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Paul Davies: Maybe life is rare after all

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From physicist Paul Davies (who was on a committee(2009) to discuss what to do if aliens landed) Scientific American:

Another common argument is that the universe is so vast there just has to be life out there somewhere. But what does that statement mean? If we restrict attention to the observable universe there are probably 1023 planets. Yes, that’s a big number. But it is dwarfed by the odds against forming even simple organic molecules by random chance alone. If the pathway from chemistry to biology is long and complicated, it may well be that less than one in a trillion trillion planets ever spawns life.

Affirmations that life is widespread are founded on a tacit assumption that biology is not the upshot of random chemical reactions, but the product of some sort of directional self-organization that favors the living state over others—a sort of life principle at work in nature. There may be such a principle, but if so we have found no evidence for it yet.More.

It’s astonishing, when we think about it.

We have no evidence for life apart from Earth. Yet the affirmation that it is true is somehow “science.” And, to doubt (whatever the state of the evidence) feels, to popular culture, to be “anti-science.” Spilt metaphysics underlies that.

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

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6 Replies to “Paul Davies: Maybe life is rare after all

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    “If we restrict attention to the observable universe there are probably 1023 planets.”
    Um, typo, it’s supposed to be 10^23 planets.

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    Funny. Yes. The affirmative for life is science but no evidence.
    Its just guessing based on the guess of our origins.
    in fact the universe was the original eternal home for mankind. We were meant to live forever in this universe and so breed forever and so need elbow room.
    By this time, absent the fall, we should of already colonized at least close parts of the galaxy to us.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    He said “rare” not “non-existent” If it’s happened once, it can happen again.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    If life exists elsewhere, it would be additional strong evidence of “some sort of directional self-organization that favors the living state over others—a sort of life principle at work in nature.”

    Impossibly implausible unguided “oops” can’t happen once let alone multiple times.

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Indeed, if life is found elsewhere it would be evidence for the thesis that life will always emerge under suitable conditions. This would mean that the potential for life is built into the fabric of the universe as a whole and we are not the unique creation of some advanced intelligence.

  6. 6
    ppolish says:

    Seversky, would you agree with Davies that life elsewhere would indicate “some sort of directional self organization”?

    Is this directional self organization more consistent with an instruction to “go forth & multiply”? Or is directional self organization more consistent with “unguided evolution”. More consistent with ID?

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