Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Another “Earth-Like” Planet Found? Or More Fake Science News?

David Klinghoffer

fake news

“Of course some science writers really jumped on this, and excitedly thought, ‘Oh! Liquid water, within the habitable zone’” — and here he gasps — “‘therefore, LIFE!’” So says astronomer and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez about recent media reports of yet another alien “Earth-like” planet, this one romantically named K2-18b, orbiting a red dwarf star 124 light years from us. Sample headline, “It’s got water and the right temperature: Planet found that could support life.”

Rain may bespatter the surface (if it has a solid surface, which seems doubtful) of K2-18b. “That’s all you need!” exclaims Jay Richards, who co-authored Privileged Planet with Gonzalez. The two have fun with the science news on a new episode of ID the Future. Despite the hype, Dr. Gonzalez concludes, “This is definitely not a habitable planet.”

But there’s a bigger point here, as Jay Richards goes on to say. Wouldn’t it be helpful if science journalists routinely did more than embellish on press releases from scientists and actually checked in with critics and skeptics about stories like this? “Teach the controversy,” perhaps, as some might have it. Says Dr. Richards, that’s “not only the way journalism should be done but the way science should be done.”

What a novel idea! Check out this great conversation. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

Image credit: An artist imagines K2-18b, ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.