PDA

View Full Version : Discussion: Where Does Intelligent Life Come ...



Fraser
2005-Mar-08, 06:18 PM
SUMMARY: Biologists - and all parents - have a pretty good idea that "life begets life". Beginning with the most primitive anaerobic bacteria and leading up to the most sophisticated and accomplished astronomer, it's pretty clear that offspring don't necessarily resemble their parent(s) in all particulars. Meanwhile exobiologists are unlikely to ever disprove the fact that life exists beyond the Blue Planet because disproving something is much harder than proving it. After all if intelligent life could happen here - it could happen elsewhere...

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/where_intelligent_life.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

wstevenbrown
2005-Mar-08, 07:50 PM
I found this article, even making allowances for journalistic length constraints, incomplete. The general tenor of the piece conveyed three chauvinistic points apparently accepted without question by the author:

1) Carbon + water is the only possible basis for life.

2) Mammalian life is the only possible seat of intelligence.

3) Evolution is a directed process which produces complexity as its goal.

Combining point 1, 2, and 3, the clear result is that we, the obvious crown of creation, were created on purpose. While many believe this, the domain of belief is not the same as the domain of science. I personally disagree with points 1 & 2, and point 3 is patently false. Evolution (or speciation) produces mostly nonviable sports, and the very few breeders produce only variety. Whether that variety is conserved depends solely on luck. All real students of evolution (and most journalists) know this: many perfectly viable species are wiped out by stupid, blind bad luck. The Burgess shale shows records of entire Phyla which entirely disappeared in the figurative blink of an eye.

While science could use some good PR, it will go down easier if the approach is more... balanced. Best regards-- Steve

SunPin
2005-Mar-08, 09:11 PM
Length constraints? Those don't exist... yet. :)

Not every article needs to be sent down from Sinai. Less is more when you have articles like this. The "incomplete" nature allows the community to discuss and debate.

As for the mammal-intelligence connection, on purely empirical grounds, this is true. The score between my cat and the local lizard population is, and likely to remain, a shutout.

TuTone
2005-Mar-08, 09:35 PM
Life can be anywhere. Life on "X" planet may adapt to the planets atmospher & breath what us humans don't find habitable, just like we adapt to Earth's atmosphere or we may be the only living creatures in our galaxy or maybe universe or there may be only "life" per one planet in one galaxy. :D

TuTone
2005-Mar-08, 09:46 PM
Plus we always talk about how life evolved.... :huh: but it doesn't make sense. How did the universe evolve? How did the "Big Bang" generate?
How did micro bacterial stuff evolve? Where did all this stuff (etc: minerals, vitamins, material, elements, asteroids, stars, dust, black matter) come from? How is everything made so perfectly? I want scientist to figure all that out, but I guess that won't happen in my lifetime....damn
:(
Well, I'll just put my faith in God B)

alfchemist
2005-Mar-08, 09:49 PM
Indeed, carbon + water is not the only possible basis for life. For a family of hydrocarbons, there is an analog family of boron compounds. This opens up other possibility. But why are most, if not all, lifeforms on this planet carbon-based? Surely, availability and chemistry of carbon plays a pivotal role.

Certainly, mammalian lifeform is not the only seat of intelligence. Though I'm not sure where this is implied here. With regards to evolution, I have my reservations but what im puzzled about in this article is the highlighting of production of water by organisms. It should be production of energy source to harness in cellular processes. This article needs some editing :)

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Mar-08, 10:41 PM
Hi All,

Every article is a crystal ball in which we see our own projections.

There is no intent to limit intelligence to mammals in fact the brain-body mass ratio of certain dynasauria (raptors) approached that of our own.

There is no intent to limit life forms to carbon only - in fact future silicon based intelligences may "evolve" out of our very own technical handiwork. Does that make us god or them the result of Darwinian evolution based on random genetic mutations and selective processes?

In terms of evolutionary process we can only assert the form has evolved as a result of natural selection etc. Those who wish to decouple "awareness" from form and give it its own evolutionary pathway are free to do so - even if the approach is not scientific. But it remains valid in its own sphere and woe unto them who attempt to impose that other sphere onto that of science!

If I might speak to the authors true intent I would first site the footnote as follows:



That life develops from less sophisticated to more sophisticated forms is a question beyond scientific dispute. Precisely how this process takes place is an issue of deep division in human society. Astronomers - unlike biologists - are not required to hold any particular theory on this issue. Whether chance mutation and natural selection drives the process or some unseen "hand" exists to bring such things about is outside the realm of astronomical inquiry. Astronomers are interested in structures, conditions, and processes in the universe at large. As life becomes more salient to that discussion, astronomy - in particular exobiology - will have more to say about the matter. But the very fact that astronomers can allow nature to speak on such issues as a sudden and instantaneous "creation ex nihilo" in the form of a Big Bang shows just how flexible astronomical thinking is in regard to ultimate origins.


The writer is an astronomer - not a biologist - therefore questions about ultimate causes are framed within that context. That he may have understated certain factors, overstated others, and possibly missed entire areas of conjecture is moot.

Project into the crystal ball whatever you like - that's why it is there!

Cheers,

jeff

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Mar-09, 03:17 AM
Hi,


I have my reservations but what im puzzled about in this article is the highlighting of production of water by organisms.

I may be mistaken but but oxygen-hydrogen fixation IS the ultimate mechanism
by which energy is released. In other words water is a by-product of the complex processes going on within cells to release energy BUT the process is extremely well-handled so energy is released in a well controlled step-wise fashion.

(Its possible I screwed up but I don't think my expert reviewer did unless he simply missed the reference.)

Of course if this is in fact the way cell metabolism really works then of course it deserves a lot of attention - like the article says combining the two is normally a very dangerous process!

jeff

vet
2005-Mar-10, 04:12 AM
Originally posted by SunPin@Mar 8 2005, 09:11 PM
Length constraints? Those don't exist... yet. :)

Not every article needs to be sent down from Sinai. Less is more when you have articles like this. The "incomplete" nature allows the community to discuss and debate.

As for the mammal-intelligence connection, on purely empirical grounds, this is true. The score between my cat and the local lizard population is, and likely to remain, a shutout.
and if your cat starts eating your garden, it will produce 'kitty-poison'---you're all, everyone i've seen, missing the forest for the trees. what life-form has precedense? what life-form doesn't need you, but you need it?

how many have read dr. paul davies' 'cosmic blueprint', wherein it is shown sennses need no common origin---eye, vs. leaf, for instance. what's that old saying?' in my life of biology i have discovered one thing---'God has an inordinate love of beettles.' right now, humanity is an 'understudy'.

'the origin of life'? you'll never get that one---not your job. your job is what you May do---not create Life---Move it---if you don't do it, something else will---that should consume your thought, not arcane absurdity. deeds, not words----

wstevenbrown
2005-Mar-10, 05:11 PM
The astronomer-not-biologist argument doesn't hold. You can't have it both ways. By adducing biological fact(oid)s, the author opens up the door.

Both the journalist and his quoted authorities have limited their search to a recapitulation of life-as-we-know-it, of how it all happened on The Blue Marble. Any grade-school child can do that.

Limiting the search and the speculation to life-as-we-know-it is analogous to a fish leaving the water expecting to see only fish.


For water to take the liquid state, it must remain in a relatively narrow range of temperatures and pressures. Because of this only a certain few well-placed planets - and possibly a handful of large moons are favored with the conditions needed to let life live. In many cases it all comes down to a form of celestial real estate - location, location, location...

The conclusion drawn was for life, not life-as-we-know-it. By all means, continue to explore the unfamiliar, expecting to see the familiar. Good luck. S

mark mclellan
2005-Mar-11, 11:27 AM
Mammals and inteligence hmmmmmmm.
Time and enviroment together will dictate inteligence levels. Humans (in all classifications) got to our current level of intelligence due to lots of little things, dinosaurs were wiped out for a start which allowed mammals to increase in size, numbers and variation. Our enviroment changed which required our monkey like ancestors to leave the safety of the trees and roam the ground for food, we were not best made for this and (luckely) our levels of intelligence grew allowing us to survive this change. Other beasts and mammals were much better at killing than us, again intelligence came to the rescue and allowed us to hunt in packs, make weapons, use our surroundings as traps etc

These are the events that have lead to us being the so called intelligent species.

Had some of the bi-pedial and dexterous dinosuars and lizards survived the Asteroid strike (not claiming that this event alone finally killed them off) it may well be a 6ft tall, highly intelligent Geco sitting here writing this article !!!!

We are where we are because !!!! but it was never our mammalian destiny to be here.

Lady luck has been our constant companion since the big bang

GOURDHEAD
2005-Mar-11, 01:42 PM
We are where we are because !!!! but it was never our mammalian destiny to be here. How can you be sure. One can be warmblooded without being a mammal, but I'm not sure one can be a mammal without being warmblooded. Warmbloodedness is a convenient, maybe even necessary aspect, of maintaining relatively large brains which is convenient, maybe even necessary, for the level of intelligence that humans "enjoy". If some other natural disaster had not eliminated the dinosaurs, we (those in our lineage) would have.

mark mclellan
2005-Mar-15, 01:20 PM
"If some other natural disaster had not eliminated the dinosaurs, we (those in our lineage) would have. "

Gourdhead,

For many millions of years before the dissapearence of the dinosaurs our linage had been sniffing around in the dirt eating beetles and bugs without bothering them in the slightest.

We came to be because the world changed enough for mammals to become the dominant species, i have spotted no chink in the dinosaur armour that mammals could have ever exploited.

In 160 million years nothing bettered them, humans have clocked up about 3.5 million years...............

Only in fairy tales does David beat Goliath, in the real world Goliath uses David as a loofah

GOURDHEAD
2005-Mar-15, 02:30 PM
Only in fairy tales does David beat Goliath, in the real world Goliath uses David as a loofah How large are the viruses that cause smallpox, AIDS, west nile, etc., Poisonous snakes and spiders equipped with a modicum of intelligence, although much smaller than we, could be formidable adversaries. Can you be sure that our lineage didn't help do them in or perhaps were the major contributor to their demise. Pathogens incubated in the bodies of our warm blooded forbears, to which they had developed immunity, could have been a trans-species disaster to the big fellows. Variations on the feasting habits of the vampire bat theme would have been difficult for them as well. Now the chicken-sized, and pigeon-sized lizards could have been more formidable because our forbears would have been a meal worth their effort. Intelligence must have been the discriminant.

It's more difficult for our forbears to deal with the marine copies of the ferocious beasts of the time and the crocodilians and turtles survived, although the mosasaurs and plesiosaurs did not survive. This is puzzling since their main diet was fish, mollusks, and crustaceans many of which survived. It's tempting to believe that the K-T boundary extinction involved more than the big rock.


In 160 million years nothing bettered them, humans have clocked up about 3.5 million years............... Note that you are comparing one mammalian species to to a genus of reptiles. The lifetime of the genus containing our lineage is probably 0.5 that of the dinosaur genus. We were late comers and slow learners, but the dinosaurs were slower learners.

Guest_Patrick
2005-Mar-15, 11:04 PM
After reading this article and the comments association with it, I would like to argue that we already have a logical theory for the "meaning of life" question. However, it took me a year of study to get most of it sorted out and its been a couple of months since I looked at this material so I don't want to create the lengthy and incorrect arguement that would most likely arise.

Instead I would like to give an example and a description of an environment.

Take 2 coke bottles and fill one with water (and the other with air). Connect them end on end so that they are sealed with the water one on the bottom. Now, turn the bottles over and let the water drain down into the bottom bottle. This will take about 8 minutes to gurgle through.

Now, with the water in the bottom bottle, turn them over again but this time input some energy into the system by moving them in a circle a couple of times so that the water forms a funnel. The air rushes up the middle as the water rushing down the sides of the bottle. This will take about 16 seconds. (Sorry for the poor explanation of the circling bit. Move the bottles to carve a circle in the plane that is perpendicular to the long axis of the bottles).

The difference between these two situations is the time taken for the potential energy of the water to dissipate. By creating the funnel structure, the potential energy of the water dissipated much faster (8 minutes down to 16 seconds). This idea of faster energy dissipation as a result of greater structure is the main idea to take from this.

Before I continue, a warning. The example I've given is probably incorrect. The reason I used it is because it is the easiest example to imagine/see what I'm talking about. The reason that it's wrong is because when I rotated the bottles, I directed the structural form that should be taken from the outside when instead the structural form should be emerge from the interactions between the water molecules as a result of being excited (having kinetic energy added). Don't worry about this too much. It's just a simple model used for explanation purposes that is a lot easier to imagine than using an organism or a pile of sand or something else as an example.

Repeating the point from the first part of my arguement:
Faster energy dissipation as a result of greater structure.

Now for a description of an environment.
Take a planet orbiting a star. Energy is radiated from the star to the planet's surface where it is absorbed and then dissipated again out to space.

NASA Earth Observatory (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Observatory/Datasets/lstday.modis.html)
Now go to this page and make youself a movie of the Earth's "Day land temperature" between Feb 2000 and Feb 2004. Sometimes the video doesn't play properly. If all you get is a white picture, then wait for the page to finish loading completely and then play the video again. When you watch the video, see how the northern part of South America and the Central part of Africa stay a deep red during the entire year while areas around then change to yellows signifying hotter land temperatures. These two areas contain the Amazon Rainforest and the major African forests http://www.unep-wcmc.org/forest/afr_region.htm~main]Map (http://www.unep-wcmc.org/index.html?[url) of African forests[/url].

Putting this all together. Greater structure results in faster energy dissipation. The Earth, as a planet, is being radiated by energy from the sun. Plants, as objects of greater structure than dirt, and more explicitly, forests as objects having greater structure than other landscape types, dissipate the incoming solar radiation faster resulting in a cooler planet surface.
Therefore, I would suggest to you (and only suggest as a lot of arguements and ideas and results have not been covered here) that the meaning of life is to "dissipate energy".

wstevenbrown
2005-Mar-17, 03:01 AM
Re: Extinctions

Extinctions target two classes of animals (not particular species).

1) Large animals, i.e., those with the highest energy utilization.

2) Specialized animals, i.e., those having very narrow ecological tolerances, or dietary requirements.

Our ancestors survived because they were small and omnivorous. The dinosaurs which survived were (what a coincidence) bird-sized and omnivorous, except for sea turtles, which are in a broad ecological niche (any ocean with fish in it).

It is too easy for us to get into the habit of thinking that the dinosaurs died because we are better than dinosaurs, or that our ancestors wiped out the dinosaurs, or that all dinosaurs died.

It doesn't really matter much which cause we adduce for the extinctions-- asteroid impact, global vulcanism, solar flares, disease, food pyramid disturbance... the results are the same. Best regards-- Steve

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Mar-17, 11:27 PM
Hi Guest_Patrick,

Now you are speaking on my terms - thanks!


This idea of faster energy dissipation as a result of greater structure is the main idea to take from this.

I too have cogitated the "meaning and purpose" of life. Within that framework however I arrived at a conclusion that says that the method you allude to above is more "process" than "goal".

Basically, I am a teleologist - a system of thought easy to describe but difficult to prove. A teleologist is one who asserts that:

"The future creates the present out of the past."

Thus the teleologist believes themselves to be an instrument through which the future creates the present out of the past. And as a consequence such a person derives a sense of purpose from acting in that capacity.

Now as a teleologist I am also a hylozoist. A hylozoist is one who believes that:

"Everything in the Cosmos connects to everything else - but with varying degrees of connectedness."

Such a person derives meaning from life by being aware that they are inseparate from the entirety of Cosmos.

Now what about your concept of meaning?

Essentially (from my perspective) you describe the process by which the present is created teleologically. And that process always includes stress or ("dissipation of energy"). Where a person-thing is able to dissipate a lot of energy they are better able to handle "stress" and that makes them a more efficient teleological agent. And how is stress dissipated? By properly routing it elsewhere in the Universe along the many "paths of interconnectedness" - some of which are radiational, some convectional, and some conductional. We be talking thermodynamics here.

Carpe Noctem,

jeff

Guest_Patrick
2005-Mar-18, 11:36 AM
In reply to The Near-Sighted Astronomer:

Hi Jeff,


I arrived at a conclusion that says that the method you allude to above is more "process" than "goal".

Hmmm... yes. I would agree because to give a goal without further defining the environment would seem pointless of me. The Ultimate goal for all species is propagation of as many successfully reproducing offspring as possible. I think, on Earth the combination of the "process" (Faster energy dissipation as a result of greater structure.) with the variability of the environment produces many different localised goals (there is a word for this but I've forgotten it momentarily). These many localised goals are seen through the millions of different solutions we see... the millions of different species.

I'm not well aware of the ideas held by either teleologists nor hylozoists. So, I would like to ask you one question in regards to both, hopefully without going off-topic too far.

Why do you think that temporal connectedness (teleology) and spatiotemporal (space and time) connectedness (hylozology) is sufficiently different from the general position of the scientific literature as to require these names (teleology and hylozology)? Isn't it obvious that everything is connected to everything else? Wouldn't the force of gravity do that single-handedly?
Obviously, I do not understand these subjects yet.


Where a person-thing is able to dissipate a lot of energy they are better able to handle "stress" and that makes them a more efficient teleological agent.

It is not the dissipation of energy that makes an organism better able to handle stress but the potential to dissipate energy. If I'm a rabbit and I live where there are predators, spending the amount of energy required to escape predators before the predators even start hunting me will not save me from that stress (death via predation). It's the same with spending cash (a form of standardised energy unit that we use to trade). If I have a lot of cash, its better to store some of it for a rainy day than to use that stored energy (cash) now when its not raining.



And how is stress dissipated? By properly routing it elsewhere in the Universe along the many "paths of interconnectedness" - some of which are radiational, some convectional, and some conductional. We be talking thermodynamics here.

Stress is not routed elsewhere directly. Rather it dissipates stored energy which escapes to the environment with the potential to be used again depending on its form. Yes indeedy, thermodynamics it is.

I really should log in instead of working as a guest but my login didn't work the last time I tried. Anyway, I'll try again after this message (if there are replies). My login will probably be some form of "Insaa" if I remember correctly.

Jack
2005-Mar-18, 09:36 PM
Interesting how everyone knows that more complex forms of life come from simpler ones. I would like to see this happen once in my lifetime. So far all I've seen is traits being shuffled around and fruit flies being turned into bizarre masses of misplaced or malformed parts.

Once we have amino acids, we have life, eh? Most amino acids are not biologically significant. And in the case of life on Earth, they all have to be left handed.

So we assume from there that proteins MUST come about in the presence of amino acids. In the end, biology is just a natural result of carbon. Really? Is a tractor the natural result of iron? A microprocessor the result of silicon and UV waves at the beach? Have any biochemists cooked up a protein from random thermal energy and a soup of biologically significant molecules to prove the difference between the case for Neo spontaneous generation (chemical evolution) and these examples?

But, even if you did come up with a protein, it would be useless on its own without many, many more to work in concert. And proteins are just as specific and configuration sensitive (or more so) than tractors and microprocessors.

It is rather ironic that the article begins with an affirmation of Pasteur's Law of Biogenesis, that "life begets life", as a well understood concept among parents AND biologists, then makes a case which completely contradicts this principle. Has Pasteur's flask produced any new forms of life? It has had all the necessary organic molecules for around a century and a half. Do we need to put it over a bunsen burner and wait another billion years?

Insaa
2005-Mar-21, 11:21 AM
Hmm, nice reply Jack.

I guess the best way to answer this is that we can build up a genetic tree of the Earth's studied organisms and they all show relationships to each other. It doesn't matter if the organism is a worm, a plant or a human, they can all be structured into a tree of "decent" based solely from their genetic similarities. This answer has a large assumption that generally, something might evolve once, not multiple times in many separate places to form the same exact structure.

Nick4
2005-Apr-24, 03:19 AM
This story is nothing but truth. I feel very strongly about life existing elswere. Out of our own galaxy alone there are billions of stars that could have planetary systems and ther are trillions of galaxys in the univers the odds of there not being life somewhere else is like wining the lotto geting struck by lightnine 450 times in one day and living to tell about it.lol

pq kdpa u;aiu
2005-May-09, 09:25 AM
Originally posted by mark mclellan@Mar 15 2005, 01:20 PM
"If some other natural disaster had not eliminated the dinosaurs, we (those in our lineage) would have. "

Gourdhead,

For many millions of years before the dissapearence of the dinosaurs our linage had been sniffing around in the dirt eating beetles and bugs without bothering them in the slightest.

We came to be because the world changed enough for mammals to become the dominant species, i have spotted no chink in the dinosaur armour that mammals could have ever exploited.

In 160 million years nothing bettered them, humans have clocked up about 3.5 million years...............

Only in fairy tales does David beat Goliath, in the real world Goliath uses David as a loofah
:ph34r: :lol: hyhygutgja9 jkh;a k

Svemir
2005-May-09, 12:04 PM
Why would life come from space to earth?
I have a hard time to imagine a better place then Earth for nursering the life.
Why would a cold, airless space be better place for beginning of life?
Or, what another planet should look like to give better chance for life?

Nereid
2005-May-15, 03:01 AM
Oh what hubris! Oh how awful the science!

(yes friends, it's very, very late at night - morning actually - and I've had far, far too much to drink, and I will surely regret this post on Monday).

"Life" has precisely ONE DATA POINT! Us'ns, here on Earth. Now, pray tell, in what way can a generalisation from a single data point have any validity??

One of the worst kinds of approach re "life" is to see us, Homo sap., as its pinnacle. C'mon! We live in The Age of Bacteria! The Earth has ALWAYS been The Age of Bacteria!! We amuse ourselves with trivial discussions of surviving the KT asteroid/comet - c'mon, the bacteria 20km down in the lithosphere didn't even notice!

Life progresses by increasing complexity - hah! Go read Darwin ... carefully! evolution is agnostic to complexity, and any biologist worth her salt could give you a hundred examples of evolution selecting - by fitness - less complex (e.g. why do fish in caves have no eyes?)

Of course, if you 'do' astrobiology, you face cruel choices at every stage - examine 'life' only as it relates to baryons (by far the bulk of the mass-energy in the universe is in forms other than baryons, why take a minority view?) to 'triple-point systems' (by far the bulk of the baryons in our universe are in the form of plasma) to carbon-based systems, etc etc etc. The answer, of course, is that this is the only system we have any data on, so all our 'scientific research' in this field amounts to 'life like that which is found here on Earth'.

Sp1ke
2005-May-16, 01:03 PM
Rant or no, I think Nereid's got a good point. The only life we have detected is on this planet. So why would we expect intelligence to have come from anywhere other than here?

There's nothing wrong with speculating about pan-spermia and life-bearing asteroids but my feeling is that life and hence intelligence started on Earth.

Of course, you can be guilty of hubris whichever way you look at it. Either we are special because we're the only life in the entire universe. Or we are special because this planet is one of the few places where life originated. Or our "life" is the only way it can be (carbon/water-based).

The contrary viewpoint is that life is an emergent characteristic of chemistry so there will be life on many, many planets of many different types and appearance. And intelligence is an emergent characteristic of life so there are millions of intelligent species out there. It's just that they haven't had time, or can't be bothered, to contact us.

The Near-Sighted Astronomer
2005-Jul-08, 08:25 PM
Hi Guest_Patrick,

Sorry for the long delay in answering your question. It has been a while since i checked this thread.



Why do you think that temporal connectedness (teleology) and spatiotemporal (space and time) connectedness (hylozology) is sufficiently different from the general position of the scientific literature as to require these names (teleology and hylozology)?


There are serious variances between the scientific conception of "Why?" and that of teleology. Scientific "Why" is based on past-based causality ie the past creates and pre-determines the future. That assumption lies at base of the "Theory of Everything". Teleology is future-based causality. Something is at work in the universe of a Platonic nature - some "Form" overshadows the Universe and draws it inexorably toward a form of "destiny".

Meanwhile hylozoism is also Platonic in nature. Mind has as much influence in the present as the physical laws of nature. In fact a Universal Mind has construed those laws in acordance with the outworking of the teleological principle.

Once this whole thing is better demonstrated there will no longer be conflict between religion and science since religion is deductive (assumes teleology "God") and works 'downward' toward particulars while science works inductively from particulars back to abstractions. Right now science has gone as far as natural lwaw without seeing the singularity behind such laws and the destiny they are intended to manifest as new, more subtle laws (such as love, wisdom, compassion) are revealed through human consciousness - here and elsewhere...

Cheers,

jeff