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MarianoRF
2013-Jan-03, 02:04 PM
When I mean life, I mean all kind of life, from simple bacteria, to complex living organisms/creatures.

Although we have no evidence at all, what do you think?

djellison
2013-Jan-03, 02:39 PM
'We don't know' is missing from your poll - and is the only correct answer.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-03, 02:54 PM
'We don't know' is missing from your poll - and is the only correct answer.

Yes. It's the reason I'm not bothering to vote. I'd also have accepted "I'm content to wait for evidence."

Swift
2013-Jan-03, 03:49 PM
'We don't know' is missing from your poll - and is the only correct answer.
That would be my vote. I suspect it is likely, but until there is evidence, my answer is "we don't know".

Solfe
2013-Jan-03, 03:54 PM
I am wildly optimistic that there is life elsewhere, but its just a gut feeling. I got nothing for "proof". I am willing to let people criticize that opinion because I am amused by how long it would take to acquire more data.

I figure I stand a good chance of "winning" this bet with the continuing Mars exploration. Unfortunately, this "win" would likely be a fossilized microbe which isn't very satisfying for anyone. Even worse, there is a good chance someone will indirectly discover life on Mars only to have it be disproved later. That is less satisfying than a fossil microbe.

Buttercup
2013-Jan-03, 03:56 PM
I voted "yes."

Can't imagine life only exists here on Earth.

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-03, 04:23 PM
'We don't know' is missing from your poll - and is the only correct answer.

But the question is: "Is there life beyond Earth?" and not "Do we know whether there is life beyond Earth?".
There are only two possible answers, yes or no, and only one of those two can be the correct answer. Strictly we don't know which one of those two is the correct answer, but we can guess. I guess yes.

R.A.F.
2013-Jan-03, 04:44 PM
But the question is: "Is there life beyond Earth?" and not "Do we know whether there is life beyond Earth?".

Invalid "attempt" to change what the OP question actually asks...the answer to the question, "is there life beyond Earth" is we don't know...



There are only two possible answers, yes or no, and only one of those two can be the correct answer. Strictly we don't know which one of those two is the correct answer...

So you do agree that you don't know.



...but we can guess. I guess yes.

"Guesses" are irrelevant.



Aside....yes, I have chosen to return to this section of the board...come what may.

Luckmeister
2013-Jan-03, 05:20 PM
Has anyone but me become totally sick of hearing that b-word?

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-03, 05:31 PM
I've created the poll. I know that WE DON'T KNOW the answer, as there is no evidence at all... but I'm polling the general public, the idea is to have a general view of what you think about life in the Universe. It's not guessing, it's some kind of "feeling", and common sense. Being the Universe so so vast, with so many stars, planets and galaxies, it's hard to believe that we are the only ones.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-03, 05:31 PM
Strictly we don't know which one of those two is the correct answer, but we can guess.

Okay, right, let's all make completely pointless guesses about things based on no information. If that sounds too difficult, you can always toss a coin and call heads yes and tails no.

Does Angelina Jolie keep Earl Grey teabags in a kitchen cupboard? No
Will childless couples use the Linux operating system in the year 3000? Yes
Should nervous people be allowed to play tennis? Yes
Does my boss have a racist, homophobic cousin with an ear infection? No
Are questions of this ilk of any value? No

Oops, sorry, that last one wasn't a guess.

R.A.F.
2013-Jan-03, 05:36 PM
let's all make completely pointless guesses about things based on no information.

Completely pointless guesses on things based on no information, sounds like a good "re-name" for this section of the board. :D

R.A.F.
2013-Jan-03, 05:39 PM
I've created the poll.

Yes, and once started, a thread takes on a "life of it's own". In other words, it doesn't necessarily follow that the discussion will go in the "direction" the OP poster intended.

A.DIM
2013-Jan-03, 05:58 PM
Has anyone but me become totally sick of hearing that b-word?

Hi Luckmeister.

Personally I've grown weary of this forum's mantra: "we don't know, we don't know ..." It echoes of gregorian chants.

While there is no conclusive evidence for ET life, there is contested evidence for ET life (eg. microfossils in ALH84001 et al). Any number of scientists hold the view that there is life beyond Earth and it's merely a matter of time before finding it.
"We don't know" because we haven't really looked, but it's a safe and scientific assumption that it's there.

Solfe
2013-Jan-03, 06:02 PM
Should nervous people be allowed to play tennis? Yes


I had to laugh out loud at that one. Maybe it is all the caffeine I have had today.

Luckmeister
2013-Jan-03, 06:08 PM
Hi Luckmeister.

Personally I've grown weary of this forum's mantra: "we don't know, we don't know ..." It echoes of gregorian chants.

I think "I believe, I believe" is worse.


"We don't know" because we haven't really looked, but it's a safe and scientific assumption that it's there.

It's safe because there's no practical reason why we have to know (except for life-search funding).

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-03, 06:17 PM
Personally I've grown weary of this forum's mantra: "we don't know, we don't know ..." It echoes of gregorian chants.

This is like a child complaining about the father repeatedly saying, "No we're not there yet!" The solution is obvious.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-03, 06:25 PM
..." It echoes of gregorian chants. I like Gregorian chants! :)
They're kind of mesmerising .. and very cool!
:)

Selfsim
2013-Jan-03, 06:27 PM
Okay, right, let's all make completely pointless guesses about things based on no information. If that sounds too difficult, you can always toss a coin and call heads yes and tails no.

Does Angelina Jolie keep Earl Grey teabags in a kitchen cupboard? No
Will childless couples use the Linux operating system in the year 3000? Yes
Should nervous people be allowed to play tennis? Yes
Does my boss have a racist, homophobic cousin with an ear infection? No
Are questions of this ilk of any value? No

Oops, sorry, that last one wasn't a guess.Now there's some value-laden conversational topics .. right there!
:)
I'll give that poster my vote!
:)

Swift
2013-Jan-03, 07:07 PM
Okay, right, let's all make completely pointless guesses about things based on no information. If that sounds too difficult, you can always toss a coin and call heads yes and tails no.

...

Are questions of this ilk of any value? No

Oops, sorry, that last one wasn't a guess.

Yes, and once started, a thread takes on a "life of it's own". In other words, it doesn't necessarily follow that the discussion will go in the "direction" the OP poster intended.
OK, I've quoted Paul and RAF, but this is aimed broadly.

These kinds of comments seem overtly antagonistic. You disagree with the speculative nature of the OP's poll, that fine. Several of us have expressed that opinion without being cruel about it. The OP isn't presenting anything as fact that is really speculation, so I see no reason for the belligerence.

You can express disagreement with the question, the results of the poll, or the assumptions, but if you cannot do so politely, moderators will take further action.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-03, 07:24 PM
Well, I know of course that "we don't know" is the correct answer.

However there are two choices in the poll, "yes" and "no".

Rather than ignoring the poll, I chose to vote. And between "yes" and "no", I chose "yes".

It simply boggles my mind to think that among the zillions of galaxies and zillions of solar systems that for some reason our planet is "special" and is the only one life developed on. To me that would be as silly as thinking we were the one true centre of the Universe that everything else (mostly) is moving away from. And yes, I know I can't really scientifically justify that.

(I use "zillions" to mean "very many". I don't remember the current estimates and don't see the point of looking them up for use here.)

ZunarJ5
2013-Jan-03, 07:50 PM
I voted yes. Some of us are fortunate enough to be free of the need for evidence.

The vehemence with which many posters on these boards rail against speculation has always been a bit astonishing to me (especially in this section of the forums). While I respect the strict adherence to science and the scientific method it seems silly to constantly point out the obvious (yes, of course we don't know... when has anyone argued against that?) when it is almost always beside the point (especially when doing so only leads to negativity).

Swift
2013-Jan-03, 08:26 PM
The vehemence with which many posters on these boards rail against speculation has always been a bit astonishing to me (especially in this section of the forums).
Please leave the moderation to the moderators and just post with direct regard to the topic of this thread. The rest has been recently covered in Feedback.

All - If it seems I am keeping a short leash on this discussion, you are correct. The recent Feedback thread about the LiS forum indicates that the Moderation Team needs to do more to keep these discussions polite and we will do so.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-03, 09:23 PM
The poll's result is simply unarguably. While eventually someone could vote for NO, it's pretty clear that the vast majority of us believe that there's someone or something out there. So now that the result is %100 for YES, I'd like to know what kind of life do you imagine. Personally, I imagine a simple life-form, bacteria for example. Could be based on a completely new chemistry, take Titan into account (Saturn's moon), just to name an example.

And for the closed-minded people present here: we already know there's no evidence.

Swift
2013-Jan-03, 09:29 PM
The poll's result is simply unarguably. While eventually someone could vote for NO, it's pretty clear that the vast majority of us believe that there's someone or something out there. So now that the result is %100 for YES, I'd like to know what kind of life do you imagine. Personally, I imagine a simple life-form, bacteria for example. Could be based on a completely new chemistry, take Titan into account (Saturn's moon), just to name an example.

And for the closed-minded people present here: we already know there's no evidence.
I would like to ask that if you wish to explore that question, that you start a new thread. As complex as your original question is, this new one will get infinitely more complicated and will make this thread extremely messy.

Swift
2013-Jan-03, 09:34 PM
The poll's result is simply unarguably. While eventually someone could vote for NO, it's pretty clear that the vast majority of us believe that there's someone or something out there. So now that the result is %100 for YES...
I am now writing as a member, not as an administrator...

I think you may be overstating that a little. 10 votes for yes over a 7 hour period (for a poll that is scheduled to last for 6 months), plus nominally 4 or 5 "votes" for "We don't know" is not what I'd personally call "unarguable".

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-03, 10:02 PM
I'm reasonably sure the answer is yes.
I base my reasoning, as I'm sure most do, on the simple fact that numbers and extent are near infinite and the "stuff of life" is everywhere.
If the opposite was true, if we were the only galaxy with say a 100 stars, and the "stuff of life" was rare, then my "most probability" answer would be, No, most likely we are alone.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-03, 10:12 PM
Hi Luckmeister.



While there is no conclusive evidence for ET life, there is contested evidence for ET life (eg. microfossils in ALH84001 et al). Any number of scientists hold the view that there is life beyond Earth and it's merely a matter of time before finding it.
"We don't know" because we haven't really looked, but it's a safe and scientific assumption that it's there.



Exactly and well put.
I would though love that time to be before I kick the bucket! :-)

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-03, 10:19 PM
Invalid "attempt" to change what the OP question actually asks...the answer to the question, "is there life beyond Earth" is we don't know...

I'm not changing the question. In fact I'm taking it as it is - a question about what exists not about what we know.



So you do agree that you don't know.

Of course we don't know. What I disagree with is the notion that "we don't know" is an answer to the question. It's not an answer. It's the absence of an answer.


"Guesses" are irrelevant

Not if they're spot on. A correct guess can save a lot of time.

Colin Robinson
2013-Jan-03, 10:27 PM
I just voted "yes". I think there are good, though not conclusive reasons, for thinking that life in the universe isn't limited to this one planet.

The 2 factors to consider:

1. Whether habitable environments exist beyond Earth?
2. What is the probability of life appearing in a particular habitable environment?

As we've often been reminded, it is an error to consider just one of these factors without the other. Even if the number of habitable planets/moons is very high, a sufficiently low probability of life appearing on each could result in no life beyond Earth.

Conversely, one can imagine a universe where the probability of life appearing in each habitable environment was high, but the number of habitable planets in that universe was very low, so that only one planet had life. Until a few years ago, it was quite conceivable that we were actually living in such a universe.

But, it is clear now that formation of planetary systems is not an exceptional event. I know there is much debate about what would constitute a habitable environment. But however you define habitability, it does not seem at all likely that Earth is the only habitable place in the universe.

Regarding the second factor, the probability of life appearing... I'm aware there have been arguments made in the early to middle 20th century, which still get mentioned in scientific literature, that abiogenesis is an event of extremely low probability. These arguments, however, have been based on assumptions that combinations of atoms into molecules was entirely random, and also that the chemical systems familiar to us are the only possible "winning ticket".

More recent work on abiogenesis — work informed by what is now known of organic chemistry, systems theory, and thermodynamics — have led specialists in this field to think that abiogenesis is highly likely to occur on a planet where conditions are right for it.

The likelihood of organisms getting transferred from one planet to another, (e.g. by space rocks) is another point. IF you think if you think abiogenesis is a extremely low probability event, then meteoroid transfer is be another factor to consider in assessing the probability of life existing on a habitable planet or moon.

However, if you think abiogenesis is a high probability process, then you get a "yes" answer for life beyond Earth, even if life NEVER gets transferred by space rocks.

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-03, 10:31 PM
That would be my vote. I suspect it is likely, but until there is evidence, my answer is "we don't know".

Would it be possible to add that option if MarianoRF agrees?

MarianoRF, would you accept "We don't know" as an additional poll option? As it stands, your poll is too restrictive for many posters here (including myself).

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-03, 10:39 PM
I've created the poll. I know that WE DON'T KNOW the answer, as there is no evidence at all... but I'm polling the general public, the idea is to have a general view of what you think about life in the Universe.


And my general view is that WE DON'T KNOW if there is life beyond Earth. I don't assume there must be, and I don't assume there can't be, so neither poll option is valid for me.

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-03, 11:05 PM
Okay, right, let's all make completely pointless guesses about things based on no information.

Well, my guess is based on what I intuitively think is most likely the correct answer of the two. So it's certainly not based on no information. Actually, the picture we have of the universe today makes the existence of life beyond Earth seem much more plausible and natural, than for instance during the time people thought the Earth was in the center of a celestial sphere. Now we know that the sun is just one out of countless stars, and the Earth is just one out of countless other worlds. Therefore, when presented with the modern day picture of the universe the idea that we are alone is much more doubtful and the idea that we are not alone much less doubtful.

Noclevername
2013-Jan-03, 11:06 PM
I'm sure there's life somewhere else in the universe, but "sure" is a feeling, not a fact.

absael
2013-Jan-03, 11:37 PM
I'm convinced that if one has to choose either Yes or No, Yes is a far more reasonable guess. I'm a bit surprised that anyone voted No. I would be interested to hear their reasoning.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Jan-04, 12:20 AM
If for some reason we could get all BAUT folks into a room, I'd love to set up a LiS pie fight.

No points for pop tarts.
...


More recent work on abiogenesis — work informed by what is now known of organic chemistry, systems theory, and thermodynamics — have led specialists in this field to think that abiogenesis is highly likely to occur on a planet where conditions are right for it.

I'm optimistic that some good insights into how AB works will be coming along to help us at least narrow the speculation.

Swift
2013-Jan-04, 02:59 AM
Would it be possible to add that option if MarianoRF agrees?

MarianoRF, would you accept "We don't know" as an additional poll option? As it stands, your poll is too restrictive for many posters here (including myself).
No. Polls cannot be edited (choices added) after the fact.

A.DIM
2013-Jan-04, 03:38 AM
This is like a child complaining about the father repeatedly saying, "No we're not there yet!" The solution is obvious.

Ha, nice one Paul!
Except in this regard it's more like the child knows more about where the road leads, while the father resists the direction he is headed, somehow sensing his inevitable arrival yet compelled to repeat himself with "not there yet!"
:D

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-04, 05:05 AM
Would it be possible to add that option if MarianoRF agrees?

MarianoRF, would you accept "We don't know" as an additional poll option? As it stands, your poll is too restrictive for many posters here (including myself).

I suggested this when MarianoRF announced that she (?) was going to start the poll (specifically, I suggested "I am content to wait for data"). She ignored the suggestion.

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-04, 05:16 AM
Okay, I'm thinking of doing a separate poll, since I'm tired of polls ignoring the obvious. Three poll questions are decided, but I think there can be up to five, so any other suggestions for other questions on a similar poll? And no, I won't include "beer." :)

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-04, 05:27 AM
Okay, I'm thinking of doing a separate poll, since I'm tired of polls ignoring the obvious.

Amen! (ETA It's a bit like the old question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?")


Three poll questions are decided, but I think there can be up to five, so any other suggestions for other questions on a similar poll? And no, I won't include "beer." :)

You could have "Yes, I'm sure there is," "My gut tells me yes but I understand that my gut isn't science," "I'm content to wait for actual data," "My gut tells me no but I understand..." and "No I'm sure there isn't."

The only problem with this selection is that it's possible to choose a "gut" answer and also the "wait" answer. Probably the "wait" answer could be left out, or rephrased as "I don't have a leaning in either direction; I'm prepared to wait for data."

Incidentally, this poll reminds me of one taken several decades ago: "Did the universe begin with an explosion?" 16 scientists said yes, 17 said no. This was followed with, "Do you think a poll like this has any scientific value?" 0 scientists said yes, 33 said no.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-04, 10:44 AM
I just voted "yes". I think there are good, though not conclusive reasons, for thinking that life in the universe isn't limited to this one planet.

The 2 factors to consider:

1. Whether habitable environments exist beyond Earth?
2. What is the probability of life appearing in a particular habitable environment?



1. We should take into account that for us, human beings, there's no other place habitable like Earth... yet. Maybe there are hundreds of Earths, but we haven't found evidence for the moment. Habitable environments for another type of life? very possible. Take Titan into account, or Enceladous. Maybe, they are home for some kind of life.

2. The question is: what kind of life? human life, I'd say very low. For bacteria/virus life, very high.


Would it be possible to add that option if MarianoRF agrees?

MarianoRF, would you accept "We don't know" as an additional poll option? As it stands, your poll is too restrictive for many posters here (including myself).

No, I wouldn't do that. Because you see, we already know that WE DON'T KNOW. The simple idea with this poll, is to have a better picture of our feelings, what the intuition tells us. Using common sense and a little bit of calculations, I'd say that YES is the most common answer, as we can see.


Well, my guess is based on what I intuitively think is most likely the correct answer of the two. So it's certainly not based on no information. Actually, the picture we have of the universe today makes the existence of life beyond Earth seem much more plausible and natural, than for instance during the time people thought the Earth was in the center of a celestial sphere. Now we know that the sun is just one out of countless stars, and the Earth is just one out of countless other worlds. Therefore, when presented with the modern day picture of the universe the idea that we are alone is much more doubtful and the idea that we are not alone much less doubtful.

Perfectly put in words. We are using here common sense: having the Universe billons of stars, planets and galaxies, it's hard to believe that we are the only ones. Could be possible, but everytime we discover new exoplanets and solar systems, we all "feel" that life is out there, waiting to be found.

If the Universe were composed by just one much smaller galaxy, with just a few planets, I'd probably say that we are alone. But being so enormous and vast, with uncountable stars, planets and galaxies... it's almost impossible to say NO, don't you feel the same?

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-04, 10:48 AM
I'm convinced that if one has to choose either Yes or No, Yes is a far more reasonable guess. I'm a bit surprised that anyone voted No. I would be interested to hear their reasoning.

I'd also like to hear the arguments for voting NO, really. It would be very interesting to discuss about the NO possibility.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-04, 10:50 AM
I'm sure there's life somewhere else in the universe, but "sure" is a feeling, not a fact.

I think this is the most shared feeling.

Swift
2013-Jan-04, 03:02 PM
I'd also like to hear the arguments for voting NO, really. It would be very interesting to discuss about the NO possibility.
I voted No. As I stated in my first post in this thread, I don't really think No, I think "we don't know", but when you announced that Yes had won unanimously I entered a No just to balance things.

I don't feel there is anything to discuss, other than what has been discussed already.

A.DIM
2013-Jan-04, 03:12 PM
I voted No. As I stated in my first post in this thread, I don't really think No, I think "we don't know", but when you announced that Yes had won unanimously I entered a No just to balance things.

Really? I never took you to be contrarian, Swift.
So what if MarianoRF announced a unanimous "win," we all know this poll is an exercise in mere opinion. I don't see the harm in giving an honest opinion.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-04, 04:14 PM
I voted No. As I stated in my first post in this thread, I don't really think No, I think "we don't know", but when you announced that Yes had won unanimously I entered a No just to balance things.

I don't feel there is anything to discuss, other than what has been discussed already.

ditto - its not being contrarian, its expressing the view that I might as well do one potato two potato to arrive at a conclusion

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-04, 04:17 PM
I don't see the harm

No you don't see it, do you?

A.DIM
2013-Jan-04, 04:32 PM
No you don't see it, do you?

The harm in giving an honest opinion what regards life beyond Earth? Nope.

Solfe
2013-Jan-04, 07:28 PM
I'd also like to hear the arguments for voting NO, really. It would be very interesting to discuss about the NO possibility.

I said I was "wildly optimistic" about finding life else where and mention the case for Mars. I voted no because I think "life" to be found indirectly for several times on Mars, studied and refuted each time, until a sample return mission occurs. I fully expect that hands on examination of rock with fossilized microbes from Mars to put the whole thing to bed. The issue is, it wouldn't be alive and therefore only increases the possibility of life elsewhere with another data point.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-04, 08:02 PM
Perfectly put in words. We are using here common sense: having the Universe billons of stars, planets and galaxies, it's hard to believe that we are the only ones. Could be possible, but everytime we discover new exoplanets and solar systems, we all "feel" that life is out there, waiting to be found.

If the Universe were composed by just one much smaller galaxy, with just a few planets, I'd probably say that we are alone. But being so enormous and vast, with uncountable stars, planets and galaxies... it's almost impossible to say NO, don't you feel the same?



My feelings exactly, and probably the feelings of most astronomers/cosmologists and scientists in general.
The point being there is no harm in having an opinion in science, in fact it is part of human nature.
And yes, there is a non zero chance I could possibily be wrong.

TooMany
2013-Jan-04, 08:18 PM
It's very surprising in a scientific forum to see that 1/5th have the opinion that the only occurrence of life in the Universe is here on Earth. Would any "no" voters care to explain how they reached such an opinion? We are talking about a speculation here that is as yet untested, but apparently the "no" voters have the expectation that there is something uniquely miraculous about Earth that cannot possible be repeated in a universe with at least 100 billion billion stars.

Let's hear it!

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-04, 08:52 PM
I said I was "wildly optimistic" about finding life else where and mention the case for Mars. I voted no because I think "life" to be found indirectly for several times on Mars, studied and refuted each time, until a sample return mission occurs. I fully expect that hands on examination of rock with fossilized microbes from Mars to put the whole thing to bed. The issue is, it wouldn't be alive and therefore only increases the possibility of life elsewhere with another data point.

Then we'll just be discussing whether or not life exists outside our solar system...

(Or would that (in the absence of extra-solar evidence) allow the "no specific proof means no" folk to consider "2 means more than 1" and accept "possibly many"?)

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-04, 08:55 PM
No, I wouldn't do that. Because you see, we already know that WE DON'T KNOW. The simple idea with this poll, is to have a better picture of our feelings, what the intuition tells us.


So in other words, because that's your belief, you didn't think it was important to include an option for a very commonly expressed position on this board, and ended up with a poor poll question.

Solfe
2013-Jan-04, 09:25 PM
Then we'll just be discussing whether or not life exists outside our solar system...

(Or would that (in the absence of extra-solar evidence) allow the "no specific proof means no" folk to consider "2 means more than 1" and accept "possibly many"?)

Personally, I would lean on the side of wondering about life other places in the solar system then go on a mad chase to find it. It would be amusing if the only place we couldn't attempt to find life was Venus. Jupiter and the other giants are out, but they do have interesting moons.

If the game changed to "where you can't find life?", then speculation about other systems would be a lighter burden.

ZunarJ5
2013-Jan-04, 09:29 PM
So in other words, because that's your belief, you didn't think it was important to include an option for a very commonly expressed position on this board, and ended up with a poor poll question.

I think the two option poll is perfectly fine. It is a yes or no question... why do people feel the need to dance around such things?

Perhaps the questions should have been worded slightly different... I would have asked "In your opinion, is there life beyond Earth".

There is no need to include anything other than yes or no. If you're so uncomfortable with expressing a direct opinion then abstain from the poll.

I think it is especially valid considering the amount of threads that get side tracked and hung up on irrelevant points of logic. MarionRF asked a direct yes or no question, no need to hi-jack the thread with fence walking and try and blame the OP.

ZunarJ5
2013-Jan-04, 09:45 PM
Personally, I would lean on the side of wondering about life other places in the solar system then go on a mad chase to find it. It would be amusing if the only place we couldn't attempt to find life was Venus. Jupiter and the other giants are out, but they do have interesting moons.

If the game changed to "where you can't find life?", then speculation about other systems would be a lighter burden.

Just wondering... with time shouldn't Venus be explorable? What about the giants is out? The ability to explore them or the possibility of life?

As far as "where you can't find life?"... well, I suppose it would be difficult to imagine "life" existing on the surface of a star, or beyond the event horizon of a black hole, or in the depths of a void.... but honestly, if you want to get right down to it, the "we don't know" argument applies here as well.

In fact, as far as "we don't know"s are concerned, I find it easier to accept the possibility of some form of life existing on the surface of a star than Earth being the sole carrier of life in the universe.

KABOOM
2013-Jan-04, 09:45 PM
My $0.02

Personally, I think that a poll with "we don't know" is a cop out. Obviously, itis the correct answer since we don't know. However, I think that the spirit of the OP's poll (and he since confirmed this) is essentially, "In your informed opinion, do you feel that life exists beyond Earth?" Thus, the answer that I'd be looking for, to use a court of law standard, is "more likely than not" (within one's own opinion, greater than 51% likely). So, while there could be a few people who are simply 50/50 fence-sitters, most would be ready to render an educated guess.

Secondly, I too am very interested in the basis for a "NO" opinion. In other words in the same manner that many whoo opine "yes" are able to articulate why they feel that way, I would like to see the same from the "no" camp. Intellectually, given the view that large galaxies like the MW house 100-200 billion planets and the organic compounds that are available in our solar system are readily available elsewhere -- why, "NO"?. Even, most cases of "rare Earth" that I've read eventually get to "yes" but its rare. Some have posited that it is less probably for single cellular life to "evolve" into complex animal life than it is for single cellular life to form in the first place (read Nick Lane's book, "Oxygen: The molecule that made the world").

Solfe
2013-Jan-04, 09:57 PM
Just wondering... with time shouldn't Venus be explorable? What about the giants is out? The ability to explore them or the possibility of life?

Well, from a purely practical perceptive, the issue is time. On average, I have less than 35 years until my opinion will expire and so will I. Is it practical to develop that tech in less than 35 years under current conditions? The same goes for gas and ice giants.

I figure those missions need 10 years of planning and 5+ years of travel time. The first mission to find life will get something wrong. That leaves me only a 5 year window to do it a second time. And that is only if the stars... er, planets are aligned correctly.

Edit - Short of receiving a message via SETI, but I would say all bets are off it that happens. We can safely forget about any disagreements at that point.

Mars is my only option in my lifetime. There is a non-zero chance that we have the correct hardware there now, but even then, the means of discovery would have to be extrodinary to be conclusive with the tech involved.

ZunarJ5
2013-Jan-04, 10:08 PM
My $0.02

Personally, I think that a poll with "we don't know" is a cop out. Obviously, itis the correct answer since we don't know. However, I think that the spirit of the OP's poll (and he since confirmed this) is essentially, "In your informed opinion, do you feel that life exists beyond Earth?" Thus, the answer that I'd be looking for, to use a court of law standard, is "more likely than not" (within one's own opinion, greater than 51% likely). So, while there could be a few people who are simply 50/50 fence-sitters, most would be ready to render an educated guess.

Secondly, I too am very interested in the basis for a "NO" opinion. In other words in the same manner that many whoo opine "yes" are able to articulate why they feel that way, I would like to see the same from the "no" camp. Intellectually, given the view that large galaxies like the MW house 100-200 billion planets and the organic compounds that are available in our solar system are readily available elsewhere -- why, "NO"?. Even, most cases of "rare Earth" that I've read eventually get to "yes" but its rare. Some have posited that it is less probably for single cellular life to "evolve" into complex animal life than it is for single cellular life to form in the first place (read Nick Lane's book, "Oxygen: The molecule that made the world").

I'll wager a guess at the reasoning behind the "no's".

It is entirely out of a desire to express frustration with the poll and the lack of a third option, or for contrary reasons other than that.

I would be very surprised if any of the "no" voters could articulate a logical reason behind their choice.

I am not posting this to be antagonistic, upon reviewing it almost seems that way. I think it is a telling point about the accumulated knowledge of humanity and our ability to create informed opinions based on knowledge, experience, and logic.

There is something to be said for human intuition.

ZunarJ5
2013-Jan-04, 10:12 PM
Well, from a purely practical perceptive, the issue is time. On average, I have less than 35 years until my opinion will expire and so will I. Is it practical to develop that tech in less than 35 years under current conditions? The same goes for gas and ice giants.

I figure those missions need 10 years of planning and 5+ years of travel time. The first mission to find life will get something wrong. That leaves me only a 5 year window to do it a second time. And that is only if the stars... er, planets are aligned correctly.

Edit - Short of receiving a message via SETI, but I would say all bets are off it that happens. We can safely forget about any disagreements at that point.

Mars is my only option in my lifetime. There is a non-zero chance that we have the correct hardware there now, but even then, the means of discovery would have to be extrodinary to be conclusive with the tech involved.

Oh, I see.

I suppose I just don't feel that the validity of an opinion dies with a person who holds it. This is especially true if held by more than one person, and even truer if the opinion is held by successive generations of people.

Or perhaps I am just misunderstanding you entirely.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-04, 10:57 PM
I think the two option poll is perfectly fine. It is a yes or no question... why do people feel the need to dance around such things?

You've really got it backwards, as have many on this thread (and the many similar ones that have spread like weeds in the last week or so).

Saying "we don't know" is not a cop-out or an act of sitting on the fence. It is acknowledging the fact that both possibilities exist. To my mind, that's the only scientific position, the only adult position you should take. The very idea of favouring one and rejecting the other at this early stage is frankly contemptible, or at least ridiculous.

I mean, sure, right now it feels like the Yes option is much more likely than the No option, but we should have the sense to realise that we're so lacking in crucial knowledge, mainly about abiogenesis, that this doesn't mean much.

90 years ago, the mainstream model of planet formation led us to believe there would be very few planets and there was only one galaxy, so a poll like this would have favoured the No option. This would have been based on false reasoning. In a century or two from now, we might have new information that makes the No option seem much more likely again - for instance, we might have sent starships to 1000 stars with Earth-sized planets in the goldilocks zone, and every one of them might have failed to advance beyond a sea of amino acids, which would lead us to believe that life doesn't usually arise, and maybe hasn't arisen anywhere else. Or we might have made contact with an advanced civilisation, in which case we no longer have to make guesses.

We should be able to accommodate these possibilities, and others. That is where imagination comes into science, not just believing what you want to believe.


Perhaps the questions should have been worded slightly different... I would have asked "In your opinion, is there life beyond Earth".

But what is the value of such an opinion?

When an opinion is pretty much indistinguishable from a coin toss, it's not an opinion worth sharing.


There is no need to include anything other than yes or no. If you're so uncomfortable with expressing a direct opinion then abstain from the poll.

I am abstaining, but it is not a matter of discomfort. It is a matter of displeasure at seeing the waters muddied on a board that is supposed to be promoting science and countering nonsense.


I think it is especially valid considering the amount of threads that get side tracked and hung up on irrelevant points of logic.

You consider logic irrelevant, and earlier you stated, "Some of us are fortunate enough to be free of the need for evidence."

Again, this is supposed to be a science board.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-04, 11:12 PM
I think there are clear trends in the popular opinion of this issue. That includes "scientists" expression of opinion.
If you go back 50 years, you were a crank if you thought there was life on other worlds (or rather, if you expressed that thought in intelligent company) - if you go back a further 50 years, just about everyone thought there was, even advanced civilisations on Mars. And so it goes back through recorded history to the ancient Philosophers.
Peoples "intuitive" feeling is most likely based on the cultural norm of the time rather than scientific merit of the 2 options.

Swift
2013-Jan-04, 11:22 PM
I would be very surprised if any of the "no" voters could articulate a logical reason behind their choice.

I am not posting this to be antagonistic, upon reviewing it almost seems that way.

To my mind, that's the only scientific position, the only adult position you should take. The very idea of favouring one and rejecting the other at this early stage is frankly contemptible, or at least ridiculous.
I will again remind everyone that politeness is paramount and that the two posts quoted (among many) are getting very borderline on acceptable.

Do not imply or even suggest that those who disagree with you are illogical, inarticulate, childish or ridiculous, even if you think it true.

If anyone has the thought that what they are about to post is going to seen as antagonistic, then please do not post it until you have rephrased it in a better manner.

Thank you.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-04, 11:27 PM
You've really got it backwards, as have many on this thread (and the many similar ones that have spread like weeds in the last week or so).

Saying "we don't know" is not a cop-out or an act of sitting on the fence. It is acknowledging the fact that both possibilities exist. To my mind, that's the only scientific position, the only adult position you should take. The very idea of favouring one and rejecting the other at this early stage is frankly contemptible, or at least ridiculous.

I mean, sure, right now it feels like the Yes option is much more likely than the No option, but we should have the sense to realise that we're so lacking in crucial knowledge, mainly about abiogenesis, that this doesn't mean much.



I beg to differ....
"Saying we don't know" is exactly that...Sitting on the fence.
Again despite the philosophical debate against, numbers and extent of the Universe, those issues plus the stuff of life being everywhere we look is reason enough for many people, scientists and non scientists alike, to be of the opinion we are not alone.
But yes, there is a non zero chance that the majority of opinion could be wrong.
And it's all part and parcel of what science is...Imagination, assumptions, and knowledge...and then formulating logical theories.

The thing also you need to remember is even if ET life is rare, we need to ask how rare?...
And relatively speaking, that rarity taking the numbers and extent of the Universe into question, would probably still be a meaningful figure...A thousand planets even if all in the Goldilock's zone is still a drop in the Ocean when taken in comparison with the Universe/space/time as a whole.
As with the homegenious and Isotropic assumptions about the Universe, we would need a far bigger sample to or assume ET life probably does not exist.

I not only assume based on numbers and extent that ET does exist, I predict that we will have proof within some of our lifetimes.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-04, 11:29 PM
You've really got it backwards, as have many on this thread (and the many similar ones that have spread like weeds in the last week or so).

Saying "we don't know" is not a cop-out or an act of sitting on the fence. It is acknowledging the fact that both possibilities exist. To my mind, that's the only scientific position, the only adult position you should take. The very idea of favouring one and rejecting the other at this early stage is frankly contemptible, or at least ridiculous.

I mean, sure, right now it feels like the Yes option is much more likely than the No option, but we should have the sense to realise that we're so lacking in crucial knowledge, mainly about abiogenesis, that this doesn't mean much.

90 years ago, the mainstream model of planet formation led us to believe there would be very few planets and there was only one galaxy, so a poll like this would have favoured the No option. This would have been based on false reasoning. In a century or two from now, we might have new information that makes the No option seem much more likely again - for instance, we might have sent starships to 1000 stars with Earth-sized planets in the goldilocks zone, and every one of them might have failed to advance beyond a sea of amino acids, which would lead us to believe that life doesn't usually arise, and maybe hasn't arisen anywhere else. Or we might have made contact with an advanced civilisation, in which case we no longer have to make guesses.

We should be able to accommodate these possibilities, and others. That is where imagination comes into science, not just believing what you want to believe.

But what is the value of such an opinion?

When an opinion is pretty much indistinguishable from a coin toss, it's not an opinion worth sharing.


There is no need to include anything other than yes or no. If you're so uncomfortable with expressing a direct opinion then abstain from the poll.
I am abstaining, but it is not a matter of discomfort. It is a matter of displeasure at seeing the waters muddied on a board that is supposed to be promoting science and countering nonsense.I am not voting either .. for all the reasons pointed out by Paul B.

I don't really care about opinions on this matter, either. And that is not intended to antagonise, or offend … I'm just sharing how I really, truly feel about opinions on this topic. I still respect others' rights to have their own .. they just don't impact on the nature and scales of the physical universe, or our physical understanding of it, which is my focus.


You consider logic irrelevant, and earlier you stated, "Some of us are fortunate enough to be free of the need for evidence."

Again, this is supposed to be a science board.The board might be about striving to achieve that .. but its pretty obvious that this particular Forum, isn't about that at all .. which is fine .. others should just admit publically that its all about science-fiction and opinions about science-fiction!

Unfortunately, it seems that the skills needed to admit that publically, and with confidence, are largely absent(??)

PS: I'm deliberately trying to avoid antagonism here .. (this post was also composed prior to Swift's moderation comments … I trust they are acceptable .. its kind of tricky to share feelings without drawing criticism .. but I have tried to do this).

Selfsim
2013-Jan-04, 11:53 PM
As with the homegenious and Isotropic assumptions about the Universe, we would need a far bigger sample to or assume ET life probably does not exist. Once again, it is not scientifically practically possible to conclude from empirical test data, that ET life 'probably does not exist'. It is not possible to search the entire observable universe, and implement a test at every possible site, which excludes all other unconstrained 'possibilities'.

You set a target which is not scientifically practically feasible. It may be feasible on some other basis though .. which seems to be part of the 'rationale' presented(??)

What is needed is another instance of carbon based life which originates from beyond Earth, (or its near vicinity).

A.DIM
2013-Jan-05, 12:32 AM
The board might be about striving to achieve that .. but its pretty obvious that this particular Forum, isn't about that at all .. which is fine .. others should just admit publically that its all about science-fiction and opinions about science-fiction!

Unfortunately, it seems that the skills needed to admit that publically, and with confidence, are largely absent(??)

It is said that one of the most exciting and active fields in Science is the one without a subject - astrobiology. It is true; the search for life elsewhere is the basis for much space science. All this "science fiction" is what drives the many astronomers, microbiologists, chemists, geologists etc to do what they do, and produce results. No, life beyond Earth has yet to be found but in the minds of many a scientist, it is only a matter of time, especially considering the various and many discoveries which suggest it will be found. As well, I'm reminded of how oft science fiction has become science fact.

Yet another opinion: The high probability of finding life beyond Earth (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/04/135040012/the-high-probability-of-finding-life-beyond-earth).

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-05, 01:51 AM
I have started a new poll, to include options that should have been in this thread's poll. Here's the link:

http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/140928-Is-there-life-beyond-Earth-New-and-Improved-Poll

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 01:52 AM
It is said that one of the most exciting and active fields in Science is the one without a subject - astrobiology. It is true; the search for life elsewhere is the basis for much space science. All this "science fiction" is what drives the many astronomers, microbiologists, chemists, geologists etc to do what they do, and produce results. No, life beyond Earth has yet to be found but in the minds of many a scientist, it is only a matter of time, especially considering the various and many discoveries which suggest it will be found. As well, I'm reminded of how oft science fiction has become science fact.

Yet another opinion: The high probability of finding life beyond Earth (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/04/135040012/the-high-probability-of-finding-life-beyond-earth).Thanks for the link, A.DIM .. (I read the Physorg article, also).
I have no qualms that many professional scientists share the same dreams of the rest of humanity. And that says more about humanity than it does about the Physical Universe.

This particular article can be read from the perspective of it all being about Earth, and after all, …. it is!

Humans take from the past, put that into the present, and create a future which repeats the past. (Eg: how often do folk pride themselves on their past experience? .. It seems to get worse with age, also … ;) ). That is all I see going on in this particular article. Many great discoveries have also come about from a "don't know" basis, (eg: Cook's epic voyages of discovery .. which were actually the empirical tests which falsified what 'seemed right' to the geographers of the day). This is also a powerful motivator for humans and shouldn't be overlooked or underestimated, and yet it is, particularly in this poll/discussion.

Thanks for the perspective, though … I personally attempt to read every link posted on this topic .. it all goes into the melting pot! (I find it more satisfying than listening to opinions because history is knowledge, and no-one can 'know it all', so there's something to actually gain by acquiring more of it).

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-05, 02:03 AM
The board might be about striving to achieve that .. but its pretty obvious that this particular Forum, isn't about that at all .. which is fine .. others should just admit publically that its all about science-fiction and opinions about science-fiction!


Please state your definition of "science fiction."

In an earlier example of your use of "sci-fi" or "science fiction," I said this, and it applies here as well:



"sci-fi" is not a useful term in this context. There are many definitions of "sci-fi" and it isn't clear what you mean by the term (except that it generally seems to involve your personal incredulity regardless of physical plausibility). If you want to argue against an idea, show why it won't work by the science. Saying it is "sci-fi" or is "impractical" with no additional context is useless.

Incidentally, most of the science discussion on this board involves stuff that I used to read about in science fiction stories (like exoplanet discoveries, asteroid missions, Mars missions, now with a nuclear powered robot that shoots at rocks with it laser, Saturn missions with close-up views of the rings, and on and on).

This is everyday stuff, but all of it would have been incredible science fiction in my teenage years. So a comment about "sci-fi" (especially when you have provided no definition of what you mean by the term) isn't useful, and generally just looks like another dismissal from personal incredulity.

Solfe
2013-Jan-05, 02:43 AM
Or perhaps I am just misunderstanding you entirely.

Perhaps. I am an art person.

My paintings and sculptures will live a long time, but my opinions go with me. Especially the ones that have something to do with math and science. It is better that way. :)

Colin Robinson
2013-Jan-05, 03:03 AM
I think there are clear trends in the popular opinion of this issue. That includes "scientists" expression of opinion.
If you go back 50 years, you were a crank if you thought there was life on other worlds (or rather, if you expressed that thought in intelligent company)

I agree with your basic point, that opinions (including professional opinions of scientists) have changed over time. But I think your chronology is a bit out...

Until the Viking probes did their thing (1975 to 1982), the idea of some sort of life on Mars was taken very seriously. That is why the Viking probes had life detection experiments as part of their scientific package. But negative conclusions were drawn from the fact that Viking found nil organic compounds (more precisely, the only organics found were trace chlorinated hydrocarbons, interpreted as cleaning compounds from Earth)...

After that, Norman Horowitz (a NASA scientist involved with Viking) made a statement where he said (quoting from memory): "Almost certainly, we are alone..." He specified that he was talking about the solar system, not the whole universe. But in those days the very existence of planets beyond this solar system was unconfirmed...


- if you go back a further 50 years, just about everyone thought there was, even advanced civilisations on Mars.

Well, Percival Lowell thought that. The biologist E.R. Wallace argued that Mars could not support life-forms more sophisticated that reptiles...


And so it goes back through recorded history to the ancient Philosophers.
Peoples "intuitive" feeling is most likely based on the cultural norm of the time rather than scientific merit of the 2 options.

Even when information is incomplete, isn't it possible to do the best you can with the information you have?

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 03:17 AM
Please state your definition of "science fiction."

In an earlier example of your use of "sci-fi" or "science fiction," I said this, and it applies here as well:I think this should be discussed in the thread in which it came up, ('The Copernican Fallacy'), where it was asserted that you should distinguish it for yourself … for a good reason. (Hopefully, such an exercise would also serve as an example of an important technique for others, too).

I'm happy to discuss it .. but I think its fairly clear that it won't be a brief discussion.
… (Or perhaps in a new thread altogether?) …

PS: These folk should have their thread about opinions and intuition .. I'm trying to minimise divergence from that theme, whilst briefly expressing my own short views in keeping with the theme ...

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-05, 03:31 AM
Even when information is incomplete, isn't it possible to do the best you can with the information you have?

You know, I considered this very issue of incomplete information. In a way science is like detective work, and the most brilliant detective is the one who can get to the truth of the matter with the least amount of information.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-05, 04:06 AM
Even when information is incomplete, isn't it possible to do the best you can with the information you have?

its a question of degrees of confidence isnt it. Just about everything is incomplete.
When you consider it from the perspective of standard deviation, a discovery being a 5 sigma result. Thats 99.99994% confidence you arnt being fooled by a random result.
Here we have a situation where the error bars on any assessment on the frequency of abiogenesis are enormous -
So how confident are you that there must be life on another world... 52%? 67%?....how about 92.3%?. OK, you're really really sure, you're 98% confident. Even that would be no where near good enough, even if you think you could justify it.
But I cant reach anything like that, because the error bars on the probability of abiogenesis are so huge. Because I am missing that vital bit of information, effectively to me its 50/50

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 04:09 AM
You know, I considered this very issue of incomplete information. In a way science is like detective work, and the most brilliant detective is the one who can get to the truth of the matter with the least amount of information.OMG(osh)!! :) 'Truth' of the matter??? 'Most brilliant'???
… Cough .. cough … I'm exasperated .. (it just keeps getting better and better … this is great!) :)

PS: (Don't take me too seriously here Paul … I'm in a kind of whimsical frame of mind here … and why not, eh?)
:)

danscope
2013-Jan-05, 05:26 AM
Genuine science is based on genuine data. There is no data to support a theory on ET intelligence or the possible existance of
intelligent life away from Earth. None. Nil. Wishful thinking and science fiction /fantasy remain that which they are.
Stories and wishful opinions. Not that there's anything wrong with sci-fi . But it must be labeled as such.
Facts and evidence remain as a foundation for science. Fantasy and fancy have always been with us.
They are..... entertaining. Science remains as the domain for truth based on evidence. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Science can prove it.
Dan

Colin Robinson
2013-Jan-05, 06:42 AM
its a question of degrees of confidence isnt it. Just about everything is incomplete.
When you consider it from the perspective of standard deviation, a discovery being a 5 sigma result. Thats 99.99994% confidence you arnt being fooled by a random result.
Here we have a situation where the error bars on any assessment on the frequency of abiogenesis are enormous -

It's true we don't know its frequency. Still I prefer to generalize from a sample size of one (one habitable planet known to have had life since soon after its formation), than to generalize from a sample size of zero (zero habitable planets known not to have life)...


So how confident are you that there must be life on another world... 52%? 67%?....how about 92.3%?. OK, you're really really sure, you're 98% confident. Even that would be no where near good enough, even if you think you could justify it.

I'd be reluctant to put a figure on how confident I am. I don't really see the point of quantifying it in that way. I do agree with you that an opinion (even if confidently held) is not the same as a discovery.

I'd put it this way... While I don't know whether there is or isn't life on Titan, if I was asked my view about sending a robot lander there with equipment that might discover simple life-forms, equipment like a microscope-camera plus a mass spectrometer, I'd say: Yes, I think that should happen.

I would also support examination of the water gushing out of Enceladus, to see whether it contains living things.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 07:29 AM
I do agree with you that an opinion (even if confidently held) is not the same as a discovery.

I'd put it this way... While I don't know whether there is or isn't life on Titan, if I was asked my view about sending a robot lander there with equipment that might discover simple life-forms, equipment like a microscope-camera plus a mass spectrometer, I'd say: Yes, I think that should happen.

I would also support examination of the water gushing out of Enceladus, to see whether it contains living things.Here's a laugh ...
What if such a mission happened and the conclusion was: achem ... achem (throat clearing) ...
"Yes ladies and gentlemen its true ... we have the results, and after much consideration, we all agree that Titan (or Enceladus), has ....(wait for it) ..... nanobacteria"
:)
What a classic ..!!.... (what to make of that, eh? .. what a fizzer that would be!)
:)

PS: (For the curious: 'nanaobacteria' on Earth appear to be ruled out as living entities, but correspond to self-propagating mineral-fetuin complexes ... which appear very much like living structures .. but aren't. The debate would then rage about how they got there, given that they also seem to be present inside the human body, of all places).

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-05, 01:10 PM
I'd put it this way... While I don't know whether there is or isn't life on Titan, if I was asked my view about sending a robot lander there with equipment that might discover simple life-forms, equipment like a microscope-camera plus a mass spectrometer, I'd say: Yes, I think that should happen.


so would I - I dont see the connect.
While I dont have a belief one way or the other, I'm still on board with trying to find the answer as being the main driver of our exploration and space science programs

TooMany
2013-Jan-05, 07:10 PM
This discussion begs the question "what is scientific knowledge?" Virtually everything we know about the universe beyond the solar system is based on highly indirect evidence and the assumption that physics is the same everywhere. We don't really know that stars 10 billion years ago were powered by fusion, but we are so convinced that this must be true, we have no reasonable doubt and accept it as fact. As soon as the first extraterrestrial life is found, this argument will end and thereafter life will be understood as a common outcome of the physical laws of the universe just as stars are.

Colin Robinson
2013-Jan-05, 07:23 PM
so would I

Glad we agree about the desirability of a Titan lander.


- I dont see the connect.
While I dont have a belief one way or the other, I'm still on board with trying to find the answer as being the main driver of our exploration and space science programs

What I'm saying is that there are different shades of "don't know"... E.g.

1. We don't know, but there is nothing fanciful about the idea. It is a relevant question for science to address.

OR

2. We don't know, and the whole idea is a fanciful one. Until positive evidence emerges by serendipity, science should not bother with it.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-05, 07:43 PM
It is said that one of the most exciting and active fields in Science is the one without a subject - astrobiology. It is true; the search for life elsewhere is the basis for much space science. All this "science fiction" is what drives the many astronomers, microbiologists, chemists, geologists etc to do what they do, and produce results. No, life beyond Earth has yet to be found but in the minds of many a scientist, it is only a matter of time, especially considering the various and many discoveries which suggest it will be found. As well, I'm reminded of how oft science fiction has become science fact.

Yet another opinion: The high probability of finding life beyond Earth (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/04/135040012/the-high-probability-of-finding-life-beyond-earth).


Agreed...
The problem here appears to be that some seem to object to the fact that the majority using what scientific data that is available, reach the logical assumption that we in all likelyhood are not alone.

With the asking of the question to the nay sayers as to why they think that way, I suggest one of the reasons would be religiously orientated.
This not being a scientific answer may then be prompting some to go with the "we do not know" answer.
I'm not saying that is the reason of those in this poll, but I do see that as a reason for the average man on the street.
Not being a nay sayer though and not being able to read minds, means I could be wrong.

For those that adhere to the mainstream view and the strict code of the scientific method, again they must remember that although that is the desired end product, science is far more then that, and needs the other "abilities" to achieve that end product.

I am not and never have been critical of mainstream science and the scientific method, but I certainly am critical of those that seem to be critical of others that see the scientific data that is available, pointing towards the probable existance of ET.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-05, 07:48 PM
This discussion begs the question "what is scientific knowledge?" Virtually everything we know about the universe beyond the solar system is based on highly indirect evidence and the assumption that physics is the same everywhere. We don't really know that stars 10 billion years ago were powered by fusion, but we are so convinced that this must be true, we have no reasonable doubt and accept it as fact. As soon as the first extraterrestrial life is found, this argument will end and thereafter life will be understood as a common outcome of the physical laws of the universe just as stars are.

Yes, and is the basis of what I have been saying, but put far more admirably.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-05, 09:52 PM
Frankly Astroboy, I find your post 2 up to be extremely offensive - I have never seen anything from any of the "nay" sayers here to suggest they had motivations you suspect - and I certainly dont

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-05, 10:01 PM
Frankly Astroboy, I find your post 2 up to be extremely offensive - I have never seen anything from any of the "nay" sayers here to suggest they had motivations you suspect - and I certainly dont

It was never meant to be offensive and did not necessarilly apply to posters here, which is why I also said....
"I'm not saying that is the reason of those in this poll, but I do see that as a reason for the average man on the street."
I have personal experience with that reason with a close friend.

Swift
2013-Jan-05, 10:04 PM
Frankly Astroboy, I find your post 2 up to be extremely offensive - I have never seen anything from any of the "nay" sayers here to suggest they had motivations you suspect - and I certainly dont
If you find a post to be offensive you do not reply in thread, you Report it.

This is the last warning I'm posting in this thread. Next offense, no matter how minor, gets an infraction.

Noclevername
2013-Jan-05, 10:06 PM
It was never meant to be offensive and did not necessarilly apply to posters here, which is why I also said....
"I'm not saying that is the reason of those in this poll, but I do see that as a reason for the average man on the street."
I have personal experience with that reason with a close friend.

Just some free advice, I think this thread is flame-bait enough without bringing in things that have nothing to do with any of the posts.

EDIT: Just saw the Mod post, sorry. I'll accept whatever punishment you deem appropriate.

TooMany
2013-Jan-05, 10:14 PM
Frankly Astroboy, I find your post 2 up to be extremely offensive - I have never seen anything from any of the "nay" sayers here to suggest they had motivations you suspect - and I certainly dont

The nay sayers have been asked to support their conjecture that life exists nowhere else but Earth, but we haven't heard a rationale except "we don't know". That's true, we don't know. The question is "what is your assessment, do you expect that there is life beyond earth or not"? It's not completely different from considering the possibility of any natural process occurring elsewhere. For example, are there other planets with oceans or is earth the only one?

Are we going to hear the reasoning behind any of the "no" opinions?

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-05, 10:27 PM
The nay sayers have been asked to support their conjecture that life exists nowhere else but Earth, but we haven't heard a rationale except "we don't know". That's true, we don't know. The question is "what is your assessment, do you expect that there is life beyond earth or not"? It's not completely different from considering the possibility of any natural process occurring elsewhere. For example, are there other planets with oceans or is earth the only one?

Are we going to hear the reasoning behind any of the "no" opinions?

they have been given already in this thread - its an expression of a coin toss in a binary poll

TooMany
2013-Jan-05, 10:36 PM
they have been given already in this thread - its an expression of a coin toss in a binary poll

That does not count as a reasoned opinion, that simply evades an actual assessment. You are certainly entitled to abstain. Did you vote in the poll?

Try these questions. Do oceans exist on other planets? Does quartz form on other rocky planets? Do other rocky planets have atmospheres? Would you render an opinion on those questions or are they a "coin toss" too since "we don't know".

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 10:41 PM
With the asking of the question to the nay sayers as to why they think that way, I suggest one of the reasons would be religiously orientated.Sure .. and purely as a contribution to clarifying where I'm personally coming from, and to remove any lingering doubts you may have, and for the record, in my case, I'm happy to volunteer that religious beliefs are definitely not a factor influencing my perspective on this.

(But there again, I don't think I'm a 'naysayer', either … am I?)

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-05, 10:52 PM
That does not count as a reasoned opinion, that simply evades an actual assessment. You are certainly entitled to abstain. Did you vote in the poll?

Try these questions. Do oceans exist on other planets? Does quartz form on other rocky planets? Do other rocky planets have atmospheres? Would you render an opinion on those questions or are they a "coin toss" too since "we don't know".

heres a question for you....spot the difference between oceans, quartz, planetary atmospheres and abiogenesis

Selfsim
2013-Jan-05, 10:57 PM
That does not count as a reasoned opinion, that simply evades an actual assessment.Where did the 'need' for this "actual assessment" come from?

Such a 'need', I would have thought, would not be what such a poll is about?
Where did it come from? What's the relevance?

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-05, 11:10 PM
they have been given already in this thread - its an expression of a coin toss in a binary poll


That does not count as a reasoned opinion

That's rather the point, though, isn't it? When neither the positive nor the negative answer is supported by evidence, you might as well toss a coin.


Try these questions. Do oceans exist on other planets? Does quartz form on other rocky planets? Do other rocky planets have atmospheres? Would you render an opinion on those questions or are they a "coin toss" too since "we don't know".

Obviously we know other rocky planets have atmospheres - Venus, Mars, and you could also throw in Titan and other moons if you want to use a fairly loose definition of planet. So when we talk about planetary atmospheres, we are not just tossing coins.

Where oceans are concerned, we have a pretty good understanding of how oceans are formed, and indirect evidence of other oceans. We also have a pretty good understanding of how quartz is formed. No, we don't know that oceans and quartz are to be found on extrasolar planets, but in view of our understanding of how they are formed, it is a reasonable expectation that they are to be found there.

In the case of abiogenesis, we don't know how that works, and for that reason it's not the same as oceans and quartz. The only thing we know for sure about abiogenesis is that it happened once. Did it happen more than once? My gut says it happened many times, but my gut is not science.

We can imagine all sorts of things about other planets. We can invent our Dunes and Skaros and Gethens and Gallifreys and Vulcans and so on, and we can put a lot of thought into how they might be, and we might even hit on an imaginary planet that really does resemble an actual one. There's nothing wrong with doing that. But we need to be able to compartmentalise which products of our imagination are supported by both evidence and reason, and which are not.

And a universe of lifeless planets is just as much an unsupported product of the imagination.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-05, 11:59 PM
Sure .. and purely as a contribution to clarifying where I'm personally coming from, and to remove any lingering doubts you may have, and for the record, in my case, I'm happy to volunteer that religious beliefs are definitely not a factor influencing my perspective on this.

(But there again, I don't think I'm a 'naysayer', either … am I?)


I certainly had no doubts re that issue and as I said was not inferring that on any particular one posting.

And I accept you are not a naysayer more a fence sitter. :-) [tic]

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 12:08 AM
And I accept you are not a naysayer more a fence sitter. :-) [tic]

The term "fence-sitter" has negative connotations. For that reason I don't think it's an appropriate term for people who are honestly acknowledging the limits of their knowledge.

TooMany
2013-Jan-06, 12:52 AM
In the case of abiogenesis, we don't know how that works, and for that reason it's not the same as oceans and quartz. The only thing we know for sure about abiogenesis is that it happened once. Did it happen more than once? My gut says it happened many times, but my gut is not science.


The truth is that we don't know a whole lot about the formation of oceans but it appears that Mars had some too. So that makes you feel secure that oceans are not unique to Earth. But perhaps you would argue that without the example of Mars, the existence of other oceans is a coin toss? There is a saying that anything that can happen will happen. Insofar as science has searched, this is a truism for all natural processes. That is they do not occur by accident but rather are a result of the behavior of matter under certain conditions and thus occur repeatedly under similar conditions whether it is something simple like a quartz rock or complex like the organic materials found in some meteorites.

I cannot see a reason that we (as scientists) would presume that life is some special natural process that is almost impossible. We find organics throughout the solar system and even in interstellar space. These molecules form. It's as undeniable as the formation of quartz given some conditions. You of course know of the Miller–Urey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment) experiment and many others that have followed. But you apparently feel that even with the proof of this natural event (life) occurring here, that it is incorrect to predict that it will occur under similar circumstances, but has only has a 50/50 chance of occurring again in the entire universe?

We do not understand the exact genesis of many things. Many questions remain to be answered about common phenomena on planet Earth. That lack of knowledge however does not lead us to believe that the same phenomena cannot occur elsewhere under similar conditions. In fact, as scientists we expect it to occur.

What mechanism can you offer that would prevent this natural event (life) from occurring under comparable conditions on another planet? I don't think complexity works as a reason any more than it does to deny the evolution of the human eye.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Jan-06, 12:55 AM
Sure .. and purely as a contribution to clarifying where I'm personally coming from, and to remove any lingering doubts you may have, and for the record, in my case, I'm happy to volunteer that religious beliefs are definitely not a factor influencing my perspective on this.

(But there again, I don't think I'm a 'naysayer', either … am I?)

Selfsim, you made this abundantly clear in the Copernican Fallacy thread when you stated, in response to me, the following:


Originally Posted by Hlafordlaes
I cannot treat abiogenesis as anything other than a natural event, based on natural laws. Therefore I generalize it to be a possibility elsewhere, in much the same way I expect the physics in other systems to be the same as ours. The real fail right now is the inability to fully account for how abiogenesis works. Until then, the probabilities cannot be worked out.



Originally Posted by Selfsim
I suspect this is the one thing we can all agree on. Does anybody not agree?

At least, that is one inference I think can be drawn. Sorry to see you felt the need to make that first quote above.

Can we lighten up 'round here?:D

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 02:04 AM
The term "fence-sitter" has negative connotations. For that reason I don't think it's an appropriate term for people who are honestly acknowledging the limits of their knowledge.



While admitting the limitations of my knowledge [as I have said before, I'm no professional] I refute your inference for reasons many have given in this and other threads.
But as I have mentioned before, people far more knowledgable then me are also of the same opinion for the same reasons that you somehow and for some reason find invalid.
All come within the bounds of what science is from the first Imaginative instant, through to the end product.

danscope
2013-Jan-06, 05:32 AM
No. You may be confusing imagination and pre-programing (too much Star Trek ) for science.
Science is bound only by proof. Fantasy and imagination are boundless. But they are not interchangeable.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 05:40 AM
The truth is that we don't know a whole lot about the formation of oceans but it appears that Mars had some too. So that makes you feel secure that oceans are not unique to Earth. But perhaps you would argue that without the example of Mars, the existence of other oceans is a coin toss?

If we had no other examples of oceans, and if we had very little idea of how an ocean could form, then I would talk about extraterrestrial oceans in the same cautious language: "It seems highly probable that there are oceans on other worlds but we must stress that we don't actually know."


I cannot see a reason that we (as scientists) would presume that life is some special natural process that is almost impossible. We find organics throughout the solar system and even in interstellar space. These molecules form. It's as undeniable as the formation of quartz given some conditions. You of course know of the Miller–Urey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment) experiment and many others that have followed. But you apparently feel that even with the proof of this natural event (life) occurring here, that it is incorrect to predict that it will occur under similar circumstances, but has only has a 50/50 chance of occurring again in the entire universe?

We do not understand the exact genesis of many things. Many questions remain to be answered about common phenomena on planet Earth. That lack of knowledge however does not lead us to believe that the same phenomena cannot occur elsewhere under similar conditions. In fact, as scientists we expect it to occur.

You talk as if I believe life is unlikely to have occurred. That's the problem with this particular poll - it's polarised the discussion into people who think there are aliens and people who think there aren't. That doesn't reflect how people think.


What mechanism can you offer that would prevent this natural event (life) from occurring under comparable conditions on another planet? I don't think complexity works as a reason any more than it does to deny the evolution of the human eye.

The evolution of the eye has been modelled and seen to have happened independently in diverse species. We have not modelled how inert organic chemicals make that final step (or series of steps) to full-blown life, nor have we seen other examples of it.

Scenario One: The final step (or series of steps) might be something that happens every time a few organic chemicals come together (although the Miller-Urey experiment has not demonstrated this). The universe might be teeming with life. Chuck some amino acids in a lifeless ocean, stur and wait, and you'll have trilobites crawling onto the land in next to no time.

Scenario Two: The final series of steps is be extremely sensitive to conditions, with each step depending on the success of the previous step. Too much salinity in the ocean and step three fails. Temperature falls one degree below the critical temperature and step eight fails. Tide insufficient to alternately expose and submerge a large extent of land and step fourteen fails. And so on, with each failure resulting in yet another ocean of inert organic chemicals.

I don't know whether Scenario One or Scenario Two is closer to the truth, but both are consistent with life arising on Earth.

The thing is, the universe has a habit of surprising us. Sometimes it feels as if it's doing it deliberately, but really it's just our (understandable) failure to think beyond the familiar. We expect the future to be more-or-less similar to the past, and we expect other planets to be like Earth, or other solar systems to be like our solar system. Again and again our expectations are overturned, yet we don't seem to learn from this.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 06:16 AM
No. You may be confusing imagination and pre-programing (too much Star Trek ) for science.
Science is bound only by proof. Fantasy and imagination are boundless. But they are not interchangeable.



Not in the least....My Imagination in regards to science is confined by the laws of physics and GR and as such, all remain theoretically possible.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 06:24 AM
While admitting the limitations of my knowledge [as I have said before, I'm no professional] I refute your inference for reasons many have given in this and other threads.

What inference?

Selfsim
2013-Jan-06, 06:33 AM
Selfsim, you made this abundantly clear in the Copernican Fallacy thread when you stated, in response to me, the following:
...
At least, that is one inference I think can be drawn. Sorry to see you felt the need to make that first quote above.No worries ... I'm happy to volunteer it .. one never knows what might happen when one shares with honesty ...

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-06, 11:58 AM
The term "fence-sitter" has negative connotations. For that reason I don't think it's an appropriate term for people who are honestly acknowledging the limits of their knowledge.

Stating only the limits of our knowledge and not also the extent of our knowledge is not a true reflection of the current state of research. So if you value honesty, please also acknowledge the extent of our knowledge. Only saying that we don't know, though true, omits the fact that there are also things we do know that are of relevance to answering the question as best we can.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 12:09 PM
Stating only the limits of our knowledge and not also the extent of our knowledge is not a true reflection of the current state of research. So if you value honesty, please also acknowledge the extent of our knowledge. Only saying that we don't know, though true, omits the fact that there are also things we do know that is of relevance to answering the question as best we can.

So who is only saying "we don't know"? How many more times do you want me to acknowledge that, bearing in mind what we know, I favour the idea that there is life beyond Earth (but with the qualifier that we do not know for sure)?

It really feels as if the people who are comfortable with saying "we don't know" are listening, but the others are not.

Noclevername
2013-Jan-06, 12:44 PM
It really feels as if the people who are comfortable with saying "we don't know" are listening, but the others are not.

There you've hit the crux of the problem-- we all acknowledge that we don't know, but some of the posters want to speculate about what seems "likely". Binary opinion polls merely exaggerate and exacerbate the divisions between all points of view. Tossing around relative terms like "know", "believe", "science fiction" and others cloud the matter further rather than provide clarity. And all sides claim theirs is the mainstream view.

There seem to be a strawman effect here, with each "side" claiming the other said things they didn't actually say. Misinterpretation rules the day here.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 01:24 PM
There seem to be a strawman effect here, with each "side" claiming the other said things they didn't actually say. Misinterpretation rules the day here.

I'm not aware of any strawman activities on the part of the "we don't know" crowd. The "other" side began with name-calling ("arrogant"), persisted with the false dichotomy typified by this poll thread ("you either believe there are aliens or you believe there are no aliens") and is now continuing the name-calling with "fence-sitters".

As for speculation, I would be delighted to see some. Speculation about what alien life might be like if it exists. That would be potentially fruitful and interesting.

Noclevername
2013-Jan-06, 02:20 PM
I'm not aware of any strawman activities on the part of the "we don't know" crowd.

As far as I can tell, we are all the "We don't know" crowd. Every poster has said so, no matter their personal opinions.

And I've only seen a couple of posters flinging those insulting Ad Homs. Lumping together all those who argue whatever they're arguing is in my opinion counterproductive.


As for speculation, I would be delighted to see some. Speculation about what alien life might be like if it exists. That would be potentially fruitful and interesting.

Me too. That's what LIS is here for. Too bad those discussions keep getting sidetracked into "choosing sides" in an unclear argument about who means what and how they "meant" it (at this point it seems like they're disagreeing just to disagree now).

Swift
2013-Jan-06, 04:50 PM
As far as I can tell, we are all the "We don't know" crowd. Every poster has said so, no matter their personal opinions.

And I've only seen a couple of posters flinging those insulting Ad Homs. Lumping together all those who argue whatever they're arguing is in my opinion counterproductive.

Let me clarify something. Here is wikipedia definition of ad hominem

An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument.

...

Abusive ad hominem (also called "personal abuse" or "personal attacks") usually involves attacking the claims of an opponent trying to invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions irrelevant to the opponent's argument.
Generally, we consider an ad hom to be personal. "Anyone who thinks men didn't land on the moon is an idiot" is rude, but not an ad hom. "Joe is an idiot because he thinks men didn't land on the moon" is an ad hom.

In any case, may I suggest less speculation about what "the other group" of posters believes or thinks, and why they may think that, and concentrate on the question on life on other worlds.

TooMany
2013-Jan-06, 05:50 PM
If we had no other examples of oceans, and if we had very little idea of how an ocean could form, then I would talk about extraterrestrial oceans in the same cautious language: "It seems highly probable that there are oceans on other worlds but we must stress that we don't actually know."


Even without knowledge of how an ocean forms (and the fact is we really don't know, there are different theories) we know that one exists. From that information alone it is reasonable to suppose that given similar conditions in another system, oceans would also form. We might imagine some oceans would cover an entire planet while others would be limited and shallow, but we would not suggest that our oceans are the result of an unimaginably rare coincidence without evidence of such a requirement.



The evolution of the eye has been modelled and seen to have happened independently in diverse species. We have not modelled how inert organic chemicals make that final step (or series of steps) to full-blown life, nor have we seen other examples of it.

Scenario One: The final step (or series of steps) might be something that happens every time a few organic chemicals come together (although the Miller-Urey experiment has not demonstrated this). The universe might be teeming with life. Chuck some amino acids in a lifeless ocean, stur and wait, and you'll have trilobites crawling onto the land in next to no time.

Scenario Two: The final series of steps is be extremely sensitive to conditions, with each step depending on the success of the previous step. Too much salinity in the ocean and step three fails. Temperature falls one degree below the critical temperature and step eight fails. Tide insufficient to alternately expose and submerge a large extent of land and step fourteen fails. And so on, with each failure resulting in yet another ocean of inert organic chemicals.

I don't know whether Scenario One or Scenario Two is closer to the truth, but both are consistent with life arising on Earth.


If you do a little math, you will see that expecting something to be alive in a Miller-Urey beaker after a few months of brewing (as proof of life's likelihood) is like expecting humans to evolve in four days instead of four million years.

There are some problems with scenario two. There is evidence that life existed not long after the Earth became cool enough to be non sterilizing. The early Earth offered millions of micro environments in which chemical processes abounded. Take the sea vents (smokers) recently discovered. Near the vent you have water far hotter than boiling and nearly freezing a few meters away but life thrives there, using energy mechanisms different from those found in other life forms. Some theorists believe life may have originated under these conditions. In the early history of the Earth, such volcanic outflows may have been far more common than they are now. You are arguing that getting life to happen is like standing a pin on it's point, but that doesn't really make sense because we know that the chemical processes of life are viable under a large range of conditions. All indications are that life and the chemical process associated with life are robust. Thus, the argument for highly special conditions has little merit.



The thing is, the universe has a habit of surprising us. Sometimes it feels as if it's doing it deliberately, but really it's just our (understandable) failure to think beyond the familiar. We expect the future to be more-or-less similar to the past, and we expect other planets to be like Earth, or other solar systems to be like our solar system. Again and again our expectations are overturned, yet we don't seem to learn from this.

How have our expectations about planets been overturned? Sure we've were taken by surprise by the hot Jupiters, but we have thrown a wide net that easily catches hot Jupiters but fails to be anywhere near as sensitive to Earth like planets. What expectations have been overturned with regard to the existence of Earth-like planets? A recent article in the popular press asserts that there are at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy. That estimate is based on actual statistics of detection, even though it is still difficult to detect planets like our own.

We I was a kid, it was common to speculate that planetary systems are the result of some rare accident, like another star passing close to the Sun. Those days are over, we now know that planets are the rule, not the exception.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-06, 08:51 PM
There are some problems with scenario two. There is evidence that life existed not long after the Earth became cool enough to be non sterilizing.
selection bias - it makes any assessment of frequency invalid. If life hadnt got going as early as it did, we wouldnt be here arguing about it. Plus it may be a requirement of the process, at least for earth like planets....you probably want a lot of thermal imbalance going on

*
Take the sea vents (smokers) recently discovered. Near the vent you have water far hotter than boiling and nearly freezing a few meters away but life thrives there, using energy mechanisms different from those found in other life forms.*
so what - its the same life - we know of only one source of life to which we are all related. It may have happened a thousand times, but what we know is that everywhere we have looked, all life on Earth has come from a single abiogenesis event, without exception.
If the day comes they discover a second event happened here on Earth, I would vote yes in the poll in a heartbeat.

You are arguing that getting life to happen is like standing a pin on it's point, but that doesn't really make sense because we know that the chemical processes of life are viable under a large range of conditions. All indications are that life and the chemical process associated with life are robust. Thus, the argument for highly special conditions has little merit.
There is no Thus there - you have chosen to ignore the reason why we cannot discount the possibility that getting life to happen might be like standing a pin on its point (or even a lot more difficult than that)
There is one thing we know...getting biology from chemistry is not really really easy. We do not know how hard it is. All it needs for Life to be an exceptionally rare event is for the chemistry to biology process to require a sequence of individually rare events which are sensitive to the order and environmental influences in each stage of the sequence.
For me, imagining that might be true is not far fetched - Thus I have no level of confidence in believing anything, because I have insufficient information.

To be clear - I do not need absolutes before I would vote Yes.... but I do need more than I've got right now

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 09:37 PM
There is no Thus there - you have chosen to ignore the reason why we cannot discount the possibility that getting life to happen might be like standing a pin on its point (or even a lot more difficult than that)
There is one thing we know...getting biology from chemistry is not really really easy. We do not know how hard it is. All it needs for Life to be an exceptionally rare event is for the chemistry to biology process to require a sequence of individually rare events which are sensitive to the order and environmental influences in each stage of the sequence.
For me, imagining that might be true is not far fetched - Thus I have no level of confidence in believing anything, because I have insufficient information.

To be clear - I do not need absolutes before I would vote Yes.... but I do need more than I've got right now

The chances of life arising are difficult and remote,and for life as we know it, it certainly depends on conditions and environments etc.
But like others you chose to ignore that the probable remote chance of life arising is more then balanced by the sheer uncountable near infinite numbers we are dealing with plus the huge possible infinite extent of the Universe/space/time.

Because of all that data, scientists and laymen alike chose to go with that logical assumption, while realising the fact that we don't have positive evidence to support the existence of ET.
There is certainly a non zero chance we maybe alone, just as there is a non zero chance that the isotropic and homegenious nature of the observable Universe may not actually apply to the Universe as a whole.
But again, we chose to make logical assumptions.

It's all part and parcel of science as we know it today.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-06, 09:45 PM
But like others you chose to ignore that the probable remote chance of life arising is more then balanced by the sheer uncountable near infinite numbers we are dealing with plus the huge possible infinite extent of the Universe/space/time.


You are free to think that I choose to ignore the probability balance...
I choose to think you are unaware of just how humongously big those numbers could turn out to be

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 10:11 PM
You are free to think that I choose to ignore the probability balance...
I choose to think you are unaware of just how humongously big those numbers could turn out to be

I'm well aware how big those numbers could be. I often like to use the phrase "near infinite" to describe those numbers.
But that supports my argument.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 10:15 PM
I'm well aware how big those numbers could be. I often like to use the phrase "near infinite" to describe those numbers.
But that supports my argument.

I don't think you understood which numbers mutleyeng was talking about.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 10:34 PM
I don't think you understood which numbers mutleyeng was talking about.

Or he/she failed to understand the numbers I was talking about.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-06, 10:47 PM
Or he/she failed to understand the numbers I was talking about.

No.

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-06, 11:12 PM
The early Earth offered millions of micro environments in which chemical processes abounded.

That's what I think too. So logically, there must have been millions upon millions of sequences of events happening simultaneously within the primordial ocean.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-06, 11:16 PM
No.

OK accepted then....So one one side we have numbers near infinite in content and extent, if not indeed infinite, now what do we have on the other side....Unknown???
I'm not sure, you tell me.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-07, 12:08 AM
Stating only the limits of our knowledge and not also the extent of our knowledge is not a true reflection of the current state of research. So if you value honesty, please also acknowledge the extent of our knowledge. Only saying that we don't know, though true, omits the fact that there are also things we do know that are of relevance to answering the question as best we can.I think I should address this point, as I have encountered this inferred 'deception by omission' argument before, (directed at myself).

The statements made (by myself) at the time, were phrased in the present and are thus unencumbered by information from the past, (ie: accumulated knowledge). That was deliberate on my part, as the knowledge accumulated to date, is completely devoid of any references to subject matter from beyond Earth. That knowledge is thus, all derived from Earth-life, and is thus all about Earth-life … not about 'exo'-life. The inferences are thus rendered immediately distinct, thus highlighting that all arguments about 'exo'-life, require inference based on opinions, gut-feel, Earth-biologies, Physics and Chemical Law, and theories .. all of which may be necessary for interpretation of some finding, but are not sufficient in the absence a non-Earth sourced test sample, to apply the tests upon.

I question the artificially created need for an answer. This artificially created demand, is what catalyses a decision which, by necessity, has to be sourced from perceptions, opinions and beliefs (there is no other option).

In other words, the entire basis of the 'deception' accusation, is based on a contrived 'set-up', (the supposed need for an answer).

Please note: I'm not saying such a 'set-up' is deliberate … which then permits the idea of just oversight of the type described above, on the part a speaker inferring 'deception' … (rather than other nastier connotations. I'm more than happy to address 'oversights' .. after all, we all make 'em. :) )

TooMany
2013-Jan-07, 01:27 AM
so what - its the same life - we know of only one source of life to which we are all related. It may have happened a thousand times, but what we know is that everywhere we have looked, all life on Earth has come from a single abiogenesis event, without exception.


Can you explain how that conclusion is proven? I'm not sure I understand. Even the simplest forms of life we know are believed to be symbiotic combinations of earlier life forms. It's not necessarily true that there is a single root. We certainly cannot know now because evidence of early genesis is long gone.

Perhaps there was domination. That is clearly true in the case of the recent evolution of man. We keep finding diverse types and we have no conclusive theory about how they are fit together. One thing is obvious, there were many tool users, but only one of those species exists now. All the rest went extinct right down till you reach the chimps.



If the day comes they discover a second event happened here on Earth, I would vote yes in the poll in a heartbeat.


Well don't hold your breath because it's likely that the process takes a long time.



There is no Thus there - you have chosen to ignore the reason why we cannot discount the possibility that getting life to happen might be like standing a pin on its point (or even a lot more difficult than that)
There is one thing we know...getting biology from chemistry is not really really easy. We do not know how hard it is. All it needs for Life to be an exceptionally rare event is for the chemistry to biology process to require a sequence of individually rare events which are sensitive to the order and environmental influences in each stage of the sequence.


But here's the crux of my argument. The basic organic molecules of life form spontaneously under a variety of conditions. We do not yet understand how that chemistry becomes life (we have barely started to examine the issue in depth). There is however no basis to support the claim that it requires some colossal coincidence. The idea that a miracle is required only reflects our lack of knowledge of the path to the complexity of the simplest organisms that now exist. The complexity of existing life does not imply an amazing coincidence is required for it to come to be. It's quite like the development of the eye. The eye is exceedingly complex. On the face of it, it seems impossible to some people that random events could lead to an eye, but they did, repeatedly, robustly and in a variety of ways.



For me, imagining that might be true is not far fetched - Thus I have no level of confidence in believing anything, because I have insufficient information.

To be clear - I do not need absolutes before I would vote Yes.... but I do need more than I've got right now

Are you sure it's not a bias when it come to life? If I tell you there is some mineral commonly found on Earth, but that we have no idea how it is formed, would you then also feel it unjustified to presume that on another Earth-like planet the same mineral would form.

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-07, 01:36 AM
We have two poles [for what they are worth] going...Both are showing a 5-1 majority for assuming life off the Earth exists.
I'm not sure of the standing of all who voted, [me? I'm no scientist and never went to Uni] but I'm pretty sure if the same pole was taken in a room full of scientists of all pursasions, we would see the same result. And that's being kind to the "we don't knowers".

Those positive assumptions are based on logical assumptions that are part and parcel of science in general.
Those logical assumptions are based on data that have been mentioned here numerous times.
They may not be 100% proof positive, [what scientific theory is] but they tilt the pendulum towards the probability of life, as against the unlikely event we are alone.

Yet we are told by two or three, that the only stance to take is "we don't know for certain"

Yet science is full of "we don't know for certain" assumptions yet in this debate, we are told we cannot assume even in the light of the observational data.
I find their arguments rather pedantic and without much substance.

Swift
2013-Jan-07, 02:09 AM
Yet we are told by two or three, that the only stance to take is "we don't know for certain"

Yet science is full of "we don't know for certain" assumptions yet in this debate, we are told we cannot assume even in the light of the observational data.
I find their arguments rather pedantic and without much substance.
ASTRO BOY

The only thing that saved you from an actual infraction was the fact that you did not name the specific two or three members, and the fact that you said "their arguments", rather than them. But this post does not add to the discussion and only inflames things.

I'm going to repeat what I said in the other "poll" thread (this is aimed at everyone): This is neither a thread nor a forum (LiS) on the philosophy of science or the meaning of truth or the nature of the scientific method. And on top of that, the exact same positions are just being repeated over, and over, and over, and over again. It is getting tiresome.

The next person who posts on anything else except something directly relevant to the topic of whether life exists beyond Earth or not while be severely infracted for hijacking the thread and disruptive behavior.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-07, 02:29 AM
Can you explain how that conclusion is proven? I'm not sure I understand. Even the simplest forms of life we know are believed to be symbiotic combinations of earlier life forms. It's not necessarily true that there is a single root. We certainly cannot know now because evidence of early genesis is long gone.

Perhaps there was domination. That is clearly true in the case of the recent evolution of man. We keep finding diverse types and we have no conclusive theory about how they are fit together. One thing is obvious, there were many tool users, but only one of those species exists now. All the rest went extinct right down till you reach the chimps.
what conclusion? I said that wherever we have looked, we have found life to have been from a single tree. We can only investigate what we can get our hands on. you know about Phylogenetics right?


Well don't hold your breath because it's likely that the process takes a long time.
various groups are doing research to see if they can find any examples of separate origin which currently share the planet with us, as yet un noticed ...perfectly possible. Again...Phylogenetics



But here's the crux of my argument. The basic organic molecules of life form spontaneously under a variety of conditions.indeed they do


We do not yet understand how that chemistry becomes lifeindeed, we dont


There is however no basis to support the claim that it requires some colossal coincidence.no, no there isnt....that would require a claim of knowledge


The idea that a miracle is required only reflects our lack of knowledge of the path to the complexity of the simplest organisms that now exist. Who spoke of miracles? Who made a claim? BTW, one does not need to explain the complexity of the simplest form of current life...thats not it at all. ....we can agree we have a lack of knowledge though...phew


The complexity of existing life does not imply an amazing coincidence is required for it to come to be. It's quite like the development of the eye. The eye is exceedingly complex. On the face of it, it seems impossible to some people that random events could lead to an eye, but they did, repeatedly, robustly and in a variety of ways.
Now you are talking about evolution - you really gotta try and separate that from what we are actually trying to discuss


Are you sure it's not a bias when it come to life?
pretty sure yeah


If I tell you there is some mineral commonly found on Earth, but that we have no idea how it is formed, would you then also feel it unjustified to presume that on another Earth-like planet the same mineral would form.
well I dont know, that kinda depends on exactly what example you came up with...and Id probably have to do a whole bunch of reading on this mineral before I could begin to venture an opinion as to whether I had any particular belief about it...or whether id do as with life and say...i donno

kevin1981
2013-Jan-07, 03:30 AM
I put yes as statistically, it makes sense to me. But what i really think, is the same as Swift..


I suspect it is likely, but until there is evidence, my answer is "we don't know".

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-07, 11:38 AM
I think the two option poll is perfectly fine. It is a yes or no question... why do people feel the need to dance around such things?

Perhaps the questions should have been worded slightly different... I would have asked "In your opinion, is there life beyond Earth".

There is no need to include anything other than yes or no. If you're so uncomfortable with expressing a direct opinion then abstain from the poll.

I think it is especially valid considering the amount of threads that get side tracked and hung up on irrelevant points of logic. MarionRF asked a direct yes or no question, no need to hi-jack the thread with fence walking and try and blame the OP.

Thanks for your help, it was perfectly put in words. :)


My $0.02

Personally, I think that a poll with "we don't know" is a cop out. Obviously, itis the correct answer since we don't know. However, I think that the spirit of the OP's poll (and he since confirmed this) is essentially, "In your informed opinion, do you feel that life exists beyond Earth?" Thus, the answer that I'd be looking for, to use a court of law standard, is "more likely than not" (within one's own opinion, greater than 51% likely). So, while there could be a few people who are simply 50/50 fence-sitters, most would be ready to render an educated guess.

Secondly, I too am very interested in the basis for a "NO" opinion. In other words in the same manner that many whoo opine "yes" are able to articulate why they feel that way, I would like to see the same from the "no" camp. Intellectually, given the view that large galaxies like the MW house 100-200 billion planets and the organic compounds that are available in our solar system are readily available elsewhere -- why, "NO"?. Even, most cases of "rare Earth" that I've read eventually get to "yes" but its rare. Some have posited that it is less probably for single cellular life to "evolve" into complex animal life than it is for single cellular life to form in the first place (read Nick Lane's book, "Oxygen: The molecule that made the world").

Thanks you too for the help :)

About the YES possibility, I think that the most shared feeling is that Universe is a very big big place, with uncountable stars and planets, and the common sense would indicate that life may have arisen somewhere else. Because of this vast place called Universe, with billons and billons of planetary systems, one would think that life is easily found in many of them.

I'd like to hear the reason for NO possibility, it would be very interesting to read the facts for that option.

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-07, 12:29 PM
I think I should address this point, as I have encountered this inferred 'deception by omission' argument before, (directed at myself).

... omission of relevant facts could also result from some deep held personal bias, for example the belief that life is just too complex to have emerged more than once. I don't know.


The statements made (by myself) at the time, were phrased in the present and are thus unencumbered by information from the past, (ie: accumulated knowledge). That was deliberate on my part, as the knowledge accumulated to date, is completely devoid of any references to subject matter from beyond Earth. That knowledge is thus, all derived from Earth-life, and is thus all about Earth-life … not about 'exo'-life. The inferences are thus rendered immediately distinct, thus highlighting that all arguments about 'exo'-life, require inference based on opinions, gut-feel, Earth-biologies, Physics and Chemical Law, and theories .. all of which may be necessary for interpretation of some finding, but are not sufficient in the absence a non-Earth sourced test sample, to apply the tests upon.

As I must have said numerous times, we abstract from Earth-life, only to arrive at more general principles of life. One such general principle is evolution through natural selection. Some other principles include self-organizing complexity. To imply that such principles are all about Earth-life misses an important aspect, and that is that they are universal and ubiquitous principles, because we find them in all kinds mathematical, computational and physical processes, many of which have even nothing to do with biology.



I question the artificially created need for an answer. This artificially created demand, is what catalyses a decision which, by necessity, has to be sourced from perceptions, opinions and beliefs (there is no other option).

In other words, the entire basis of the 'deception' accusation, is based on a contrived 'set-up', (the supposed need for an answer).

Please note: I'm not saying such a 'set-up' is deliberate … which then permits the idea of just oversight of the type described above, on the part a speaker inferring 'deception' … (rather than other nastier connotations. I'm more than happy to address 'oversights' .. after all, we all make 'em. :) )

This I found quite amusing. 'Artificially created need', 'catalyses a decision', 'a set-up', 'deception' ? It reads like something out of a very intriguing psychological thriller :). Let me tell you what I have a 'need' for. I really have a need for discussing life in space in the life-in-space forum. If you wish to discuss the psychology of astrobiological arguments then perhaps we should open a thread in the general science section. I'd like to hear your psycho-analytical assessment of astrobiology.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-07, 09:30 PM
As I must have said numerous times, we abstract from Earth-life, only to arrive at more general principles of life. One such general principle is evolution through natural selection.Evolution by natural selection is a phenomenological theory based on direct observations of the common features shared by Earth-life, supported by the fossil record.
There is no particular reason to assume it to be the dominant factor in other environments (until there's data to support that). There are sub-characteristics of Evolution, which determine its observables. The quantifiable magnitudes of those characteristic 'parameters', (in Evolution models), are the mechanisms explaining the observable aspects. Those parameters can vary, and as they do, they can move the entire system dynamics to any and all parts of phase space. The macro observables could easily be completely different to Earth's version of it, making it possibly unobservable elsewhere (beyond Earth).

Its 'universality' is a hypothesis requiring testing. This puts it in the same vein as the 'exo-life exists' hypothesis .. ie: 'unknown' (not opinion-based .. science based).

Some other principles include self-organizing complexity. To imply that such principles are all about Earth-life misses an important aspect, and that is that they are universal and ubiquitous principles, because we find them in all kinds mathematical, computational and physical processes, many of which have even nothing to do with biology.If self-organising complexity is admissable, (and I agree that it most certainly is), then so too is Chaos, and its intrinsic sensitivity to initial conditions consequences, (etc). The other phenomena supporting the universality of these, are observables from beyond Earth, (via telescopic observations). The generalised mechanisms explaining these, are also 'closer' to raw Physics and Chemistry, than the mechanistic explanations for Evolution and Biology complexity/diversity, (etc).


This I found quite amusing. 'Artificially created need', 'catalyses a decision', 'a set-up', 'deception' ? It reads like something out of a very intriguing psychological thriller :). At least we share the same feelings at this point in time .. (albeit for different reasons).

If you wish to discuss the psychology of astrobiological arguments then perhaps we should open a thread in the general science section. I'd like to hear your psycho-analytical assessment of astrobiology.I notice Hlafordlaes has started such a thread in the S&T Forum (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/140984-Justified-True-Belief).

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-07, 10:28 PM
Evolution by natural selection is a phenomenological theory based on direct observations of the common features shared by Earth-life, supported by the fossil record.

There is no particular reason to assume it to be the dominant factor in other environments (until there's data to support that)..

Since we do have all the ingrediants and opportunities in other environemnts for it to take place, I suggest its more favourable to have taken place then not to have taken place.

transreality
2013-Jan-07, 11:26 PM
Since we do have all the ingrediants and opportunities in other environemnts for it to take place, I suggest its more favourable to have taken place then not to have taken place.

I agree


Since Evolution is driven by what are likely to be factors that will be encountered by any self-replicating, self-organising entities that require external sources of energy and matter, such as competition for resources, ecological holding limits, niche space, we could estimate that it could be a frequent if not ubiquitous process. For example it wouldn't necessarily be life as we know it, but still subject to ecological constraints.

If Evolution could be uncoupled from the life, then we might expect that life could somehow arise on earth before these evolutionary processes, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, it is more likely that evolutionary processes were already driving pre-biotic complex organic chemistry prior to abiogenesis. It is common of hear talk of the 'evolution of biochemical pathways' as a precusor to abiogenesis. There are various experiments where complex molecules evolve towards more efficient forms (eg Spiegelman, 1967) using natural selection, where the variation is inherent in morphology of the molecule.

TooMany
2013-Jan-07, 11:31 PM
Who spoke of miracles? Who made a claim? BTW, one does not need to explain the complexity of the simplest form of current life...thats not it at all. ....we can agree we have a lack of knowledge though...phew


Bad choice of words on my part. What I meant was just a highly improbably phenomenon, so improbable that it has only happened once in the universe.



Now you are talking about evolution - you really gotta try and separate that from what we are actually trying to discuss


As life exists now, the mechanism for evolution is very simple and powerful. There is a genetic plan that builds a copy of a creature, but the plan can change in random ways that may or may not be beneficial. I'm speculating that a process like that was actually involved in the path from what we consider non-life to modern life. That is, selection may be at work prior to the existence of packages of chemicals that replicate based on a plan. We just don't know, but it seems likely that the path is long and complex and does involve selection. I.e. life evolves from the beginning even before the existence of contemporary structures.



well I dont know, that kinda depends on exactly what example you came up with...and Id probably have to do a whole bunch of reading on this mineral before I could begin to venture an opinion as to whether I had any particular belief about it...or whether id do as with life and say...i donno

I was trying to get you to admit to this scientific assumption that we make all the time: Natural events that happen on Earth are expected to happen under the same conditions elsewhere. We don't usually assume that some extremely improbable event is required, except it seems when it comes to life. In the case of life, we see something so complex that it's hard to imagine how it came to be. However, if selection pressures are involved on the path toward what we consider as life, we shouldn't be any more surprised by the complexity than we are when we consider the evolution of the eye.

That said, I cannot prove that life is highly probable. But it's hard to argue that very special conditions are required because the chemical processes in life proceed robustly under a variety of conditions, just as the formation of organic molecules proceeds under a variety of conditions. You might conjecture that some special mix of minerals and organics is required and that an extreme coincidence involving materials is necessary. Or you might argue that some exceeding improbable reaction or chain of reactions is required. But that would leave us with an odd situation in which life is all but impossible to get started, while we know that once started it is almost impossible to get rid of and spreads everywhere excepting the most inhospitable environments. You are probably aware of experiments which show that some micro organisms can survive exposed conditions in earth orbit.

TooMany
2013-Jan-07, 11:33 PM
Since Evolution is driven by what are likely to be factors that will be encountered by any self-replicating, self-organising entities that require external sources of energy and matter, such as competition for resources, ecological holding limits, niche space, we could estimate that it could be a frequent if not ubiquitous process. For example it wouldn't necessarily be life as we know it, but still subject to ecological constraints.

If Evolution could be uncoupled from the life, then we might expect that life could somehow arise on earth before these evolutionary processes, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, it is more likely that evolutionary processes were already driving pre-biotic complex organic chemistry prior to abiogenesis. It is common of hear talk of the 'evolution of biochemical pathways' as a precusor to abiogenesis. There are various experiments where complex molecules evolve towards more efficient forms (eg Spiegelman, 1967) using natural selection, where the variation is inherent in morphology of the molecule.

Nicely put, that's what I was trying to suggest too.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-08, 12:13 AM
I was trying to get you to admit to this scientific assumption that we make all the time: Natural events that happen on Earth are expected to happen under the same conditions elsewhere. .

I was trying to get you to see that you cant do that unless you come up with an equivalent for your analogy - these metaphors are next to useless.
This has been explained often enough I think, like trying to compare it to the mechanics of a star - its not a fair analogy.
I have nothing to admit. I think the uncertainty is too great for me to have a belief just now...you free to do as you please.

TooMany
2013-Jan-08, 12:52 AM
This has been explained often enough I think, like trying to compare it to the mechanics of a star - its not a fair analogy.


You mean the more complex the natural process the less likely to be repeated? A simple process like mineralization under some conditions would occur again under the same conditions, but a more complex process would be less likely to occur again? So the two are not comparable? But you accept evolution of the eye. Then what about transreality's point?



There are various experiments where complex molecules evolve towards more efficient forms (eg Spiegelman, 1967) using natural selection, where the variation is inherent in morphology of the molecule.


If there is something to this, the implication is that selection works from the start, so complexity is not a barrier.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-08, 01:14 AM
Who said anything about complexity? The explanation as to why they are not fair analogy is not complexity, its the degree of understanding of the process even if incomplete and modelings of various hypothesis, that again even if speculative, might provide reasonable grounds to establish some error bars that could be assessed.
I didnt think Transreality had a relevant point, What you are referring to as a kind of organic chemical evolution is entirely different from biological evolution. I see little to gain by conflating two completely different processes. I dont think anyone is under any doubt that organic chemistry organises into more complex forms. Its still organic chemistry though

chrisbobson
2013-Jan-08, 01:21 AM
When I mean life, I mean all kind of life, from simple bacteria, to complex living organisms/creatures.

Although we have no evidence at all, what do you think?

Probably not. I am an atheist and still believe life is unique to this planet. I also suspect it is not something, life's origins, that is amenable to scientific study. It is well outside our reach.

TooMany
2013-Jan-08, 01:56 AM
Who said anything about complexity? The explanation as to why they are not fair analogy is not complexity, its the degree of understanding of the process even if incomplete and modelings of various hypothesis, that again even if speculative, might provide reasonable grounds to establish some error bars that could be assessed.


We're not going to understand what's happening any time soon. The fact remains that phenomena repeat under similar conditions, otherwise there would not be any science. It doesn't matter whether we understand the phenomenon or not. If we find life on Mars or fossils on Mars I think the debate is over.


I didnt think Transreality had a relevant point, What you are referring to as a kind of organic chemical evolution is entirely different from biological evolution. I see little to gain by conflating two completely different processes. I dont think anyone is under any doubt that organic chemistry organises into more complex forms. Its still organic chemistry though

But are they really different processes? Evolution is about selection whether it's called life or not is irrelevant to the mechanism. What we call "life" has been very narrowly defined to be this highly complex process in which individual chemical factories reproduce themselves, by themselves, using a plan. We don't even count viruses as life because they harness the machinery of cells to reproduce. So our definition of life is this already highly evolved, very complex process. It's relationship to chemical processes that are non-life are like the relationship between a human being and single celled animals. The histories of these very different levels of complexity are the same - evolution.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-08, 03:17 AM
The fact remains that phenomena repeat under similar conditions, otherwise there would not be any science.Some phenomena might repeat under similar conditions .. but the end result and the specific scale of repetition, can themselves easily be completely unpredictable. (Ie: the temporal and spatial scales over which a particular outcome might recur, are not possible to predict from a single observed occurrence).

The paths (or trajectories) of phase transitions in certain classes of non-linear organic chemistry, are all unique. One can start one of these dynamic reactions, and never end up with exactly the same outcome, nor does it follow the phase trajectory, (at a chosen level of scale), more than once, in every detail.

The mechanism is simultaneous oxidation and reduction (at highly variable rates).

This is all within a backdrop of known physical and chemical laws.

My avatar is an example of iterations of the same non-linear phenomenon .. just check out the numbers of unique outcomes there … have a go at trying to predict just one of 'em … (good luck)!

Oh, and this is all still science (and mathematical modelling).


But are they really different processes? Evolution is about selection whether it's called life or not is irrelevant to the mechanism. What we call "life" has been very narrowly defined to be this highly complex process in which individual chemical factories reproduce themselves, by themselves, using a plan. We don't even count viruses as life because they harness the machinery of cells to reproduce. So our definition of life is this already highly evolved, very complex process. It's relationship to chemical processes that are non-life are like the relationship between a human being and single celled animals. The histories of these very different levels of complexity are the same - evolution.Evolution can be modelled as a highly non-linear process punctuated by randomness (mutations). This leads into the world of non-linear systems analysis, which carries the unpredictability constraint. (Its a bit like in quantum mechanics where the act of observing something actually destroys what it was you were trying to observe in the first place).

ASTRO BOY
2013-Jan-08, 08:22 AM
It seems most people in both poles have approached the issue scientifically and chosen in the affirmative, probably due to the size and extent of the Universe and the near infinite numbers involved.
Which gives rise to the next question......
If conditions are similar to Earth, would microbial and bacterial life then be a good thing to evolve into more intelligent life types similar to homo-sapiens?
And how much further could we expect ET's to evolve beyond ourselves?
Is there/could there be a limit to evolution?

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-08, 09:51 AM
Probably not. I am an atheist and still believe life is unique to this planet. I also suspect it is not something, life's origins, that is amenable to scientific study. It is well outside our reach.

Interesting opinion. You sound a little bit "unconvinced" when you say "still believe". Sounds like you are beginning to consider the possibility for life in another enviornment. But, you are completely right in something: "It is well outside our reach". We may never be able to contact/discover alien life forms.

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-08, 10:08 AM
I am an atheist and still believe life is unique to this planet.

I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering what the connection is.

If you want to reply to this, please check the board rules. I don't want to get you in trouble!

Paul Beardsley
2013-Jan-08, 10:31 AM
But you accept evolution of the eye.

We have a pretty firm understanding of how the eye evolves. If all creatures are eyeless, but one develops a light-sensitive patch on its skin as a result of a mutation, it has advantages over the creatures without the light-sensitive patch. For instance, it can distinguish day and night. Because of its advantages, it is more likely to reproduce, and pass on the mutation. Further mutations result in more sophisticated sensitivity, perhaps to varying intensity of light, and so on. Each mutation that confers an advantage is another step in the development of the eye.

I haven't studied the development of the eye in any depth - I've just read about it in Richard Dawkins' books - but I gather that biologists have a full understanding of the step-by-step process from no eye at all to a complete eye.

If they didn't have this understanding - if the eye (which is obviously very complicated) suddenly popped into existence in a single step in a diverse selection of animals - a lot of scientists would probably be creationists. But it didn't and they aren't.


Then what about transreality's point?
If there is something to this, the implication is that selection works from the start, so complexity is not a barrier.

If this is indeed how abiogenesis happens, then it seems it would greatly increase its likelihood. But as we don't know all the steps from not-alive to alive, it is inconclusive.

Paul Wally
2013-Jan-08, 12:51 PM
Evolution by natural selection is a phenomenological theory based on direct observations of the common features shared by Earth-life, supported by the fossil record.

I wouldn't call it phenomenological though. Darwinian evolution is a highly explanatory theory, and I'm not sure whether it could get any more fundamental.
But this is besides the point. What I was referring to was not Evolution through natural selection as it applies to Earth-life in particular, but the general principle of natural selection, which is an idea that Darwin must have discovered and used to formulate his more particular theory of biological evolution as far as it applies to Earth life-forms. The general principle is really a mathematical concept which says that if we have a variety of propensities to persist then, well, the persistent ones are the ones that persist, for if they didn't persist then they wouldn't be persistent. So it's really quite logical and for that reason it should be applicable everywhere.


There is no particular reason to assume it to be the dominant factor in other environments (until there's data to support that).

It might not be the dominant factor, but it will be a factor in any environment where it makes logical sense for it to exist. These are things we can model without having data, in fact we don't look for confirmation of logical principles on other planets.



The macro observables could easily be completely different to Earth's version of it, making it possibly unobservable elsewhere (beyond Earth).


That is a possibility. It's entirely possible that some 'organic soup' on a distant planet could produce non-equilibrium conditions, even though there is nothing that we would call 'life'. But such a scenario is in itself interesting and the problem is then to prove how such non-equilibrium conditions wouldn't necessarily lead to life.



Its 'universality' is a hypothesis requiring testing. This puts it in the same vein as the 'exo-life exists' hypothesis .. ie: 'unknown' (not opinion-based .. science based).


I wouldn't call the principle of natural selection an hypothesis. I elevate it to the level of principle. 'Exo-life exists' is not a very good hypothesis because it doesn't give us much to work with. An hypothesis needs more substance, perhaps something like: 'Terrestrial planets with liquid water has life'. That at least gives us an idea where to look for life.


If self-organising complexity is admissable, (and I agree that it most certainly is), then so too is Chaos, and its intrinsic sensitivity to initial conditions consequences, (etc). The other phenomena supporting the universality of these, are observables from beyond Earth, (via telescopic observations). The generalised mechanisms explaining these, are also 'closer' to raw Physics and Chemistry, than the mechanistic explanations for Evolution and Biology complexity/diversity, (etc).

I admit abiogenesis is yet to be explained by using all the relevant concepts, and that includes Chaos theory. All these ideas are really part of the broader field of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems theory. It does however look like something that could be explained by self-organizing complexity. I leave it to you to argue how chaos would on a planet-wide scale and geological timescale prevent the emergence of life on a planet like the primordial Earth. I would certainly like to hear arguments from that perspective, instead of just wdk :).



I notice Hlafordlaes has started such a thread in the S&T Forum (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/140984-Justified-True-Belief).

Thanks.

mutleyeng
2013-Jan-08, 01:52 PM
I admit abiogenesis is yet to be explained by using all the relevant concepts, and that includes Chaos theory. All these ideas are really part of the broader field of nonlinear dynamics and complex systems theory. It does however look like something that could be explained by self-organizing complexity. I leave it to you to argue how chaos would on a planet-wide scale and geological timescale prevent the emergence of life on a planet like the primordial Earth. I would certainly like to hear arguments from that perspective, instead of just wdk :).

Thanks.

That pretty much is the abiogenesis hypothesis isnt it?
Jack Szostak's work on early proto cells for example. Very promising and interesting work.

But seeing as even in the labs here on earth, we can observe chemical chaos not repeating in any predictable way, its a stretch to expect someone to prove it behaves the same on another planet?

Again, this argument is coming down to probability numbers, and we dont have those numbers yet.

Let me put it like this, If i were asked in a poll, do I believe in the abiogenesis hypothesis as the origin of life on Earth - I would vote yes....even though I dont "know" thats true (as in self organised increased complexity of organic chemistry)
But when I am asked, do I think it has happened on other planets, I dont know because its not understood how susceptible the process is to environmental factors. Im pretty sure its happened here - how common it is in the universe would just be a guess as far as I'm concerned

TooMany
2013-Jan-08, 05:01 PM
Some phenomena might repeat under similar conditions .. but the end result and the specific scale of repetition, can themselves easily be completely unpredictable. (Ie: the temporal and spatial scales over which a particular outcome might recur, are not possible to predict from a single observed occurrence).

The paths (or trajectories) of phase transitions in certain classes of non-linear organic chemistry, are all unique. One can start one of these dynamic reactions, and never end up with exactly the same outcome, nor does it follow the phase trajectory, (at a chosen level of scale), more than once, in every detail.


I have no issue with that. I would not expect precisely the same sorts of creatures to evolve in different cases. There is an important element of chance involved. However we also have the observation of evolutionary convergence. Things that work evolve repeatedly in a variety of forms, like eyes, wings and appendages.



The mechanism is simultaneous oxidation and reduction (at highly variable rates).

This is all within a backdrop of known physical and chemical laws.


That's what makes the black smokers such an interesting place for life to start.



My avatar is an example of iterations of the same non-linear phenomenon .. just check out the numbers of unique outcomes there … have a go at trying to predict just one of 'em … (good luck)!

Oh, and this is all still science (and mathematical modelling).

Evolution can be modelled as a highly non-linear process punctuated by randomness (mutations). This leads into the world of non-linear systems analysis, which carries the unpredictability constraint. (Its a bit like in quantum mechanics where the act of observing something actually destroys what it was you were trying to observe in the first place).

But it ends up being predictable in a more general sense because of evolutionary trends. The things that work stick. So for example if we found an alien planet similar to Earth with high evolved life forms, I would expect some equivalent of birds to exist, but I would not assume that they would be just like our birds.

No two chunks of quartz are exactly the same either.

TooMany
2013-Jan-08, 05:17 PM
If this is indeed how abiogenesis happens, then it seems it would greatly increase its likelihood. But as we don't know all the steps from not-alive to alive, it is inconclusive.

I think we can all agree that we don't know enough to be absolutely conclusive. However, it's quite reasonable to conjecture that the complexity that we see in even the simplest organisms today didn't just pop into existence. There must have been many steps along the way. Unfortunately, we have no fossils to give us a clue and it may be that no early forms still exist.

There are some interesting phenomena, for example these nanobe structures and the wormy looking things found in meteorites. I'm not suggesting that they are life, but they are examples of some sort of self assembly that produces repeated forms, that are very different from simple crystals. Some of the thinking these days is that there may be important relationships between organic chemistry and minerals in the formation of life. Who knows, maybe scientists will find something interesting by experimenting.

R.A.F.
2013-Jan-09, 03:21 AM
Probably not. I am an atheist and still believe life is unique to this planet. I also suspect it is not something, life's origins, that is amenable to scientific study. It is well outside our reach.

If it exists in reality, it can be studied.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-09, 10:47 AM
However, it's quite reasonable to conjecture that the complexity that we see in even the simplest organisms today didn't just pop into existence. There must have been many steps along the way.

Yes, I agree. If life happened here on this planet, it could have also happened somewhere else... right?

danscope
2013-Jan-09, 06:08 PM
We could simply be the "first ones to the party". We just don't know from any empirical evidence, but it's a fair wager that
Earth has the only life in this solar system. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

ravens_cry
2013-Jan-09, 09:25 PM
If it exists in reality, it can be studied.
Does it though? The deep past is a mysterious place, and it is only by piecing together the flotsam and jetsam we have uncovered that we have only an inkling about what happened.
It's not like we have some kind of chronoscope, to see the past directly.
Honestly, would we be able to tell the difference between some alien putting some simple replicators together and releasing them into the wild, a meteorite from another world bearing organisms, and life forming on its own?
Never been a fan of panspermia and both it and intentional pansperia just push the question back, but it is still a worthy question to this one.

Selfsim
2013-Jan-09, 10:13 PM
I have no issue with that. I would not expect precisely the same sorts of creatures to evolve in different cases. There is an important element of chance involved. However we also have the observation of evolutionary convergence. Things that work evolve repeatedly in a variety of forms, like eyes, wings and appendages.
...
But it ends up being predictable in a more general sense because of evolutionary trends. The things that work stick. So for example if we found an alien planet similar to Earth with high evolved life forms, I would expect some equivalent of birds to exist, but I would not assume that they would be just like our birds.

No two chunks of quartz are exactly the same either.See, this would seem to be, just not so.

Latest research into this, re-inforces the unpredictability aspects I've mentioned before (many times).

It turns out that evolutionary outcomes are unpredictable to varying degrees, and according to population size. For example, in retrospect, it was not necessarily ever predictable that giraffes with long necks would eventually develop on Earth through evolution.

I've created a separate thread to discuss this, if you're interested. (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/141100-Unpredicting-Evolution?p=2096839#post2096839)

The point is that population size, (spatial scale), and temporal scale, comes into consideration again … which is exactly what we would expect to get from the non linearity of the evolutionary model, (and that's even before the latest simulation models were created to demonstrate it).

All those posts about what aliens might look like, would seem to be purely 'speculative fabrications', based on what that research modelling concludes.

A second 'run' of Earth's species' evolution, cannot be predicted to have any resemblance to what happened here, (given certain reasonable assumptions about universality of Evolution).

Such speculation once again, would seem to be all about Earth.

For Evolution to be said to be universal, demands either; evidence (of 'life') from elsewhere beyond Earth, or sufficient abiogenesis emergence mechanism details to known, in order to infer those mechanisms might exist elsewhere.
We cannot 'post-dict' it from Evolution itself, because Evolution itself, is not 'post-dictable' (in large or small populations sharing replication in common).

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-22, 11:45 PM
We just don't know from any empirical evidence

What about the WOW signal? I think we can all agree that it came from outer space, that's a fact. So, if it came from space.... shouldn't we accept that it's an evidence that there's someone/something out there? For me, that signal, is the strongest evidence that we have that there's some kind of life in the Universe.

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-23, 04:18 AM
What about the WOW signal? I think we can all agree that it came from outer space, that's a fact. So, if it came from space.... shouldn't we accept that it's an evidence that there's someone/something out there?


It probably came from space, but human sources haven't been ruled out. And we already know things are out there in deep space, the issue is if this was natural or artificial. The astronomer who found it during a SETI search himself is saying that he wants to avoid "drawing vast conclusions from half-vast data."

Ultimately, it was a one time event, even though there have been a number of attempts to check it.

Here's a detailed article on it:

http://www.bigear.org/wow20th.htm



For me, that signal, is the strongest evidence that we have that there's some kind of life in the Universe.


Well, we already know we're here. But it doesn't establish any other life exists. If it had repeated and others had been able to confirm it, then you could start seriously talking about evidence. But as is? Could be natural, could be some human cause.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-23, 02:09 PM
It probably came from space, but human sources haven't been ruled out. And we already know things are out there in deep space, the issue is if this was natural or artificial. The astronomer who found it during a SETI search himself is saying that he wants to avoid "drawing vast conclusions from half-vast data."

Ultimately, it was a one time event, even though there have been a number of attempts to check it.

Here's a detailed article on it:

http://www.bigear.org/wow20th.htm



Well, we already know we're here. But it doesn't establish any other life exists. If it had repeated and others had been able to confirm it, then you could start seriously talking about evidence. But as is? Could be natural, could be some human cause.

I've read that article some time ago, it was very interesting, and I think you haven't fully read it, because you're wrong in something: any type of human sources have been ruled out.

"Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the Wow! source."

So, we have the right evidence in front of our faces! That's my point: I think we already have the confirmation that there is some kind of civilization that uses radio to make contact or to let everybody know about their presence. Since we haven't been able to see it again, we can't answer questions like:

- Where exactly did it came from?
- What kind of entity sent it?
- What did it say? (its meaning)
- All info about a possible civilization: planetary origin, star system, technology, etc...

I see that there's some kind of "rejection" to accept it: we are not alone, we already have the confirmation. We'd like to see it several times again and again, but maybe it was not intended to start communicating, it was a beacon. But no matter the latter... we already saw that beacon, and it was artificial (non natural)... so, we can conclude that there's someone/something out there who is able to send signals = we are NOT alone.

danscope
2013-Jan-23, 05:34 PM
That is a conclusion, based on personal bias and suggested probability. But it lacks what we would call empirical proof.....
and repeatability. It remains interesting.

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-23, 07:39 PM
I've read that article some time ago, it was very interesting, and I think you haven't fully read it, because you're wrong in something: any type of human sources have been ruled out.

"Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the Wow! source."

So, we have the right evidence in front of our faces! That's my point: I think we already have the confirmation that there is some kind of civilization that uses radio to make contact or to let everybody know about their presence.


You seem to be very selectively reading the material. From your quote, we can see that terrestrial sources have not been ruled out, and that it is not established that, if it extraterrestrial, that it must be ETI ("might have" is not "must have").

And let's put your quote in context (I'll bold the rest of the concluding paragraph that you left out):

Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the Wow! source. Of course, being a scientist, I await the reception of additional signals like the Wow! source that are able to be received and analyzed by many observatories. Thus, I must state that the origin of the Wow! signal is still an open question for me. There is simply too little data to draw many conclusions. In other words, as I stated above, I choose not to "draw vast conclusions from 'half-vast' data".


So the astronomer who found it, while doing a SETI search, isn't willing to make the statement you are making. Also, here's an article by Seth Shostak, another well known SETI researcher, and he isn't declaring that it must be ETI either:

http://www.bigear.org/shostak_wow_20021205.htm

Here's what he's saying:

So was the Wow signal our first detection of extraterrestrials? It might have been, but no scientist would make such a claim. Scientific experiment is inherently, and rightly, skeptical. This isn't just a sour attitude; it's the only way to avoid routinely fooling yourself. So until and unless the cosmic beep measured in Ohio is found again, the Wow signal will remain a What signal.


I see that there's some kind of "rejection" to accept it: we are not alone, we already have the confirmation.


So you think the SETI researchers are being unreasonable then?

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-23, 11:26 PM
So you think the SETI researchers are being unreasonable then?

Of course! Why is there so much skepticism to accept the fact that we already received an ET signal? It came from outer space and it was not human-made, it was artificial (not natural)... that's it, what else do you need to convince yourself? Cut to the chase: the pattern in the signal was exactly what researches were expecting to find... so we found it, we received it.

That signal proves that there's or there was someone/something that sent a signal across the vastness of space, that's a fact. It could have also been sent many many years ago (100,1000,10000 who knows) and arrived to Earth in 1977... that's another story, but it's a solid proof that we are not alone!

Deal with it, accept it, don't deny the truth.

Luckmeister
2013-Jan-24, 12:08 AM
Of course! Why is there so much skepticism to accept the fact that we already received an ET signal? It came from outer space and it was not human-made, it was artificial (not natural)... that's it, what else do you need to convince yourself? Cut to the chase: the pattern in the signal was exactly what researches were expecting to find... so we found it, we received it.

That signal proves that there's or there was someone/something that sent a signal across the vastness of space, that's a fact. It could have also been sent many many years ago (100,1000,10000 who knows) and arrived to Earth in 1977... that's another story, but it's a solid proof that we are not alone!

Deal with it, accept it, don't deny the truth.

It's interesting that some anonymous person cherrypicks from what the experts who operated the equipment say and then claims to know more about the signal's origin than they do. What is your background and experience that gives your analysis more credibility than theirs?

Van Rijn
2013-Jan-24, 09:23 AM
Of course! Why is there so much skepticism to accept the fact that we already received an ET signal? It came from outer space and it was not human-made, it was artificial (not natural)... that's it, what else do you need to convince yourself?


What the astronomer who found it said: Repeated observation from more than one observatory (ruling out equipment glitches or local issues) and observations that rule out human-made sources (NOT established here), and enough data to make it clear it is artificial (also NOT established here). This is how science works.


That signal proves that there's or there was someone/something that sent a signal across the vastness of space, that's a fact.

No, that's your belief. As has been patiently explained, with references, this has not been established.

MarianoRF
2013-Jan-24, 10:21 AM
What is your background and experience that gives your analysis more credibility than theirs?

Common sense.


No, that's your belief. As has been patiently explained, with references, this has not been established.

As long as we continue to beat about the bush, we will never be able to deal with these subjects.

Luckmeister
2013-Jan-24, 06:30 PM
Common sense

Your background and experience is common sense? Are you aware that you are posting on a science board?


As long as we continue to beat about the bush, we will never be able to deal with these subjects.

Please explain what you mean by that.