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The Problem With SETI

SETI aliens

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#1 gsmonks

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 07:30 PM

There is a fundamental problem with SETI that makes it difficult for me to take the organisation seriously, namely the Drake Equation.

Much of the chirpy nonsense you hear regarding extratesticular life is a direct result of the Drake Equation, and SETI seems to have bought into it hook, line, and stinker.

The problem with the Drake Equation is that it's junk science, has no scientific merit whatsoever, and has a basis based in belief, not science.

This is not my opinion. It's not a matter of disagreeing with the hypothesis. And it's certainly no secret. For fifty years scientists and mathematicians have been pointing out the flawed reasoning behind the claim(s).

As biologists have been pointing out since the 1950's, only biologists have the knowledge necessary for making predictions about the existence of Life out there, and their response from the beginning has been unanimous and unequivocal: a) there's probably nothing out there, and b) even if there were, we have no way of finding it, and never will.

Now, I'm not going to reiterate the mountains of studies debunking the Drake Equation, and I'm not going to waste time posting the same old Life-out-there debunking information that has been out there in the public domain since the 1950's. I've been doing that for years, and long ago got tired of the fact that it falls on deaf ears.

What I am going to do is mention an observation, namely that SETI is tainted by people who believe in stuff.

When reading the comments of true believers, this is something you come across all the time: talk about believing in aliens, in extratesticular Life, and a good many of the people in question are also nutters who litter every forum dealing with the question of extratesticular Life with comments about Illuminati, lizard people, you name it.

Any reasonable person will conclude that this has nothing whatever to do with science, and because so many nutters align themselves with SETI, and because SETI does little or nothing to dissuade them, its very existence becomes suspect.

SETI must divest itself of the Drake Equation, which is based on plausible-sounding baloney. It must also temper comments made by non-biologists who, despite being very well-educated, are not experts in this particular field, and should refrain from making sweeping statements regarding extratesticular Life that are based, not on science, but on unfounded, unproven, untested opinion.

Edited by gsmonks, 13 September 2016 - 07:31 PM.

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#2 Orpheus

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Posted 13 September 2016 - 11:21 PM

I agree that the Drake equation is pure specious sophistry.

I absolutely DON'T agree that biologists agree that a) there is probably nothing out there, or b) we have no way of finding it and never will.

Regarding (A), I'd note that xenobiological themes commonly showed up in my grad school molecular biology/biochemistry/etc. exams. In the 1980s, we were constantly finding new forms of life that thrived in environments that had previously been deemed (for "obvious" reasons, such as extremely high/low temperature, pressure, acidity, osmolality, radiation, etc.) and exploring the biochemistry that made them tick. We're still doing so today -- if anything, more so! If anything, I'd say that biologists agree that DNA-based life can live under a far greater set of planetary conditions, and can survive far longer stretches in space (for transfer between bodies) than we've ever imagined before -- and we've only scratched the surface. Further, it has become increasingly clear to us that we are looking at not just the narrow slice of modern life that is DNA/RNA based, but that even the distant ancestors of our familiar life was not ALL DNA/RNA based as we know it (e.g. a modern organism, Tetrahymena, was known in the mid 80s to use RNA as an enzyme, rather than as a genetic or transcription medium (this function is almost exclusively performed by proteins in modern Earth life) and further evidence makes it increasingly likely that while the "victors" of the primordial biological battles on Earth seem to use DNA (or RNA, mostly in viruses), they did so by not only competing with, but "absorbing and subsuming" elements and entire organisms from other non-DNA evolutionary lines.

If anything, I'd say that "most biologists" would agree that the current evidence increasingly suggests countless possible biochemistries (etc) that we not only can't imagine or test for, but might not recognize if it were right in front of us in a test tube. Indeed, some may be right in front of us on Earth, unrecognized. I think the Drake equation fails badly --indeed, critically-- because it is based on premises that life doesn't need to heed at all: life may not need to be planetary, it may not rely on a certain type of star or planet; etc.

Regarding (B), I suggest the following question: could WE detect the existence of life on Earth using existing human technologies, from another star, even if WE were not Earthlike species? I'd argue that we could. Our Oxygen-rich atmosphere, for example, would easily be detected by a spectrograph from quite some distance -- and from an even greater distance, given another 50 years to look, even if our technology didn't appreciate appreciably (we've only been able to detect extra solar planets for a little over a decade, and we've only been able to explore the properties of the planets themselves (as opposed to the wobble that gas giants cause in their parent stars) for a handful of years. Even without new technology, we could easily spend up to a century looking for more with the abilities we have.

I'd say that SETI --much less CETI-- are woefully premature, not forever pointless. It's like looking for alien life with Victorian technology, before we even had a working theory of atoms. (atoms couldn't be stable under classical mechanics; only quantum mechanics showed how atoms might survive beyond microseconds under Earth-surface conditions). I also reiterate: even using current technologies, it might take centuries to thoroughly scan the nearby universe.

Consider this: just last month, we discovered, using existing technologies, an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri --4.241 light years away, arguably the nearest star to Earth [Alpha Centauri A and B are each roughly 4.365 light years from Earth, but each of these three has been the closest, as they co-orbit each other].

Also consider this: we have in the past year increasingly found that undetected brown dwarves are more numerous, and fill the gaps between, the known visible stars -- there are likely several that are closer to us than Proxima Centauri [Statistics suggest that they may average 1-2 light years apart at our distance from the galactic center, in the Orion arm, which, projected into 3 dimensions, suggests 10-60 are closer to us than Proxima Centauri]. This would completely change the future of space travel: we could refuel from these brown dwarves (and gases caught in their orbit) like a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad between islands in a shallow lake -- as opposed to jumping from island to island in a single bound.

If we're just finding these things now, closer to us than anything else, how can we presume to have BEGUN to fully survey the depths of space?

So, yeah, Drake's equation is pretty much bad pseudoscience. However, this isn't an argument that the universe is empty, any more than Arthur Conan Doyle's failed Victorian calculation of the pixies in metro London means that there weren't ACTUALLY tens of millions of rats or other "improper" creatures living in that area, unworthy of the consideration of an educated gentleman.

#3 gsmonks

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 12:30 PM

Heh- an entertaining read, as always.

The problem with the notion of extremophiles living on alien worlds should be obvious- they didn't start out as extremophiles. Extremophiles are the end result of a long line of adaptations/mutations of existing organisms.

Which is related to a law of taxonomy, that each step is contingent upon the existing state of the organism in question. The notion of extremophiles living on alien planets is predicated on non-evolutionary processes, which of course is unscientific.

All life (as we know it) started out in the most wimpy, favourable, benign conditions imaginable. All original life on this planet began as animal or animal-like. In fact, the first known life-forms on this planet were fractal, and based on very simple building blocks that weren't adept at things like evolution and change. Just being alive consumed their being for many, many millions of years.

Change, and being able to adapt, was something that took a very long time for Life to realise. Early Life was unchanging for very long periods of time- many millions of years. The ability to adapt was grudging, and extremely slow in developing.

Most of the history of evolution on this planet was dedicated, not to change, but to getting the ability to change off the ground. And without the Moon, it wouldn't have happened. Without plate tectonics, it wouldn't have happened. Without rising sea beds, it wouldn't have happened. Without periodic extinctions, it wouldn't have happened. Without seasons, it wouldn't have happened. Without climate change, it wouldn't have happened.

The point being that if you don't have all your ducks in a row- and there are tens of thousands of ducks in the chain- there's no us in the equation. And that is the fly in the ointment all the non-biologists are forgetting. Plus the fact that you have to be a biologist to comprehend the enormity of the situation.

Us Humans are prone to bandwagonism, a phenomenon to which the sciences are not immune. As a countermeasure, I choose to ignore the fruits of bandwagonism in the sciences, which in this case brings me right back to the 1950's conclusion that Life is exceedingly rare, if it is out there at all.

At the top of the list is the fact that a) we don't know how Life got started on this planet, and b) the lack of comparison is a fatal flaw in any conjecture about Life out there. Science, indeed the manner in which the mind and the senses work, is comparison-based. Without comparison, you don't have a viable hypothesis on which to build a theory.
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#4 RJDiogenes

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 05:31 PM

The Drake Equation is neither science nor pseudoscience-- it's a string of empty, and unfillable, variables. The Drake Equation was not meant to be solved, it was meant to inspire discussion and speculation, as well as research and development.

As for extremophiles, they are our ancestors. Evidence of life on Earth, at this point, goes back at least 3.7 billion years, which means it existed long before that. Biologists-- real ones-- speculate that life appeared and was wiped out a number of times before taking permanent hold. Life did not coalesce in a warm spring puddle-- it was cooked up in a raging sea of volcanic lava as meteorites rained down from above. Contemporary life forms that graze happily in temperate environments are the lazy descendants of the ultimate extremophiles. Biologists-- again, the real ones-- know this, just like they know that the chemical makeup of the universe is homogeneous, that the laws of physics are the same everywhere, that the universe is vast beyond imagining, and that the odds of life being ubiquitous in the cosmos are overwhelming to say the least. Because to think otherwise is the equivalent of Creationism.
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#5 gsmonks

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 05:34 PM

Yes, that is the speculation shared by a few real fringe biologists. What's your point?

The evidence takes us back to simple organisms, not extremophiles. Those first simple organisms literally terraformed the planet, which would be unrecogniseable to us today. The first simple organisms were not oxygen-breathing, for one thing, but you're confusing simple with hostile. The simple conditions that existed at the beginning are often erroneously referred to as hostile, because they're hostile to us. They were alo the perfect breeding ground for the origins of Life itself on this planet, and as such were not hostile to the original pre-Life and basic Life-forms.

Here's a beginner's guide to the origins of life on Planet Earth you might be able to understand:


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#6 gsmonks

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 09:44 PM

Here is a good example of junk science. Once again we have a non-biologist who thinks he has all the answers. This guy is no doubt well-educated and has the best of intentions, but he's a geologist, not a biologist or a biochemist.

The point being that even very well-educated people have loads of unfounded opinions on Life and its origins.

The unanimous answer to come from the biological sciences, to the question, How did Life start on planet Earth?, is, "No one knows."

To further complicate the matter, the chain of events leading up to us is staggeringly complex, and contains tens of thousands of links. Break one link in the chain, and no us. No calcium, no us. No collagen, no us. No carbon, no us. No oxygen, no us. No plants, no us. No long list of trace elements, no us. Bilateral symmetry, internal differentiation, movement, self-regulation of heat, the development of senses, the development of the nervous system and brain, bipedal locomotion and its impact on the cranium causing the development of higher brain function, binocular vision, time sense, I could go on for at least 200 pages.

Here is one tiny part of the chain-  a common protein molecule:

http://www.nasa.gov/...ain_henze.2.jpg


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#7 gsmonks

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 12:33 AM

Here is another example of junk science masquerading as a documentary titled How Life Began.

The problem with non-biologists running the show becomes glaringly obvious in this video, which, rather than explains how Life began, only serves to demonstrate what biologists have been saying since the 1950's, that we have utterly no idea how Life Began, and even though we know what's it's made of, we can't begin to figure out how to put the ingredients together in a way that makes for living things. DNA itself, and how it came to be, is avoided like the plague in this video because no one has the least clue.

As I said in the comments section of the video, "There's a reason SETI isn't finding anything. Biologists have been telling cosmologists why since the 1950's. Cosmologists haven't been listening. You have to understand how Life originated before you can make sweeping statements about it. Citing space-borne material is putting the cart before the horse, and is therefore junk science. The documentary is titled How Life Began but doesn't explain how Life began. The reason is that Biologists- the true experts in this area- still don't know. So if you don't know how Life began, everything that follows is conjecture. Extremophiles didn't emerge until Life had been around a few billion years, at the time of Snowball Earth. The earliest one-celled organisms were extremely simple- too simple to be extremophiles. Comparing modern extremophiles to ancient organisms is junk science. Unless you're dealing with living fossils (ancient original organisms), you're not learning anything about the origin(s) of Life on this planet. Snottites (sp?) are modern cellular colonies that have evolved modern extremophile abilities, such as their excretions, which are an adaptation to an extreme environment, from an organism that didn't formerly need such a form of protection. It's all very interesting, but you're not learning anything useful about ancient organisms."

Until you can start Life in a test tube, you have no starting point from which to make statements about Life beyond this planet. If it turns out to be too complicated for the best minds and the best science to solve (which is a distinct possibility)- and the basic constituents of Life are extremely simple, don't forget- then odds are very good that Life here on Earth is a one-off.


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#8 gsmonks

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 09:34 PM

For billions of years, Life was single-celled, and to say different from what we consider living organisms today would be an understatement:



For a very long time, Life was stuck, not doing much of anything. Charnia just lay there on the sea bottom, subsisting. If single-celled microbes hadn't released oxygen into the environment, collagen would never have been produced, and we wouldn't be here. If "Snowball Earth" hadn't happened, tiny organisms wouldn't have been forced to adapt in such a way that they would play a part later on. If "Snowball Earth" hadn't ended, nutrients wouldn't have flooded into the sea, increasing the number of organisms exponentially.

Turning back the clock doesn't help much when it comes to early Life because the earliest organisms didn't fossilise. All microorganisms today are the descendants of earlier organisms, but are altered so much that we have precious few "living fossils". So inferring what the earliest, most primitive organisms were like, is presently beyond the reach of science and its present set of tools.

Looking at modern cells doesn't help much because they've become horrifically complex. For example, a single Human cell was once a host cell that was invaded by viruses that became mitochondria and golgi bodies. The mitochondria and golgi bodies became entangled with the electrolytic chain to become higher things like muscle tissue, fat, and retained lower attributes such as storing and releasing energy throughout the body.

A single cell, and the mitochondria and golgi bodies, can now be grown independently in a lab, but that doesn't help us understand the millions of years of changes leading to their present interdependence and ability to reproduce simultaneously. It also doesn't allow us to simplify the genetic mechanism to its earliest form. The process itself has become complex to a point similar to trying to understand the human brain and the moments prior to the Big Bang.

If you study the mechanisms involved in gene manipulation within a single cell, you'll understand what I mean. Watching the protein helicase attach to and then break hydrogen bonds between the bases of DNA strands, under high magnification, is mind-boggling. How did such constituents evolve? How did they come to work together in this manner? Just this one facet of living organisms is as baffling as watching the cascade effect within the Human brain as it thinks, as seen in real time by a MRI.


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#9 gsmonks

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 09:54 PM

And as for cells themselves, this is what it known about their origins- nothing.

The problem this presents for SETI is that you can't build a body of information on nothing.


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#10 Elara

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 11:26 PM

View Postgsmonks, on 15 September 2016 - 05:34 PM, said:

Yes, that is the speculation shared by a few real fringe biologists. What's your point?

The evidence takes us back to simple organisms, not extremophiles. Those first simple organisms literally terraformed the planet, which would be unrecogniseable to us today. The first simple organisms were not oxygen-breathing, for one thing, but you're confusing simple with hostile. The simple conditions that existed at the beginning are often erroneously referred to as hostile, because they're hostile to us. They were alo the perfect breeding ground for the origins of Life itself on this planet, and as such were not hostile to the original pre-Life and basic Life-forms.

Here's a beginner's guide to the origins of life on Planet Earth you might be able to understand:
(video)

I would say his point was fairly clear, but you seem to have missed it.

I would actually post my thoughts, but it seems that this thread is simply one where you say what you believe and everyone else must agree. If they don't, you will tell them how foolishly wrong they are, or perhaps you will insult them as you insulted RJ with your last sentence, or both. Have fun with your own form of creationism.
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#11 gsmonks

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 02:53 AM

View PostElara, on 18 September 2016 - 11:26 PM, said:

View Postgsmonks, on 15 September 2016 - 05:34 PM, said:

Yes, that is the speculation shared by a few real fringe biologists. What's your point?

The evidence takes us back to simple organisms, not extremophiles. Those first simple organisms literally terraformed the planet, which would be unrecogniseable to us today. The first simple organisms were not oxygen-breathing, for one thing, but you're confusing simple with hostile. The simple conditions that existed at the beginning are often erroneously referred to as hostile, because they're hostile to us. They were alo the perfect breeding ground for the origins of Life itself on this planet, and as such were not hostile to the original pre-Life and basic Life-forms.

Here's a beginner's guide to the origins of life on Planet Earth you might be able to understand:
(video)

I would say his point was fairly clear, but you seem to have missed it.

I would actually post my thoughts, but it seems that this thread is simply one where you say what you believe and everyone else must agree. If they don't, you will tell them how foolishly wrong they are, or perhaps you will insult them as you insulted RJ with your last sentence, or both. Have fun with your own form of creationism.

What he said showed a basic lack of understanding of the subject.

RJ has been stalking me around the board with insults and personal attack. That you're defending him shows a lack of sense and character on your part.

Creationism is for nutters. I only care about the science.

Back to the movie . . .

Another problem with SETI is that its members tend not to have an impartial view of what we ourselves are. The nature of consciousness and perception are not as we think they are. There is a huge disconnect between perception and reality, and this applies to consciousness itself. Which raises the question, How can we go looking for other forms of Life when we haven't a good idea of what we ourselves are.

Here's a short video on the bacteria that live a symbiotic existence within and on us, without which we would not exist, that evolved along with us, and which, if you look at a Human being as a whole, represent more of the total mass present than we do. We may be driving the bus, but we're just one entity among many, and existence/survival-wise are not the most important, though we like to think otherwise.


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#12 Sci-Fi Girl

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 09:36 AM

So let me get this straight GS, you are saying that because you don't know exactly how life started, that it couldn't start any other way somewhere else?  And also that it can't start again the same way somewhere else either?  Even though you don't know what that way is???

Are you familiar with the "Sentient Puddle" idea?  Per Douglas Adams:

Quote

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Maybe the same conditions where life arose can repeat, and maybe they can't.  Why should they have to?  Why can there be only one way to make life?  To say so is pure ego.

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#13 Elara

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 03:14 PM

View Postgsmonks, on 19 September 2016 - 02:53 AM, said:

What he said showed a basic lack of understanding of the subject.

RJ has been stalking me around the board with insults and personal attack. That you're defending him shows a lack of sense and character on your part.

Creationism is for nutters. I only care about the science.

I know nothing of him stalking you, however I do know that my response was not defending him, it was simply stating facts, but if stating facts means that I have no sense and no character, I'm good with that.

Creationists are people that are stuck in one belief, never admitting that there is more than what they have been taught to believe. You seem unable to realize that a good scientist never stops looking, never stops thinking that there is more, never says this is it, always goes beyond what they were taught.

People used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, this was dis-proven by someone who decided to study more, to expand on knowledge. At one time, no one truly believed there were other planets, certainly none that might be similar to earth, now they are finding possibilities. Not long ago it was believed no life could survive in the vacuum of space, but Water Bears (Tardigrades) can survive. Finding atoms, and the list goes on and on... None of this would have been discovered if earlier, and current, scientists thought like you seem to.
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#14 gsmonks

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 03:51 PM

View PostSci-Fi Girl, on 19 September 2016 - 09:36 AM, said:

So let me get this straight GS, you are saying that because you don't know exactly how life started, that it couldn't start any other way somewhere else?  And also that it can't start again the same way somewhere else either?  Even though you don't know what that way is???

Are you familiar with the "Sentient Puddle" idea?  Per Douglas Adams:

Quote

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Maybe the same conditions where life arose can repeat, and maybe they can't.  Why should they have to?  Why can there be only one way to make life?  To say so is pure ego.

SFG

Another person who doesn't  seem to know personal attack from relating information.

Scientists, as I stated many times, do not know how Life got started. What I think personally differs, and regardless has nothing to do with this matter.

Biologists have been saying from the beginning that they don't know how the first cells came to be. They do say that because all DNA is related, that life on this planet started only once. That doesn't bode well for Life on other planets, because Life had one helluva time getting started on this planet. It existed only as one-celled organisms (as far as is known) for billions of years. Only a long series of incredible, happy accidents, led to higher Life on this planet.

All that is known is that Life was incredibly lucky, time and time again, with the odds stacked against it all the while. Good thing, or we wouldn't be here.

The point being that SETI types think of Life as popping up everywhere in the universe. They're always talking chirpily about "organic compounds" and "the building blocks of life coming from comets and asteroids and other planets", and so on.

As some of the videos I've posted show, it doesn't matter if you have all of the right building blocks right before you. The best minds in the business have recreated all of them, have been playing with them for a long time now, and still haven't the first clue how the first living organism got started- which I would remind you only happened once, if the DNA theorists are correct.

The salient point here, that seems to have a lot of jazz connected to it for certain people, is that certain people want to believe that Life exists elsewhere, that there are aliens, that there is someone else out there. That's really what we're talking about here. Having someone challenge that notion is what's setting certain people off.

As I said to RJ, present a counterargument. If you don't agree, and have information to back up an argument, present it.  Don't follow me around, insult me, and compare me to Donald Trump, like a two-year-old.
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#15 gsmonks

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:13 PM

View PostElara, on 19 September 2016 - 03:14 PM, said:

View Postgsmonks, on 19 September 2016 - 02:53 AM, said:

What he said showed a basic lack of understanding of the subject.

RJ has been stalking me around the board with insults and personal attack. That you're defending him shows a lack of sense and character on your part.

Creationism is for nutters. I only care about the science.

I know nothing of him stalking you, however I do know that my response was not defending him, it was simply stating facts, but if stating facts means that I have no sense and no character, I'm good with that.

Creationists are people that are stuck in one belief, never admitting that there is more than what they have been taught to believe. You seem unable to realize that a good scientist never stops looking, never stops thinking that there is more, never says this is it, always goes beyond what they were taught.

People used to believe that the sun revolved around the earth, this was dis-proven by someone who decided to study more, to expand on knowledge. At one time, no one truly believed there were other planets, certainly none that might be similar to earth, now they are finding possibilities. Not long ago it was believed no life could survive in the vacuum of space, but Water Bears (Tardigrades) can survive. Finding atoms, and the list goes on and on... None of this would have been discovered if earlier, and current, scientists thought like you seem to.

The core problem, the problem when it comes to understanding where all Life came from, is that the scientists doing the research, the best minds on the planet, have all of the ingredients, love to say that "they're so simple", but are scratching their heads when it comes to making one, single living cell in a lab.

The reason I posted videos on cells is to provide some idea of how horribly complex they are, on a level with trying to understand the workings of the human brain, or what was going on prior to the Big Bang. The point being that it may be beyond the ability of science to ever fully understand what makes a single cell tick.

It started off with the discovery that a single human cell is a colony organism. There is the cell itself, plus the mitochondria, which began as an independent virus, and the two golgi bodies, which too are independent viruses. Viruses, moreover, which can be grown, in  a lab, independent of their host cell.

In cytology, when scientists began mapping cells, the more they looked, the more they found. Individual cells have a skeleton. This wasn't discovered until low-light dyes were developed, so that examining a cell didn't kill it.

More and more little goodies were found inside cells, making them enormously complex little beings. And today research is working on the molecular level. And evidence for quantum phenomena has been gathering so frequently that it looks like this may well become the next level of research.

For what it's worth, I personally disagree with this line of inquiry. These are higher organisms that developed over billions of years. The original one-celled creatures were probably very simple, and my personal suspicion is that they were not DNA-based. There was probably a period, now lost to us because there was no way to preserve evidence of it in the fossil record, of pre-Life, that may have been populated by naturally-occurring porous chemical membranes, that over time developed into repeating fractal units, and which developed chemical receptors at pore openings, simply by being exposed to chemical elements pushed through by Brownian motion. Eventually, when you get a process of any kind going, uniformity imposes itself upon the system. I think DNA, or at least peptides, was/were a gradual consequence. So that what became cell membranes came first, enabled the formation of something like DNA, or its predecessor, and so on.

This still points to an event so unique that it was probably a one-off.
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#16 gsmonks

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 04:21 PM

I forget which biologist said this, but to paraphrase, "The origin of Life is like a naturally-occurring diesel-engine. Yes, it is statistically possible, but in practice is squarely in the realm of the fantastic."
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#17 Elara

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 06:12 PM

View Postgsmonks, on 19 September 2016 - 04:13 PM, said:

This still points to an event so unique that it was probably a one-off.

To me, it says that there were multiple ways life could begin, meaning it's not a "one-off".

There is no evidence denying the possibility of life on other planets. Without that evidence, there is possibility, with possibility, there is a reason to keep studying and searching.
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#18 gsmonks

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Posted 19 September 2016 - 07:13 PM

View PostElara, on 19 September 2016 - 06:12 PM, said:

View Postgsmonks, on 19 September 2016 - 04:13 PM, said:

This still points to an event so unique that it was probably a one-off.

To me, it says that there were multiple ways life could begin, meaning it's not a "one-off".

There is no evidence denying the possibility of life on other planets. Without that evidence, there is possibility, with possibility, there is a reason to keep studying and searching.

By that logic, there's no evidence that flying pigs don't exist everywhere in the universe, too.

A porous fractal chemical membrane able to enable the formation of useful, more complex chemical compounds, such as proteins and peptides, and/or simpler, earlier versions of such, would indeed represent a one-off, because being both simple and specific leaves no room for variation. Something in there has to be able to enable the production of guanine, thymine, cytosine, and adenine. In order to achieve that end, certain chemicals must be present in the surrounding environment, plus the membrane itself must contain chemicals that act as receptors, or at least proto-receptors.
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#19 gsmonks

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 03:10 AM

The most incredibly stupid question asked by cognitive scientists and anthropologists alike right now is, "When did we become Human?"

The problem with the question is that we are not as we see ourselves.

Here is a video to illustrate one small aspect of what I mean:



Not only are we not what we think we are, but other animals do not see us as Human. They see us for what we are- other animals.

To turn this observation around, people are beginning to see and understand the "humanity" in other living creatures. "Cats are people too," some are fond of saying, for example, and in this they are correct. Mammals naturally have empathy for one another, and as one's empathy become more astute, mind itself become another aspect of "like recognises like".

Beyond that, I came to the realisation many years ago that what makes for a human or a dog or a horse or a mouse is none of what you see. A human, a chicken, a hamster, a whale, is something that takes place in the mind. Whatever it is that makes every sentient being what it is takes place in that creature's mind.

Anyone who has had a dog stick its nose in your butt has had the experience of a dog seeing you as just another animal. I would say that we humans are incapable of seeing ourselves as animals because it's built in to us to see ourselves as we do.

But there are moments in Human behaviour that some find profoundly disturbing, mainly when witnessing mindless aggressiveness. But other small glimpses occur now and then with sexuality, physical activity related to survival, various behaviours associated with instinct.

If we were able to train ourselves to see ourselves solely as the animals we are, then we would have achieved the first step in experiencing what First Contact would actually be like.
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#20 Omega

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 08:06 AM

This is actually where the Drake equation is useful. How likely is life to develop on an arbitrary other world, times how many other worlds are there, is how many worlds with life you would expect to see. How likely is life to develop on an arbitrary world? We have no idea. We can try to pontificate from first principles, but really, we have exactly one data point, and you can't compute probabilities from that. And without that information, we can't tell anything else.

So we search for life on other worlds in part because it lets us back-calculate how likely life is to arise, which in turn can help tell us how it happened..

As for SETI, my personal theory is that intelligent life may arise all the time, but what are they going to do once they show up? They're going to look into the sky and say, "Where is everyone?" Then they're going to start getting worried. "What if the sky is empty because something finds and eats intelligent civilizations?" Then they're going to do a cost-benefit analysis, realize that even an incalculably small probability of complete annihilation outweighs anything that could be gained from contacting aliens, and hide.

There may be thousands of civilizations out there, all looking up at the sky in silent fear, because none of them sees anyone else.

Edited by Omega, 25 September 2016 - 08:10 AM.




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