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Science Reporters Should Quit Crying "Life!"

Think Christianly: Science Reporters Should Quit Crying "Life!"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Science Reporters Should Quit Crying "Life!"

Jay Richards has a post on the new planet discovered that might be life permitting...

Unfortunately, we've seen hundreds of reports like this, so I now read them with a bit of skepticism. For the last fifteen years, we've been hearing about supposedly Earth-like planets around other stars. The headline is so common that even Borenstein, in an otherwise breathless articles, admits: "Scientists have jumped the gun before on proclaiming that planets outside our solar system were habitable only to have them turn out to be not quite so conducive to life."

The planet in question is tidally locked, so the same face perpetually faces its star. So it won't have a pleasing climate. It's about three times more massive than Earth, and it's quite close to its star, which is an M dwarf. Such stars are probably not good hosts for habitable planets due to their high activity levels.

Whenever you read a story like this (and there will be many more in the next few years), it's important to remember two things. First, Venus and Mars are much more Earth-like that this or any other extrasolar planet we've yet been able to detect. For instance, they're around a star known to host a habitable planet, and they're both quite close in orbit to that habitable planet. And yet, neither is home to life of any sort.

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