Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Response to search engine query: What is the Colliding Universes blog about?


I was asked to define my littlest blog for a “deep” search engine group, Feedmil, and replied as follows:

Colliding Universes takes a critical look at cosmology, especially its many unexplained assumptions. Here’s one:

Earth is not special. There must be many planets that host life forms.

Now, what if we find 3000 exoplanets and none host life forms?

Does that suggest that Earth is special?

No, many cosmologists would say. We just haven’t looked hard enough. Find 3000 more.

It becomes obvious that their research is intended to confirm the “not special” view, and that – for both practical and philosophical reasons – it cannot be disconfirmed.

The practical reason is that they can always argue, “They’re out there somewhere.” The philosophical reason is that they are determined to believe what they want to believe.

That’s fine, but don’t call it science.

Incidentally, even if, after a search of 6000, two other planets were found that had life forms, we would know that there are three special planets, ours being one.

But don’t expect the pop science media to interpret it that way.

Also just up at Colliding Universes, my blog on competing theories of our universe:

Extraterrestrial life: Immanuel Kant, meet Frank Drake and Carl Sagan

Recession? Finally, big science gets the picture: Think payload

Conference: Quantum to Cosmos Festival

Time and space: Can we cure everything by advanced technology?

“Debunking” is not and has never been part of science. Science doesn’t debunk, magicians and media skeptics debunk. 7% of the UFO sitings in Project Blue Book special report remain unidentified. If instead it were 7% of drugs tested had the potential to cure every form of cancer researchers would be doing everything they could to investigate those 7% farther, not saying “most drugs can’t cure cancer so we shouldn’t even try.”
Nice post. What I find most interesting about UFO's is that just about everyone seems to have a story. Both my parents have had paranormal/UFO encounters, and I myself had a sighting which I can't explain about 25 years ago. Whatever the cause, I think it's clear something is going on, whether it's aliens or some sort of government coverup. herb
(noted) Upright BiPed
Upright Biped, Ease up on calling people's comments stupid, I don't want to have to moderate you for being rude. Clive Hayden
Well Graham, what can be said? You come here, you make stupid comments, you are given info, then you say you haven't actually tried to understand the issue, so you are given the benefit of the doubt, then you return with the same stupid comments. Nicely done. Upright BiPed
lamarck (22) For UFO evidence please see point four below, esp. the links. JTaylor (21) 1. Again, I never said my 1% estimate was scientific! I never said it was helpful to anyone in any way! Besides, the Drake equation has seven variables of which we can make reasonable speculations of two; everything beyond that is a complete guess based on nothing. The only difference between my gut and the Drake equation is that my gut doesn't pretend to be something it's not - namely science. 2. I agree that our skill in finding other planets is increasing but it's not like we can zoom in with three meter resolution on the planets surfaces and see anything. There might well be intelligent life existing in some form on those planets or their moons that current technology cannot detect or there might not. Right now looking at the gravitational effects on stars isn't good enough to make any statements about the orbiting planets other than their potential distance and/or mass. 3. I never assumed you accepted that extraterrestrials exist, I said you didn't up to the point of my posting deny their existence, that is, you did not openly argue that they do not exist. One is a positive statement and the other is a negative one. 4. "Debunking" is not and has never been part of science. Science doesn't debunk, magicians and media skeptics debunk. 7% of the UFO sitings in Project Blue Book special report remain unidentified. If instead it were 7% of drugs tested had the potential to cure every form of cancer researchers would be doing everything they could to investigate those 7% farther, not saying "most drugs can't cure cancer so we shouldn't even try." More solid evidence other than the biggest government coverup in history (if no UFOs are extraterrestrial and they're not national security concerns why doesn't any government in the world besides Mexico come out and tell what they are? Why has the USAF come out with four different "official" reports of the Roswell crash, each one stating that the previous "official" reports were false misinformation campaigns?). More solid evidence than thousands of trained witnesses - pilots, retired military personel, police - who have come out with their reports to great personal risk of job loss, public ridicule, etc., who have nothing to gain by their testimony. If you want more evidence than that look into the trace cases. Potential landing sites with unusual chemical or radioactive properties, plants won't grow in these areas even after decades when the surrounding areas are perfectly fine. Some people have gotten radiation burns from handling debris, sometimes leading to cancer and death. A supposed piece of the Roswell crash debris that has changed hands several times, each of the owners meeting with highly unlikely deaths (extremely rare diseases, improbable "accidents"). The website that was going to air a world-wide press conference revealing test results of chemical analysis was shut down, the server the site was on was stolen the night before, threatening phone calls convinced others not to cancel the conference. Roswell Debris Videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjQgqZ6eMP4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q18VaAQneaU More answers to UFO questions: http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/sf-ufo-why1.html UrbanMysticDee
To Biped, ID posits absolutely nothing about the supernatural But thats its reason detre. Dembski et al are all claiming that biological complexity could not have involved, that there must be a designer. They get all coy about the details, but its clear that there is some external agent. I refer to it as the 'supernatural' because of the obvious religious motivation of its supporters (remember Dover?). If it all proceeds according to the laws of this universe the only possibility remaining is some intelligent alien or something (Raelians?). This is possible, and doesnt violate any known laws, but its getting a bit weird. Graham
I simply dont have the competence to critically assess the quoted papers (and I suspect very few others do either).
I appreciate your honesty. I think you gain significant personal credibility, although I must say, it brings into serious question your earlier assessment of the inference to agency involvement in the natural world.
The 1st article ends with the statement: But under no known circumstances can self-ordering phenomena like hurricanes, sand piles, … produce algorithmic organization The quoted statement is clearly the view of the author, but not the rest of the biology community. They obviously believe complexity can arise as a result of evolution.
I won’t beat this to death, but would simply ask you to understand what an algorithm is. The author is discussing the observable reality of a set of instructions that transfer their information for the express purpose of organizing the physically discreet objects within living systems. This is nothing like what is found in self-ordering phenomena. The conclusion being made is no more the author’s personal assessment than the observation of the algorithms themselves.
I can only repeat that if appeals to the supernatural are productive, then please show us some results.
Graham, this is where the wheels leave the track. ID posits absolutely nothing about the supernatural. As you can readily see by the paper I posted from, there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in the evidence for agency that relies upon, or empirically suggests, the existence of anything happening outside the laws of this universe. Such are the remarks made in order to ignore what is actually known. I know I have no grounds to ask for anything, but you might consider reading the entirety of the two papers I posted. There are no concepts within the text that are not immediately available by a simple web search. If for no other reason, you might find the true issues interesting. Upright BiPed
To Biped, I simply dont have the competence to critically assess the quoted papers (and I suspect very few others do either). The 1st article ends with the statement: But under no known circumstances can self-ordering phenomena like hurricanes, sand piles, ... produce algorithmic organization The quoted statement is clearly the view of the author, but not the rest of the biology community. They obviously believe complexity can arise as a result of evolution. I can only repeat that if appeals to the supernatural are productive, then please show us some results. Graham
Graham, Quoting evidence? I looked back over your posts on this thread. I didn’t see any evidence. In any case, I would want you to know that we see your type stroll in here fairly often - full of certitude and certain brand of density, but fairly short on details. In fact, I just responded to another poster who thought of IDs position as “cartoonish”. I picked just one of the evidences of agency in the existence of Life on this planet and presented it. Since I am almost certain you would agree with the cartoonish characterization, then please allow me to save time and repost from the earlier thread. I can’t imagine that I would ask you anything different than I asked before: From peer-review: “Genetic algorithms instruct sophisticated biological organization. Three qualitative kinds of sequence complexity exist: random (RSC), ordered (OSC), and functional (FSC). FSC alone provides algorithmic instruction. Random and Ordered Sequence Complexities lie at opposite ends of the same bi-directional sequence complexity vector. Randomness in sequence space is defined by a lack of Kolmogorov algorithmic compressibility. A sequence is compressible because it contains redundant order and patterns. Law-like cause-and-effect determinism produces highly compressible order. Such forced ordering precludes both information retention and freedom of selection so critical to algorithmic programming and control. Functional Sequence Complexity requires this added programming dimension of uncoerced selection at successive decision nodes in the string. Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC. FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization.” Is there anything in this passage that you’d like to argue? Please feel free to discuss it. Continuing: “In life-origin science, attention usually focuses on a theorized pre-RNA World [52-55]. RNA chemistry is extremely challenging in a prebiotic context. Ribonucleotides are difficult to activate (charge). And even oligoribonucleotides are extremely hard to form, especially without templating. The maximum length of such single strands in solution is usually only eight to ten monomers (mers). As a result, many investigators suspect that some chemical RNA analog must have existed [56,57]. For our purposes here of discussing linear sequence complexity, let us assume adequate availability of all four ribonucleotides in a pre-RNA prebiotic molecular evolutionary environment. Any one of the four ribonucleotides could be polymerized next in solution onto a forming single-stranded polyribonucleotide. Let us also ignore in our model for the moment that the maximum achievable length of aqueous polyribonucleotides seems to be no more than eight to ten monomers (mers). Physicochemical dynamics do not determine the particular sequencing of these single-stranded, untemplated polymers of RNA. The selection of the initial "sense" sequence is largely free of natural law influences and constraints. Sequencing is dynamically inert [58]. Even when activated analogs of ribonucleotide monomers are used in eutectic ice, incorporation of both purine and pyrimidine bases proceed at comparable rates and yields [59]. Monnard's paper provides additional evidence that the sequencing of untemplated single-stranded RNA polymerization in solution is dynamically inert – that the sequencing is not determined or ordered by physicochemical forces. Again I ask, is there something you find distressing about the information so far? Continuing still: “Little empirical evidence exists to contradict the contention that untemplated sequencing is dynamically inert (physically arbitrary). We are accustomed to thinking in terms of base-pairing complementarity determining sequencing. It is only in researching the pre-RNA world that the problem of single-stranded metabolically functional sequencing of ribonucleotides (or their analogs) becomes acute. And of course highly-ordered templated sequencing of RNA strands on natural surfaces such as clay offers no explanation for biofunctional sequencing. The question is never answered, "From what source did the template derive its functional information?" In fact, no empirical evidence has been presented of a naturally occurring inorganic template that contains anything more than combinatorial uncertainty. No bridge has been established between combinatorial uncertainty and utility of any kind.” At this point please allow me to jump to some conclusions “What testable empirical hypotheses can we make about FSC that might allow us to identify when FSC exists? In any of the following null hypotheses [137], demonstrating a single exception would allow falsification. We invite assistance in the falsification of any of the following null hypotheses: Null hypothesis #1 Stochastic ensembles of physical units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function. Null hypothesis #2 Dynamically-ordered sequences of individual physical units (physicality patterned by natural law causation) cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function. Null hypothesis #3 Statistically weighted means (e.g., increased availability of certain units in the polymerization environment) giving rise to patterned (compressible) sequences of units cannot program algorithmic/cybernetic function. Null hypothesis #4 Computationally successful configurable switches cannot be set by chance, necessity, or any combination of the two, even over large periods of time. We repeat that a single incident of nontrivial algorithmic programming success achieved without selection for fitness at the decision-node programming level would falsify any of these null hypotheses. This renders each of these hypotheses scientifically testable. We offer the prediction that none of these four hypotheses will be falsified. The fundamental contention inherent in our three subsets of sequence complexity proposed in this paper is this: without volitional agency assigning meaning to each configurable-switch-position symbol, algorithmic function and language will not occur. The same would be true in assigning meaning to each combinatorial syntax segment (programming module or word). Source and destination on either end of the channel must agree to these assigned meanings in a shared operational context. Chance and necessity cannot establish such a cybernetic coding/decoding scheme [71].” In case you are not familiar with the text, it is a qualitative profile of the mechanisms for sequencing nucleotides (available on the NIH PubMed website). Abel and Trevors: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1208958 and also http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2662469 Graham, by all means, feel free to read the research and provide any details where the information is incorrect. And, if you find that perhaps you didn’t fully understand or appreciate the actual issues behind agency involvement, then certainly anyone here will be happy to discuss it with you. Upright BiPed
To Biped, instead of dealing with evidence Eh? But thats exactly what I AM quoting. Centuries of it. Have you seen a psychic give us an equation ? I havent. ID focuses on empirical science ... I presume thats a typo. Graham
Graham, (in response to #20)
Scientists dont insist they are ‘right’, they just insist that evidence-based reasoning is more productive than faith. Everything we know, all the devices we use, cures for diseases, etc etc, is ALL evidence-based. We are still waiting for a priest to give us a cure for a disease. Chipped in to a stone tablet would be fine.
Thats right Graham, instead of dealing with evidence, simply post a juvenile line of crap without the slightest bit of technical backing or historical knowledge. Please, please don't ask again why ID focuses on empirical science. Upright BiPed
To Biped, Scientists dont insist they are 'right', they just insist that evidence-based reasoning is more productive than faith. Everything we know, all the devices we use, cures for diseases, etc etc, is ALL evidence-based. We are still waiting for a priest to give us a cure for a disease. Chipped in to a stone tablet would be fine. ID has been around for 10 years now, and all the other mystical stuff around as long as man, and NONE of it has given us an atom of useful knowledge of how the real world works. Thats why scientists get narky, not because they insist they are 'right', but because the woo woo crowd havent earnt any credibility. Graham
Urbanmystic, I agree with you that aliens exist, I think they must have seeded us on this planet, looking at DNA alone. One interesting alien vid is the cell phone alien from mexico. Scientists visited the sight later and found high radiation levels at that spot alone. Another one is the dogon tribe's astronomy predictions. One more is the race of small and odd looking people in eastern or southeastern asia, can't remember their name. I'd like to see someone study their DNA, they look like aliens to me. Their caves were found which they formerly lived in and tablets were decoded, actually disc-like objects, which say they crashed on this planet in an emergency and they've been stuck here. I also know about the recent crop circles which are much different. If you know more interesting alien evidence please site some. lamarck
UrbanMysticDee: "The 1% estimate is a gut feeling that I never said was scientific. I am able to criticize bad science without having to provide an alternate theory. And I never said my feeling was scientific. I extrapolated from what I’ve read and heard from first and second hand sources that there seems to be a number of different extraterrestrial species that have been witnessed and that they are obviously gregarious otherwise encounters wouldn’t have happened in the first place." But you do realize that your 1% means that 1 in 100 stars (just in our galaxy) would have to show signs of intelligent life? This is an enormous number. No offence, but I think you need to recheck your gut! Personally I think I would trust Drake's equation than yours (or mine) gut, because it is based on sound suppositions rather than what I feel. Of course feel free to show how you extrapolated and calculated that number if you think otherwise. But right now your 1% is little more than an assertion and not all that helpful. And, to date, about 350 exoplanets have been discovered (and I think this is "good" science) - and so far none of them look likely for life. According to your gut, we should have already found ~3-4 intelligent lifeforms. Of course maybe scientists have been unlikely, but according to your gut the galaxy should be absolutely teeming with life, and certainly there is no evidence yet that this is the case. You assume incorrectly that I accept that extraterrestials exist. I do not find the evidence conclusive and much of it is too anecodtal (or based on hearsay) to be of any value (I would say it is about on a par with the evidence for ghosts). A large number of UFO settings have been debunked so I think it there is good reason to be very skeptical here. As to 'extraterrestrial species that have been witnessed and are obviously gregarious' you need to provide more solid evidence for such a statement before it can be considered seriously. JTaylor
Graham, You ask a question in #9. The answer is rather simple really. Allow me to put it into one sentence: Man asks questions, then struggles with the answers. Please allow me to explain the constituent parts of the answer. First, “man asks questions”. Without any doubt, man searches for meaning. In doing so, questions arise - who are we, why are we here, how did we get here, etc. These are large questions that have massive personal and social implications. It hardly can be expected that we will all agree. Then there are “the answers”. If the universe had a beginning, then at one time it was not here. If it was not here then neither was Life. If Life had a beginning, then by all of the standards of science and reason, it had a cause that preceded it. This manifest cause is either a property of matter and chance, or it is the product of an act of volition - in other words, it was either happened spontaneously on its own or it was created by the act of an agent. With incredibly rare exception, personal and group ideology then comes into play. Materialists believe that Life is a property of matter acted upon by chance. They then support their idea through the auspices of the scientific institution (among other ways) and attack those that disagree. Non-materialists believe that Life was caused by the act of an agent. They too support their idea by means of the scientific enterprise (among other ways) and attack those that disagree with them. This exchange does not happen in a vacuum - and therefore the “struggle” begins. The evidence that modern materialists rely upon begins with Darwin’s somewhat trivial observation that organisms can adapt themselves over time to various environmental conditions, and if that is the case, it can then be extrapolated that all of what is seen in Life is nothing more than the product of change among organisms seeking to survive in differential environments over time. This is then topped off with science’s technical ability to actually comprehend various pieces of the functioning biological puzzle, given materialists the opportunity to lay claim to scientific certainty, and indeed, a claim to science itself. Voila – it’s the end of agency. Non-Materialists then stand back and say the materialists have extrapolated way too much from way too little, and in fact, have cheated the central question by ignoring how Life began in the first place. (Indeed, it may be the biggest shell game of all time). As a matter of historical and institutional fact, by changing the rules of science they have now attempted to conceal this deception by removing agency as a possible answer altogether. They have in effect supported their ideology without supporting their conclusion through any empirical means whatsoever (empiricism being the high tide of scientific certitude). They therfore have no standing to lay claim to their certainty - and certainly no claim to the institution of science itself. And now, with the ever-increasing technical abilities of science, the drama between the two factions only grows larger. More than 50 years ago science discovered that Life is not driven by the purely mechanistic chemical reactions demanded by materialists. Instead, man has discovered that Life is driven by the observable products of an agent - information, language, and meaning. The qualitative incapacity of material causes to account for the creation of Life are now part of the scientific record. These observations are joined by literally hundreds of others that simply do not comport to the materialistic paradigm. To be sure, nothing pisses off a materialist more than a theist using the materialists sacred cow – empirical observation – to make their case. But there it is. So, do we find a special section in the NY Times exploring the fact that meaning is instantiated in a physically-embodied symbol system which was organized prior to existence of man, or even Life itself? No, we have Richard Dawkins decrying Prof Michael Behe as a poster boy for those insipid Creationists. So, do we have an exposé in the Chicago Tribune debating the source of the prescriptive information necessary to organize the disparate physical objects within the cell? No, instead we have Jerry Coyne telling the world that ID is not only against science, but against empirical evidence itself. And do we find a national radio show discussing the organization of the irreducible structures and processes within molecular life? No, we have Ken Miller telling Dennis Prager that errant Christians will end medical discoveries and people will die. Or perhaps we find the science websites of universities raging with debates over the physico-dynamically inert properties of nucleic sequencing within DNA? No, we have Minnesota University Professor Paul Meyers posting a photo where he actually took the time to drive a rusty nail through a “goddamned cracker” (apparently a catholic Eucharist) and then throwing it in a trash can with a heap of coffee grounds. - - - - - - - - - - So you ask why does ID focus on science instead of religion? Primarily - because there is nothing in the observational evidence that provides any information whatsoever about the existence of a God, or Gods, or any particular God, if any God at all. The evidence only supports the empirically rational conclusion that Life is the product of an agent. Nothing more. Secondarily - because the opponents of ID can focus on nothing else. Upright BiPed
No problem Graham. But you raise an interesting question. Has ID finally embraced God? When ID first started, the G-word was almost completely verbotten. People who got too much into religion on this blog were cautioned by the management and I think a few messages were even deleted. This "Don't mention God" policy seems to have started with Phillip Johnson who said, "The Constitution excludes religious advocacy from public school classrooms, and to say that a supernatural being created mankind is certainly to advocate a religious position." So ID became all about science and the G-word was verboten. This seems to have changed since the Dover trial. ID has been formally identified as religious in nature by Judge Jones, which means it is never going to get into the schools. Nobody in ID land seems to want to appeal that decision, since an appeal to a higher court would probably make things even worse. Since Dover, this blog often reads like a first year seminary class. Has ID given up the pretense that it's not religious in nature? That's the message I get from reading this and other ID blogs. Have any ID authorities announced this change in position formally? djmullen
To djmullen, Yes, I agree with all that. We really do live in a special place. (The remaining planets dont look very friendly at all). Also, I appreciate the effort you obviously took to reply, but I was actually needling the ID crew just a bit, because Im pretty sure O'Leary was using 'special' with religious connotations. Graham
To UrbanMystic, Mores the pity. This troll would love to hear more about the friendly aliens. Graham
Graham I was going to come up with an intelligent response but then I realized I don't give trolls fodder. UrbanMysticDee
Addendum: Re-re-reading Denyse's OP, I think she's missing the main question completely. When we ask if the earth is "special" in the Copernican sense of the world, we're really asking if the earth and universe were specially made for man. The answer to that question remains clear: No. If the Great Handkerchief descends on us tomorrow, the universe won't even notice. djmullen
To UrbanMystic: extraterrestrial species that have been witnessed and are obviously gregarious Eh? ... I overlooked all the 'mystic conscience' new-age stuff, but friendly aliens ? You must have got some holiday snaps, surely. Graham
Graham @ 1 "So, is earth ’special’ ? If so, whats special about it ?" The main "special" thing about our earth is that its surface temperature has been suitable for liquid water for the four billion years it took to produce humans. This is probably very rare. Read "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe" by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee for details on why simple life (one-celled animals, mostly) is probably very common in the universe and complex life (like us) is probably very rare. Condensed version: Life is probably easy to start, so any location that has liquid water for a few hundred million years or so will have single celled life. Complex life, like ourselves, takes billions of years to produce and is consequently much rarer. Besides liquid water, a planet probably needs plate tectonics to bring vital minerals up to the surface where complex organisms can use them, a large planet like Jupiter to deflect the bigger astroids away from the earth and a large moon to keep the axis of our planet's rotation from periodically flipping over and screwing up the climate royally. Ward has another book on this theme, "Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life" which discusses possible forms of life other than DNA based life such as we see on earth. Both books are available from Amazon. Re-reading Denyse's OP, I think she's saying "life forms" when she really means "life forms as complex as humans". The latter are, sadly, probably very rare. Single celled life, on the other hand, is probably common. We may even find living organisms under the surface of Mars or on some of the moons of Jupiter. Some organisms currently found on earth would do quite well on Mars. djmullen
JTaylor 1. The 1% estimate is a gut feeling that I never said was scientific. I am able to criticize bad science without having to provide an alternate theory. And I never said my feeling was scientific. I extrapolated from what I've read and heard from first and second hand sources that there seems to be a number of different extraterrestrial species that have been witnessed and that they are obviously gregarious otherwise encounters wouldn't have happened in the first place. Besides, you don't seem to deny the existence of extraterrestrial life so any argument between us on estimates as to their quantity would be purely academic. 2. A. As to your second question, I draw my assertion of the pre-existence of consciousness based on 40,000 years of experimentation from mystical traditions around the world and my own personal experimentation. When consistent data have been coming in for that long by that many people it seems more than reasonable to assume the data are good. B. Consciousness cannot be reduced to anything physical yet can have effects on the physical world that are independent of time and space. Giants in the field of physics (David Bohm, Evan Harris Walker, John von Neumann, John Wheeler, Brian Josephson, Eugene Wigner, etc.) have proposed the primacy of consciousness and have produced very interesting experiments backing up their theories (observation theories, retrocausality, etc.) C. Every single experience that can be had while awake can also be had while dreaming. All the senses can be present in dreams equally or to a greater degree than while awake. Waking appears to be of the same category of phenomena as dreaming. D. Something has to be pre-existente, whether it be quantum laws or the multiverse or inflation fields or what have you, because the universe appears to have come from absolutely nothing - it is not eternal and it cannot be self-created. Reasons A-C have weighed the deck for me toward a non-physical, intelligent, concious entity of immense power. UrbanMysticDee
UrbanMysticDee @3 Yes, I agree that Drake's equation is not "pure science" but it is an interesting exercise, and is based on some well thought out variables (and only two have been suggested as additions in nearly 50 years). And of course the data for at least some of the variables now is much better than it was in 1961. Reality of course is that since it is not yet testable and quite likely never will be, nevertheless it could provide some guidance into potential SETI research. But UrbanMysticDee thinks it's conceivable that 1% of the stars in our galaxy could host intelligent life ("which I do not doubt is the case"). That would mean that there are some 1 billion stars in our galaxy with intelligent life. And if UrbanMysticDee is skeptical of Drake's equation what is the basis for this 1%? Drake's equation is not perfect, but is probably the best we have (other than pure guessing). Yes, it's true we may be "special", but that is not the same as being unique or especially chosen. The honest answer is "we don't know". "As far as I am concerned there is only consciousness - it arose from nothing but instead is forever preexistant." Where is any evidence for this? UrbanMysticDee complains that Drake's equation is not scientific but makes an assertion such as this based on what? Agreed that consciousness may still be mysterious - but isn't it a bit of a leap to say it is pre-existent? Where's the evidence for that? JTaylor
Graham ID isn't a trojan horse for a new dark age. "the boulevard is not that bad" lamarck
To BiPed, Im not afraid to say God, but my point is: Why is it that for a blog that spends its time supporting a so-called 'scientific' idea (ID), and constantly distancing itself from any religious ties, G is always there?. Just behind the facade. Graham
Graham, what is it that you are afraid to just say? Upright BiPed
Could it be that Ms O'Learys use of the word 'special' has something to do with the G word ? Graham
mtreat 1. I never said or even implicated any connection to materialism or random chance in regards to myself or my views of life in the universe. I'm not sure I can give URLs here but if I can I suggest you peruse my little corner of the internet: http://theurbanmystic.blogspot.com/ * I don't think consciousness arose through materialistic forces. I don't even think there are materialistic forces. I'm an idealist. As far as I am concerned there is only consciousness - it arose from nothing but instead is forever preexistant. * The same goes for life forms, simple or otherwise. 2. After studying the whole UFO/extraterrestrial visitation issue pretty much my entire life I am convinced the evidence is overwhelming that the Earth has been visited by intelligent beings from beyond our solar system and that the cover up of the best evidence constitutes the greatest misinformation campaign in history. * I myself have seen such crafts. * The SETI people are in denial about the above. They spent all this time and money on fancy machines and now have to justify the existence of the program by haranguing UFOlogy and repeat their mantra every night that ET will only contact them with their expensive equipment to keep their sanity. * The Drake equation is based on pure conjecture and isn't science no matter what the SETI people may say. Neither for that matter is many worlds, string/m-brane theories, and dark energy science as none of them can, by definition, be tested. 3. If one percent of the population of Earth had the ability to fly and see through walls I would still say that they are special just as if one percent of stars in the galaxy had intelligent life I would say such life is special. I think it is a sufficently small number to justify the special categorization. UrbanMysticDee
It's estimated that there are 100 billion galaxies (and possibly more). Each of these galaxies has approximately on average about 100 billion stars. So even if just one of those galaxies has intelligent life similar to ours that still means there is the potential for 100 billion life forms similar to our own. (and according to latest assessment of Drake's equation there could be about 2.31 civilizations in our own galaxy). Would that still make us special? Obviously we are special in our solar system, and possibly in our local region of our galaxy, maybe even the whole galaxy. But as to whether we are special in the universe - I don't think we have anywhere close to enough data to know one way or the other. Based on these large numbers looking at 3000, or even 6000 planets would not yield much that is conclusive. Looking at 6000 out of a potential search scope of 100 billion (assume 1 planet per star) still only yields 0.00006% of total, so quite a small sample to say the least. JTaylor
Graham: In this context, "special" just means we aren't here by random chance. Denyse rightly points out the philosophical underpinnings of those that fervently wish to avoid any indication that life or the universe is special. It just doesn't fit their paradigms. UrbanMysticDee: If the ability for abstract thought can arise through random chance mechanisms/events alone throughout our galaxy and the universe, I wouldn't see it as special in the context of this discussion. Indeed, if it were that common, it would be, well, common - not special. Given that I don't think sufficient evidence exists to support your confidence in the arise of consciousness, abstract thought, etc. through materialistic forces (not to mention the lack of any evidence to support the arise of the simplest of DNA-based life forms through random chance), I have no idea where your confidence comes from. Sounds like you, too, suffer from a philosophical approach to this issue rather than a scientific one. mtreat
Even if one percent of the stars in our galaxy had life of comparable intelligence as humans (which I do not doubt is the case) I would still say we are special for the simple reason that we are here contemplating specialness. Any species that can move beyond mere existence into the realm of abstract thought would be special in my view. We are able to imagine what the world was like before we were here (highly speculative) and what the world will be like should we be go extinct for whatever reason (much less speculative). We can also plan ahead and develop technologies to spread to other planets, should the initiative be taken. If that is not grounds for special status then some people are in denial of their own specialness, which in itself is another special quality. UrbanMysticDee
Science can move towards specialness. lamarck
So, is earth 'special' ? If so, whats special about it ? Graham

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