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At Mind Matters News: Exoplanets: The same laws of physics means similar life forms


Even on Earth, life forms of widely differing ancestry, arrive at the same solutions to physics problems, leading scientists note:

Famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was sure that, if the deck were reshuffled, humans would never evolve — even on this planet — again. As Paul Parsons puts it at BBC’s Science Focus Magazine,

News, “Exoplanets: The same laws of physics means similar life forms” at Mind Matters News (November 27, 2021)

His reasoning was that evolution is driven by random sets of genetic mutations, modulated by random environmental effects, such as mass extinctions, and that it would be extremely rare for the exact same set of effects to crop up twice.

Paul Parsons, “Could humans be the dominant species in the Universe, and we just don’t know it yet?” at Science Focus (November 19, 2021)

As very large telescopes, capable of peering into exoplanets, are under development, current analysts are rethinking that approach. There are good reasons for thinking that extraterrestrial life forms would share basic characteristics with terrestrial ones (convergent evolution). Cambridge palaeobiologist Simon Conway Morris, for example, told Science Focus that

“One can say with reasonable confidence that the likelihood of something analogous to a human evolving is really pretty high. And given the number of potential planets that we now have good reason to think exist, even if the dice only come up the right way every 1 in 100 throws, that still leads to a very large number of intelligences scattered around, that are likely to be similar to us.”

Paul Parsons, “Could humans be the dominant species in the Universe, and we just don’t know it yet?” at Science Focus (November 19, 2021)

On that view, life forms that fly on exoplanets will do what birds, bats, and insects do here, they say. Intelligent species may even look roughly like us.

Dorian Abbot noted in the lecture adopted by Princeton after it was Canceled at MIT that telescopes that can provide much better information about climate on exoplanets are planned for the 2030s and 2040s.

You may also wish to read:

Zoologist: Law of evolution can predict what aliens will be like. Arik Kershenbaum’s new book argues that convergent evolution on Earth helps us understand what to expect from extraterrestrial life. Kershenbaum’s argument fails when he addresses human culture: It just isn’t true that co-operation among humans is governed wholly by genes.


If we find life on exoplanets, some of it might be “crabs”. Over millions of years, many crustaceans gradually grew to look more and more like crabs, a process called convergent evolution. In an environment similar to Earth’s, we might expect life forms to converge on similar solutions. “Crabbiness” might be one of them.

I generally agree with Doubter @ #1: Without a designer, no life and no macroevolution - as pretty much proven by ID research. With a designer, any form of life that can survive and reproduce in its environment is possible. My own view is that God was "playing" in his creation when he designed some of the strange creatures we have in the world: peacocks, dragonfish, octopi, flying squirrels, etc. And I agree that the asteroid strike that ended the dinosaur reign could well have been set up by the same designer: just a tweak of the orbit at this point and voila, strike to Earth thousands of years later. Perhaps the dinosaurs were an experiment in how far certain aspects of design could be taken? This could account for all sorts of other extinction events as well. Always fun! Fasteddious
Simon Conway Morris is one (albeit famous) paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, but other expert evolutionists have had a very different view of the question of whether alien evolution would be likely to repeat the same pattern of forms that appeared in Earth's history. Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould championed the punctuated equilibrium theory, which simply acknowledged the fact of the fossil record that major new advances have almost entirely suddenly appeared newly formed without any sort of long process of gradual change leading to them (that would be expected per Darwinism). As mentioned in this op, Stephen Jay Gould in particular felt strongly that evolution has been very erratic and contingent on unpredictable seemingly random circumstances, and could never repeat itself in its major transformations. As witness the success of the mammals, leading to the primates and then eventually to Homo Sapiens. This success was only made possible by an unpredictable to all extents random impact of the giant Chixulub meteor 65 million years ago, which impact wiped out the dinosaurs which had been exclusively dominant for 200 million years and had shown no signs of giving over that dominance. Without this unpredictable random Cretaceous/Tertiary extraterrestrial extinction event, primates and therefore Man would most likely have never evolved. Would high intelligence have still appeared, but in some other form, perhaps in the reptilian line of descent? Who knows. The dinosaurs don't seem to be a good candidate, since in their very long dominance of the Earth there was no sign of the development of large-brained tool-using creatures. Gould pointed out that if the clock were turned back again, the pattern of evolution would necessarily be completely different because of these major randomly encountered extinction events, and the unlikelihood of just the right multiple mutations occuring. Of course it's actually very complicated, since there are indeed still many examples of convergent evolution, where different lines have developed very similar evolutionary solutions. However, in my opinion the overall pattern is more random than predetermined, as Gould thought. Naturally, as has been established by ID research, "macroevolution" by Darwinian processes of RM + NS can not achieve anything but microevolution, like finch beak types or cichlid fish varieties. Research has shown that instead, Intelligent Design is definitely the driver of "macroevolution", so Morris's view is still very incomplete and erroneous. With unaccountably similar independent lines of evolution (i.e. cases of convergent evolution), these examples are much more likely due to the same designer intelligently using conveniently already designed solutions from his "bag of tricks". The implications of this line of thought go much further. If ID is the mechanism or causal process for "macroevolution", then events like the Chixulub impact would not be just serendipidous random events, but would be intentional interventions, in the Cretacious/Tertiary extinction event case, one necessary to further the evolutionary progression toward intelligent tool-using beings. Accordingly, the whole line of thought that there are probably multitudes of intelligent races "out there" that evolved through Darwinian processes is gravely mistaken both because it would be exceedingly unlikely using Darwinism, and more importantly, because we have no idea whether the intelligent designer(s) of evolution would or have chosen to make such innovations on other planets. That particular line of reasoning also applies to the possibility of the actual origin of life on these other planets, since abiogenic OOL research has been a complete failure so far with no sign of any "light at the end of the tunnel". Of course, this could be complicated somewhat by the possibility of panspermia disseminating primitive DNA based microscopic lifeforms throughout the Universe. doubter

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