the galaxy at a rate that differs from the rate of the trailing spiral arms. Thus, most stars located between spiral arms do not remain there for long, but would eventually be swept inside a spiral arm. Only at a certain precise distance from the galaxy's center, the "co-rotation radius," can a star remain in its place between two spiral arms, orbiting at precisely the same rate as the galaxy arms rotate around the core ( Mishurov, Y.N. and L. A. Zenina. 1999. Yes, the Sun is Located Near the Corotation Circle. Astronomy & Astrophysics 341: 81-85.). Our specific location within our galaxy allows us to visualize what the Bible says, "The heavens declare the glory of God." If we were within the spiral arms, our view would be significantly impaired by the dust and gases.

proximity of solar nebula to a supernova eruption
timing of solar nebula formation relative to supernova eruption

A planet's distance from a supernova is irrelevant. A supernova would destroy planets in systems close to it, making discussing the possibility of life on those planets inconsequential. Further, compared to the time needed to create life, supernovae are rare events indeed.

Mr. Friedman's comments indicate that he does not know what is meant by the "solar nebula." All stars are formed in nebulae and our Sun is no exception. In order to gain enough heavy elements to form planets, our system must have formed close to a recent supernova. Heavy elements are not formed during the Big Bang. They are only formed during supernova events. Carl Sagan used to have a famous saying in his Cosmos series on PBS (which aired well before Mr. Friedman was born). "We are star stuff." He had a unique way of saying it that I can still visualize today. His point was (also explained in the series) that everything that we are made of was formed during the explosion of a large nearby star. If the solar nebula was too far from the supernova event, insufficient heavy elements would have been present for life chemistry. If the supernova event occurred too early, then the heavy elements would have been dispersed before the Solar System would have formed. If the supernova event occurred too late, then the nebula would not contain enough heavy elements for life chemistry. In addition, it is possible that the supernova event itself could destroy all life.

star birth date
star age

This is another attempt to artificially inflate the statistics. While the age of a star is important, "star birth date" and "star age" are measuring the same thing!

Star birth date and star age are not the same thing. The birth date of a star can be any time between the creation of the universe and now. The first generation of stars in the universe consisted of virtually no heavy elements. There could be no rocky planets in such systems. Rocky planets are only possible in galaxies where multiple generations of stars have come and gone. As Mr. Friedman admitted, the star's age is important in determining whether or not life is possible.

To find more responses to Mr. Friedman's charges on your own, go to The Incredible Design of the Earth.

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/problifebad.html
Last updated March 31, 2008

 

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