Extraterrestrial life

This is science??

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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 most likely have evolved just like “earthlings” and so resemble us to a degree with heads, limbs and bodies. Unfortunately they will have also evolved our foibles and faults which could make them dangerous if they ever did visit us on Earth.

The meeting at the Royal Society, which will include representatives from Nasa, the European Space Agency and the UN Office for Outer space Affairs marks the 5th anniversary of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme. Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society will also lead one of the sessions.

Prof Paul Davies said: We need to give up the notion that ET is sending us some sort of customised message and take a new approach.”

He suggested that the search could focus on deserts, volcanic vents, salt-saturated lakes and the dry valleys of Antarctica – places where ordinary life struggles to survive – to find “weird” microbes that belong to a “shadow biosphere”.

35 Replies to “This is science??

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    This is science??

    Why should that not be science? Popper was all in favor of bold conjectures. We just need to remember they are the starting-point not the end-point of science.

  2. 2
    Upright BiPed says:

    Dreaming of ET from another planet doesn’t upset one’s metaphysical stomach.

    In fact, the opposite is true. It serves as warm milk (er, “bold conjecture”) while we ignore the intentional chemical synthesis and information processing readily apparent on our own planet.

    It is however comforting to now know our interplanetary cousins enjoy game shows as much as we do. Willfull ignorance provides us much to consider, doesn’t it.

  3. 3
    Jehu says:

    As a child watching Star Trek, I often wondered why the aliens looked just like humans only with a strange forehead or nose or something. I assumed budget constrains prevented more elaborate costumers. I am sure I was right. But now “science” has shown that those budget costumes were in fact accurate. Cool.

  4. 4
    Graham1 says:

    What exactly is the problem with the search for life outside earth ?

    I suspect it is unlikely we will find any, and I am skeptical of the claim that it would look like us, but if we did find it, it would be just too cool.

    After all, if we are here, why cant they be there ?

  5. 5
    tragic mishap says:

    Graham and Seversky you are missing the point. The point is there’s a double standard.

  6. 6
    Graham1 says:

    What double standard ?

    If there is life on Earth, then there could be life somewhere else. I fail to see any difference between the 2.

    Should we turn our backs on the rest of the universe ? Why ?

  7. 7
    tribune7 says:

    Why should that not be science? Popper was all in favor of bold conjectures. We just need to remember they are the starting-point not the end-point of science.

    Irony, thy name is Seversky.

  8. 8
    Heinrich says:

    Isn’t ID a bold conjecture? So what are ID theorists doing to falsify it?

  9. 9
    SCheesman says:

    Graham1: What double standard?

    Science seems willing to accept that life beyond the earth is possible (in fact almost certain), but will not seriously entertain (apart from a few who have been marginalized) that that same life might have been responsible for the creation and development of life on earth, e.g. by intelligent means.

  10. 10
    tribune7 says:

    Heinrich –So what are ID theorists doing to falsify it?

    We are diligently searching for easily described patterns denoting events the probability of occurring being greater than 10^120.

  11. 11
    Graham1 says:

    To SCheesman: No, not the ‘same life [that] might have been responsible for the creation …’ at all. Just more life like us. Eg: if we found a bacteria on Mars, it would be a great find.

    Whats the problem with looking for bacteria on Mars ?

    I thought the ‘double standard’ was the acceptance, by Science, of design-detection in things like SETI but not in biological structures.

  12. 12
    Heinrich says:

    tribune7 – can you explain what you mean, please? I’m afraid I didn’t understand it (oh, and all probabilities are much less than 10^120. Did you mean 10^-120?).

  13. 13
    Alex73 says:

    Actually, on TV I have seen consistent accounts of the fact that most aliens are not only more-or-less humanoid but actually evolved the ability to speak English. It seems that English is the ultimate language that all civilizations use for communication.

    Now starting from this bold conjecture I could set up a research programme to unearth the evolutionary theory behind the genes that make intelligent beings speak English…

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    Graham1 @ 4

    What exactly is the problem with the search for life outside earth ?

    For creationists there is a very big problem. Think about it. If we find one other planet with life, especially if that life has reached a similar stage of development, then we are no longer unique. If we find many other life -bearing planets then we are not even special. It then becomes a lot harder to justify the claim that we are God’s chosen people or special favorite.

  15. 15
    Seversky says:

    tragic mishap @ 5

    Graham and Seversky you are missing the point. The point is there’s a double standard.

    There is no double standard.

    SETI has proposed a hypothesis – namely, that there are intelligent beings on extrasolar planets who also use radio waves for communications – and is devoting a lot of time and money to the search for evidence to support it.

    ID, meanwhile, proposes an unspecified designer is behind all the specified complexity but, instead of trying to find evidence for it, spends most of its time trying to poke holes in the theory of evolution. Apart from being a waste of time and energy, it ignores the fact that even if the theory of evolution were found to be wrong, it still would not automatically mean that ID is right.

  16. 16
    Clive Hayden says:

    Seversky,

    For creationists there is a very big problem. Think about it. If we find one other planet with life, especially if that life has reached a similar stage of development, then we are no longer unique. If we find many other life -bearing planets then we are not even special. It then becomes a lot harder to justify the claim that we are God’s chosen people or special favorite.

    Quantity doesn’t negate quality. You cannot assume as fact a notion of quality by virtue of a quantity.

  17. 17
    Graham says:

    To Clive: Seversky specified life at a ‘similar stage’, so I assume the quality is satisfied.

    It would be fascinating to see the reaction of the church in this case.

  18. 18
    Heinrich says:

    Clive – if we were to discover many aliens races, what factors would you use to determine that humanity’s ‘quality’ is the best?

  19. 19
    Clive Hayden says:

    Heinrich,

    Clive – if we were to discover many aliens races, what factors would you use to determine that humanity’s ‘quality’ is the best?

    If I cannot use factors, as it seems you’re suggesting, to determine humanity’s “quality” in light of other beings in space, than neither can anyone else use factors against humanity’s quality in light of other beings in space. Sauce for the goose. But, honestly, this essay will clear up this discussion:

    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

  20. 20
    Clive Hayden says:

    Graham,

    To Clive: Seversky specified life at a ’similar stage’, so I assume the quality is satisfied.

    A ‘stage’ does not a quality make. 🙂

  21. 21
    Heinrich says:

    Clive –

    If I cannot use factors, as it seems you’re suggesting, to determine humanity’s “quality” in light of other beings in space, than neither can anyone else use factors against humanity’s quality in light of other beings in space

    Quite. But you’re the only person in this thread suggesting that we can use quality.

  22. 22
    Clive Hayden says:

    Heinrich,

    Quite. But you’re the only person in this thread suggesting that we can use quality.

    No I am certainly not. Quality, value, specialness, was implied to be void by a quantity in Seversky’s comment, to which I originally aimed my response.

  23. 23
    Heinrich says:

    Clive – if Seversky was saying we can’t use quality, who else but you were saying that we can?

  24. 24
    Clive Hayden says:

    Heinrich,

    Clive – if Seversky was saying we can’t use quality, who else but you were saying that we can?

    He made the opposite point and used value and quality.

  25. 25
    Heinrich says:

    Sorry, Clive. Are you saying that Seversky said that we should use quality? Where did he write that?

  26. 26
    Seversky says:

    The problem is not one of quantity or quality, as I see it, but of status.

    For many Christians, a central tenet of their faith is humanity’s special relationship with a God by whom they are favored above all others. While, as far as we know, we are alone in the void, it is at least a tenable position. But if we find civilizations on other planets that belief becomes much more difficult to sustain.

    Imagine making contact with such a civilization and finding they have religions similar to our own. Suppose one of those faiths believed in an all-powerful Creator who had spoken to them directly in the distant past and promised them that he or she regarded them as the pinnacle of creation. What impact would that have on terrestrial theology?

    We can assume that the adherents of this alien faith would be just as devout as their human equivalents and would probably be as disturbed at the implications of the discovery of intelligent aliens for their faith as we would be for ours.

    I suspect this is partly why Dawkins was ridiculed when he even suggested the possibility of aliens being the Intelligent Designer, although the other reason is because everyone knows who is really supposed to be the Designer in spite of ID’s evasiveness on the question.

  27. 27
    Graham says:

    To Seversky @26: Ive been cut off at the knees by the moderator for less than that.

    But on the original point, exactly whats wrong with looking for ET ?

    The author seems to think that just because its unlikely we shouldnt be doing it, but winning the lottery is unlikely, yet we all buy tickets.

  28. 28
    Clive Hayden says:

    Seversky,

    For many Christians, a central tenet of their faith is humanity’s special relationship with a God by whom they are favored above all others. While, as far as we know, we are alone in the void, it is at least a tenable position. But if we find civilizations on other planets that belief becomes much more difficult to sustain.

    In all seriousness, if this is a real concern, please read this essay:

    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

  29. 29
    feebish says:

    Thanks for the CS Lewis link, Clive. That’s an interesting essay. Check this out, from page 89:
    “We know what our race does to strangers. Man destroys or enslaves every species he can. Civilized man murders, enslaves, cheats, and corrupts savage man. Even inanimate nature he turns into dust bowls and slag-heaps.”
    Sounds like he has seen Avatar! He does come off a bit like a crazy enviro, though.
    Do you know if Chesterton wrote anything about the possibility of alien life forms?

  30. 30
    Heinrich says:

    Clive – I can’t find a copy of the essay online (I assume it’s “Religion and Rocketry”, not the title essay of the book you link to). Can you summarise the important points? The only summary I can find is here, and I’m having difficulty filling in the logic of the essay from what is written there.

  31. 31
    Clive Hayden says:

    Heinrich,

    The link I gave Seversky goes to the essay. It is called Religion and Rocketry. You can read the whole thing from my link.

  32. 32
    Clive Hayden says:

    feebish,

    I don’t know, off hand, if Chesterton wrote anything about alien life forms, but Lewis wrote quite a bit, both philosophical/theological and narrative with the Space Trilogy, which was an outworking, in fiction, of his philosophy.

  33. 33
    Heinrich says:

    The link I gave Seversky goes to the essay. It is called Religion and Rocketry. You can read the whole thing from my link.

    I’m afraid it doesn’t for me. I get an overview, but I’m told no preview. Perhaps this is because I’m outside the United States.

  34. 34
    Barb says:

    As long as I get my own lightsaber, I’m good with aliens existing.

  35. 35
    feebish says:

    Thanks, Clive. I had never heard of the Space Trilogy. I’ll go check it out.

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