Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Extraterrestrial life

Fanciful extraterrestrial life “science” scenarios: Is there any harm in them?

Brown dwarf, centre, courtesy NASA

“Searching for alien life? Check out failed stars”, we learn via Clara Moskowitz (MSNBC, 4/1/2011): “Potential exists on free-floating planets and sub-brown dwarfs, researcher says”:

Researcher Viorel Badescu of the Polytechnic University of Bucharest in Romania recently investigated the possibilities for life on free-floating planets (FFPs) and sub-brown dwarfs (SBDs) that might contain lakes of the chemical ethane. He found that such life is not impossible, though it would be significantly different from life on Earth. His findings were detailed in the August 2010 issue of the journal Planetary and Space Science.

Solvents? Well, “Synthesis of observational data makes it possible to conceive Read More ›

Comments from contacts about the possible alien life form discovery

In response to someone who wondered whether American scientists might be letting their imaginations run away with them about this spectacular new alien life find, Rob Sheldon offers “absolutely not”. Au contraire, the French were onto it and NASA dropped the ball. On why that happened, he says, NASA’s attitude is an example of

… “pathological science” and was extensively discussed by Irving Langmuir in 1953 and subsequent publications

I can assure you, nothing in Hoover’s [the discovering scientist’s] work comes within a mile or so of being pathological. Hoover has several gigabytes of pictures taken in every single CI meteorite he can get his hands on. The pictures have made him a sensation in the French Academy, the Belgian Academy and the Russian Academy. Experts in microbiology have examined the pictures and not only verified their biological identity, but asked how he obtained such clarity that exceeds what they can accomplish in the laboratory. (Freeze dry for a thousand years…) The only people that continue to shun him are the US and NASA. Ultimately it is ideology that prevent people from taking the pictures seriously, a prior commitment to “life only exists on Earth”. Some of those people are conservative Christians, some are dedicated Darwinists. I really don’t think it is a well-reasoned position, but still, there’ a lot of ideological opposition.

By the way, Fox News is offering updates, comments from relevant scientists, though as of ten minutes ago, I couldn’t yet find them. Keep checking back.

I suppose some Evolution Sunday clergy will now be preaching sermons about how to adjust to the fact that we now “know” how life got started purely by chance (abiogenesis). Our ID community’s rebbe, Moshe Averick, told me,

I don’t think it has any implications at all for abiogenesis. No one really has much of a clue how abiogenesis could have occured on earth, the best that could be said is that not only is life on earth inexplicable, but life elsewhere in the universe is also inexplicable.

Our George Hunter will doubtless comment shortly on his regular blog, but I overheard him say, Read More ›

To: Life on extrasolar planets

From: David Coppedge Message: Get your own sun Recently fired NASA mission specialist Dave Coppedge* wonders whether, given the constraints, the idea of a circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), the region where life might be possible, is too simplistic. Before listing the many constraints, he quotes lead researcher Rene Heller: “If you want to find a second Earth, it seems that you need to look for a second Sun.” * Fired mainly for being a Christian, it seems, that is, a member of a community famous worldwide for abandoning its own to persecution. Oh, by the way, here is an interesting Kepler find: Two planets sharing an orbit. Me, I’m waiting for the video footage of a planetary traffic jam.

Nature authors on exoplanets: Earth-sized, not Earth-like

Here’s the abstract of a just-published paper: Nature 470, 438 (24 February 2011) doi:10.1038/470438b NASA’s Kepler mission to find habitable planets orbiting Sun-like stars has turned up its first rocky planet. The project uses the Kepler space telescope to identify extrasolar planets by watching for dips in the intensity of light from up to 170,000 target stars. Natalie Batalha of San Jose State University in California and her group spotted Kepler 10b, which is about 4.56 times the mass of Earth. Although similar in size to Earth, its orbit lasts just 0.84 days, making it likely that the planet is a scorched, waterless world with a sea of lava on its starlit side. Despite the pop science media’s tendency to Read More ›

Coffee!! Have you been blessed, brother?

Apparently you have, … if you are not designed. Over at MSNBC.com, Alan Boyle asked yesterday, What would happen if we found out that we are not alone in the universe? Or, on the flip side, what would happen if we decided that we really were alone? Experts provided updated answers to those age-old questions, from a scientific as well as a religious angle, during a Sunday session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. But one of the most intriguing questions had more of a personal spin: What would you ask E.T. if you had the chance? Well, what would you ask, readers? And, as for what would happen if we decided that we really Read More ›

Extraterrestrials: They’re not there, but they must be !

Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, reviews Paul Davies’s latest book, The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence/Are We Alone In The Universe? , which argues that we should expand the hunt for intelligent life:

McKay considers why we should look closer to home — perhaps even in our DNA.

Although supporting the current quest, Davies recommends bold and sometimes bizarre avenues of exploration. For example, if migratory Galactic civilizations passed this way some time ago, they might have posted an alien message in our DNA or depleted our region of the Universe of some resource, such as (undiscovered) magnetic monopoles. Perhaps they left a device in the Solar System as a calling card, and are patiently waiting for us to discover and activate it. There are many places to look, many ways to expand the search.

Davies devotes pages to what will happen if a signal is received and how we should respond. Most readers will find these questions remote and hypothetical — not least because once a signal is received, events are likely to be quickly taken out of the hands of the astronomers.

The greatest joy of The Eerie Silence is the ending, in which Davies gives his own perspective. He splits his personality into three: scientist, philosopher and human. As a scientist, he is sceptical that we will detect extraterrestrial life, yet he finds that possibility plausible as a philosopher and longs for it to be true as a human. Read at least this page, even if you do not have time for the rest of this excellent book.

– Chris McKay, Is there anybody out there? (Nature, 464, 34 (4 March 2010) doi:10.1038/464034a)

Why does all this remind my of a woman wittering alone at home by the telephone (Why doesn’t he call? Why doesn’t he text?) waiting for a familiar knock on the door and checking her e-mail every two minutes. No one can cure anyone else of this romantic disorder just by talking sense to them. Usually, women cure themselves when they are ready by asking a simple question: What would happen if I just forgot about him and lived my life and was happy?

Well, he’s already forgotten her, so ….

But she, at least, knew for sure that he existed.

So, now, what’s the matter with Paul Davies? SETI? Why can’t they just let go?

And don’t tell me that this is all just about finding bacteria on another planet. That’s like the lonely, pacing woman claiming she’s really only worried about him. Sure.


Here’s more on extraterrestrial life: Read More ›

Can SETI’s algorithm detect intelligence?

TED granted Jill Tartar her wish to: “empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company”. TED and Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has set up SETIQuest.org to:

. . . make vast amounts of SETI data available to the public for the first time. It will also publish the SETI Institute’s signal-detection algorithm as open source code, inviting brilliant coders and amateur techies to make it even better. . . . You are officially invited to join the search for extraterrestrial life. . . .With available cloud storage and processing resources, we can prov de digital signal processing experts and students with a lot of raw data … and invite them to develop new algorithms that can find other types of signals that we are now missing,”

The Challenge for ID
1) Is SETI’s methodology valid? Read More ›

This is science??

The Royal Society, the foremost British science body is hosting a conference exploring extraterrestrial life. Given that there is zero evidence from any scientific study ever that there is any extra terrestrial life, why is this considered science when even discussing ID would never be sanctioned by the Royal Society? Aliens are likely to look and behave like us Alien life, if it exists at all, is likely to be just like us, a leading scientist has claimed. He also believes aliens would also share our human weaknesses for greed, violence and the exploitation of others. By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent 25 Jan 2010 Professor Simon Conway Morris at Cambridge University will tell a conference on alien life that extraterrestrials will Read More ›

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 15: Can Darwinism – or any evolution theory – help us predict life on other planets? – Winner announced

This one is for people interested in theories about life on other planets.

At Britain’s Telegraph (November 04, 2009), Tom Chivers advises that “Darwinian evolutionary theory will help find alien life, says Nasa scientist.”

We learn two competing views:

And so the limits of Darwinian evolution will define the range of planets that can support life – at least Earth-like life.”


… alien life may not be entirely Earth-like. Dr Baross said: “I’d like to point out there are many different ways for non-Earth-like life to not use light or chemical energy but use some other form like radiation energy, wave energy, or ultraviolet energy.”

And then how can we know that they proceed by Darwinian evolution?

More “here.

So, for a free copy of the Privileged Planet DVD, about the uniqueness of Earth, provide the clearest and most useful answer to this question: Would any theory about the evolution of life on Earth predict the course of life on other planets, and if so which one and why? More re contest here.

Before I announce the winner, I would like to thank Access Research Network for kindly offering a shelf of books by mathematician David Berlinski – a self-confessed Darwin skeptic and widely enjoyed wit – as prizes for future contests. You can view their catalogue here.

The winner is Read More ›

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 15: Can Darwinism – or any evolution theory – help us predict life on other planets?

So, for a free copy of the Privileged Planet DVD, about the uniqueness of Earth, provide the clearest and most useful answer to this question: Would any theory about the evolution of life on Earth predict thecourse of life on other planets, and if so which one and why? Read More ›