In their efforts to diminish the evident design of earth and the universe, atheists typically take one of two contradictory tacks – sometimes both, oddly enough. They either try to portray the earth as ordinary, in-line with the Copernican Principle; that our planet and life it supports are merely the product of a series of ordinary natural processes which one should expect to find elsewhere in the universe. Alternatively they try to portray earth as an isolated and particular place in a vast empty universe which was obviously not intended for life.
It’s a rhetorically necessary position because the more we know about the universe the more we realize the that the conditions for life rest on very particular parameters which aren’t contingent on the laws of the universe itself. In other words the criteria which support life could be other than they are and yet a series of independent and interdependent conditions exist which in turn allows life to exist on earth. If the universe were shown to be filled with life they could simply say, “See, life merely occurs when the right conditions are present – no design necessary”. When facing the mounting evidence that the rest of the universe is otherwise completely devoid of life, they respond, “Why would a designer create a universe that is so devoid of life? Obviously it’s not designed”.
Apparently there is no way to design a universe that would convince an atheist that it is in fact designed.
Yet, despite the contradictory protests, recent research continues to demonstrate that the conditions necessary for life to exist are even more particular than supposed, as we see in a recent article on ScienceDaily about the importance of solar tides in the existence of life:
Extrasolar planets, or exoplanets for short, have been known to exist outside our solar system since 1995. When searching for life in outer space, scientists focus on those exoplanets that are located in the habitable zone. This means that they orbit their sun at a distance where the temperatures on the planet’s surface allow for the presence of liquid water. Water is believed to be an essential ingredient for life. Until now, the two main drivers thought to determine a planet’s temperature were the distance to the central star and the composition of the planet’s atmosphere. By studying the tides caused by low-mass stars on their potential earth-like companions, Heller and his colleagues have concluded that tidal effects modify the traditional concept of the habitable zone.
In what way does it modify the traditional concept of the habitable zone? He concludes:
Heller said, “I think that the chances for life existing on exoplanets in the traditional habitable zone around low-mass stars are pretty bleak, when considering tidal effects. If you want to find a second Earth, it seems that you need to look for a second Sun.
This just adds one more factor to the criteria necessary for life to exist anywhere. Our little spot in the universe is looking less ordinary all the time.
Of course atheists keep contesting that the fine-tuned view of the universe, but the problem is the list of non-contingent necessities for our existence keeps growing. They may ignore it as coincidental, but at what point does coincidence looks like intention?