Cosmology

If space aliens exist, they are straws to clutch at

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In “Existence: Are we alone in the universe?” (New Scientist, 25 July, 2011), Valerie Jamieson offers explanations for why space aliens just do not show:

But that doesn’t mean ET isn’t there. It just might not know we’re here. The only evidence of our existence that reaches beyond the solar system are radio signals and light from our cities. “We’ve only been broadcasting powerful radio signals since the second world war,” says Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. So our calling card has leaked just 70 light years into space, a drop in the ocean. If the Milky Way was the size of London and Earth was at the base of Nelson’s Column, our radio signals would still not have left Trafalgar Square (see diagram).

Maybe, but why do these people always sound a dumped girlfriend explaining why he never phones?

“It’s probably safe to say that even if the local galaxy is choc-a-bloc with aliens, none of them know that Homo sapiens is here,” says Shostak. That also works in reverse. Given the size of the universe and the speed of light, most stars and planets are simply out of range.

It is also possible that intelligent life is separated from us by time. After all, human intelligence has only existed for a minuscule fraction of Earth’s history and may just be a fleeting phase (see “Existence: Will we die out? “). It may be too much of a stretch to hope that a nearby planet not only harbours intelligent life, but that it does so right now.

Yeah. Sugar, is it possible you just had a sweet dream? That guy never really existed? Hey, it happens. Better to know. You’re alone but it’s okay.

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28 Replies to “If space aliens exist, they are straws to clutch at

  1. 1
    woodford says:

    Well, Valerie Jamieson does say that aliens might not know where are here. And the possible explanation she provides certainly is one based on known facts about the size of the universe, the penetration of radio signals, and also of course just how long it would take a space-faring civilization to get anywhere (which of course is based on current known constraints on the speed of light).

    I’m curious to know why Ms O’Leary is so cynical of these explanations which seem on the face of it quite reasonable and in line with our current knowledge about how the universe operates.

  2. 2
    Ilion says:

    A thing I think is so odd about all this need to be not alone is that frequently the same individuals who get all warm-and-fuzzy rapturous about the thought of intelligent beings they can never meet, are quite callous about the intelligent beings they can see and touch.

  3. 3
    woodford says:

    Ilion, have you personally met SETI investigators and know for a fact they are callous about other human beings? Is there any basis or foundation in fact to make such a remark?

    But I think this desire goes beyond “warm and fuzzy” feelings but is similar to the same desire that drove mankind to explore our own planet; when you look out at a Universe that is unfathomably large (incomprehensibly so), it is hard not to imagine what might be out there.

  4. 4
    Bruce David says:

    There is actually some pretty strong evidence that not only do aliens know we are here, but have in fact been communicating with us for decades. I am referring to crop circles.

    And if you really believe that the over 10,000 reported crop circles since 1980 (9000 in England alone) were all produced by human beings, you have not really looked at the evidence. I refer you to “The Deepening Complexity of Crop Circles” By Eltjo H. Haselhoff, Ph.D., which is the best balanced treatment of the subject I have run across so far, although there are many books that lay out the evidence.

  5. 5
    Ilion says:

    Woodford, *yawn* Go bother someone who might be impressed by your propensity for playing games. I’m not that person.

  6. 6
    woodford says:

    Hi Ilion – not playing games. Just curious as to why you said what you did (i.e., the callous individuals) and what the basis for it is, because on the surface at least it seems a rather sweeping generalization of a category of people without facts.

  7. 7
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilion:

    A thing I think is so odd about all this need to be not alone is that frequently the same individuals who get all warm-and-fuzzy rapturous about the thought of intelligent beings they can never meet, are quite callous about the intelligent beings they can see and touch.

    Can you give an example?

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Hi Ilion. Lizzie wants to play.

  9. 9
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I just like data.

  10. 10
    woodford says:

    I like data too. Ilion – back up your statement or retract?

  11. 11
    Ilion says:

    I don’t allow fools to waste my time.

  12. 12
    WilliamRoache says:

    I found an interesting quote from somebody involved in the ID debate:

    “It could be space aliens. There are many possibilities”

    Anybody want to take a guess at who said it?

  13. 13
    woodford says:

    Ilion: “I don’t allow fools to waste my time.”

    I guess some of us are genuinely curious what sparked your comment. Asking for data is not foolish. But it appears you are unable or unwilling to back up your assertions. The ad hominem on your part is unnecessary and inappropriate given that I believe Elizabeth and I have tried to be quite civil about it. You said something – we challenged it and you respond with a character slur. Nice.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    Asking for data is not foolish.

    It certainly can be.

    A common example we see here is the request for data for the existence of a designer.

  15. 15
    Mung says:

    …it seems a rather sweeping generalization of a category of people without facts.

    It’s not our fault that they are people without facts.

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    Ilion:

    I don’t allow fools to waste my time.

    If you did, would that make you a fool?

  17. 17
    Ilion says:

    If you did, would that make you a fool?

    To have been more precise, I might have said, “I do not allow fools to dictate how I shall expend my time”. It would be most unwise to do such a thing – for once one starts playing “Deny-and-Demand” with such people, there is no limit to what they will “refute” simply by denying it.

    Someone trying to play the stupid (and dishonest) “that’s a sweeping generalization” game and demanding “provide data or retract” about a statement that any person of normal intelligence understands to be a generalization with built-in caveats is clearly not interested in understanding anything true, but only in trying to score obscure “Gotcha!” points.

  18. 18
    woodford says:

    Mung: “A common example we see here is the request for data for the existence of a designer.”

    I didn’t ask for that, I just wanted Ilion to clarify and backup his assertions he made. It’s not about making “gotcha” points at all, but if somebody says “group X are all low-life scums”, it isn’t at all unreasonable to ask “what do you base that on – any examples, any data?”

    And in the absence of such data, one has to assume the person who made it either doesn’t have the data, or is unwilling to provide it. But either way it’s made me realize that what should be a straightforward exchange here is anything but. And that’s sad, because if the ID community wants to invite people in to have meaningful respectful conversations, this is certainly no way to achieve such a goal.

  19. 19
    UrbanMysticDee says:

    @Bruce #4
    You’re punching the heavy bag if you expect anyone here to even consider alien visitation (maybe even the possibility of alien life in the first place). I’ve been at it for years.

  20. 20
    WilliamRoache says:

    Mung,

    A common example we see here is the request for data for the existence of a designer.

    Another common request is for a worked example of the Explanatory Filter to be given for a biological object.

    Can you do that for me Mung?

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    WR:

    Another common request is for a worked example of the Explanatory Filter to be given for a biological object.

    http://www.signatureinthecell.com/

  22. 22
    WilliamRoache says:

    Mung,
    So tell me. Can we objectively apply that to, say, an apple? A rock?

    Is it a process that can determine if something is designed?

    No, it’s a website designed to sell a book. A book that you claim does what, exactly?

    The explanatory filter can either be used to detect design or it cannot.

    If you can’t do it what’s so hard about admitting it?

    As an idea it was a start towards defining a method that could be used to determine design objectively. The fact that it cannot be used, for various reasons, is something else. And I’m just suggesting that if you can’t use it then just say so.

    Mung, if it’s the case that in your opinion the EF can be used to determine design then please say as much. And demonstrate it for an apple! Or an eye!

    If you can’t, just say so. No big deal. It’s just an idea where if we had perfect knowledge we could apply it. We don’t so we can’t. It’s just the claims that we can apply it now and then the failure to deliver that always makes me laugh.

    Why not just say your opinion on the EF instead of linking me to a website? Or better yet, demonstrate it for the eye! Or a protein! You can do one of the ones that KF knows the F(CSI) for even!

  23. 23

    As someone who has actually met and talked with Shostak, I can say that he is very personable, engaging, and reasonable in his demeanor and presentation. He harbors some of the knee-jerk adverse reaction to ID that many other scientists have, and he is also more enamored of his own field than perhaps it warrants, but he is a pretty reasonable person in terms of what his program is trying to accomplish, how they are trying to accomplish it, and the limitations.

  24. 24
    Mung says:

    William Roache,

    So you can’t be bothered to read the worked example that you asked for but you still want to be a critic.

    That sets you apart from pretty much none of the rest of the anti-ID crowd.

  25. 25

    Mung @24:

    “That sets you apart from pretty much none of the rest of the anti-ID crowd.”

    No, that is consistent with most of the anti-ID crowd.

  26. 26
    Mung says:

    I guess he wants me to hold his hand all the way through the book. But it’s a pretty long book.

    And loneliness is my lot, solitude my sustenance.

    Why mess with a winning formula?

  27. 27
    WilliamRoache says:

    Mung,

    So you can’t be bothered to read the worked example that you asked for but you still want to be a critic.

    What worked example? Did you post the book itself? No, you posted a link to a website promoting the book, as if that answered my question or supplied any actual real data.

    That sets you apart from pretty much none of the rest of the anti-ID crowd.

    Great, so now you have a worked example, as you say, you can now apply the Explanatory Filter to an eye? An Apple? By doing so you’ll set yourself apart from the ID crowd who every single time are better at talking about the EF then actually using it to determine design. Funny that.

    But I bet you do a good line in excuses why the EF does work and has been shown to work but, er, you can’t actually demonstrate it.

    So, Mung, use the EF to show design in an eye and non-design in a rock.

    Or pick your own design/not designed items and use them.

    Or admit the EF cannot be so used.

    Your choice.

  28. 28
    WilliamRoache says:

    For the record, the quote

    “It could be space aliens. There are many possibilities”

    was from one Mr Dembski.

    So I guess that makes him sound like a dumped girlfriend explaining why he never phones? Or something, anyway…

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