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At Mind Matters News: Physicist: If humans died out, the galaxy might lose all meaning

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Ahead of a big climate change conference, Brian Cox assesses the prospect of other habitable planets or their civilizations much more soberly than we often hear:

Ahead of the big climate change conference COP 26 (31 Oct – 12 Nov 2021), physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox offers an ominous warning which also raises some questions. Speaking in connection with his new series Universe, he presents a starkly different picture from much that we hear:

News, “Physicist: If humans died out, the galaxy might lose all meaning” at Mind Matters News

Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster, Prof Brian Cox has warned leaders in the run-up to Cop26.

Speaking at the launch of his new BBC Two series Universe, the physicist and presenter said that having spoken to the scientists around the world advising the show, he thought that humans and sentient life on Earth “might be a remarkable, naturally occurring phenomenon” and that was something that “world leaders might need to know”.

Tara Conlan, “Earth’s demise could rid galaxy of meaning, warns Brian Cox ahead of Cop26” at The Guardian (October 19, 2021)


Indeed? The messages we hear more frequently are more like this: There could be 300 million or 6 billion habitable planets in our galaxy and more than 30 intelligent civilizations.

In any event, if all intelligent beings were wiped out of our galaxy, for whom, exactly, would it be a disaster (apart from ourselves)?

Cox ends up supporting the Privileged Planet Hypothesis (Earth is special):

“The more I learn about biology … the more astonished I am we exist at all”, adding that while astronomers said there were about 20bn Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy, “so we might expect life to be everywhere”, “almost every biologist I speak to says, ‘Yes, but all it will be is slime at best.’ We live in a violent universe and the idea you can have planets which are stable enough to have an unbroken chain of life might be quite restrictive.”

Tara Conlan, “Earth’s demise could rid galaxy of meaning, warns Brian Cox ahead of Cop26” at The Guardian (October 19, 2021)


The opposite view, that Earth is a pale blue dot, a mediocre planet (the Copernican Principle) was championed by Carl Sagan (1934–1996), among others. While Sagan was concerned about environment issues, he strongly believed that there were other intelligent civilizations in the galaxy and that contacting them was an imminent possibility. Anything like the uniqueness of Earth would be a limiting factor.


Takehome: Brian Cox, host of The Universe, ended up becoming “more religious than I intended” when he reflected on why we care about the stars.


You may also wish to read: The UFOs Carl Sagan was convinced of but couldn’t talk about. Sagan had already been denied tenure at Harvard, a sci-fi screenwriter reflects, and he couldn’t afford to take more chances. Writer Bryce Zabel recalls a dispute with Sagan on the topic in a parking lot 40 years ago, during the Voyager 2 flyby — which changed Zabel’s career.

7 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Physicist: If humans died out, the galaxy might lose all meaning

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    That’s rich. One of the major destroyers pretends to worry about the destruction he’s causing. Psychopaths always blame and frame others for their crimes.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Even if we were taken out of the picture, there may be aliens out there for whom the whole thing still has meaning.

    Come to think of it, there may be aliens out there now for whom the Universe has meaning, just not the same meaning as we envisage So who’s right, assuming either of us are?

  3. 3
    EDTA says:

    >”Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster”

    OK, so _now_ who are the ones thinking that we tiny human beings are such a big deal??

  4. 4
    zweston says:

    sev @ 2… what ultimate meaning does existence have for aliens either if they just die out? How can anyone be a materialist and not a nihilist?

    If you had it your way, would you like God to exist, or no? Would you like eternal life or no?

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Zweston @ 4

    Perhaps there is no ultimate meaning, only those created in the minds of intelligent beings such as ourselves,

    Christians appear to find fulfillment in playing a role in the grand scheme of things in the mind of their God. If they do as their God tells them they will be granted eternal life and that is sufficient “meaning”. Beyond that they have no real interest in what their God’s ultimate purpose might really be.

    If there is some vast primordial intelligence behind everything then I would certainly want to meet it. I would also want eternal life for myself and those I love. I don’t expect either to happen.

  6. 6
    EDTA says:

    Sev @ 5,
    >”Beyond that they have no real interest in what their God’s ultimate purpose might really be.”

    Let me introduce myself as the first person you have met who does have a real interest in what God’s ultimate purpose(s) might really be. I really want to find out more about them someday. I think I know others who are similarly curious. We’re out here!

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky states, “Perhaps there is no ultimate meaning, only those created in the minds of intelligent beings such as ourselves,”

    Seversky, in the case of your atheistic worldview, there is no “perhaps” to it. If your atheistic worldview were actually true, and thank God it isn’t, then there can be no meaning, value, nor purpose, for life, nor for anything else. PERIOD!

    ‘Is there a God? Of course not. What is the meaning of the universe? It doesn’t have any. What is the purpose of life? Ditto. Is there free will? Not a chance.’
    – Alex Rosenberg – Professor at Duke University – atheist and author of “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions”

    In fact Seversky, if the universe and everything in it, including our own thoughts, had no meaning, as you are forced to hold to be true in your atheistic worldview, then, as the atheist Professor Alex Rosenberg pointed out in his book “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”, the very sentence that you wrote claiming that “Perhaps there is no ultimate meaning, only those created in the minds of intelligent beings such as ourselves,” would, in and of itself, have no meaning, nor would your sentence even contain any truth.

    But as Dr. Craig pointed out in his debate with Professor Alex Rosenberg, those are blatantly self refuting claims that the atheist is forced to make because of his atheistic worldview.

    2.) The argument from meaning
    1. If naturalism is true, no sentence has any meaning.
    2. Premise (1) has meaning.
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.

    3.) The argument from truth
    1. If naturalism is true, there are no true sentences.
    2. Premise (1) is true.
    3. Therefore naturalism is not true.

    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    To get a full feel for just how insane the metaphysical naturalist’s, (i.e. atheist’s), position actually is, I strongly suggest watching Dr. Craig’s preceding short video refuting Dr. Rosenberg’s book, “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”.

    In short, every time Seversky, or any other atheist, writes a sentence he is, in fact, refuting his entire Atheistic worldview and his claim that the universe and everything in it has no meaning.

    Moreover, not only is the claim from Atheists that the universe and everything in it meaningless refuted every time an Atheist writes a ‘simple’ sentence, but every time an atheist, or anyone else, writes a ‘simple’ sentence, that should, by all rights, also be considered, in and of itself, evidence for a miracle, and therefore, should also be considered evidence that Theism must be, and is, true.

    Specifically, this short sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” is calculated by Winston Ewert, in this following video at the 10 minute mark, to contain 1000 bits of algorithmic specified complexity, (i.e. functional information), and thus to far exceed the Universal Probability Bound (UPB) of 500 bits set by Dr. William Dembski (and to thus be evidence for a ‘miracle’ on Hume’s definition of a miracle as being a violation of the laws of nature)

    Proposed Information Metric: Conditional Kolmogorov Complexity – Winston Ewert – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm3mm3ofAYU
    Of trivia note: The phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” contains every letter in the alphabet.

    And here is how Dembski’s Universal Probability Bound (UPB) of 500 bits is derived:

    10^80, the number of elementary particles in the observable universe.
    10^45, the maximum rate per second at which transitions in physical states can occur.
    10^25, a billion times longer than the typical estimated age of the universe in seconds.
    Thus, 10^150 = 10^80 × 10^45 × 10^25
    Hence, this value corresponds to an upper limit on the number of physical events that could possibly have occurred since the big bang.
    How many bits would that be?
    Pu = 10-150, so, -log2 Pu = 498.29 bits,,, Call it 500 bits

    (The 500 bits is further specified as a specific type of information. It is specified as Complex Specified Information by Dembski or as Functional Information by Abel to separate it from merely Ordered Sequence Complexity or Random Sequence Complexity; See Abel: “Three subsets of sequence complexity”)

    Moreover, since the information content of the human body vastly exceeds 500 bits, and is thus far beyond the probabilistic resources of the entire universe to explain, then our own lives in this universe should, by all rights, also be considered ‘miraculous’ and therefore ‘meaningful’.

    In a TED Talk, (the Question You May Not Ask,,, Where did the information come from?) – November 29, 2017
    Excerpt: Sabatini is charming.,,, he deploys some memorable images. He points out that the information to build a human infant, atom by atom, would take up the equivalent of enough thumb drives to fill the Titanic, multiplied by 2,000. Later he wheels out the entire genome, in printed form, of a human being,,,,:
    [F]or the first time in history, this is the genome of a specific human, printed page-by-page, letter-by-letter: 262,000 pages of information, 450 kilograms.,,,
    https://evolutionnews.org/2017/11/in-a-ted-talk-heres-the-question-you-may-not-ask/

    Thus in conclusion, since meaning must first necessarily exist in order for any meaningful information in our sentences to exist, then finding information to be ubiquitous within life is directly, or at least almost directly, equivalent to finding meaning for our lives.

    As much as it may hurt Seversky’s feelings to know this, his life is not completely worthless and meaningless as the vile sewer of his Atheistic worldview forces him to believe.

    How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus – May 2017
    Excerpt: One Sunday, shortly before my 28th birthday, I walked into a church for the first time as someone earnestly seeking God. Before long I found myself overwhelmed. At last I was fully known and seen and, I realised, unconditionally loved – perhaps I had a sense of relief from no longer running from God. A friend gave me C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and one night, after a couple months of attending church, I knelt in my closet in my apartment and asked Jesus to save me, and to become the Lord of my life.
    http://www.veritas.org/oxford-atheism-to-jesus/

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