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Origin of life researcher: Alien life forms will more likely be constructed in laboratory than found in space?

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In “Is a New Form of Life Really So Alien?” (ScienceDaily, May 8, 2012), origin of life researcher Gerald Joyce offers a surprising admission:

First, from the release:

The idea of discovering a new form of life has not only excited astronomers and astrobiologists for decades, but also the wider public. The notion that we are the only example of a successful life form in the galaxy has, for many, seemed like an unlikely statistic, as we discover more and more habitable planetary bodies and hear yet more evidence of life’s ability to survive in extreme conditions.

But why is the statistic unlikely?

Is it “unlikely” that the recently discovered ivensi is the only lizard that nourishes its young via a placenta? It’s reasonable to guess there are others, but we cannot attach a naked probability to that guess, let alone act as if it must be true.

Any more than we can say that if we find a ten dollar bill on the sidewalk, that means there must be others in the vicinity. There need not be. It could be unique.

Joyce seems to admit as much:

Given that we only know of one life form – our own – we can’t meaningfully estimate the probability of new life arising, either on Earth or elsewhere.

“I think humans are lonely and long for another form of life in the universe,” says Joyce, “preferably one that is intelligent and benevolent. But wishing upon a star does not make it so. We must either discover alternative life or construct it in the laboratory. Someday it may be discovered by a Columbus who travels to a distant world or, more likely in my opinion, invented by a Geppetto who toils at the workbench.”

If this catches on, it will be a new mood in search-for-life studies, and a more realistic one, compared to the constant faux news about newly discovered “habitable” planets that – of course – aren’t really.

About lonely people and potential pets... (Reuters) - Scientists have yet to discover, or classify, about 90 percent of the plant and animal species on Earth, which is estimated to be home to just under 9 million species, a study says. The study, published in the open-access journal PLoS Biology on Wednesday, vastly increases the estimated richness of life on the planet. More than 1.2 million species have been formally described and named so far. Scientists have long tried to classify life on Earth and to finally figure out how many species there are but estimates have varied wildly from 3 million to 100 million. Eugene S
Lonely people can, in any event, get a dog, if they want an alternative life form. Somewhere out there in a Humane Society shelter, there is a dog who would love to alleviate their loneliness. News
“I think humans are lonely and long for another form of life in the universe”
Are you lonely? I'm not lonely. There are 6 billion people in the world already and they're lonely? Jon Garvey

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