Extraterrestrial life News

Are we alone in the universe? Probably, but…

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For whom is that a problem?

Escience News attempts to set some limits to our uniqueness

Frank said that the third big question–how long civilizations might survive–is still completely unknown. “The fact that humans have had rudimentary technology for roughly ten thousand years doesn’t really tell us if other societies would last that long or perhaps much longer,” he explained.

But Frank and his coauthor, Woodruff Sullivan of the astronomy department and astrobiology program at the University of Washington, found they could eliminate that term altogether by simply expanding the question.

“Rather than asking how many civilizations may exist now, we ask ‘Are we the only technological species that has ever arisen?” said Sullivan. “This shifted focus eliminates the uncertainty of the civilization lifetime question and allows us to address what we call the ‘cosmic archaeological question’–how often in the history of the universe has life evolved to an advanced state?”

That still leaves huge uncertainties in calculating the probability for advanced life to evolve on habitable planets. More.

Various nonsense calculations ensue. Of course, not only might we be unique, but conceivably, things could have just happened that way. Lots of things are unique. One can only derive a pattern from a number of examples.

We have never encountered the slightest evidence of an alien civilization.

The hat tipster who forwarded this item writes to say, “Because the valid examples of OOL and evolution are zero the odds are 1 in infinity, which sounds astonishingly low to me.”

Clearly the hat tipster did not study Darwin calculus in school, which make all impossible outcomes actual. The same thinking give us a multiverse.

See also: A blueprint for evidence-free thinking in science


How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?

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5 Replies to “Are we alone in the universe? Probably, but…

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Probability of life ‘arising’? Statistically ZERO!

    “The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero.”
    Ilya Prigogine, Gregoire Nicolis, and Agnes Babloyantz, Physics Today 25, pp. 23-28. (Ilya Prigogine was an eminent chemist and physicist who received two Nobel Prizes in chemistry)

    Atheistic Science is Rapidly Sinking in the Quicksand – January 28, 2013 – Rabbi Moshe Averick
    Excerpt: As Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Jacque Monod explains in his classic work, Chance and Necessity, there are no chemical or physical laws that determine any particular order of amino acids to build the first proteins (all amino acids can link together equally well) and similarly there are no chemical or physical laws that would determine the sequences of nucleotides that code for these proteins in DNA. The only option left for him is chance. He acknowledges that the random probability of such a system coming into being is “virtually zero.”

    Stephen Meyer – Proteins by Design – Doing The Math – video

    Signature in the Cell – Book Review – Ken Peterson
    Excerpt: If we assume some minimally complex cell requires 250 different proteins then the probability of this arrangement happening purely by chance is one in 10 to the 164th multiplied by itself 250 times or one in 10 to the 41,000th power.

    In fact years ago Fred Hoyle arrived at approximately the same number, one chance in 10^40,000, for life spontaneously arising.

    Fred Hoyle – Rejection of Earth-based abiogenesis
    Excerpt: Published in his 1982/1984 books Evolution from Space (co-authored with Chandra Wickramasinghe), Hoyle calculated that the chance of obtaining the required set of enzymes for even the simplest living cell without panspermia was one in 10^40,000. Since the number of atoms in the known universe is infinitesimally tiny by comparison (10^80), he argued that Earth as life’s place of origin could be ruled out. He claimed:
    “The notion that not only the biopolymer but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the Earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.”

    From this number, 10^40,000 Fred Hoyle also compared the random emergence of the simplest bacterium on earth to the likelihood “a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 therein”.

    Darwin’s Junkyard Tornado (Hoyle) – animated video

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Unanswered Mathematical and Computational Challenges facing Neo-Darwinism as a Theory of Origins
    Excerpt: Consider the makeup of our universe:
    • Approximately 10^17 seconds have elapsed since the big bang.
    • Quantum physics limits the maximum number of states an atom can go through to 10^43 per second (the inverse of Planck time, i.e. the smallest physically meaningful unit of time)
    • The visible universe contains about 10^80 atoms.
    It seems reasonable to conclude that no more than 10^140 chemical reactions have occurred in the visible universe since the big bang (i.e. 10^17+43+80)
    Following from this evolution needs to be theoretically demonstrable within 10^140 molecular state transitions.
    (For comparative purposes see Seth Lloyd’s “Computational Capacity of the Universe” [r62], reviewed by the Economist [r70]. Lloyd comes up with a value of 10^120). ,,
    In particular, 10^140 / 10^1,477 suggests that since the start of the universe all stochastic models would have been able to explore a maximum of just 1 in 10^-1337 of the solution space in search of the correct configuration for a 2,000 atom Ribosome.

    The Humpty-Dumpty Effect: A Revolutionary Paper with Far-Reaching Implications – Paul Nelson – October 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Tompa and Rose calculate the “total number of possible distinct patterns of interactions,” using yeast, a unicellular eukaryote, as their model system; this “total number” is the size of the space that must be searched. With approximately 4,500 proteins in yeast, the interactome search space “is on the order of 10^7200, an unimaginably large number,” they write — but “more realistic” estimates, they continue, are “yet more complicated.” Proteins present many possible surfaces for chemical interaction. “In all,” argue Tompa and Rose, “an average protein would have approximately 3540 distinguishable interfaces,” and if one uses this number for the interactome space calculation, the result is 10 followed by the exponent 7.9 x 10^10.,,, the numbers preclude formation of a functional interactome (of ‘simple’ life) by trial and error,, within any meaningful span of time. This numerical exercise…is tantamount to a proof that the cell does not organize by random collisions of its interacting constituents. (i.e. that life did not arise, nor operate, by chance!)

    As well, Professor Harold Morowitz shows the Origin of Life ‘problem’ escalates dramatically over Hoyle’s oft cited 1 in 10^40,000 figure when working from a thermodynamic perspective:

    “The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 in 10^340,000,000. This number is 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering since there is only supposed to be approximately 10^80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!”
    (Professor Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow In Biology pg. 99, Biophysicist of George Mason University)

    Dr. Morowitz did another probability calculation working from the thermodynamic perspective with an already existing cell and came up with this staggering number:

    Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias)

    Punctured cell will never reassemble – Jonathan Wells – 2:40 mark of video

    “Imagine that on the early Earth, a complete system of catalytic and information- bearing molecules happened by chance to come together in a tide pool that was sufficiently concentrated to produce the equivalent of the contents of our flask. We could model this event in the laboratory by gently disrupting a live bacterial culture, subjecting it to a sterilizing filtration step, and adding the mixture to the flask of nutrient broth. No living cells are present, but entire bacterial genomes are available, together with ribosomes, membranous vesicles, ATP and other energy-containing substrates, and thousands of functional enzymes. Once again, would a simple living system arise under these conditions? Although Kauffman might be optimistic about the possibilities, most experimentalists would guess that little would happen other than slow, degradative reactions of hydrolysis, even though virtually the entire complement of molecules associated with the living state is present. The dispersion has lost the extreme level of order characteristic of cytoplasm in contemporary living cells. Equally important is that the ATP would be hydrolyzed in seconds, so that the system still lacks a continuous source of free energy to drive the metabolism and polymerization reactions associated with life.”
    D. Deamer, “The First Living Things: A Bioenergetic Perspective,” Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 61 (1997):239-61; p. 242.
    Deamer, a Darwinist, argues that any abiogenesis scenarios that does not invoke the immediate encapsulation of replicating molecules will run afoul of chemical realities such as hydrolysis. His thought experiment about killing a modern cell is meant to illustrate the functional necessity of isolating membranes, but arguably it entails much more than that.
    Same thought experiment (i.e., point) as Wells; entirely different philosophical outlook on the origin of life.
    Paul Nelson

    Here is a recent video by James Tour

    “We have no idea how the molecules that compose living systems could have been devised such that they would work in concert to fulfill biology’s functions. We have no idea how the basic set of molecules, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins, were made and how they could have coupled into the proper sequences, and then transformed into the ordered assemblies until there was the construction of a complex biological system, and eventually to that first cell.
    Nobody has any idea how this was done when using our commonly understood mechanisms of chemical science. Those that say they understand are generally wholly uninformed regarding chemical synthesis. Those that say “Oh, this is well worked out,” they know nothing, nothing about chemical synthesis – Nothing!
    Further cluelessness – From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system. We cannot figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. Chemists are collectively bewildered. Hence I say that no chemist understands prebiotic synthesis of the requisite building blocks let alone their assembly into a complex system.
    That’s how clueless we are. I’ve asked all of my colleagues – National Academy members, Nobel Prize winners -I sit with them in offices; nobody understands this. So if your professors say it’s all worked out, your teachers say it’s all worked out, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It is not worked out. You cannot just refer this to somebody else; they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
    James Tour – one of the top ten leading chemists in the world
    The Origin of Life: An Inside Story – March 2016 Lecture with James Tour

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    Are we alone? As you say, no one knows yet. As a Trekkie, I believe there have been, are and will be other civilizations out there.

    If it happened once, it can happen again….

  4. 4
    redwave says:

    From the article, Are we alone? “From a fundamental perspective the question is ‘has it ever happened anywhere before?'” said Frank. Our result is the first time anyone has been able to set any empirical answer for that question and it is astonishingly likely that we are not the only time and place that an advance civilization has evolved.”

    The assertion that the researchers’ results are an empirical answer is quite interesting to me, as I do not perceive ’empirical’ in the context the researchers apparently use the term. The mathematics, statistics and probabilities, are empirical, yet the unknown object of the probabilities is not readily available for empirical results. The potential for predictability of the unknown object, other civilizations, is clarified mathematically, yet the potential remains a relative unknown in where predictability does not represent confirmatory empirical evidence. Of course, I am not discarding the probability nor the potentiality of other civilizations, rather I am seeking an understanding for the use of the term empirical in this context. Possibly I have misconstrued the short phrase ” … to set any empirical answer … ” and the key terms are ’empirical answer’ and not ’empirical’ in a physical or objective sense. If setting an empirical answer to the probabilities of an otherwise unknown object of inquiry is within the purview of scientific inquiry and broadly accepted among researchers, how does this application of mathematical methods differ from setting an empirical answer to intelligent design or intelligent agency?

  5. 5
    mw says:

    Vast amounts of interest and money are also spent in the search for extra-terrestrial human life. If found what would be the implication to Judaeo-Christian scripture and original sin?

    Looking into the dark vastness, surely space is a waste of space, energy and matter if no other physical life exists?

    Where does space end; would we drop of the edge? It seems eternal space and time are inextricable intertwined with physical space and time, as Jesus traversed both; at his incarnation, and after the resurrection in his multiple appearances, and when he ascended and disappeared into eternal time and space with an instantly ‘evolved’ multidimensional body.

    As God is unevolved (Mal 3:6), and hence Jesus, no common descent evolution would be needed. Alternatively, from the “directed panspermia” hypothesis of Francis Crick, of DNA fame: life could not have evolved on Earth, but from outer space.

    However if God, after creating the Earth, and Adam and Eve on the sixth day, created other humans on other planets and placed his Spirit in them, they would be both spiritually and physically related, that is, in terms of the same elements; mainly water, dust/minerals, and the Spirit.

    But, does scripture only appertain to Earth, and did Satan only target the first created ‘Earth’ for the whole physical cosmos to fall: was Adam’s Sin infinitely cosmic because it was against the infinite God?

    I know of only one Catholic visionary in whom the subject appears. Maria Valtorta; controversial; was buried with ecclesiastical honours. Her tomb inscribed in Latin, “Writer of Divine Things.” She wrote, “Jesus said”:
    “The Earth, which you earthlings are so proud of and so cruel to, is but one of the fine specks of dust rotating in the boundlessness, and not the largest one. Yet it is undoubtedly the most deprived. The millions of worlds which delight your eyes in clear nights teem with lives upon lives upon lives, and God’s perfection will be apparent to you when you can see, with the intellectual sight of the spirit reunited to God, the marvels of those worlds.” (Maria Valtorta, The End Times, pp. 50–51)

    Her writings are now allowed, under then Cardinal Ratzinger, as long as her writing is noted as not divinely revealed. That may again change, as Pope Pius XII allowed the writings to be published without comment.

    However, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22), may apply to ETs generated in the image of God: speaking in broad terms of cosmic dust and the same spirit that gives life to matter and souls.

    In Judaeo-Christian terms, an objection may be, how such people would know of Jesus/Spirit?

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