>Are we (Earthlings) alone in the Universe? Posted on April 13, 2010 by thebigqs 11 comments >i.e. do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related Philosophy Science
>What's ironic about this is that 400 years ago we would have wanted to say yes were are alone in the universe because we are special (Giordano Bruno, an Italian Monk, was burned at the stake in Rome, 1600 for saying that aliens are likely to exist) and yet today we get dis-heartened at the idea that we might be the only ones.However, whether or not this is wishful thinking I think it more than likely that we are not the only life forms in the universe. My reasoning is very simple. If life does 'begin' then it seems very odd to imagine that we were the only occurence on all the billions of planets around the universe. And secondly, if life does begin then it would have been incredibly delicate when the first life appeared. For example the 'RNA World' theory states that life began with strings of RNA (kind of like single stranded DNA if you have no idea what I'm on about). This theory advocates the evolution of RNA outside of cell membranes or walls, hence anything could have destroyed them. And as it is likely that life began when the Earth was still cooling down and bits of magma were shooting all over the place it seems unlikely that life only began or came to Earth once. And then of course we have already discovered planets with water, one of the fundamental requirements for Earthling life. And we have explored a fraction of the universe.
>I find it implausible in the extreme that we are alone given the absolute vastness of the universe, which, as you point out, we have barely begun to explore. Also, with reference to the 'dominant' life forms spread, if bacteria can exist, practically forever, in outer space it's hard to imagine them not, eventually, finding somewhere that could foster life. Again, as you say, we already know that water has existed outside of earth in our own solar system, nevermind the entire universe.I am scientifically challenged – I'm the first to admit it – but for what it's worth, although we are a long way from finding it, I find it implausible that extraterrestrial life does not exist.
>For 'spread' read 'thread'. D'oh.
>Other life exists ? Yes. Intelligent life ? Maybe not.Given that there was some fossilised bacteria found on Mars we can count the existence of life outside Earth as already proven. However, I don't think it is very likely that there is intelligent life outside of Earth.My main reason is thus. If you were to postulate the technological advancement of the Human race over the next 500 years, you would thing that Star Trek level would be quite attainable, ad exploration of Deep Space to be something quite common.When you look at how long it has taken humans to achieve this level of technological mastery, we can guess that it has been about 10,000 years (since we first started agricultural husbandry) plus 500 years (until we are Star trekking). This gives a grand total of 10,500 years of Intelligent life.That is my first premise.My second premise is that used by others to prove the existence of ET life. If there are billions of galaxies, and each galaxy has billions of stars, and each star has dozens of planets, then it is statistically likely that a number of them support life.But if they support intelligent life, and 10,500 years is all that is needed before a civilisation can go star trekking, then we should have seen some ET's by now.The Universe has existed for billions of years of which 10,500 is only a drop. There should be a lot more evidence that we are not alone if we are in fact, not alone.No evidence, therefore i conclude that life as intelligent as us does not exist. And since it is unlikely that other intelligent life out there is all less than 10,500 years old, then I conclude that we are most likely to be the only intelligent life whatsoever.
>I don't think the lack of evidence proves that intelligent life doesn't exist elsewhere because as you said there are countless billions of galaxies, stars, planets etc and the time take to travel between them could take trillions of years. However I think I can share your scepticism. Your point about the 10,500 years stretch is illuminating in that it makes the point that our definition of 'intelligent life' is very restricted. It is more than likely that in every different place where life evolved it evolved differently. Intelligence is only one asset and we cannot assume all life will evolve towards it because we know for a fact that there are far older species than us here on Earth that have not evolved beyond specks of biological matter. Yet even if some life forms do evolve some use of it the chances of us meeting another species with the same level of intelligence as ours must be truly astonishing. It is more likely that what other intelligent species we meet (and probably not in our life times) are likely to be more or less intelligent than us.
>I'm not into Star Trek or prophesy, but I find it hard to believe that the kind of technology in Star Trek (light speed, people constantly living in space, intergalactic travel, whatever else they do on that programme) will be available to use in 500 years. I actually find it far more probable that we'd have destroyed ourselves by then, or had a bloody go so as to render such ambitions somewhat moot. In any case, over the last generation (I appreciate that a generation is about 5% of 500 years) space exploration, at least manned exploration, has declined and sees no signs of being revived as the US scales back and no one else seems keen to take up the mantle. Most scientists now think it unlikely that we will even get a man to Mars in our life times (now, that might be 10% of 500 years – at least – to get two rocks along our own solar system).Not entirely unrelated, an interesting article in the Economist the other week showed that scientists were giving up on searching for radio waves as signs of ET intelligent life (technology which, on earth, has had a use-by date of about 100 years) and is looking for things like high levels of oxygen in distant atmospheres (given that oxygen is rare, apparently, outside special areas where photosynthesis – hence life – happens) and even CO2 (which might, like our own planet, suggest industrial production and large scale activity). Back to Star Trek, they are even predicting things that more advanced societies than us might do (very technical things to ageing suns to stop them burning out so quickly and so save the universe, for example) which seems remarkably unscientific but also sort of fun.
>Gordon Brown moment there – I meant save their own solar system and more immediately their own skins, not the universe.
>Actually Obama re-launched the mission to Mars a couple of weeks ago on a slightly delayed schedule. I think he said it would now aim to land on Mars in 35 years. But to be honest by that time we may be looking not to the West but to China, India, and even Russia and Brazil, perhaps even some sort of cooperation, who knows?I read that article too. I always found it stupid that so much hope was pinned on finding radio waves. They are a very specific technology developed by a specific species and it is unlikely to be mimicked in exactly the same way, especially not within distances that we can intercept. The simple fact is that the subject of alien life has often been viewed as a joke one. I guess this may be one reason they weren't quicker in thinking about the above. But nevertheless I for one am very glad they've started to widen the search criteria.
>"Actually Obama re-launched the mission to Mars a couple of weeks ago on a slightly delayed schedule. I think he said it would now aim to land on Mars in 35 years. But to be honest by that time we may be looking not to the West but to China, India, and even Russia and Brazil, perhaps even some sort of cooperation, who knows?"Fair enough; I missed the Mars news. Still, 35 years might well turn in to 50 anyway and even if it's on time, there's a huge chasm between Mars and the kind of inter-solar system and intergalactic travel needed to actually go out and find life in the way we used to find aboriginees and alligators. It's highly improbable but, as you say, who knows? Obviously the BRICS (or whatever they get called this week) are the emerging powers, but space doesn't seem at the forefront at any of their immediate concerns (nor should it be, I suppose) and even if it were they have (with the possible exception of Russia) a long way to catch up to where the US are now.
>Yet if China keeps growing at the pace it is it will overtake the US as the world's number one economic power in less than 20 years. That gives it 15 years to plan for space.My hopes however are that we see countries working together. Space exploration is something that can benefit us all. Why can't we pool our resources for just a couple of projects?
>"I find it hard to believe that the kind of technology in Star Trek … will be available to use in 500 years".Well not to drag the debate into trekkie territory, but the communicator device used in Star Trek has long been over-taken by the cellphone in technological ability, and that has all occured in only 30 years.As for Teleportation, scientists have been teleporting photons for nearly a decade (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,993568,00.html).Of course its hard to predict the future, and extrapolation is a crude method, but it seems to me that the ability to dream is followed by the ability to enact in many cases.I also think the short term space programs will not have much influence on our future exploration of space, because for the latter to occur there needs to be revolutions in scientific theory first, and it is more likely that experiments at CERN and elsewhere are likely to generate inter-galactic stuff than rowing last century's boat to Mars will.