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Thread: Philosophical implications of extraterrestrial life

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    Philosophical implications of extraterrestrial life


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    What about it? I do not wish to follow a link that is blind except for a two-word post that is outside of my working vocabulary.

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    It's interesting to read such an unusual essay, and consider its arguments. Thanks for sharing, Tom. I doubt that the 'Great Silence' is as altogether quiet as some would contend. A low level presence by extraterrestrial intelligences could be misinterpreted as wholly illusory, due to an excessive skepticism, or fear. Please see the Private Message I just sent you, for follow-up on Prof. Mulgan's theological discussion.
    Last edited by Ross 54; 2017-Dec-06 at 07:16 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    What about it? I do not wish to follow a link that is blind except for a two-word post that is outside of my working vocabulary.
    Philosophy is not my forte, so I do not feel competent to accurately condense the arguments in the article.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Philosophy is not my forte, so I do not feel competent to accurately condense the arguments in the article.
    I wonder how carefully you read it, because to be this looks quite religious. I won't comment on that, but did want to comment on what I find irritating in many arguments like this. He spends all this time discussing "Wontianism" but simply dismissed "Cantianism" with a single statement, "Isnít it more likely that, sooner or later, one lucky species will have sufficient time and resources to escape the feasibility constraint?" He is arguing by incredulity. To me and to quite a number of others, "can't" is one of the most persuasive of the potential reasons, but he rejects it out of hand because it is inconvenient to the argument he is trying to make.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross 54 View Post
    A low level presence by extraterrestrial intelligences could be misinterpreted as wholly illusory, due to an excessive skepticism, or fear.
    Yes it could, and similarly, non-significant patterns could be misinterpreted as a lack of silence due to excessive wishful thinking.
    As above, so below

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    Agreed. So how could we go about steering successfully between excessive wishful thinking and excessive skepticism in this instance?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross 54 View Post
    Agreed. So how could we go about steering successfully between excessive wishful thinking and excessive skepticism in this instance?
    I think that we challenge each other through discussions when we think that somebody is being too skeptical or not skeptical enough. In this case, also, I personally think it's somewhat of an academic question. For example, with KIC 8462852, I don't think it would make very much of a difference practically if we find out it is aliens or not. And I suppose if we find out that there are aliens living among us, it might have some implications but I'm not sure what we would want to do about it, since we are living pretty happily anyway. I personally would not be a big fan of forced medical testing of everybody to make sure they are not aliens even if I had definite proof that there were aliens living among us.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornblower View Post
    What about it? I do not wish to follow a link that is blind except for a two-word post that is outside of my working vocabulary.
    I found it worth following because it argues that finding life beyond Earth could prompt us to develop a less human-centred outlook. An important point, though not an entirely new one. Back in the 17th century, Johannes Kepler said something along these lines in a response to the discoveries of Galileo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Robinson View Post
    I found it worth following because it argues that finding life beyond Earth could prompt us to develop a less human-centred outlook.
    I didn't read it quite that way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    Philosophy is not my forte, so I do not feel competent to accurately condense the arguments in the article.
    Can you at least describe it?
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    one thing that nagged at me through reading the argument was the use of the word/concept 'natural'; how does one define what is natural? Obviously I don't mean man-made v. non-man-made.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Can you at least describe it?
    If I understand correctly (a pretty big if), he holds that ETI would imply a universe created by a Supreme Being which does not value humans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mazanec View Post
    If I understand correctly (a pretty big if), he holds that ETI would imply a universe created by a Supreme Being which does not value humans.
    I not sure he holds to any specific option he outlined.

    I think to conclude that discovering that the universe were teeming with life would make Earth not special to a 'supreme being' doesn't really make sense.

    The often(Stalin) falsely attributed quote, that one death is a tragedy, a million deaths(?) is a statistic, is a human way of thinking.
    Last edited by Mudskipper; 2017-Dec-07 at 12:50 PM.
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    Professor Mulgan seems to assume that superior extraterrestrials would be free from suffering, and that the fact that humans must deal with suffering means that we aren't as highly regarded by our creator, as they are. The problem of suffering may be more generalized than he thinks. In any case, there are other philosophical answers to the problem of suffering.
    Mulgan's idea is that we haven't been interfered with by advanced extraterrestrials because their superior ethics prevent them from doing so. He thinks these ethics are not culturally determined, but have some objective reality perceivable to superior extraterrestrials, but not to ourselves.

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    Meh. His arguments are circular and he makes leaps of logic based on irrational assumptions not based in reality, created by twisting definitions out of context and dismissing other reasons and definitions out of hand. I think it's a long-form ad for a book he's selling... and maybe a religion he's trying to start.

    1 + 1 =/= ubiquity.

    Science does not try to answer "why does the universe exists" in the way theologians do. Identifying the cause of cause-and-effect while in pursuit of "how" might lead to the same answer, but it is not the goal.

    Humans and their religions have already dealt with recognizing sapience and special-ness (or claims of special-ness) in other groups of humans (and perhaps have dealt or will deal with previous species of hominids). Despite claims by some fundamentalists of various stripes, almost all religions are synchretic and not strictly revelatory (and sometimes because of it). Religions already have solutions to the problems he claims are motivating or intractable.

    I think he's confusing Philosophy of Religion with Sociology of Religion. The former is what he's mostly talking about, but the latter is what would actually affect sapient behavior and the Drake Equation.

    I give his essay 4 out of 10 stars. He introduces some interesting ideas, but he makes his arguments fraudulently.
    Last edited by Ara Pacis; 2017-Dec-07 at 08:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    one thing that nagged at me through reading the argument was the use of the word/concept 'natural'; how does one define what is natural? Obviously I don't mean man-made v. non-man-made.
    Tim Mulgan seems to be using the word "natural" to mean an ethics based on the instincts of a particular species. His argument is that one reason we haven't heard from other rational ETs, is that although they are not all one species, all long-lived rational civilisations share principles which have more to do with rationality than instinct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    I not sure he holds to any specific option he outlined.
    My impression is that he doesn't hold any specific option so strongly as to dismiss all other options out of hand.

    I think to conclude that discovering that the universe were teeming with life would make Earth not special to a 'supreme being' doesn't really make sense.
    If the universe is teeming with rational beings who would have the technical ability to contact us, but don't, wouldn't that logically mean that those alien rational beings don't value humans in a way that would motivate them to contact us?

    Would a creator who valued humans create aliens who are indifferent to humans?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    one thing that nagged at me through reading the argument was the use of the word/concept 'natural'; how does one define what is natural? Obviously I don't mean man-made v. non-man-made.
    He means "natural" as in "organic", in the sense of growing or being simply derived from fundamental principles, ie. a natural progression. Kinda like how the "natural logarithm" is natural.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    He means "natural" as in "organic", in the sense of growing or being simply derived from fundamental principles, ie. a natural progression. Kinda like how the "natural logarithm" is natural.
    but what isn't natural?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ara Pacis View Post
    He means "natural" as in "organic", in the sense of growing or being simply derived from fundamental principles, ie. a natural progression. Kinda like how the "natural logarithm" is natural.
    If that's what he means, why would he write the following?

    "Secular non-naturalists argue that normative non-naturalism is not as anomalous as it seems, because we already need non-natural facts to explain logic, mathematics or the normativity inherent in good scientific practice itself."

    As he thinks there something "non-natural" about mathematics, I expect he would hesitate to use a term like "natural logarithm".

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    To me, the essential point of his argument is this:

    Objective values are built into the fabric of the Universe; the discovery of those values is essential if one is to understand the Universe sufficiently well enough to manipulate it successfully on a large and lasting scale; and that discovery transforms any rational being’s motivations. Aliens smart enough to conquer the stars will inevitably abandon their previous plans and follow those universal values.
    So he is arguing that there is a set of universal values that anyone smart enough to conquer the stars will understand. Since we have no evidence for that, he claims that this could be the cause of the Fermi paradox, but to me it seems that we are already broadcasting our presence to a very limited extent, and yet don't have a set of universal values, so it seems a fairly weak argument to me. I find "cantianism," which he dismisses out of hand, along with scarcity of intelligent beings, as an easier reason.
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    I have read about the 'singularity', a point when AI become more intelligent than us, I think..however it is defined, maybe there is something really weird that is discovered about physics, that happens at some point, maybe quite quickly, that would explain why we aren't contacted...and maybe this planet will make that discovery at some point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    but what isn't natural?
    (I'll try to answer you and Colin Robertson at the same time.)

    Bolt-ons vs. Grow-ons. A branch grows out of a trunk. It's used this way in military sciences, where a military unit of a certain size is nowadays expected to need its own artillery units as part of it's constitution due to its warfighting doctrine as opposed to being temporarily attached from an artillery division. Like-wise, a "no tresspassing" sign nailed to the trunk is not natural. Some will counter and say that humans are natural, therefore anything humans do is natural, but that quickly becomes a debate between Determinism and Free Will.

    So, a lot of people learn to make a distinction between what happens with human intervention and what happens without human intervention. That is itself an organic and natural conclusion, but not necessarily the correct one. Many people see humanity as dual - humans are organic and many human behaviors are also, but the product of a human mind and hands may not be.

    People draw the line at different places in the complexity of human artifice -simple tools may be natural to some since other animals use them, while other people consider them artificial only if they've been physically altered before use - although some animals do this too. It depends where they put that particular technological singularity and what species they want to believe can (or have) come through it. (And some put it at religious revelations, wherein supernatural equals non-natural, and anything that flows from that is distinctly non-natural.)

    Some will put these distinctions in different places than most, confusing people - perhaps out of an attempt for earnest communication or out of a desire to obfuscate any flaws in their arguments. If he does that in mathematics, he didn't say where and to what mathematical ideas it applies, only that he thinks artifice is needed somewhere in there.

    Those are my thoughts. I could be wrong.
    Et tu BAUT? Quantum mutatus ab illo.

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