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Old 02-09-2000, 03:16 AM   #1
Conor
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Post Alien life? Not likely...

For anyone who couldn't care less whether aliens exist or not, disregard this.

In a new book Rare Earth two scientists (Peter D. Ward of the University of Washington and Donald C. Brownlee of the same U) have outlined how Earth is so rare, so perfect, that life anywhere else in the Milky Way, and maybe the Universe, is unfeasible.

Some of their evidence includes criteria for a life-giving planet:

-orbit that keeps a planet at exactly the right distance from its star to ensure that water remains liquid, not vapour or ice.

-a large moon at just the right distance to minimize changes in a planet's tilt, ensuring climate stability.

-enough carbon to aid the development of life, but not so much to allow for runaway greenhouse conditions, like Venus.

-A 'perfect' Jupiter companion to to draw terrestrial impacts away from earth, as it is calculated we would be subjected to 10,000 times more if Jupiter wasn't like it is (stable orbit, size, distance, etc.)

They say stars in the inner galaxy are bombarded far too much because of passing stars, as well as the intense radiation (killing waves of X-rays, gamma rays and ionizing radiation) and explosions.

Galactic edges are relatively poor in iron, magnesium and silicon as well as other heavy elements (because of lack of supernovas). They say these elements seem to be prerequisites for planets to have sufficient gravity, retain seas and atmospheres as well as have plate tectonics (which they say is necessary for life to form).

Even more, only spiral galaxies like us and our sister Andromeda are rich in metals (and only in inhospitable inner regions), while elliptical and irregular galaxies are barren.

Basically, they say any life that exists is in microbe form. They still say we should look for alien life, they just don't expect us to find any, at least not in a detectable distance.

Just thought I'd say it, it might start off another discussion.

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Old 02-09-2000, 06:20 AM   #2
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If there is no alien life, then just who left those whirly patterns out in my back field?
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Old 02-09-2000, 04:46 PM   #3
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Seriously, though, the error that these scientists are making is in assuming that "alien" life has to be axactly like Humans and living on an Earth-type planet.

What about species that live underground, or underwater, or evolve in higher radiation or different atmospheric mixtures?

Anyone familiar with the Drake Equation?
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Old 02-09-2000, 08:09 PM   #4
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BeastMaster,

Better be careful. These guys will try to lure you in with the appearance of having an interesting, logical discussion, and then once you're hooked, everything devolves into an overwhelming flood of silly, frustrating nonsense.

Some of these people simply can not be reasoned with. They've made up their minds and if they stared the truth right in the face, they'd still believe whatever they want to anyway. It's absolutely pointless.

My advice: don't waste your time.


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Old 02-09-2000, 09:43 PM   #5
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Well Vagabond, there are also other people who refuse to keep an open mind about anything, and would rather NOT talk about such things. Each to his own. Others might be jealous of the fun that can be had in such discussions. ; )

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Old 02-10-2000, 12:08 AM   #6
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My source mentions the Drake equation, published in 1961 that computes roughly 10,000 civilizations in the milky way. Carl Sagan upped it to 10 trillion for some reason.

These two scientists say the Drake equation is "riddled with hidden optimistic assumptions." They say that thier stance is "rarely articulated but increasingly accepted by many astrobiologists."

The one, Brownlee, is a noted astronomer, member of the National Academy of Sciences and chief scientist of NASA's $166-million Stardust mission to capture interplanetary and interstellar dust. He probably knows what he is talking about. Ward is a paleontologist who specializes in mass extinctions. He probably knows a great deal about life in general. They are not just pulling these theories from thin air here.

You are right though, Beastmaster, that could be a mistake, but I'm sure they've considered it, and maybe many scientists think that Carbon based life is the only way to go. We don't have any proof it isn't, after all. Continue on though, this is supposed to be a scientific discussion.

As for Vagabond, you have not presented any evidence for anything you have said, and insist that truth is dependant upon our opinions, so why should I care in the slightest what you say about anything? I'm serious. You dismiss objectively morality, so there is nothing to even come to the table with there (except it is impossible for anyone to truly believe that, as somewhere you believe something is objective i.e. majority rules). You also obviously don't care about the science of a situation either, as you seem to dismiss the researched work of qualified scientists because you don't want to believe them.

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Old 02-10-2000, 04:57 AM   #7
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Whoa, Conor, great topic!

I remember the Drake estimates--but they were made before we understood how fine-tuned the universe must be in order to produce life.

I think a lot of people fail to realize that most of the conditions that produce "life as we know it" would be necessary to produce any kind of life, even life we can't imagine.

Just one example: You have to have heavy elements to have life, any kind of life. You cannot evolve lifeforms, however strange and exotic, out of hydrogen and helium gas. That means that the stars have to be very delicately fine-tuned to cook up heavy elements, then go nova and spew those elements out into space where they can be turned into planets and people and (presumably) aliens.

There are dozens of fine-tuned conditions in the universe that would apply to any kind of lifeform, even if it breathed chlorine and lived in an ammonia sea.

Astronomer Hugh Ross did the same kind of calculation that apparently was done in Rare Earth (it's in his book The Creator and the Cosmos, pp. 143-144). He tallied up all the necessary parameters for life--from galaxy type, sun type, etc., to axis tilt, orbit eccentricity, tidal force, etc., to atmospheric factors and so forth, then calculated that the probability of all those life-support factors occurring in one planet were about 10^-53. The maximum possible number of planets in the universe, according to Ross, is 10^22. Therefore, there is less than one chance in a million trillion that even one such planet could occur anywhere in the universe.

So grok this: By all odds, we should not exist.

Now, that tells you one of three possible things: Either (1) there is some sort of glitch in Ross's computations (but the odds he cites--one chance in a million trillion--leaves you a lot of leeway to be off in your computations and still be right in your conclusions); or (2) by some incredible cosmic toss of the dice, defying the odds to the point of the miraculous, our world and we ourselves just happened to arise by the strangest confluence of chance and dumb luck; or (3) Someone or Something rigged the game.

Ross concludes, of course, that the Creator rigged the game, and that's why we exist.

But if the Creator rigged the game once to produce us, He could have done so again. And again. And again.

So even if the odds say we are alone in the universe, the fact that Someone out there can rig the game of life any way he chooses tells me that we aren't necessarily alone.

But I ask you: Which thought is scarier? The thought that we are alone in the universe? Or the thought that we may not be alone?

--wiz

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Old 02-10-2000, 06:34 AM   #8
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To me this universe is an array of infinite possibility. The quote from Star Trek that space is the final frontier to me is false. This place is huge. Anyway, if the universe is expanding what is it expanding into?

Anyway, back to the subject...Beast Master took the words right out of my mouth. Life elsewhere (I presume we're talking intelligent) does not neccessarily have to live in the same atmosphere and variables that we evolved in our own way to succumb.

One aspect that humans have evolved heaps to is our own gravity. Now if we lived elsewhere our spine we would either get taller or shorter.

Now think why couldn't life evolve to suit their own needs. If they want to live in minus 50 degrees celcius temperatures who are we to say that humans can only survive in an average of 15 degrees celcius(with out help of machines) therefore you must only be able to survive in those temperatures. I mean polar bears can live in the antarctic because they evolved there own way.

As humans evolved to have their blood system iron based (we need iron) insects evolved to have their (we'll call it bloodstream) bloodstream copper based. Why can't extraterrestrial life have the same choice. The fact is life does not neccessarily have the ability to live on Earth to live and evolve elsewhere.

Not to forget that we're carbon based just as diamonds...so whats the deal here should we just take a diamond and add water??? Think of the money I could make $$$
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Old 02-10-2000, 07:09 AM   #9
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First off: Hello Vagabond! Been a LONG TIME, friend. heheh Anyway.

I LOVE these types of discussions. OK. I'll start by saying that Zoom Rabbit, Beastmaster, wizzywig, and deadwood have all said what I was thinking. (I wish I would've come here earlier. hehe) OK, unless I'm mistaken, and I don't think I am. The WHOLE entire Universe, is bigger than our little Human minds can even Imagine. (i.e. pretty big) Who's to say that we're alone in this Universe? We don't have telescopes that make us see the ENTIRE length(or whatever would be the proper word) of the Universe. How do we KNOW that somewhere VERY far way there isn't another planet with Intelligent Life on it. They could be wondering the SAME EXACT thing we are. Or maybe they KNOW that we exist, but choose not to let us know that they exist b/c we've just totally messed up our own planet. They could have a HELL of a lot better Technology than we do. Maybe we're being studied like Tigers(or some animal) are studied in the wild.(Hidden, so as not to disrupt their way of life.) Maybe they want us to find a way to make it to space and explore by our OWN knowledge, not knowledge leeched from more advanced beings. I don't know... My mind is blocking me from my earlier theories on this subject, b/c I want to speak about it to others. heheh Just like me... Oh well.

King of The Sith,

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Old 02-10-2000, 01:16 PM   #10
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Referring to truly 'Alien' life, I was thinking of deep sea life, such as the tubeworms (et al) living near volcanic vents (called 'Black Smokers') in deep trenches. These creatures have a completely foreign evolution that has nothing to do with the surface; they derive 100% of their nourishment from minerals and heat from the Black Smokers.

On a tangent (and free plug), I'm creating a universe now (via short stories, with a possible novel in the future) that follows these alien theories and explores just what the Oriens (aka 'Grays') are doing here. I hope to have a few stories published by Christmas.

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Old 02-10-2000, 01:18 PM   #11
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Lord Ender,

How's it going man? Nice to see you. Hopefully once Obi-Wan comes out we can get bizzee with some hardcore multiplay action.

As for this alien-life debate, I'm not even going to dignify this thread with a response. Some of the statements here, while presumably written in good faith, are just too comical to take seriously.


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Old 02-10-2000, 01:56 PM   #12
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As for this alien-life debate, I'm not even going to dignify this thread with a response. Some of the statements here, while presumably written in good faith, are just too comical to take seriously.
Empty talk.

--wiz

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Old 02-10-2000, 02:11 PM   #13
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Show me you are more qualified than the scientists writing the book, and I will take that last asinine comment seriously Vagabond.

Good points on whether alien life would be roughly the same as ours. I'm sure they would have thought of it and brought it up, so I should probably get my hands on the book and look into it.

But I think there is a certainty among scientists that we really need the heavy elements to form and sustain life. My points go into that, as the authors have taken pains to outline where the heavy elements that would be needed are. They could be wrong about only the centers of the galaxies having the necessary amount of heavy elements, but I don't have the authority to say so.

Also, I am not sure how it matters what the life is formed from if the conditions in galactic centers are what the authors say they are. Intense bombardment and radiation would keep any civilizations from rising.

They admit life is not impossible, but the odds of the right planet to come along and complex animal life to develop are astronomical. They do say microbes are possible, as some sort of 'shower scum of the universe'.

Also, there is the evolution bit. I have researched Darwinism, and I think(as do many scientists) there is too much evidence against the likelihood of random mutation resulting in new species. Besides, Darwinism doesn't fit the fossil record or any of the other criteria Darwin himself said his theory had to. If Punctuated Equilibrium is the method by which things evolved, the last I heard we don't have a mechanism to explain how it would work. The evolution is too fast for random mutation, and almost intelligent in its aims (it almost seems to want to move in certain ways). If we don't really know how life developed and evolved on our planet, I think that puts a block on our efforts in determining if life necessarily develops intelligence. After all, it is a rather large assumption (since we don't have much evidence for it) that life, once started, eventually becomes intelligent.

Not to mention always being more advanced than us for some reason.

We could also be living in our limitations here. Scientists have a pretty good idea what is needed for life, but they could be wrong. Maybe life could form from 'impossible' materials and in 'impossible' circumstances, but I do think we should listen to the scientists.

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Old 02-10-2000, 02:38 PM   #14
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Show me you are more qualified than the scientists writing the book...
No Conor, you show me that your scientists are more qualified than the overwhelming number of scientists who disagree with the position of your sources.

What are your sources' credentials? Are they even doctors in a relevant field of study to make the claims that they have? Do you even know?


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Old 02-10-2000, 03:44 PM   #15
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Vagabond--

You remember the discussion we were having about partial-birth abortion and abortion-related opinion polls over on the 6,000-year thread? I made some claims regarding polling data which you denied, saying:

Quote:
You need an unbiased party to do the poll. Again, look at the messenger. Do you know who did this poll?
I replied by citing hard polling data from The Boston Globe, New York Times, CBS News, LA Times, Newsweek, Gallup, and USA Today. Your response: Silence. No reply.

Now you come here to this thread and make this insulting statement:

Quote:
Better be careful. These guys will try to lure you in with the appearance of having an interesting, logical discussion, and then once you're hooked, everything devolves into an overwhelming flood of silly, frustrating nonsense.

Some of these people simply can not be reasoned with. They've made up their minds and if they stared the truth right in the face, they'd still believe whatever they want to anyway. It's absolutely pointless.

My advice: don't waste your time.
Vagabond, my experience is that you are only describing yourself. I tried to have a reasoned discussion with you. When I presented the documented facts that you yourself demanded, you ran off and hid.

From my encounters with you, I have to conclude that your statement, "They've made up their minds and if they stared the truth right in the face, they'd still believe whatever they want to anyway," describes only you.

I'm sure you're a terrific person in real life. But forums are about discussions and even debates. When people offer reasonable arguments and reasonable evidence, I would encourage you to simply make a reasonable response, rather than griping (unreasonably and ironically) that "Some of these people simply can not be reasoned with."

--wiz



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Old 02-10-2000, 04:29 PM   #16
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Here, here! Nothing against Vagabond personally, he's a great player, and a cool person, but his hostility in these discussions is unnecessary. That said, let's drop it and get on with what we were talking about. : )

Kurgan
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Old 02-10-2000, 04:54 PM   #17
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wizzywig,

You think you're unbiased? Your profiles says your interests are, and I quote:

Quote:
writing, science fiction, philosophy, God
How about Conor? His profiles says his interests are:

Quote:
God and the Truth (but that's redundant isn't it?)
And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with loving God. But, you can't deny that you're predisposed to wanting to believe that Earth is the only planet in the universe with life on it. You
want to believe that God created the Earth. You want to believe that you can attribute everything as some biblical work of God.

It's like there's this big elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. Well I am going to acknowledge it.

Admit it, this thread is more about evangelism than enlightenment.

If I'm wrong, then let me be the first to take this time to apologize to some/all of you as appropriate. However, from your past and present statements you're just going to have to forgive me if I'm highly skeptical of your motives.


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Old 02-10-2000, 05:06 PM   #18
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Vagabond--

Re:
Quote:
wizzywig,
You think you're unbiased? Your profiles says your interests are, and I quote:

quote:
writing, science fiction, philosophy, God

Of course I'm biased. Everybody's biased. Did I ever post a single word here or on any other thread on this forum in which I claim not to be biased?

I've seen the evidence, and the evidence makes me biased. My interests are, as you noted, "writing, science fiction, philosophy, God"--and not necessarily in that order. You seem to think that belief in God somehow warps a person's thinking. I believe that the reason I know God exists is that I am able to think clearly and receive the evidence.

I would never claim to be unbiased. But I do insist that I am reasonable, and I offer reasonable arguments and evidence for what I say.

Vagabond, I know I said some tough things to you in previous posts. If I offended or insulted you, I apologize. That is not my intention. But I was, quite frankly, annoyed that you entered this discussion with an attitude that everyone who had posted was incapable of rational thought, and that you were just going to snipe from the sidelines and not "dignify" the discussion with your own serious input.

I do wish you well.

--wiz


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Old 02-10-2000, 05:10 PM   #19
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BTW, Conor, I'm curious--what are you saying is the ultimate implication of this alien-life-not-likely scenario?

--wiz
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Old 02-10-2000, 07:43 PM   #20
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My primary reason for posting this was to start a discussion, perhaps to bring information I wansn't aware of to light. Also, I find the information interesting and wanted to post it.

I have made no secret that I disbelieve in aliens, and I am also posting this to show I am most definitely not alone.

As for my sources credentials, Vagabond, don't insult me by responding to my posts without even reading them. I said one is an expert in paleontology and mass extinctions and by extension versed in the mechanics of life and its development. The other is a very prominent astronomer who heads up a NASA division on space research. As for the overwhelming majority of scientists agreeing with you...show me, and give me evidence that backs up their points.

The main reason I started this discussion was to try to dig up points from the other side. If you have any evidence against mine, feel free to post it.

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Old 02-10-2000, 08:26 PM   #21
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Conor,

Don't insult yourself. I did read your posts.

So you found a scientist who doesn't think there's life on other planets. So what. The guy runs a project that's sending a spacecraft to vacume up dust - a space vacume. That makes him an expert on extra-terrestrial life? Nah, I don't think so.

And a paleontologist? Not even a relevant field of study.

As for evidence against yours, go find it yourself. There are plenty of sources out there if you're interested. It's not my job to educate you.

And what you've presented isn't evidence just because you found someone who agrees with you.

My objective here is not to prove my position, which I haven't officially stated, but to show that your position is so biased that the so-called evidence that you present is immeidately suspect to your own personal opinions.

Lastly, this whole discussion is nothing but speculation anyway since no scientist knows the true values for most of the variables in the Drake equation. Our instruments are too weak to detect terrestrial planets yet, hence we can't accurately deduce the likely percentage of terrestrial planets oribiting sun-like stars. Etc, etc, etc...

So, what's there to debate? It's illogical. Unless you want to play the faith card, which just totally doesn't belong in this type of discussion.


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Old 02-10-2000, 11:59 PM   #22
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Now you are beginning to amuse me. Is it against your belief system to back anything you say up? Or do you just like making ridiculous statements?

Do you think these guys are just blowing smoke for fun? That they most likely spent years building a comprehensive scientific case for no reason except to be contrary? You honestly reject everything that comes your way on the basis of whether you like it or not, and damn the evidence. No wonder you don't like these discussions, you expect everyone to roll over and agree with you on your brilliant tidbits of non-evidence, and get offended when people actually cite evidence for their position.

I don't know why I bother, it is like talking to a brick wall.

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Old 02-11-2000, 02:32 AM   #23
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Although, in all fairness you at least mentioned the Drake equation and a comment about not being able to detect whether earth-like planets are out there.

It is a step in the right direction I guess.

Okay, this discussion is more than 'nothing' but speculation. Granted, it is theorizing, but theorizing on scientific grounds and evidence. We can't prove how many or how few acceptable planets there are, not yet and not for a long while I think. We can make scientific calculations and come to evidence-based conclusions though. What these scientists are doing is taking what we know about our galaxy and the universe and producing theories. Based on the evidence they have observed, they have come to conclusions that a life-receptive planet in the right conditions is exceedingly rare, if not unique. This in itself does not even take into account the possibility of life evolving into an intelligent civilization once started.

Once we can start detecting smaller planets with any effeciency we will definitely know more about the makeup of solar systems and such, but to reject theories because they disagree with you is nonsense.

If you really have any conflicting evidence, show it and discuss, otherwise why are you hanging around?

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Old 02-11-2000, 03:09 AM   #24
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This is getting out of hand. I think both sides of this argument are unusually biased, and both sides not so much disbelieve the other side as unknowingly misinterpret what the other side has to say. I am going to end these misunderstandings here and now.

Conor says:
Quote:
In a new book Rare Earth two scientists (Peter D. Ward of the University of Washington and Donald C. Brownlee of the same U) have outlined how Earth is so rare, so perfect, that life anywhere else in the Milky Way, and maybe the Universe, is unfeasible...These two scientists say the Drake equation is "riddled with hidden optimistic assumptions."
Wiz says:
Quote:
He tallied up all the necessary parameters for life--from galaxy type, sun type, etc., to axis tilt, orbit eccentricity, tidal force, etc., to atmospheric factors and so forth, then calculated that the probability of all those life-support factors occurring in one planet were about 10^-53. The maximum possible number of planets in the universe, according to Ross, is 10^22. Therefore, there is less than one chance in a million trillion that even one such planet could occur anywhere in the universe.
Vagabond says:
Quote:
No Conor, you show me that your scientists are more qualified than the overwhelming number of scientists who disagree with the position of your sources.
and then
My objective here is not to prove my position, which I haven't officially stated, but to show that your position is so biased that the so-called evidence that you present is immediately suspect to your own personal opinions.
I don't think either side is giving any credence to the other. Let me elaborate. First of all, can either side tell me how one can even put a number on the probability of reality, of substance, of the nature of each and every law that governs this universe? This is absurd. You can't look at the gravity constant and say "If that were changed slightly then life could not exist." Einstein had very high hopes that a unified field theory exists, and if one is produced then bringing in the high probability the Anthropic Principle provides makes no sense. You can't just randomly conjure the thought of a different gravity constant and expect every other law of the universe to remain the same. If both sides of this argument will just take this neutral situation into consideration, I think the biased opinions will subside.

Suppose I have a rubber ball. I throw it down, it touches the ground, and it bounces back up and into my hand. This is an action that took place in space and time. Suppose I use the kind of logic that the Anthropic Principle utilizes. I can argue that the nature of that rubber ball is above and beyond what chance can prescribe it. There are probably only 4% of all planets in existence that have the right temperature for that ball to exist as a solid. Only 5% of those have the necessary chemicals to make that ball. Only 3% of those have an atmosphere that will not readily corrode the ball, or protect the ball from space debris. Now look at the substance of the ball itself. It is sheer beauty. It bends and flexes, yet readily returns to its pre-determined shape of the mold that mothered it. The ionic and covalent bonds are so perfect that just the slightest nudge in value would make life for that ball impossible. The values of the strong and weak nuclear forces that we have now are the only values that could allow that ball to survive. And look at how it bounced! Truly the physical laws that govern motion are too perfect. Why did it bounce right back in the opposite direction? Why did it even fall straight to the ground in the first place? I give that ball the greatest respect, for only 1 part in infinity could allow that ball to exist as it so perfectly does.

This is why all forms of prabability dealing with the nature of reality are absurd. You can't take each separate condition, weigh them separately, and then throw together one huge jalopy of an equation. All these conditions relate to each other - all of them do in fact define reality. The beauty that arises from complexity can in no way be given a statistical value. Think about that, for it is the most enlightening thought I have come across all week. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and anything beautiful can be analyzed to the point where we are left with no conclusion but to say it was intended.

This is where I differ from the flock. From what I gather, Conor believes our planet is the only planet that has the means to produce life (other than those microbes). I think Wiz believes this as well. Vagabond has another take, and simply from his hate on this first point of view I gather he believes the vast cosmos can harbor other means of intelligence. Vagabond is right, and Wizzywig knows this - that we are all biased. I doubt Conor has seriously looked into, and has seriously given consideration, to theories that allow for other forms of intelligent life. I doubt Vagabond has seriously looked into the sources Conor has been relying on. When Conor's two scientists say other theories are "riddled with hidden optimistic assumptions", there is no reason for me to believe THAT is not an optimistic assumption as well.

This is where my argument is leading. We are all biased to one concrete thing, whether we like it or not. This thing shapes how we perceive reality. We live within it, we learn from it, and we fear death because we will leave it. We are all biased towards humanity. We love ourselves, we love each other, and we are bestowed at birth with the need to prioritize humanity as the greatest heap of matter to ever assemble. There is only one law that governs us - the law of existence. We exist, and therefore there must exist something we exist in. We exist in the universe, and to prescribe our reality with a statistical number that shows intention is unjustified, for the universe in and of itself is beautiful beyond belief.

Don't misunderstand what I am trying to say. I am not saying our perception that humanity is truly wonderous is unjustified. I am not saying that our universe has the necessary means to repeatedly spark life. What I am saying is that I see a work of art - something that we are a part of, but something that was not created for us. The universe as a unity, not as individual constants and values for laws, can support life. We are bound as material beings by the speed of light, and the near infinity of our universe is here to tell us how insignificant we really are. We are beautiful creatures, I recognize this. The only question left to answer is whether the universe was intended for intelligent life, or if the universe was intended for humanity.

As for my opinion, I am thankful for what I have. It is a great feeling to think that somewhere else somebody is feeling the same feelings as I am, perhaps beyond all reaches of space and time. There is no denying the speed of light will never be breached, and all we are really left with is to wonder and hope.

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Old 02-11-2000, 03:30 AM   #25
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Now that is what I would call real debating. I am also pretty sure I can't respond to a lot of it.

One thing I can agree with, emphatically, totally and without reservation, is that our universe is a wondrous work of art.

Was it intended specifically for humanity? Scientifically speaking, I honestly couldn't say. Does it matter? Probably not, except in our own minds.

Perhaps I have not seriously researched the other position. I have read many people's views here and there, and they all seem to say the same thing: There are millions of planets and the universe is huge! How could there not be life on other planets? I think this view assumes far too much. Part of the reason I brought this up is to get concrete evidence for the other side.

I like debating, and debating is useless without evidence. My evidence against alien life is by no means conclusive, but I think it worth weighing. It is a topic that interests me.

Now, another thing. TAF, you said that you believe we will never transcend the speed of light, and by extension never meet any aliens that do exist. This, incidentally, is my view as well. If there are aliens, I don't think they would be able to reach us. Some scientists believe it is possible to bend space and time using black holes or wormholes or what have you. What do you think of the possibility of faster-than-light travel in that way?

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Old 02-11-2000, 04:42 AM   #26
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TAF brings up the main reason why I haven't been involved in this debate: we don't know. We're too small in scale to have all of the facts about the greater universe available, from which we could make an educated decision about the feasibility of intelligent alien life. Until we meet one, or visit all of the other planets in the universe, we will never know.

Hmmm. Does this sound like a point I've made before...?

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Old 02-11-2000, 04:49 AM   #27
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TheAhnFahn, Vagabond, et al:

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I think both sides of this argument are unusually biased, and both sides not so much disbelieve the other side as unknowingly misinterpret what the other side has to say.
Everybody is biased. So what? People who are intellectually honest can, when presented with convincing evidence, displace their biases and move to a new position. I know. I've done it many times. I've been biased in one direction or another all my life, but when I'm presented with new evidence, I change my mind.

Those who can't change their minds when presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence are not just biased, they are prejudiced and intellectually dishonest. But biased? No big deal. Bias doesn't mean your brain is padlocked. It just means you have a point of view. Points of view can and do change.

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I don't think either side is giving any credence to the other.
It's hard to give credence when no evidence is presented, just flat assertions and challenges. When that's all that's offered, there is nothing to give credence to.

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Can either side tell me how one can even put a number on the probability of reality, of substance, of the nature of each and every law that governs this universe? This is absurd. You can't look at the gravity constant and say "If that were changed slightly then life could not exist."
Yes, you absolutely can. I will produce that information in my next post.

Quote:
The universe as a unity, not as individual constants and values for laws, can support life.
That's true, Ahn, but the universe is not a featureless unity. It is a complex unity, made up of many interlocking, interdependent constants and laws. Therein lies its beauty. If just one of those constants or laws did not happen to fall into a very narrow range of tolerances, the entire universe as a life-giving unity would collapse like a house of cards.

We've been over this before. Every single one of at least two dozen parameters have to fall within a very narrow range in order for life of any kind to exist anywhere in the universe. Three of those parameters must be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in 10^39 for any kind of life to exist. Yes, these values are very precisely quantifiable, make no mistake.

I assure you, AhnFahn, that if you are now shrugging at this evidence (and that is how I now read you), then you are retreating from factual reality.

More to come...

--wiz
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Old 02-11-2000, 05:47 AM   #28
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TheAhnFahn, Vagabond, Zoom, Conor, Kurgan, et al:

The statement has been made that it is impossible to quantify and assign mathematical probabilities to the constants and conditions and physical laws that make the universe. That is a mistaken notion. We absolutely can. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m just going to quote wholesale (with the help of my trusty HP ScanJet 5100C) from THE CREATOR AND THE COSMOS by Hugh Ross, and let his rationale speak for itself (this same approach to the issue has been used by numerous other highly regarded scientists, including Paul Davies, John Gribbin, John Wheeler, Brandon Carter, Roger Penrose, and many others).

First, a few statements explaining how this rationale applies to specific features of the universe:

Quote:
Not all galaxies are created equal in terms of their capacity to sup-port life. Popular media often give the impression that all galaxies are spirals like our Milky Way. Actually only 5% of the galaxies in the universe are spirals. The other 95% are either elliptical or irregular.

In elliptical galaxies star formation ceases before the interstellar medium becomes enriched enough with heavy elements. For life, stellar systems need to form late enough that they can incorporate this heavy-element-enriched material.

The problem with large irregular galaxies is they have active nuclei. These nuclei spew out life-destroying radiation and material. Meanwhile most small irregular galaxies have insufficient quantities of the heavy elements essential for life.
So here is a very simple example of how we can assign a mathematical probability to a structure of the universe. Only 5 percent of galaxies in the universe are of a kind that would be hospitable to life. The other 95 percent are either spewing deadly radiation or lack heavy elements.

Next issue: Exotic lifeforms. When people first encounter all of this cosmological evidence, they are quick to jump in and say, “Well, you’re only talking about ‘life as we know it.’ Certainly, there could be exotic forms of life we can’t even imagine that would not conform to these conditions, right?” Wrong. As if the physicists and cosmologists who have conducted this research never even thought of that.

The fact is that we know that life cannot exist without a certain minimal level of complexity, and that requires certain elements, particularly carbon. And the existence of carbon, as I posted on the old, departed God thread (I would be happy to reproduce the information if anyone wants it) depends on an incredibly fine-tuned property of nature.

Ross observes:

Quote:
As physicist Robert Dicke observed…, if you want physicists (or any other life forms), you must have carbon. Boron and silicon are the only other elements on which complex molecules can be based, but boron is extremely rare, and silicon can hold together no more than about a hundred amino acids. Given the constraints of physics and chemistry we can reasonably assume that life must be carbon-based.
Next, let’s look at how Ross calculates the odds for the chance existence of life in the universe (sorry, the UBB Code won't let me present Ross's table in tabular format, but at least the information is all there):

Quote:
Chances for Finding a Life Support Planet

Each of these thirty-three parameters must be within certain limits to avoid disturbing a planet's capacity to support life. For some, including many of the stellar parameters, the limits have been measured quite precisely. For others, including many of the planetary parameters, the limits are less precisely known. Trillions of stars are available for study, and star formation is quite well understood and observed. On the other hand, only nine planets can be studied, and though a fairly good theory of planetary formation is available, the details have yet to be worked out. Another problem is that planetary formation cannot be fully observed.

Let's look at how confining these limits can be. Among the least confining would be the inclination of a planet's orbit and the distri-bution of its continents. The limits for these are loose, eliminating only 20% of all candidates. More confining would be parameters such as the planet's rotation period and its albedo, which eliminate about 90% of all candidates from contention. Most confining of all would be parameters such as the parent star's mass and the planet's distance from its parent star, which eliminate 99.9% of all candidates.

Of course, not all the listed parameters are strictly independent of the others. Dependency factors could reduce the degree of confinement. On the other hand, all these parameters must be kept within specific limits for the total time span needed to support life on a candidate planet This increases the degree of confinement.

About a dozen more parameters, such as atmospheric transparency pressure, and temperature gradient, other greenhouse gases, location of different gases and minerals, and mantle and core constituents and structures, currently are being researched for their sensitivity in sup-porting life. They involve greater complexities, however, than the parameters discussed here, and estimates of their sensitivity are much more difficult to determine. Nevertheless, it is possible, even at this stage in the research efforts, to gather many of the planetary system parameters for life support and determine a crude estimate for the possibility that by natural means alone there would exist a planet capable of supporting life.

An attempt at calculating the possibility of such a planet is presented in table 15.2 (page 143). Although I have tried to be conservative in assigning probabilities, I readily admit many of the estimates may need to be modified. Future research should provide us with much more accurate probabilities. If past research is any indication, however, the number of parameters should increase and the probabilities decrease. Thus, with considerable security, we can draw the conclusion that much fewer than a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent of all stars could possibly possess, without divine interven-tion, a planet capable of sustaining advanced life. Considering that the observable universe contains less than a trillion galaxies, each averaging a hundred-billion stars, we can see that not even one planet would be expected, by natural processes alone, to possess the necessary conditions to sustain life.

Table 15.2: An Estimate of the Probability for Attaining the Necessary Parameters for Life Support

Parameters, followed by the probability that the feature will fall in the required range for life:

galaxy type .1
star location .2
number of stars in system .2
star birth date .2
star age .4
star mass .001
star luminosity relative
to speciation .0001
star color .4
supernovae rates and locations .01
wbite dwarf binary types,
rates, and locations .01
planetary distance from star .001
inclination of planetary orbit .8
axis tilt .3
rotation period .1
rate of change in
rotation period .05
orbit eccentricity .3
surface grav.(escape velocity) .001
tidal force .1
magnetic field .01
albedo .1
density .1
thickness of crust .01
oceans to continents ratio .2
rate of change in oceans
to continents ratio .1
global distrib. of continents .3
asteroidal and cometary
collision rate .1
rate of change in asteroid
and comet collision rate .1
position and mass of Jupiter
relative to Earth .01
eccentricity and regularity of
Jupiter and Saturn's orbits .05
atmospheric transparency .01
atmospheric pressure .1
atmosph.electric dischge.rate .1
atmospheric temp. gradient .01
carb.dioxide level in atmosph. .01
oxygen quantity in atmosphere .01
ozone quantity and location
in atmosphere .01
water vapor level in atmosphere .01
oxygen to nitrogen ratio
in atmosphere .1
quantity of greenhouse gases
in atmosphere .01
soil mineralization .1
seismic activity .1
dependency factors 1,000,000,000.
longevity requirements .0001

Probability for occurrence of all forty-one parameters = 10^-53. Maximum possible number of planets in universe 10^22. Much less than one chance in a million trillion exists that even one such planet would occur anywhere in the universe.
And there you have it.

--da wiz




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Old 02-11-2000, 07:16 AM   #29
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OK... what I'M wondering, is why hasn't anyone quoted ME? HUH? Is my 2 cents not GOOD enough for you? Hmmm? After all, I AM the King of the Sith. Think about THAT!

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Old 02-11-2000, 07:29 AM   #30
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I just don't see how Scientists or ANYONE can put numbers on something like that wiz... Not saying that you're wrong in anyway, I'm just wondering outloud, how people can say something like that, when they don't even have the TOOLS to see to the ends of the Universe. I mean, how do they KNOW that those numbers are right, when they don't even know how big the universe is? Just wondering...

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Old 02-11-2000, 12:13 PM   #31
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Conor,

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You honestly reject everything that comes your way on the basis of whether you like it or not, and damn the evidence.
Untrue. You haven't presented any evidence. Just a couple guys' opinions. It's neither fact nor evidence because at this point, Humanity doesn't yet have the tools to direclty observe all of the variables that lead to the conclusion they have reached.

Quote:
...but to reject theories because they disagree with you is nonsense...
I don't accept these theories because they are unprovable, hence not a fact. Likewise I couldn't accept any scientist saying, "I have concluded that life definitely exists on other planets". I would immediatley ask him how he knows this, since as I've just said, it's not possible to directly observe the variable values that would lead to such a conclusion.

Incidently, NASA is planning a mission within the next 15 years called The Terrestiral Planet Finder. This mission will launch a formation of four to five satellites which together will have the effect of creating an extremely large space telescope, not unlike the Very Large Array, and will be able to detect terrestiral planets within 50 Light Years of Earth. This discussion will be much more interesting once data is sent back from this mission.

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What do you think of the possibility of faster-than-light travel in that way?
While it is not possible to accelerate an object's velocity up to or past the speed of light, there are theories on indirectly circumventing this speed limit. One particulary strange Quantum theory experiment has shown that two distant particles can receive information from one another at speeds that exceed the speed of light. I don't know where to point you at to find information on this experiment, but it was most likely in discover magazine or popular science. In any event, the implications were that at the very least, faster than light communication might be possible.

Also on the Quantum front, Quantum theorists talk about Quantum particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing from the fabric of space-time, often referred to as a Quantum Foam. Some scientists have suggested that it may be possible to harness this phenomenon to somehow instantly send large objects, such as a space craft, from one point in the universe to another.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Quantum theory expert and am not saying that I agree that these suggested applications of Quantum Theory. I'm really not in a position to agree or disagree. Merely, I'm informing you on what some scientists have speculated.

wizzywig,

Quote:
Every single one of at least two dozen parameters have to fall within a very narrow range in order for life of any kind to exist anywhere in the universe.
You have a huge post discussing these exact and precise values that Hugh Ross has come up with, but as elegant as his presentation is, the fact remains that his is merely speculation.

These are his opinions, as the values he has used are his own unproven beliefs (opinions), and hence are not items of verifiable information (not facts).

He can not directly observe the true values of every one of these variables. Just because Hugh Ross says it's so, doesn't mean it is. You're implying that Hugh Ross is absolutely correct and without error. Other noted scientists such as Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking don't seem to concur with his conclusion.

Besides, just eyeballing it, some of those figures looked pretty skeptical. And what the hell was that dependency factor?

Fundamentally, we disagree. You say it's possible to observe the values that enable one to calculate the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe, backed up by some scientists. I say you can't, also backed up by some scientists. If we can't even agree on the foundation of the discussion, then any further debate is pointless, which brings us full circle.

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Old 02-11-2000, 01:00 PM   #32
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I think you are confusing evidence with proof.

What I posted is indeed evidence. It is the result of scientific research and study. It is not conclusive proof that aliens cannot exist, but evidence that they probably do not.

What they have proposed must be countered before it can be dismissed. If their calculations and theories are wrong, it should be possible to come up with valid opposing arguments. That is the whole point of science, to try to find something scientifically that cannot be proven wrong with science.

I already knew about the quantum mechanics bit, but at least you are presenting material. This bodes well.

I also don't dismiss scientists out of hand because I don't understand what they are saying. I certainly don't understand quantum mechanics or the workings of the universe, so I have to trust that scientists aren't just cooking up nonsense and claiming it to be true.

I think we have valid reasons to believe scientists findings when they cite research, experiments and calculations, etc.

You have said Sagan and Hawking would dispute Ross' findings. How so, why, and on what evidence?

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Old 02-11-2000, 01:29 PM   #33
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Conor,

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You have said Sagan and Hawking would dispute Ross' findings. How so, why, and on what evidence?
If you ever watched Sagan's PBS series Cosmos, he openly states throughout the series that he believes extra-terrestrial life is not only possible, but very likely.

On Stephan Hawking, I believe he was quoted as saying that, statistically he felt the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe was probable. I'm not as certain about Hawking as I am about Sagan, but it was in an interview that I either saw on TV or read about.

In any event, none of this really matters because it's all speculation and conjecture. Sure, they're educated guesses by respected scientists on both sides of the debate. However, no firm conclusions will be able to be reached until actual data is obtained and examined.


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Old 02-11-2000, 01:37 PM   #34
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That is true, we cannot know for sure now, and we may never be able to prove the existence of aliens conclusively.

That doesn't mean we can't dish out some powerful evidence for one side or the other. We can make strides in calculating the likelihood and probability of such things, but no one is saying we can definitively conclude aliens do or do not exist.

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Old 02-11-2000, 02:12 PM   #35
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My main disagreement is at a very fundamental level; the values that many of the alien-life opponents come up with. They can't know the correct values for the equations that they are using to estimate the probability of life on other worlds. Nearly every single value they use can be debated to death by credible scientists the world over.

No one understands exactly the mechanics of planetary-system evolution. Up until the recent giant planets were detected around nearby stars, scientists were just positive that all gas giants formed on the outer-edge of a solar system, much like our own. However, we now know that gas giants can orbit very close to a star. And that's just one example of how little we truely know.

Again, all this so-called evidence is really nothing more than parlor games, until such time as we can accurately measure the existence (or lack thereof) of life on other worlds, and the conditions in which that life exists (or does not exist). Only then , as the population of observed worlds grows, can we begin to form a statistical probability about the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.


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Old 02-11-2000, 03:02 PM   #36
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Perhaps you are right, maybe calculations will be flawed.

But, why do you think scientists are calculating statistical probabilities unless they believed such calculations are valid?

Einstein developed his theories without proof of their validity. He calculated that they ought to be correct, and the physical, experimental evidence came later.

I don't think it makes sense to dismiss findings because they may be wrong. We should question findings, try to show if they are right or wrong, but if something that has a body of evidence supporting it cannot be proven correct, but also cannot be proven incorrect, it becomes a theory.

You also seem to believe that the majority of scientists would reject my posted findings. How can you be sure, when Wizzywig has posted several other sources on the same vein? Is it not more likely that there is a split view in science, rather than a few rebels against the whole?

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Old 02-11-2000, 03:24 PM   #37
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Lord Ender--

Didn't mean to leave you out. You write:

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I just don't see how Scientists or ANYONE can put numbers on something like that wiz. ... I mean, how do they KNOW that those numbers are right, when they don't even know how big the universe is? Just wondering...
Actually, my understanding is that the universe is believed by cosmologists to be 15-18 billion LY across, but without a boundary or edge.

As to those numbers, here is one example of how Ross arrived at those numbers. (The authors of RARE EARTH undoubtedly followed a similar procedure, and so have many other physicists and cosmologists, including Brandon Carter, John Wheeler, and others.) Ross writes:

Quote:
Popular media often give the impression that all galaxies are spirals like our Milky Way. Actually only 5% of the galaxies in the universe are spirals. The other 95% are either elliptical or irregular.
In elliptical galaxies star formation ceases before the interstellar medium becomes enriched enough with heavy elements. For life, stellar systems need to form late enough that they can incorporate this heavy-element-enriched material.

The problem with large irregular galaxies is they have active nuclei. These nuclei spew out life-destroying radiation and material. Meanwhile most small irregular galaxies have insufficient quantities of the heavy elements essential for life.
Okay, there's your rationale: Only 5 percent of galaxies in the universe are of a kind that would be hospitable to life. The other 95 percent are either spewing deadly radiation or lack heavy elements.

Now, you go to the table that Ross assembled and you see that the mathematical probability that he assigned to "galaxy type" was .1 (or 10 percent). Why didn't he assign a value of .05 percent, which would agree with the explanation he gave above? Because, as he explained in his introduction to the table, "I have tried to be conservative in assigning probabilities..." In other words, he tried to lean over backwards in giving the benefit of the doubt to the other side of the argument. He followed this same procedure with each factor.

The cosmologists who have arrived at these conclusions did not pull these numbers out of a hat. Each one is very carefully arrived at. I hope that is helpful.

I want to make one thing very clear to you and to Vagabond and everyone else:

I believe that intelligent extraterrestrial life exists. In fact, I once witnessed a UFO event that, in my own mind, I cannot explain in terms of natural phenomena or a manmade vehicle. It was a light in the night sky that moved erratically back and forth, up and down, in a way aircraft cannot move. After a minute or two, it took off in a rapid straight line, straight up, and faded to nothing. Obviously, that isn't proof of ETIs--it's just an unexplained sighting. But it's one more little reason I tend to believe ETIs exist.

The point of all these probabilities is that it is statistically impossible for ETIs--or for us--to exist by mere random chance. The laws and constants of the universe have been very carefully fine-tuned by a cosmic intelligence. I call it the Cosmic Designer or God. And if the Cosmic Designer could bring about human life in violation of all the naturalistic odds, that same Designer could have done it again, at any time and in any place in the universe. And the result might be completely unlike human beings in physical composition, appearance, and intelligence.

--wiz

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Old 02-11-2000, 03:33 PM   #38
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Vagabond quoted this statement of mine:

Quote:
Every single one of at least two dozen parameters have to fall within a very narrow range in order for life of any kind to exist anywhere in the universe.
The he wrote:

Quote:
You have a huge post discussing these exact and precise values that Hugh Ross has come up with, but as elegant as his presentation is, the fact remains that his is merely speculation.

These are his opinions, as the values he has used are his own unproven beliefs (opinions), and hence are not items of verifiable information (not facts).
Ross's calculations are not mere opinions or beliefs. They are projections based on known scientific facts, and the factual base of his projections is accepted by the entire scientific community and not a matter of controversy. Ross is a theist, but many nontheistic physicists and cosmologists (notably the eminent George Greenstein, author of FROZEN STAR and THE SYMBIOTIC UNIVERSE) acknowledge the validity of these projections and they frankly admit to being troubled by the clear implications of those projections (THE SYMBIOTIC UNIVERSE is Greenstein's attempt to impose another explanation on the data.)

It's not as if Ross is arguing in a vacuum or pulling numbers out of a hat.

As to how he arrives at the numbers, see my previous post. Note that he approaches the numbers conservatively, doubling the value of the galaxy type number, which reduces the improbability factor by half. He is trying to be more than fair to the other side, and the numbers still factor out to an astonishing conclusion.

--wiz

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Old 02-11-2000, 09:48 PM   #39
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The following is a post I made in the new God thread in the Racer forum, but I'm copying it here because it really pertains to the discussion we've been having here and it provides clarity regarding some of my previous posts...

================================================== =

TheAhnFahn!

Ah! Now I see what you're getting at!

I'm glad you made your point more clear, because I now see that I have not been clear, and this gives me a chance to put all the pieces together.

It's too bad that we are discussing the same subject in two different threads, in two different sections of the forum (maybe I should post this on the alien life thread as well, to make my position clear).

You began with this:

Quote:
My thinking has not changed, but I did that post because I felt what I perceived as YOUR thinking has changed Wiz.
I read that and thought, What the heck...?!

And then I read further and saw what you meant:

Quote:
Here is where I see a contradiction in your argument Wiz, and no matter what the circumstance a contradiction spells trouble. Here are the two main assumptions I have witnessed you to hold as truths.

1)The Anthropic Principle, with each and every fine-tuned law that we have already recognized, depicts a universe blessed for life. In all likelihood this universe was intended with intelligent life in mind.

2)The planetary evidence, with each and every fine-tuned law that we have recognized, depicts a universe that is so extremely hostile to life that it is absurd to believe any life exists at all. Either we are a fluke or this theory is invalid.
First, could we relabel what you call the "harsh worlds" concept? That's in large part where the misunderstanding comes in. A better name would be the title of the book Conor cited in his original alien life thread post, Rare Earth. Because this concept is not really about the universe being harsh to life, but about the Earth being so incredibly, even miraculously well-suited to life.

The Rare Earth evidence is really an extension of the Anthropic Principle. In fact, it builds on the Anthropic evidence, and uses many of the Anthropic coincidences as evidence to build the Rare Earth case. All of these many conditions are incredibly balanced and fine-tuned in order to make life possible.

All the evidence I have previously cited in the God thread and in the chapter I showed you applies to the way the universe as a whole has been designed to be fit for life (the creation of heavy elements, the balance of the various forces and physical constants, etc.). The Rare Earth case takes it a step further and shows that without conditions being balanced even more precisely with regard to the parent planet, life is still an absurdly improbable happenstance. The Rare Earth concept simply shows that the Anthropic coincidences that begin with the big bang and the quantum structure of the universe keep going on and on and on at the planetary level.

The result: The Anthropic evidence shows that the universe is miraculously fine-tuned to produce life; the Rare Earth evidence shows that the Earth itself is also miraculously fine-tuned to produce life.

Does that mean there cannot be other lifeforms out in space somewhere? That we MUST be the only lifeforms in the entire universe?

Of course not. If the Cosmic Designer chose to create a miraculous universe, and within that universe, a miraculous Earth, then he certainly could have repeated the miracle elsewhere in the universe. In fact, I strongly suspect he did.

Does the Rare Earth concept mean that the universe is hostile to life? No, it just means that, once the universe has created heavy elements and done all the other things that must take place to make life possible in the universe, there is still more work to do on the local, planetary scale in order for life to arise. There are still more balancing acts to perform. And by raising the odds against life arising by chance a few more orders of magnitude, it strengthens the case that the universe in general and the Earth in particular are the artifacts of a Cosmic Intelligence.

(Hey! I'm REALLY glad you brought this up, because it just occurred to me as I was typing this that the Rare Earth concept strengthens the AP considerably, because it makes the possibility of the Many Worlds Interpretation even more impossibly remote than before!!)

I hope this clears up the confusion I inadvertantly created about these two interlocking bodies of evidence. Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify--and the opportunity to be struck by a really cool idea!!

--wiz


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Old 02-12-2000, 03:07 AM   #40
Conor
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I just saw the most fascinating thing!

I had discovery channel on, and what do you know, they had a little segment interviewing the authors of Rare Earth, and outlining their theories. I think that is pretty cool. They brought up one statement from a dissenter, "The book can't discount the possibility of life on other planets completely," which the authors agreed with, and said we should never stop looking for extraterrestrial life, just that they don't expect to find any.

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"There cannot be any 'story' without a fall - all stories are ultimately about the fall - at least not for human minds as we know them and have them."
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