Finding ET: ‘worse than we thought’

From the University of Toronto:

Search for life on exoplanets more difficult than thought

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough suggests the search for life on planets outside our solar system may be more difficult than previously thought.

The study, authored by a team of international researchers led by UTSC Assistant Professor Hanno Rein from the Department of Physical and Environmental Science, finds the method used to detect biosignatures on such planets, known as exoplanets, can produce a false positive result. 

The presence of multiple chemicals such as methane and oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere is considered an example of a biosignature, or evidence of past or present life. Rein’s team discovered that a lifeless planet with a lifeless moon can mimic the same results as a planet with a biosignature.

“You wouldn’t be able to distinguish between them because they are so far away that you would see both in one spectrum,” says Rein.

The resolution needed to properly identify a genuine biosignature from a false positive would be impossible to obtain even with telescopes available in the foreseeable future, says Rein.

“A telescope would need to be unrealistically large, something one hundred metres in size and it would have to be built in space,” he says. “This telescope does not exist, and there are no plans to build one any time soon.”

Current methods can estimate the size and temperature of an exoplanet planet in order to determine whether liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface, believed to be one of the criteria for a planet hosting the right conditions for life.

While many researchers use modeling to imagine the atmosphere of these planets, they still aren’t able to make conclusive observations, says Rein. “We can’t get an idea of what the atmosphere is actually like, not with the methods we have at our disposal.”

There are 1,774 confirmed exoplanets known to exist, but there could be more than 100 billion planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. Despite the results, Rein is optimistic the search for life on planets outside our own is possible if done the right way.

“We should make sure we are looking at the right objects,” he says, adding that the search for life within our solar system should remain a priority. He points to the recent discovery of a liquid ocean on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s larger moons, as a prime example.

“As for exoplanets we want to broaden the search and study planets around stars that are cooler and fainter than our own Sun. One example is the recently discovered planet Kepler-186f, which is orbiting an M-dwarf star,” says Rein.

Rein says locating a planet in a habitable zone while being able to obtain a good resolution to model the atmosphere will help determine what’s on the planet.

“There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that we will find hints of extraterrestrial life within the next few decades, just maybe not on an Earth-like planet around a Sun-like star.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/04/23/1401816111

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I think it’s simpler than that: ET is hiding in the deep ocean.

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145 thoughts on “Finding ET: ‘worse than we thought’

  1. What they really mean, is that finding ET is more difficult than THEY thought.

    Well most of us never wasted a moment of sleep thinking about it.

    Carl Sagan, went to his maker, having never found one binary digit of scientific information about ET life from anywhere outside a thin shell about +/- 25 km or so about MSL on planet earth.

    It is second only to climate science, for providing a lifetime of taxpayer funded existence , with no expectation of finding out anything useful to life on earth.

    So far as I know, life on earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, and I’ve seen no evidence of it ever beginning again anywhere in the universe, including on earth.

  2. As I similarly proposed at the following WUWT post:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/17/tilted-planets-may-actually-have-more-life-favorable-climate/

    Proposal for a modified Drake Equation wherein the result is = 1.

    N= R* fp ne fl fi fc fL : Drake Equation

    My Equation: ,

    1=R*Fa Fb Fc… Fn,

    where Fa is a finely tuned attribute, Fb is yet another finely tuned attribute, Fc is yet another finely tuned attribute, and as many finely tuned attributes up to Fn such that the number of civilized planets is = 1.

    The evidence is that life is unique to earth. Except for life sent to the moon and mars by we earthlings.

  3. We can’t find a massive Boeing 777 on our own planet. Its just occurring to them that detecting trace amounts of alien farts on planets light years away is a pretty tough task?

  4. From the University of Toronto: ‘Search for life on exoplanets more difficult than thought’

    “Current methods can estimate the size and temperature of an exoplanet planet in order to determine whether liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface, believed to be one of the criteria for a planet hosting the right conditions for life.”

    - – - – - – - – -

    They maintain the logic: liquid water therefore possible conditions for life because the Earth has liquid water and life. OK. That does limit the search parameters. That approach may be self-defeating due to limiting the search to liquid water environments.

    Our knowledge is a single data point; Earth. We cannot yet preclude that elsewhere in the universe there may be forms of life that originated and have evolved in environments without water in any phase (vapor, liquid or solid). If life is common in the universe, we cannot yet know the distribution of life forms in different environments. We do not know if our Earth life forms evolving in a liquid water environment is either a unique, rare or common thing.

    It is an immensely interesting area!!

    John

  5. John Wyndham, the author of “The Day of the Triffids”, “The Chrysalids”, and “Chocky”, also wrote a book “The Kraken Awakes”, about a war between humans and ETs who colonised the ocean depths.

    At one point during the war the ETs used nuclear reactors to melt the polar icecaps, to increase the size of their territory, at the expense of humans.

    A bit dated these days, but still quite readable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kraken_Wakes

  6. “A telescope would need to be unrealistically large, something one hundred metres in size and it would have to be built in space,” he says. “This telescope does not exist, and there are no plans to build one any time soon.”

    This doesn’t seem that extravagant – is there a misplaced decimal? I would think Multiple very large telescopes could work as well. And yeah, “The Kraken Wakes” was a fun story.

  7. davidmhoffer says:
    April 29, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    We can’t find a massive Boeing 777 on our own planet. Its just occurring to them that detecting trace amounts of alien farts on planets light years away is a pretty tough task?
    =======
    LOL..you said that a lot nicer than I would have

  8. The real head line should be Educate idiots have and empathy. To me a casual observer could have point out the problem rather quickly. Hydro carbons and water exist all over the place, their filter was on a very large one and that was only for life as we know it. There is always the possible of life outside our experience, whether it exist we do not know and and if we venture away from this planted it may be a very long time before we find that answer. The biggest if is is space travel possible, at present in is not, and all space travel we have it can only be local, as I get older and old it becoming clear and clear that may be the case..

  9. Earth-like life might not actually require liquid water oceans to develop. The monomeric bases which constitute RNA, which can function both as an enzyme catalyzing polypeptide synthesis & as a store of information for replication, have been shown for example to form in the small pockets of liquid water in ice & furthermore to link together there.

    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v1/n6/full/ncomms1076.html

    It’s even possible that this process could occur not just on planets or moons but other icy objects with various energy sources, like comets or asteroids, using the vast array of organic compounds, to include amino acids & polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (see sources in link below), known to exist in space, which raises the prospect of the panspermia hypothesis, as proposed by Hoyle & many others.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murchison_meteorite

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAH_world_hypothesis

  10. I don’t see how going from “we have no idea” to “we still have no idea” is actually *worse*.

    The one thing we do know is that very firm opinions on the subject have very little, if anything, to do with the amount of evidence.

    Actually, that should not be a surprise.

  11. Mark Luhman says:
    April 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    NASA & the European Space Agency had to chose between looking for life as we don’t know it on Saturn’s big moon Titan or life as we might know it on one of its smaller moons Enceladus, & probably wisely gave priority to the latter mission.

  12. Increasing the effective aperture on radio telescopes has always been done using multiple antennas. At known distances and positions from one another so phase, frequency and angle pinpoints every signal or lack of. This way they can garner resolutions far beyond normal telescopes.
    Now the next trick is to have multiple telescopes in space using light. The distance will have to be measured by laser but the aperture can be whatever you want.

  13. We’ll discover evidence for extraterrestrial “intelligence” when we discover faster than light communications, well before we achieve faster than light transport.

    I’m guessing the fist things we will hear on the sub-ether radio will be an advertisement for Zargot’s quality second hand spaceships and something talking about tentacle cream that will keep your suckers looking 1000 years young…

  14. Preliminary funding of $15 million for a mission to Jupiter’s life candidate ice moon Europa is in NASA’s 2015 budget, which is better than the agency’s current repurposing to promote the glories of Islamic science:

    http://www.space.com/24926-nasa-europa-mission-2015-budget.html

    Andyj says:
    April 29, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    As you may know, aperture synthesis imaging has been conducted on the ground in optical & infrared wavelengths, initially with aperture masking interferometry & later using arrays of separated telescopes. Optical/infrared interferometer arrays which have released aperture synthesis images include the Cambridge (UK) Optical Aperture Synthesis Telescope, Mt. Wilson’s Infrared Spatial Interferometer, the Infrared Optical Telescope Array at the Whipple Observatory & the US Navy Precision Optical Interferometer. None in space yet, though.

  15. There will never be any contact, so just stop worrying about it. We are, for all practical purposes alone, and it will always be so.

  16. As Eric Idle sings in Monty Python’s Universe Song:

    …And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
    Because there’s bugger all down here on Earth.

  17. This is precisely why I do not believe evolution. The whole reason for looking for et is to prove evolution.

    And before anyone jumps down my throat, please explain, without using faith based statements, or we think, believe, feel, the theory is, etc., explain how life started here to begin with, oh and without saying God started the whole lot rolling then stood back.

    Oh and if anyone comes up with the “you must be a flat earther” your comment will be ignored.

  18. Worse than who thought? An assistant professor of physical and Enviro sciences!!! Knowledge about environment on earth by his team is worse than we thought, perhaps. Why doesn’t he come right out and say we know there is methane on Titan that doesn’t seem to have life associated with it and we always thought this was a life signature? The disingenuousness of so many of the present generation of scientists is appalling and this is worse than anyone would have thought possible. We hear “Worse than we thought” virtually daily from the Air crowd. Don’t they know that eventually it will be interpreted as a deficiency in their thought processes.

  19. Wasn’t it Fermi who asked, “Where are they?”

    If they are out there, surely one or more of the ET civilizations would have sent somebody to say “hello”?

  20. Check with someone who has had an encounter of the first kind. Were they real or not?
    No problem finding life when it comes here looking!

  21. milodonharlani says:
    April 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm
    Mark Luhman says:
    April 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    NASA & the European Space Agency had to chose between looking for life as we don’t know it on Saturn’s big moon Titan or life as we might know it on one of its smaller moons Enceladus, & probably wisely gave priority to the latter mission.
    ————————————–or—
    conducting Muslim outreach
    So many goals.
    cn

  22. “I think it’s simpler than that: ET is hiding in the deep ocean.”

    This has been proven by the 1989 film “The Abyss”. After all Hollywood has proven itself to be an execellent source of rigorous science …

    /sarc

  23. I rather like Stephen Hawking’s comment. He didn’t think it possible that any ET’s would be able to reach earth, but if they did, “Expect the worse the contact might not be pleasant” I tend to agree But – if they don’t arrive physically, they could send robot probes. Much like we do. And where are our defense radars? Surely they would pick them up and I believe this has happened.

  24. From the article:

    “While many researchers use modeling to imagine the atmosphere of these planets, they still aren’t able to make conclusive observations…”

    I think Climate Scientists could learn something from these folks. They understand the limits of their models.

  25. ‘A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough suggests the search for life on planets outside our solar system may be more difficult than previously thought.’

    What a load of bull! Searching for alien life is no more difficult than hopping in your car, zooming down the block to the neighborhood 24 hour store, skipping up to the news stand, and picking up a copy of National Enquirer.

  26. Israel Anderson (@israelanderson) says:
    April 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    If we did not waste money on wars, and a bunch of other junk, we COULD build such a telescope.

    Only if Putin gave us permission to waste his money on such an expensive project. Ukraine decided not to waste money on a military. They gave up nukes and most of their ability to wage war. Now they’re at Putin’s mercy.

  27. They are most probably running out of funds? Who ever thought it would be easy. As one poster said, if we can’t locate a missing airliner, with all the alleged sightings that are false, can you imagine trying to find a planet that could support life as we know it! If this one is around a dwarf sun, possibly life has now disappeared, that is an old sun on the way out. Like ours in billions of years.

  28. Louis, has America forgotten what happened in Georgia? When some sections wanted to accede.
    You don’t mess with Putin, he’ll do what he wishes. Remember the Russian planes near UK, and those who invaded Ukraine’s air space. They are a determined breed and we don’t want another Cuban crisis. Personally from what I know of the situation, most Ukrainians will to join with Russia.
    It’s Georgia all over again.

  29. “Search for life on exoplanets more difficult than thought”

    Duh.

    Exactly WHY is this news?

    They’ve been at it a few years, going into it blind in the first place. Of COURSE they are going to find that some of their search has to change – and MOST of it would change toward the “More difficult” end of the spectrum. Any reasonable person could see this as probable.

    Is this a plea for more money? More difficult = more funding required!

  30. Neil says:
    April 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    “This is precisely why I do not believe evolution. The whole reason for looking for et is to prove evolution.”

    It’s proved. Study it, if you dare. Study paleontology. Study the development of the horse from paleo progenitors. Study the “keyhole” brachiopod. Then think about it. Being told something isn’t conclusive of anything. Ask yourself why a tomato has a lot of the basic DNA that we have. Ponder why a gorilla has 95-99% the same DNA as humans. Do this without the “talking points for anti-evolution” by your side. That way nobody is telling you anything. Do you believe fossils are remains of former living creatures? Christians in the Middle Ages refused to believe the obvious and called them “sports of nature” because they didn’t fit into the beliefs at the time. Leonardo Da Vinci actually correctly explained the provenance of fossils. On a religious level, I don’t see why such a clever plan as evolution for “creation” isn’t okay.

  31. New age mystical nonsense, just like global warming, climate weirding and the big bang theory!

  32. Gary they didn’t believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution even in the 19th century, and some still don’t. The thought of being related to other primates doesn’t meet their idealistic view of being made in God’s image. What they forget is the evolution to the Homo species was a miracle in itself. How we survived and adapted in a violent world without any physical natural defense additions, like teeth, power, speed, claws etc., to become the prime predator, we have done very very well to survive. Even though we are not perfect any ET would have to be a lot smarter than us, and not have such a climate that tends to get bleedin’ cold. i.e. Ice ages.

  33. As we now have the ability to detect planets around not too distant stars, we are finding that planets are a fairly common occurrence. Given that there are about 400 billion stars in this Galaxy and at least100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, and assuming that there is at least one planet for every 10 stars (probably a ridiculously low estimate), that would give us at least 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. If only one in a million planets was capable of developing life (another ridiculously low estimate considering that life on Earth has found a way to exist in nearly every environment on the planet), that would still leave four quadrillion life baring planets in the universe, and 400,000 in this Galaxy alone (if I got my decimal points right.)

    If you believe that everything is happening just based on the laws of physics, then the odds that planet Earth is the only planet with life, or even sentient life, is so ridiculously small that it is not even definable. Life finds a way and appears to evolve towards sentience. If you believe God is the creator of life on Earth and no other place, then why did he go through the trouble of creating an additional 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and a likely similar number of planets besides our sun and this planet Earth? An artist does not purchase 4 X 10 to the 21st canvases if he only wants to paint on one.

    I am guessing that there is life out there. Lots of it. I would not be surprised if our Galaxy alone was home to tens of thousands of sentient species, if not millions.

    The Universe is a very big place, and if the same laws of physics apply to the rest of the universe as they do here on Earth; life abounds!

  34. SETI astronomers have been searching for intelligent life in our galaxy for half a century and found none. I believe there are ETs in our galaxy but very hard to find given SETI’s current technology. I calculated the probability of finding ET using SETI’s method at one in three million. I explained this to Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at SETI Institute. He thinks this will improve as computing speed increases exponentially. That’s wishful thinking since Moore’s law is coming to an end.

  35. Israel,,,
    If we did not waste money on wars, and a bunch of other junk, we COULD build such a telescope.

    Know what ? I am tired of other arsewholes deciding on how to spend half of what I make just so I can work till I am 65 only to find out that what I have saved has been inflated into nearly nothing.

  36. No one can say for sure there is no other life on the trillions of planets in the Milky way. The probability is there is and lots of them. Then there is the hypothesis of alternative universes. This is a bit hard for me to digest. The chances there are the same physical laws apply to some that exist on Earth, should also be possible. However, the distances that separate us may preclude any contact, for a good reason. What we see has taken light years to reach us anyway.
    Unless they have discovered a way or we do to travel just below the speed of light, and can live longer than a human can on earth, why would they bother to even reply to us. The prime directive? If they are that advanced to communicate they might not want to with the thought we might respond differently than they wished we would. Good sci-fi though. Be careful for what you wish for?

  37. The fact that we would not have a realistic chance of observing life or the signatures of life on another planet is why SETI focussed on radio emissions.

    We are not going to be able to see them, but we can hear them.

    I have no idea why this study was made because this was already known about 50 years ago. Duh, comes to mind. On the other hand, technology for observing some characteristics about a planet with life is rapidly advancing so the study is both 3 years out-of-date and 50 years out-of-date and frankly ridiculous.

    Unfortunately, SETI hasn’t found anything in the radio spectrum that points to an intelligent civilization anywhere.

    Even if we do find one, the problem is it is more than, lets say 99% probable that we cannot travel faster than light (as in the warp drive of Star Trek) and 98% probable than no advanced civilization can travel faster than light, so we are all stuck in our own little solar systems.

    If we do contact another civilization through radio transmissions, then we wait 300 years between “Hello” and “How are you” and “tell us about yourselves” and “what is your DNA” etc etc. That would be too frustrating to contemplate.

    98% probable that no civilization can travel to the stars is the important point. Some pretty fantastic observation systems are require to detect life on another planet but we are getting there pretty fast.

  38. yeah, modeling exoplanet atmospheres, using many untested assumptions, because you can’t measure them, that’s the ticket. because that works so well on earth.

  39. There is likely hood some form of life exists on Jupiter’s moons. Anyway, that is within our scientific exploration technology. Even if it is a brine shrimp, maybe a giant one. LOL.

  40. Paul Westhaver says: “Proposal for a modified Drake Equation wherein the result is = 1…”

    Interesting, but the Drake Equation is a canard. We have no idea what most of the factors are and are working mostly with P.O.O.M.A. numbers. As Fermi said, “Where is everybody?” Given the age of our galaxy, intelligent life would have had a long time to make itself known. So far, silence. See the link below.

    I’ve also seen it speculated that not only must a life-bearing planet lie within the Goldilocks Zone, it must also have a good-sized moon to stir the primordial ooze, create tides, etc., etc. If so, other life in the universe is even less likely. A moon our size is a rarity, and the collision necessary to create it (the most popular theory, so far) would also be a rare event. I think we’re alone, and I’m perfectly okay with that, Earthling slime…er, I mean, my fellow Earthians.

    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=aC8Baky2qTcC&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=Drake+equation+nonsense&source=bl&ots=yFTJIjg3y-&sig=NXfhr5maQUZ35fBGFV6PIsI5QJI&hl=en&ei=y21KTaL7OI2-uwOJ15zQDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&sqi=2&ved=0CDoQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=drake&f=false

  41. Seriously though, the SETI project is just a clear and unequivocable example of how we (humans) just do not grasp the concept of deep time. A clear grasp of that depth probably goes a long way to answering the Fermi paradox, “Where are they.”

  42. Ignorance is bliss eh? Personally, when I think of the money spent on CACW and my poor income, where I have to shop for specials and pay off bills in installments, when you age ‘life ain’t meant to be easy.’ But despite this, I still wonder if we have been visited many years ago by some benevolent ET who helped us to survive. Yeah, I have read 2001 Space Odyssey, and seen the movie. I was glad I had read the book first or I may never had understood the film.

  43. the moon, beyond the obvious tidal forces stirring the ooze and seeding early plate tectonics, may also rotationally stabilize earth’s spin axis orientation to prevent a disasterous gyro tipping lasting a million years or less. such periodic spin tipping on Mars may trigger the periodic polar melts in its past.

    But beyond all the improbabilities of the numerous rare events that allowed our earth to produce technologically advanced, sensient life, the element of deep time and the likely brevity of our period technology before our resources are exhausted still remains as the answer to Fermi’s question.

  44. “Where is everybody?” My answer to Fermi Paradox is ETs live in the worlds they created in virtual reality. Like the Matrix movie except there are no biological bodies attached to computers. Carbon-based life is so 20th century. ETs are super intelligent machines. Each one is a god in its own virtual world populated with equally intelligent virtual beings. Without biological bodies, they don’t reproduce babies. They create virtual beings.

    This is also the future of humanity. Robots will not take over the world. Instead we will become intelligent machines. Robocop is so lame. It’s like trying to put a four-cylinder engine in a horse. Eventually we’ll give up and say why don’t we get rid of the horse and just build a Lamborghini?

  45. Dr. Strangelove says:
    April 29, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    “Where is everybody?”

    =============================================================
    I think the ETs all “ascended” as in “Stargate-SG1″. We just need to find one those “head-sucker” things to find out what is really going on.

  46. Hi Gary,
    Simply put, you did not answer my actual question. I believe the evidence is there, I just believe it has been misinterpreted, due to a presupposition that God does not exist, hence the need for long ages. I also believe we are never going to get to a point we can say without any certainty any of pre history, because no one has recorded it as an eye witness.

    Most of it will remain, we think, we believe, we feel, the theory is, the consensus is, and other faith based statements.

    But again, you claim the proof is there, ok that’s awesome, put up a link which “proves” how life started from non life, without any faith statements, and without God.

    That’s all I ask for, proof, because as you say, evolution is proven, so pony up the proof for the proven theory.

    Oh and before you jump up and down to tell me I have not read the info, I can tell you I have, my presupposition starting point is just different to that of anti theists. Being on a disability pension, lets me have a whole lot of time to read and study both sides of the argument.

  47. James Strom Apr 29 6:57pm says “If they are out there, surely one or more of the ET civilizations would have sent somebody to say “hello”?“. There’s a planet just like ours in our own galaxy (so it’s relatively very close), whose inhabitants sent out a signal about 50,000 years ago which was designed to be recognised and understood by any species with the basic equipment that could receive it. It arrived at Earth a few thousand years ago, and there was no-one able to detect it. In the message, they said that if they didn’t get a reply, they woud try once more. So their next message will arrive in about 100,000 years’ time. I suspect that there will be no-one able to detect it then either, in which case they will record Earth as never having had intelligent life. Thus does science progress.

  48. My question is, why haven’t the Aliens contacted us yet? Are they waiting for us to solve our problems first, create world unity, and THEN start contacting us little by little (to reduce the shock and awe of their millions of years ahead of us technology)? Would make sense, since the ones capable of coming here and contacting us would very likely be more mature (physically and spiritually) and have some sort of prime directive (like Star Trek). I’m sure there are billions of sentient alien races, and makes sense to me that you wouldn’t want to mess any until they are sensible to work with.

  49. Neil: “But again, you claim the proof is there, ok that’s awesome, put up a link which “proves” how life started from non life, without any faith statements, and without God.”

    The starting of life from non-life has nothing to do with evolution, they are not related problems. The fact you don’t seem to understand this would tend to imply you also know next to nothing about evolution.

  50. george e. smith – “So far as I know, life on earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, and I’ve seen no evidence of it ever beginning again anywhere in the universe, including on earth.”

    This is the real ET problem!

    Somehow we deduced 1 -> many long before 1 – 2 – many. The falsifiable statement about life must be that we are alone.

  51. First we thought there was life in the centre of the hollowed out Earth, then we thought there was life on The Moon, then on Venus, then on Mars, then in Jupiter’s cloud tops, then Titan. Now we are thinking “oceans” under Enceladus & and maybe with just a bit bigger telescope or space probe. Is there a pattern here? When does a scientifc theory become pseudoscience? How long should we expect to wait for confimation of a scientific hypothesis before we can say: “Its falsified!” 50 years? 100 years? 1 million years? Never ???

    Then again, maybe ETs have just left. And taken their garbage too. We “left” the African Savanna a hundred thousand years ago and now live somewhere else, more safe, of our own making. An “intelligent” chimp in Africa today may look around from the top of its acacia tree and wonder if there any other advanced apes around and conclude after a few days that it was alone. Maybe ETs have left our universe and live somewhere “safer” & of their own making? And taken their rubbish too. Like we are starting to do now. They would be ultimate “environmentalists” !

    Now THAT has got to be the ultimate unverifiable theory :-)

  52. “””””…..Gunga Din says:

    April 29, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Isn’t it true that there is more evidence of CAGW than there is of ETs?……”””””

    Well there’s no evidence of ETs, so the bar is set pretty low.

    And all this nonsense about ets being super intelligent.

    This is anthropocentric rubbish.

    There’s not a shred of evidence, that intelligence enhances survival. It’s just another gimmick Mother nature is giving a shot to prove itself.

    So the dinosaurs survived for 140 million years, just by being big and mean and ugly.

    Higher Intelligence has had maybe 100,000 years, and the prospects for many more don’t look too great. We might all blow ourselves to kingdom come (or hell and gone) in just the next generation.

    MN doesn’t give a hoot for us. We are on our own, to make it or break it, and if we break it, the cockroaches or termites may take over. Earth will survive; with or without us.

    Mike Jonas’ 100,000 year round trip example, is way overkill. If et is 50 light years away, the round trip for our e-mail is 100 years. If they reply immediately, no one will remember just what the hell we asked for.

    So it’s up to us to fix this place up, or we’ll become buried fossils.

  53. I don’t know if the SETI nonsense started with “Drake’s equation” or not. Talk about theoretical gobbledegook BS. You multiply together a whole string of factors; not a single one of which is known, and voila! you have a near infinite number of et species out there much smarter than we are; well maybe that’s why they are staying away from our looney toons..

    Has anyone ever seen the missing denominator of Drake’s equation ??

    That absent denominator, is the product of all the improbabilities of all the necessary chemical syntheses, that must occur, in the correct sequence, in order to get the most rudimentary elements of even the lowest form of life.

    Much is known about some of these reactions, and many that have been researched have been shown to reach dead ends. Some essential components of living organisms, are the result of syntheses, that are energetically discriminated against, compared to a different molecule that forms more easily, but exists in no known organism. Well you get the idea. There are as many large factors in the denominator, as there are (and unknown) in the numerator. The result is quite indeterminate.

    So there is a near infinity of stars, which is why (evidently) the place must be teeming with intelligent life.

    Poppycock ! If there are ETs out there, the night sky would be white, instead of black.

    The stars recede MUCH FASTER than they increase in numbers; which is why the sky is black despite the near infinity of bright stars.

    So ET also, gets further away from us, the more likely his very existence increases.

    So nyet on finding anything out there.

    And no I don’t believe some magician conjured up the whole thing either.

  54. Gary Pearse says:
    April 29, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Neil says:
    April 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    “This is precisely why I do not believe evolution. The whole reason for looking for et is to prove evolution.”

    It’s proved. Study it, if you dare. Study paleontology. Study the development of the horse from paleo progenitors. Study the “keyhole” brachiopod. Then think about it.
    ***************************************************************************************************
    I don’t believe any of that that constitutes proof. Just assertions and rubbish conclusions.

  55. Luv ya Konrad at 6.08pm. Best comment on this malarkey, can we catch up for a beer sometime Lol

  56. Aragh-go-on-with-yer. This whole thing is one of them “conspiracy ideation” thingymajigs? And ye fell for it.

  57. george e. smith says:
    April 29, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    There’s not a shred of evidence, that intelligence enhances survival. It’s just another gimmick Mother nature is giving a shot to prove itself.

    So the dinosaurs survived for 140 million years, just by being big and mean and ugly.

    But the little ones with feathers outlasted the big mean ones. :-)

  58. Hi Ad,

    Hate to bust your bubble, but it has everything to do with evolution. The whole reason scientists have started looking off world for the start of life is the inability to explain how life started. But the question still remains, take God out of the equation, how did life start from non life?

    And I do understand quite a lot about evolution as I have studied it in detail, not the crap you get in high school text books, but papers by top level scientists from many fields of study. it seems that it is in fact you who do not understand evolution, because if you do not have life to begin with, you do not have anything to evolve, so the question still stands, is valid and your ad homonym attack on what level of understanding you think I have, puts you in the same argument bracket as a global warmist.

  59. But the question still remains, take God out of the equation, how did life start from non life?
    ========
    the bigger question is how did God start from non God? what was the process that created God?

  60. ***
    bushbunny says:
    April 29, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I rather like Stephen Hawking’s comment. He didn’t think it possible that any ET’s would be able to reach earth, but if they did, “Expect the worse the contact might not be pleasant” I tend to agree But – if they don’t arrive physically, they could send robot probes. Much like we do. And where are our defense radars? Surely they would pick them up and I believe this has happened.
    ***

    We already have radar-resistant aircraft. Any purported aliens could completely evade radar. If they were detected, it would be by their choice….

  61. But the little ones with feathers outlasted the big mean ones.
    ===========
    Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth..

  62. Whether it be CAGW or ET, when someone says ‘its worse than we thought’ what does the statement tell us? It tells us that the person making the statement was wrong previously. That new evidence shows that they were wrong.

    And what does experience teach us about people that were wrong in the past? That they are more likely than not to be wrong in the present and wrong in the future. That their track record shows that you cannot rely on them to be correct.

    So, when someone tells me it ‘its worse than we thought’, it tells me that based on their past track record they are likely to be wrong.

  63. Most likely there is no ET in the visible universe at all (see the Fermi paradox). The only open question is whether the Great Filter is located in our past or future. In the latter case our prospects are bleak indeed.

    However, I bet the actual bottleneck is at Robin Hanson‘s point 2. “Reproductive something (e.g. RNA)”, that is, abiogenesis.

    Anyway, it is exciting to know we are at the verge of true experimental theology, is it not?

  64. beng says:
    April 30, 2014 at 6:22 am
    We already have radar-resistant aircraft. Any purported aliens could completely evade radar. If they were detected, it would be by their choice….
    =================
    every liter of sea water has thousands if not millions of bacteria and viruses. and there are a whole lot of liters in the oceans. these viruses and bacteria routinely exchange genetic material, creating new life forms. a similar process takes place above and below the oceans.

    so far, these life forms have evaded detection by radar. they cross our borders with impunity. for all we know they arrived on earth, frozen in comets from a long distant past, and thawed out on arrival. they may still be arriving today. when you look in the mirror, you may be looking at ET.

    when we talk about life we think of plants and animals. instead, consider that life is simply a self-replicating chemical process. once it gets going, it will spread. we are the evidence.

  65. Jim Clarke ,

    “If you believe God is the creator of life on Earth and no other place, then why did he go through the trouble of creating an additional 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars and a likely similar number of planets besides our sun and this planet Earth?”

    But which was the easy one? 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars working according to simple and predictable equations – or us having this discussion?

  66. “””””…..Phil. says:

    April 30, 2014 at 4:42 am

    george e. smith says:
    April 29, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    There’s not a shred of evidence, that intelligence enhances survival. It’s just another gimmick Mother nature is giving a shot to prove itself.

    So the dinosaurs survived for 140 million years, just by being big and mean and ugly.

    But the little ones with feathers outlasted the big mean ones. :-)……”””””

    Well If I’m not mistaken, so did the horseshoe crabs !

    Come to think of it; there are far more species on earth that look like lobsters, than there are, that look like humans; and they look back to see what’s chasing them.

    The far more intelligent humans, look forward where they are going; but in their infinite wisdom, they grant right of way, to the car that is driving through the parking lot (forward), with a driver who can see where (s)he is going; rather than the driver who is trying to back hiser small fuel efficient, compact car out of a parking space between two big SUVs, that have semi opaque windows.

    Moreover, all cars are required to have white backup SIGNALLING lights (they are able to ILLUMINATE nothing, in daylight hours); but nobody, is required to heed those signals, coming from a vehicle whose driver can see nothing coming at himer from the side !

    Yes intelligence has great survival properties.

  67. Israel Anderson (@israelanderson) says:
    April 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm
    ——————-
    The problem with war is that it takes too sides to make peace.
    When one side wants war, the other side has two choices, submission or fight back.

  68. What we actually learn from all this space exploration of what lies say 500 light years away always seems a bit of a mystery to this simple minded Englishman…when the search for a Boeing 777 in the Indian Ocean reveals that we know almost nothing about the beds of all the oceans which cover three quarters of our own world. There must be enormous riches down there which just might be more easily recoverable than from somewhere which would take us hundreds of years to get there…if we could travel at the speed of light……

  69. The article as quoted makes no sense at all. It says that a lifeless planet, having no chemical signatures of life, might also have a lifeless moon, but because we see them both in a single blur, we detect the chemical signature of life. Huh? No, 0 + 0 does not equal 1, even under Common Core.

    As for telescopes to distinguish the two objects, there are already plans for a thirty meter telescope. The two ten meter Keck telescopes have been combined into an interferometer with a much larger effective resolution. In any case, astronomers manage to tease out a lot of information from spectrometry and photometry without being able to resolve the planet from the star at all, never mind separating the planet from a hypothetical moon.

  70. “Neil says:
    April 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    This is precisely why I do not believe evolution. The whole reason for looking for et is to prove evolution.”

    —–

    There’s no need to “prove” evolution, since it is an observable fact.

    “And before anyone jumps down my throat, please explain, without using faith based statements, or we think, believe, feel, the theory is, etc., explain how life started here to begin with, oh and without saying God started the whole lot rolling then stood back.”

    —-

    “We” have observed evolutionary processes operating all the time around us, & the results of past evolution. No need for faith, as is the case with your denial of reality.

    You make the common mistake of conflating evolution, the origin of new life forms & sometimes preservation of older ones, with abiogenesis, the origin of life.

    “Oh and if anyone comes up with the “you must be a flat earther” your comment will be ignored.”

    —-

    You are figuratively a flat earther, since you’re denying demonstrable reality. You’re just afraid to look & think for yourself. If for a moment you chose to do so instead of basing your conclusions upon “belief” you’d soon see that evolutionary processes like natural selection, to cite but one, cannot help but operate. They result from reproduction, one of the traits of life.

    You claim to have studied & understood evolutionary theory, but clearly that’s not the case.

  71. milodonharlani: you have observed the amazing ability of genetics to solve problems and to provide adaptability through varying existing variables. Genetics as a problem solving mechanism is mathematically optimal at searching an n-variate solution space for possible, though not optimal solutions.

    The paradox that genetics being an optimal process does not find optimal solutions. In other words, we can conclude that Genetics itself is designed to do what you observe.

  72. Berényi Péter says:
    April 30, 2014 at 6:59 am

    IMO abiogenesis isn’t a bottleneck. It may happen all the time & indeed could be inevitable in our universe. If, as accumulating research suggests, it could routinely occur in ice or on some other common substrate as a catalyst for complex, self-organizing organic chemistry, then microbial life might be common in this & other galaxies. Or not. Which is why looking for ET life is IMO an endeavor worth pursuing.

    What could however be vanishing rare even if microbes aren’t is complex, multicellular life, let alone large organisms capable of rational thought, like many vertebrate & some invertebrate animals on earth.

    An emerging school of thought on life as an example of a class of self-organizing physical phenomena:

    http://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/

  73. safeprayer says:
    April 30, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Genetics isn’t designed; it is enabled by chemistry. You could argue that we live in a universe the rules of which allow the organic chemistry behind genetics. But there are other, competing explanations for that fact besides the God hypothesis, which I grant cannot be ruled out in the present state of scientific knowledge.

  74. “A telescope would need to be unrealistically large, something one hundred metres in size and it would have to be built in space”

    Long baseline interferometry?

  75. “The study, authored by a team of international researchers led by UTSC Assistant Professor Hanno Rein from the Department of Physical and Environmental Science, finds the method used to detect biosignatures on such planets, known as exoplanets, can produce a false positive result.”

    But he proceeds to make the case for “locating a planet in a habitable zone while being able to obtain a good resolution to model the atmosphere will help determine what’s on the planet.”

    What is a “model of an atmosphere”? Is this the most powerful tool ever discovered, whose results lay the foundation of the great new era in science? Or is a “model of an atmosphere” a simple scientific diagram which the reader is never allowed to see, and can never utilize because of the prohibitive costs of super computers?

  76. “Rein says locating a planet in a habitable zone while being able to obtain a good resolution to model the atmosphere will help determine what’s on the planet.”

    Why don’t they just use the GCMs? Anything that can be used by progressive scientists to wager billions of livelihoods and economies on must be certain enough to declare the existence ET.

    What is extraterrestrial is the lip service these experts give to the possibility of a “false positive.” It is a very exciting sighting!

  77. george e. smith says:
    April 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    So far as I know, life on earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, and I’ve seen no evidence of it ever beginning again anywhere in the universe, including on earth.

    Somewhat later probably. The planet itself is only about 4.5 BY old as best geology can estimate. As regards evidence of extraterrestrial life, that relies largely on what we consider “evidence.” There are reasonable grounds for arguing that Viking may well have detected life of some form on Mars in one test, while the other tests that accompanied the Viking lander might well have yielded false negatives. Part of the reason for the false negatives would be our assumptions regarding what “life” must consist of and how its chemistry must work. Even the possibly-positive test made some assumptions about the nature of life that are not fully justifiable. As far as the present discussion goes, it is reasonable to lean toward a Type II error, but once we start sending samples home, the weight of caution should lean the other way because the evidence is equivocal rather than firmly negative. In addition, we also have the curious bodies – possible fossils – found in ALH 84001. The results again are equivocal rather than negative. My reading of the debate suggests that the greater weight of support may lean toward genuine fossils rather than a previously unknown mineral habit.

    The question comes down to just how “unique” earth is. Since the discovery of nearly 2,000 extrasolar planets, that uniqueness has diminished from “extremely unique” to more than likely “near average.” One of the factors that helps to locate extrasolar planets is that they are either large enough to cause a measurable eccentricity in stellar motion or a detectable occultation when the planet passes between earth and the star. Also, the faster the planet orbits its star, the easier it is to observe a periodicity. More importantly, while occulations will help identify smaller planets whose orbital plane cross the line of sight between the star and earth, the majority of possible orbital planes in the galaxy do not cross that small cone.

    We are then required to consider just how likely “life” is, and while it may seem self evident, the available answers are not by any means definitive. Bones might be right: “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.”

  78. milodonharlani: classic inability to follow basic logic… Genetics is OPTIMAL, yet all known processes, in particular genetics being the best known example, produce non-optimal solutions, apart from ACTUAL DESIGN the product of intelligence.

    I will try another one, this logic is a little harder, try and follow along:

    ALL processes in the universe result in a net increase in the entropy of the universe, a reduction of the useful energy in the universe. A loose re-statement of what we commonly call the 2nd Law of thermodynamics. Therefore logically there can be no process within the universe that is responsible or explains the starting point of the universe. We can infer that the ultimate source of the universe is a source of energy in an of itself, it is literally all “power” “full”.

    and one more: All physical things (matter or energy) are the result of a transformation from something else, therefore whatever came first is not physical.

  79. “””””…..Zeke says:

    April 30, 2014 at 11:02 am

    “The study, authored by a team of international researchers led by UTSC Assistant Professor Hanno Rein from the Department of Physical and Environmental Science, finds the method used to detect biosignatures on such planets, known as exoplanets, can produce a false positive result.”

    But he proceeds to make the case for “locating a planet in a habitable zone while being able to obtain a good resolution to model the atmosphere will help determine what’s on the planet.”…..”””””

    So what is a “habitable zone” ??

    On any given northern midsummer day, the surface Temperature could be anywhere between +60 deg C, or maybe even + 90 deg . C, and -94 deg. C. Now maybe humans don’t want to live near those extremes, but they certainly do live where the extremes could be between +/- 55 deg. C. No not in the same place.

    And we know of things living in places hotter than the boiling point of water, at sea level.

    So there is no Goldilocks zone. Life developed on earth under conditions where it could. And it didn’t ask a bunch of post doc fellows, for permission to do so.

    Any alien life form (et), that developed, would do so wherever is could. And of course, whatever those conditions were, they would consider to be “the” Goldilocks zone; well they likely wouldn’t even know about Goldilocks and her zones.

    Who says DNA, is the only functional path to a system of self replicating (and changing) entities ??

  80. If life develops so easily, why is it that all evidence suggests that on our Goldilocks planet it has only developed once?
    Even the most extreme of extremophiles we find can be easily fit into this sequence of life.

  81. Duster says:
    April 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

    There is definite evidence of life on earth from 3.5 billion years ago, & hints of it from 3.8 Ba. This is so soon after our planet cooled sufficiently to harbor life that it has led some to advocate panspermia, the seeding of earth by microbial spacefarers or at least complex constituents of living things.

    Your discussion of Mars is good. However the odds of finding life or evidence of its prior existence on Mars suffered a blow last year, due to rover Curiosity’s inability to detect methane, previously thought to exist in the Martian atmosphere:

    http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/167067-nasas-curiosity-detects-no-methane-on-mars-ruling-out-life-on-mars

    The now presumably false detection of methane in Mars’ air shows how hard it would be to assess the components of exoplanetary atmospheres.

  82. WetMan says:
    April 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Twice or thrice can’t be ruled out. The lipid membranes of archaea are different enough from those of bacteria that they may have developed separately, while sharing similar internal metabolic & replicatory chemistry. Not sure that counts as two separate origination events, but having the same processes inside different packaging arguably does. Eukaryote membranes could also have arisen independently, but probably not. In any case, early eukaryotes formed symbiotic relationships with bacteria, the ancestors of our mitochondria & possibly other plastids, plus plants’ chloroplasts.

    But more importantly, once life was established here, new colonization or abiogenesis would have been harder for the late-comers.

  83. Looking at the logical argument for life “out there,” the logic always was the same. We knew long ago that there is at least one stellar system with planets. That meant that the probabilty of stars with planets was 1.0. The only question was how it applied outside the solar system. Recent data now indicates that the probability of extrasolar planets is 1.0 as well and the real question is how likely stars are to have a planetary system and the present progress show that the only viable descriptor is “very.”

    The same is true for the probability of life. It is 1.0. Again we don’t presently have an adequate sample to discuss other stars, but the prior probability is that given even one living system there are likely to be other living systems. The real question comes down to how can we recognize life? Is the life on earth typical or unusual as living systems go? Life – as WE know it – creates unique signatures including an apparently chemically unstable atmosphere, but prior to the appearance of photosynthetic organisms archaea were happily fermenting their way toward civilization employing a broad variety of strategies to extract energy from the environment that did not include oxygen. The level of oxygen in the atmosphere was immensely lower and the atmosphere itself a chemically reducing rather than oxidizing atmosphere. So, we know that life that yields an oxidizing atmosphere is not historically the only game in town, even on this planet. In short, it is not clear that we would necessarily be able to recognize indications of life. When you look at Fermi’s paradox it seem far less paradoxical if you assume life is common but neighbors incapable of minding their own business are rare.

  84. “””””…..Duster says:

    April 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

    george e. smith says:
    April 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    So far as I know, life on earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, and I’ve seen no evidence of it ever beginning again anywhere in the universe, including on earth.

    Somewhat later probably. The planet itself is only about 4.5 BY old as best geology can estimate. As regards evidence of extraterrestrial life, that relies largely on what we consider “evidence.” There are reasonable grounds for arguing that Viking may well have detected life of some form on Mars in one test, while the other tests that accompanied the Viking lander might well have yielded false negatives. …..”””””

    So I’m not a Gee-ologist; so I picked a number. I don’t think the point I made, changes one iota, if the number is between one and ten billion, so I went for a near middle ground.

    I’m happy to use ANYBODY’S other number. I notice; you do not have a number.

    And a lot of if ands or buts, in your “evidence”..

    I’ve personally seen the most amazing structures appear, as if by magic, from presumably quite inanimate materials.; right before my eyes.

    In one case, from getting HCl on the edge of an ordinary piece of 1100 alloy Aluminum; and of course there’s the ice forming on glass window panes..

    But my assertion was “””””…..So far as I know, life on earth began some 4.5 billion years ago, and I’ve seen no evidence of it ever beginning again anywhere in the universe, including on earth……””””

    So for 4.5, read “x”. The rest is true.

    “””…There are “reasonable grounds” for “arguing” that Viking “may well have”…. etc etc. A really definitive statement to be sure.

    I’m quite happy to accept expert assertions, if and when they do find “it” or “et” along with “credible evidence” that it was not transported to the discovery site from earth; just as Mars meteorites, have supposedly arrived on earth. I’d be happy as a clam, actually.

  85. george e. smith says:
    April 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    How I’d state the present case is that evidence supportive of ET life exists, but it’s so far not conclusive. Alternative explanations exist for the supportive observations, just as there are problems with some of the evidence arguing against life on other bodies in the solar system.

  86. milodonharlani says:
    April 30, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Methane, contrary to common discussions, is not and should not be treated as an indicator of life off earth. It has baffled me for years that NASA talks about it as if it meant something more than that carbohydrates were present that might support terrestrial life. The compound is wide spread even within the solar system in abiotic situations (look at the outer planets and moons for instance) and it’s signature occurs in interstellar space. Mar’s chemistry is quite different – self evident I know – but the search for methane assumes earth-like chemistry. Even on earth there living communities that would fail the test; look at extremophiles.

    My sole point is that rather than “no evidence,” we have equivocal indications, and that equivocacy is attributable to our state of knowledge or lack there of. See here for example:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10235261

    We do not actually have a universally functional definition of life. Our ability to recognize life is condition by the planet, which has had a biosphere so long that much of what we expect is already conditioned by the presence of life.

  87. Duster says:
    April 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Of course methane by itself doesn’t confirm life, since it also is produced chemically, but the concentrations of it allegedly detected in Martian air previously suggested replenishment biologically.

    As I noted, your main points are valid. Life not like terrestrial forms has as you know been hypothesized for Saturn’s big, hydrocarbon rich moon Titan, with liquid ethane & methane as its basis instead of water. These hypothetical organisms would inhale H2 in place of O2, metabolize the hydrogen gas with acetylene instead of glucose, & exhale methane instead of CO2.

  88. inre: george e smith

    Goldilocks and her zones get a little assistance from quantum info sharing from other multiverses when she needs to assemble DNA, the last I heard.

  89. As for Duster’s “statistical existence” theories, that’s like playing the lottery.

    If you buy a ticket and you win; you think the probability of winning is 1.0. But the millions of other people who did exactly the same thing; bought a ticket, they all lost, so they say the probability of winning is 0.0.

    Pretty much the same with stars; isn’t it. ?? Sol won with just 8 tickets. Proxima Centauri, is currently a loser.

    I don’t know if you are old enough to remember the very first “Draft Lottery”, held during the Viet Nam War.

    18 year olds were registered by their calendar birth date; on of 366 possible dates each year.

    Numbers were drawn, corresponding to those dates in order; or the equivalent of that. People with early drawn numbers were drafted; absent some out dispensation.

    Within days of the results being posted; some university mathematician declared the result unfair, and discriminatory towards people born early in the year.

    The exact sequence of dates drawn, was one out of 366! possible results; a near infinite number, to ordinary folks.

    An equally likely result would have been if the dates came up in calendar order ; Jan 1, Jan 2, Jan 3, ……Dec 29, Dec 30, Dec 31.

    Yet this brainiac declared the result non-random, on the basis of one event out of 366 ! equally possible events. That number is about 9.186 x 10^780.

    That’s a 9 followed by 780 zeros. I don’t think there are that many everythings, in the entire universe !

    But the guy said just the first of many was biased..

    So yes if you buy a ticket, you can win. If you don’t, you can’t.

    We won !

  90. george e. smith says:

    April 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm I’m quite happy to accept expert assertions, if and when they do find “it” or “et” along with “credible evidence” that it was not transported to the discovery site from earth; just as Mars meteorites, have supposedly arrived on earth. I’d be happy as a clam, actually.

    As far as numbers go, tossing them around sounds like we know more than we do. If the planet is that old, and you say life has been around since that time, you pose the possibility that life is intrinsic in the process of planetary formation – and wouldn’t that be something, which I do not think you want to do. The fact that those spontaneous, orderly patterns you describe appear at all, might be why life exists. Ira Prigogine suggested as much decades ago discussing non-equilibrium systems. His argument is still reasonable.

    As far as the the above quote is concerned, just how will we recognize “life.” As it is, the earliest evidence of life is already so early it is practically embarrassing. The environmental conditions then would kill most if not all modern life forms. Which is again is the point. What conditions define the presence of life? Would the Viking tests have successfully have detected it?

    The Mars results are equivocal, not definitive. They neither prove nor disprove anything except that our imagination has limits. Right now, as you say, they don’t support the hypothesis, but that is a statistical argument at its root – balancing the risks of being wrong vs being right. As I said, right now your approach is the best. It is secptical, which is a good thing in general. But, once we start sending sample homes, that single “positive” looms far larger. The Viking “positive” result shows the presence of some process that fixed a radioactive trace into as gas molecule. The argument made by the lead was that the process was a living one. The remaining tests depended much more on assumptions about what life was based upon terrestrial life. They disproved the presence of anything like a modern earth-like biology. So again, “no life as we know it.” But we can’t safely say “no life.”

  91. old44 says:
    April 29, 2014 at 6:22 pm
    Why don’t they just send the Starship Enterprise?

    Don’t worry, they will. Or rather we, mankind, will. Assuming that the Neo-Luddites and Islamofascists, and all the other enemies of progress and civilization don’t first send us back to the Stone Age (not the Iron Age—the Luddites won’t let us despoil Mother Earth by digging up ore, you know).

    Will we have invented a Warp Drive by the 24th century? I don’t know, but we’ll have figured out some way of getting to the stars. We can always freeze folks for long journeys and thaw them out when they arrive. But I hope we’ll find a way around c.

    When I was young and reading Willy Ley and Chesley Bonestell’s The Conquest of Space (which I still have), I fully expected by now that we’d have gotten to Proxima Centauri, if not farther. It’s a real disappointment that we’re still fretting about getting even to Mars.

    It is a real accomplishment that we have managed to detect extrasolar planets orbiting other stars. This is brand new, so it’s not surprising that we can’t yet tell much about their composition. It will be a while, maybe a long while, before we can identify any signs of life—who expected otherwise? The exercise of exploring the moons of the giant planets will help in refining our criteria. But exobiology is a very young field. As it develops, I am quite sure it will shed light on the basic question: how did life originate on Earth?

    Good comments from Duster and milodonharlani, proving there is “intelligent life down here.”

    /Mr Lynn

  92. ferd berple says: April 30, 2014 at 6:21 am

    the bigger question is how did God start from non God? what was the process that created God?\———————————————————————
    There is THAT which was not born, nor created, nor evolved. If it were not so, there would never be any refuge from being born, or created, or evolving. THAT is the end of suffering,….THAT is God**

    ** You may substitute your preferred label..Tao, Brahman, Cosmos, Allah, Nirvana, Non-duality, Being, Etc..

  93. Duster says:
    April 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Even on earth there is no consensus as to a strict definition of life. There is maybe, sorta general agreement that viruses might be alive but prions probably not, yet you’ll still find those who disagree as to both forms, yea & nay. Does life have to exhibit both metabolism & replication, or does the latter suffice? There remains a grey area between living & not living.

  94. milodonharlani says:
    April 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm
    Even on earth there is no consensus as to a strict definition of life. . . There remains a grey area between living & not living.

    You have to wonder if there is not some elemental principle, a ‘life force’, that we have not identified. It is an old concept. From one of my favorite stories,

    The derelict

    By WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON

    from The Red Magazine (1912-Dec-01)

    “IT’S the material,” said the old ship’s doctor — “the material plus the conditions — and, maybe,” he added slowly, “a third factor — yes, a third factor; but there, there ——” He broke off his half-meditative sentence and began to charge his pipe.

    “Go on, doctor,” we said encouragingly, and with more than a little expectancy. We were in the smoke-room of the Sand-a-lea, running across the North Atlantic; and the doctor was a character. He concluded the charging of his pipe, and lit it; then settled himself, and began to express himself more fully.

    “The material,” he said with conviction, “is inevitably the medium of expression of the life-force — the fulcrum, as it were; lacking which it is unable to exert itself, or, indeed, to express itself in any form or fashion that would be intelligible or evident to us. So potent is the share of the material in the production of that thing which we name life, and so eager the life-force to express itself, that I am convinced it would, if given the right conditions, make itself manifest even through so hopeless seeming a medium as a simple block of sawn wood; for I tell you, gentlemen, the life-force is both as fiercely urgent and as indiscriminate as fire — the destructor; yet which some are now growing to consider the very essence of life rampant. There is a quaint seeming paradox there,” he concluded, nodding his old grey head. . .

    The rest here: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/derelict.htm

    Perhaps the principle lies with an inevitable tendency in the Universe toward increasing complexity, given inputs of energy and ‘material’, with life being a consequence of that process. In which case, we should expect life elsewhere in the Universe, and plenty of it. As for why we haven’t been noticed yet. . . Do you pay much attention to the colonies of tiny shrimp under the dock down by the harbor?

    /Mr Lynn

  95. Maybe the astronomers searching for ET could get more government funding if they said their search was made more difficult by climate change.

  96. Mr Lynn says:
    April 30, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    The tendency of the universe is toward entropy, against which current life swims.

    Ralph Kramden says:
    April 30, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    If clouds increase due to a return to Maunder Minimum climatic conditions, maybe taxpayers will foot the bill for more space telescopes.

  97. george e. smith – you say my “100,000 year round trip example, is way overkill.“.
    Our galaxy, I am told, is about 100,000 light years across. I took half that, giving a 100,000 year round trip. Maybe 50-60,000 years would have been more reasonable. With the thickness of the galaxy being some 3,000 light years, the likelihood of that planet being only 50 light years away is tiny. Yet you are quite right, even 100 years is a very long time in Earthling memory terms.

  98. milodonharlani says:
    April 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm
    The tendency of the universe is toward entropy, against which current life swims.

    So it is said, though how we can generalize about the entire universe, whose ultimate scale and properties are unknown, I don’t know. But setting that imponderable aside, we have billions of huge powerhouses called stars pouring vast quantities of energy (heat, light, electromagnetic, particle) upon every piece of flotsam and jetsam in their neighborhoods. We know that in these furnaces basic elements like hydrogen and helium are converted to more complex ones, like carbon (increasing in complexity). We also know that in primordial environments this flood of energy can produce reactions and combinations that lead to complex molecules like amino acids, even in space. So at least within local environments we have nature working against entropy. There is still a huge jump to what we would recognize as ‘life’, but it is conceivable to me that, given sources of energy, the tendency of matter is toward increasing complexity, not the reverse.

    If this speculation were so, then we might ask: Is the “current life” (as you put it) the end result of this process? Or are there higher levels of complexity possible, which might make our highly-organized look as primitive as amoeba do to us?

    /Mr Lynn

  99. Mr Lynn says:
    April 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    The Second Law is an empirically validated postulate of thermodynamics, & as such appears to operate throughout the observable universe. It states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems always evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium, a state with maximum entropy. Maybe the universe isn’t an isolated system, but in that case, then it’s part of a multiverse, & all bets are off.

    The “current” of which I speak is the tendency towards entropy, not toward a vital principle behind life. All large & small scale organization like galaxies, suns, microbes & atoms tend to decay following the arrow of time. There can be local, temporary exceptions to the 2nd Law, but in the end the rules of this universe win.

    It has been known for almost two centuries now that there is no vital energy unique to life, the chemistry of which is no different from that which occurs in reactions outside of living things.

  100. Just to be clear, “current” was a metaphor based on the difficulty of swimming upstream against the flow of a river. In this case, that means that life has a hard time overcoming the entropy of the universe & is doomed ultimately to lose, being swept out to nothingness.

  101. milodonharlani says:
    April 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm
    Just to be clear, “current” was a metaphor based on the difficulty of swimming upstream against the flow of a river. In this case, that means that life has a hard time overcoming the entropy of the universe & is doomed ultimately to lose, being swept out to nothingness.

    Sorry. Missed that. Kind of a dismal vision, wouldn’t you say? Think instead of the little sperm cells, swimming upstream. . . And one of them is going to win!

    /Mr Lynn

  102. “””””…..Mike Jonas says:

    April 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    george e. smith – you say my “100,000 year round trip example, is way overkill.“…….””””””

    Mike, I meant NO criticism of your example; merely pointing out, that human patience is much less tolerant of delay in “satisfaction”, when it comes to waiting for a response to our actions.

    I doubt, that we would wait for an answer from Alpha Centauri.

    I’m sure that much of the motivation to search for ET; especially intelligent ET, comes from persons, who think, that our many problems, could be solved for us by contact with a “more advanced” intelligence. I think that is a dangerous notion.

    WE are responsible for ALL of our problems, and if WE are too damn stupid, to solve these issues; and I’m talking “behavioral” issues, then we have no real claim to “intelligence”, nor are we deserving of survival. Mother Nature will crush us like a snail, unless we get with the program; and in no way am I referring to “dealing with” some imagined climate catastrophe.

  103. Believers say out of nothing was created everything. Science says out of nothing was created everything. Only the flow of events is argued. I could care less; we will probably never know. Only speculate, theorize, or take it on faith. My small brain focuses on small questions: What gene switched on to make the first Orb Weaver spider spin the first orb? Or, how did a cave swallow figure out that it could build a nest out of spit? I leave M theory, bubble universes and 11 dimensions to others.

    Thinking we are the best and only creation our universe can produce is pure narcissism, arrogance, or zealotry. We are not advanced enough to prove or disprove that this planet is nothing more than a Petri dish. However, we do have a few billion years to learn…if we don’t kill ourselves, get hit by the big one, or fry when the global average temperature goes up another 0.1C.

    Until then, I will use my too few remaining years contemplating the evolution of the cigar and how rotten barley became beer.

  104. Genesis was correct in its processes of creation, but their time line was billions of years out.
    And anyone who thinks Eve was created from a rib from Adam, does not know how we breed. LOL

  105. bushbunny says:
    April 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Both contradictory creation myths in Genesis are preposterously wrong in their processes of creation, although the second one is closer to the correct order at least.

    The order in the first story is: 1) preexisting waters (covering land), 2) light & dark (day & night), 3) firmament of heaven (a solid dome separating waters below, ie sea, from waters above, ie rain, hail, snow, sleet, etc), 4) dry land (emergent after gathering together the under-heaven waters covering it), 5) plants, 6) sun, moon & stars, 7) swimming & flying creatures, 8) land animals & 9) man & woman. Obviously, on some of the six days, God did more work than on the others.

    By contrast, the order of creation in the second story is: 1) earth & heavens, 2) plants (as seeds in the ground, as God had not yet created rain, but then as crops & trees), 3) a man, 4) animals & 5) a woman. In fact, animals evolved before green plants (the first “herbivores” ate cyanobacteria), & humans of both sexes evolved at the same time, uninterrupted by the appearance of beasts of the field, fowl of the air or any other animals. Or fungi for that matter.

    I see little correspondence between these processes described in the “Word of God” & what has actually been observed to have happened during the real “Work of God”, ie the development of the universe.

  106. If scientists really want to find habitable planets they need to read “Rare Earth” and “The Privileged Planet”- all the information is there

  107. Joe G says:
    May 1, 2014 at 11:59 am

    The Rare Earth Hypothesis refers to complex, multicellular life, not life in general. IMO microbes could be quite common, while more complex forms much less so & “intelligent” organisms even more rare.

  108. Of course ET exists; all you have to do is ask Zoltan Mesko, former UM and NFL punter. He wasn’t known as the “Space Emperor” on campus for nothin’.

  109. milodonharlani says:
    May 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

    ………..By contrast, the order of creation in the second story is: 1) earth & heavens, 2) plants (as seeds in the ground, as God had not yet created rain, but then as crops & trees), 3) a man, 4) animals & 5) a woman. In fact, animals evolved before green plants (the first “herbivores” ate cyanobacteria), & humans of both sexes evolved at the same time, uninterrupted by the appearance of beasts of the field, fowl of the air or any other animals. Or fungi for that matter.

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

    “…….and Milo was born in the late 20th century
    and he went to school
    and his parents were married and had children………..”

    Now, if you read that as milodonharlani insist Genesis 2 must be read then I just said that Milo is illegitimate. But if you read it with the legitimate figure of speech more commonly recognized as a parenthetical remark then Milo becomes a legitimate child.

    The parenthetical remarks in Genesis 2 are referring to why Adam needed a “help meet” (KJV) and why it was that Adam, and not God, named her. Genesis 2 is not a sequence of events. It is the Creator acting in relation to Man, “Jehovah Elohim” and not just “Elohim” as He is referred to in Genesis 1.
    (There’s a lot there but for a fuller explanation, http://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/attention-surplus-disorder-part-two/comment-page-1/#comment-456. (Read the thread to the end.))

    Of course if the “parenthetical remark” explanation is rejected then milodonharlani will say I just called Milo a bastard but I did not.

  110. Gunga Din says:
    May 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I was born in the first half of the 20th century (just barely), but never mind.

    Please show where in Genesis 2 the order of creation it states is not meant to be an actual order of creation. I’m willing to go along with you on the assertion that the text wasn’t meant to show a chronological order, but would like some attempt at evidence & reason to support that contention.

    But even if you can show this claim valid, please tell me how I’m wrong about the contradictory creation myth in Genesis 1. Since it states that the various creations occurred in six days, I don’t see how it can possibly be interpreted in any way but as a sequence of discrete events, none of which corresponds
    even remotely to the actual history of the universe. Unless you think that somehow day & night preceded the creation of the sun, along with all the other patent absurdities flowing from a literal reading of this chapter.

    Imagining that being Christian requires regarding the Bible as a science text is IMO the height of blasphemy, since it necessarily makes God a cruel monster, a deceptive trickster & an incompetent, stupid designer.

  111. milodonharlani says:
    May 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm
    (criticizing Gunga Din says:
    May 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Please show where in Genesis 2 the order of creation it states is not meant to be an actual order of creation. I’m willing to go along with you on the assertion that the text wasn’t meant to show a chronological order, but would like some attempt at evidence & reason to support that contention.

    But even if you can show this claim valid, please tell me how I’m wrong about the contradictory creation myth in Genesis 1. Since it states that the various creations occurred in six days, I don’t see how it can possibly be interpreted in any way but as a sequence of discrete events, none of which corresponds even remotely to the actual history of the universe. Unless you think that somehow day & night preceded the creation of the sun, along with all the other patent absurdities flowing from a literal reading of this chapter.

    Ah, but that is a mystery: See, despite your so vicious and vocal and frequent claims, EVERY sequence thus spelled out in Genesis IS in exactly the right order that “science” now claims it has discovered! The writers got their nuclear physics right, their astronomy, their geology, their biology, their chemistry right every “day” ….
    FIRST, everything was created from nothing, with a big wind even!
    THEN, there was light … as the energy condensed into light.
    THEN, the light was separated from the darkness (by casting shadows) but only AFTER the light further condensed into the matter we know now.
    THEN, the earth was formed as the fluids (plasma, gasses, ions, molecules, atoms DO act like fluids you know) “above the dome” were separated from the fluids “below” the dome (of the sky).
    THEN, there was one sea, and one land (what we now call Pangaea continent – which subsequently broke up and isolated the seas that we now count separately)
    THE, life formed in the seas – first as plants.
    THEN, once plants formed – or evolved if you wish, the atmosphere cleared and our Venus-like opaque clouds cleared as oxygen filled the airs.
    THEN, the sun and moon became visible (for navigation and astronomy and calendars and all of history). Not that they were created at this time, but they did become visible. Everything has already been created in the bang, now it is simply evolving.)
    Speaking of evolving, the birds came next, then mammals, then man, and last of all – the snake.

    Not bad “science” for a bunch of ignorant shepherds who could count past 70 x 7, right?

    Now, I know I will never convince you – your “faith” prevents you from seeing anything that contradicts what your religion claims.

  112. RACookPE1978 says:
    May 1, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    You’re kidding, right? I hope.

    You must know that every single one of your assertions is not only wrong but laughably so.

    I’m pretty sure you’re joking, but will point out, to take but a few points at random, plants did not evolve in the seas before animals. Whether animals first appeared on land or in the seas is currently controversial, but it is known as an observable fact that animals preceded green plants by hundreds of millions of years.

    You lie, “Speaking of evolving, the birds came next, then mammals, then man, and last of all – the snake.” Couldn’t be more wrong, as usual. Birds evolved after mammals, & snakes long before humans. What counts as a mammal & what a bird is of course debatable, but the first synapsid with the mammalian jaw joint long predates the first dinosaur capable of powered flight in the evolutionary lineage leading to birds.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morganucodon

    Fossils readily identifiable as snakes (though often retaining hind limbs) first appear in the fossil record during the Cretaceous Period, ie over 120 million years before the first members of genus Homo.

    How could you possibly be so wrong? Apparently you have never studied biology or even the most elementary paleontology & obviously didn’t bother to check before posting such bold-faced lies. Before you presume to comment on these topics, it would be wise to have studied them.

    The Bible doesn’t say that the things you so falsely claim “became visible” on the cited day. It says they were made or created then. Why do you feel the need to lie so shamelessly in defense of your blasphemous cult?

    If you’re not kidding, it’s painfully obvious that your faith has blinded you to reality, indeed even to trying to learn about reality. The ignorant shepherds got every single point wrong. Pretty good when just random guessing should have yielded 50%.

    Are you aware that every scientifically literate reader of this blog is laughing at you?

  113. milodonharlani says:

    May 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm
    The Rare Earth Hypothesis refers to complex, multicellular life, not life in general.

    Actually it refers to both.

    And in a designed universe I would expect more than one planet with intelligent life

  114. Joe G says:
    May 2, 2014 at 4:53 am

    There probably is more than one planet with intelligent life in the universe, but maybe not in our galaxy at the present time. Correct me if wrong, but IMO “Rare Earth” considers us in the Milky Way, not among all the estimated 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Even if only one galaxy out of 170 has a rare planet on which intelligent life has evolved, that’s still a billion such planets.

  115. Hmmmmn. Milo doesn’t like my version of his version of creation.

    So, a simple challenge: What is the source of the following?

    Everything was created. Suddenly and with great violence, but with uncalculable forces in the darkness. From this energy, light condensed a short while later. Then matter was created as the light energy further cooled. A period of time passed.

    The earth and solar system was formed from the galactic dust and interstellar plasmas, gathering together and cooling into the individual spheres (the planets and their atmospheres) and the sun we see rotating around our sky today. Another period of time passed.

    Down here on the earth itself, one continent was formed surrounded by one single massive sea, later breaking up and re-connecting by continental drift into the continents and seven seas everybody is familiar with today. Once dry, cool (non-volcanic) land appeared, the first plants began growing, changing the original inhospitable and deadly atmosphere of toxic and light-absorbing gasses into the clear and viable combination of oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor and carbon dioxide we need (the balance of gasses that all life needs on earth!) to survive today. These first plants kept growing for another while longer.

    Well, the atmosphere was finally clear enough for visible light to be transmitted through the previously dark atmosphere, and suddenly the available energy on the surface grew large enough to support more life, higher forms of life above simple plants.

    So animal life grew – first in the warm tropic seas as fish and amphibians, then on land with dinosaurs (who evolved into birds) and then modern large mammals. Man finally straggled onto the scene, very late behind everything else.

  116. RACookPE1978 says:
    May 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Your myths are entirely counter-factual, is why I don’t like it. And it appears even after having actual, observed reality presented to you, you still continue to ignore it. Trying to rework Genesis along modern scientific lines does violence both to science & religion. It is a fundamentally dishonest activity.

    How many times do you have to be told that animals preceded green plants by at least hundreds of millions of years, & that mammals, however defined, precede birds, however defined, by tens of millions of years? Also that snakes evolved tens of millions of years before humans, or even primates. Clearly actual scientific facts mean nothing to you. Only your misguided faith in the cult of bibliolatry, false worship of a book instead of the Creator it seeks to understand through a mix of myth, legend, fiction, poetry & some fairly accurate history, although of course written to advocate a religious position.

    How can it not be obvious to you that night & day on earth could not precede the creation of the sun, which in Genesis 1 is given as a “sign”, not a source of light? Everything is all wrong about the first Genesis story & almost everything about the second, when viewed scientifically. No amount of twisting & turning in special pleading interpretation can change these facts. The Bible means what it says, namely that the flat, immoveable earth supported by pillars over the waters below is covered by a solid dome from which hang the stars, with doors & windows through which the sun & moon can pass on their journey over the land, & other openings for God to let precipitation fall from the storehouses of the rain, snow, etc above the dome (“the waters above”).

    My view of the history of the earth & universe is based upon observational evidence & reason therefrom. Maybe you regard the scientific method as a religious practice, but I don’t. Your warped view of reality is based upon religious faith, but improperly & wrong-headedly so theologically. To be a Christian, as Luther correctly noted, you “must tear the eyes out of your reason”. Trying to make objective reality fit biblical creation myths is a fundamentally irreligious, blasphemous act, not least because, as noted, it means that your god is cruel, deceptive & incompetent.

    God is supposed to remain mysterious. There is no point in having faith, if you imagine falsely that Bible stories with talking serpents & donkeys & cud-chewing rabbits are rational & objectively, physically rather than philosophically or theologically true. The value of faith comes from willingly believing what is patently absurd, ie that a man was the son of God, died for our sins, then came back to life. As Church Father Tertullian wrote, “I believe because it is absurd”.

    BTW, the Genesis myths weren’t written by illiterate shepherds, obviously. They were adapted from much older Mesopotamian myths by scribes wishing to rework them into the acts of their own chief god, YHWH, aka Lord or Most High, Who is portrayed on Hebrew coinage similarly to Apollo, the Greek sun god, riding in a chariot across the sky.

  117. milodonharlani says:
    May 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Gunga Din says:
    May 1, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I was born in the first half of the 20th century (just barely), but never mind.

    Please show where in Genesis 2 the order of creation it states is not meant to be an actual order of creation. I’m willing to go along with you on the assertion that the text wasn’t meant to show a chronological order, but would like some attempt at evidence & reason to support that contention.

    =================================================================
    You figure it out.
    Here’s a hint.
    From my original post (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/29/finding-et-worse-than-we-thought/#comment-1626835):

    “…….and Milo was born in the late 20th century
    and he went to school
    and his parents were married and had children………..”

    Applying present day English (You do know that the text we have (Hebrew and Greek) had no punctuation?) punctuation:

    “…….and Milo was born in the late 20th century
    and he went to school
    (and his parents were married and had children)………..”

    See? I didn’t call Milo a bastard.

  118. milodonharlani says:
    May 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    The value of faith comes from willingly believing what is patently absurd, ie that a man was the son of God, died for our sins, then came back to life. As Church Father Tertullian wrote, “I believe because it is absurd”.

    ===================================================================
    “[Evolution is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.” Evolutionist D.M.S.Watson

  119. Gunga Din says:
    May 2, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Biblical texts have a lot more problems than just lack of punctuation.

    But it’s what its words clearly state that is the real problem, not just textual issues. Such as that stars, ie the heavenly host, are beings capable of falling to earth, for example, & that the sun & moon are also beings who daily & nightly travel over the earth, then outside the dome of heaven hasten back to the place of their rising.

    Gunga Din says:
    May 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    By “evolutionist”, do you mean scientist? Your “quotation” by Watson is a shameless fake. Bearing false witness is a sin, you know. Its sources are also from 1929, when much less was known about evolution than now.

    It’s apparently impossible for creationists not to lie, or at least to check facts before posting lies (from Watson’s Wiki entry):

    Famous Quote
    “ the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it be can proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible. ”

    This quotation of Watson is often used in Creationist writings in an attempt to show that Watson, and thus by extension promoters of evolution in general, dismiss creationism due to antitheistic bias. A slightly different version of the quotation, derived from a secondhand source,[3] is sometimes used (e.g., by C. S. Lewis[4]):
    “ [Evolution is] accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or . . . can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible. ”

    Sometimes the words in square brackets are incorrectly incorporated into the quotation, and/or the ellipsis is omitted.[5]

    Watson’s original statement first appeared in a 1929 article, “Adaptation,” in the journal Nature:[6] The second version of the quotation, given above, is formed by combining parts of two similar passages in Watson’s paper, one from the first page and one from the third. The first passage reads:
    “ [1] Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.[7] ”

    The second passage reads:
    “ [2] If so, it will present a parallel to the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible[8] ”

    The ellipses in the second version of the standard quotation from Watson elide his statement in [1] that evolution fits “all the facts” of taxonomy, paleontology, and geographical distribution. They also omit his statement, which directly follows quotation [1] above, that “Whilst the fact of evolution is accepted by every biologist, the mode in which it has occurred and the mechanism by which it has been brought about are still disputable.”

    Watson thus considered evolution a fact, belief in which was supported by its fit to a wide range of other facts. He thought “special creation” unbelievable and the mechanisms of evolution disputable (his article was devoted to emphasizing the inadequacy of contemporary theories of adaptation, and mentions “special creation” only in passing). This was in 1929, several years before the inception of evolutionary biology’s Modern Synthesis, which integrated Mendelian genetics into Darwinian thought and produced widespread scientific consensus about basic evolutionary mechanisms. Stephen Jay Gould describes 1900–10 as “the period of greatest agnosticism and debate about evolutionary mechanisms” and adds that even the 1920s were still “not happy times of consensus for evolutionary theory in general.”[9]

    When it was made, over 80 years ago, Watson’s complaint that the mechanisms of evolution were poorly understood was accurate. His statement that evolution was believed only “because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible” was a provocative exaggeration, contradicted by his own remarks (i.e., evolution already “fit all the facts” of several major knowledge fields).

  120. Here’s a famous, real quotation, the title of a 1973 essay by devout Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Theodosius Grygorovych Dobzhansky, whose well known grad student Francisco José Ayala Pereda was a Dominican priest: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”.

  121. Hmm, searching for extraterrestrial life on exoplanets? Finding INTELLIGENT life is one thing, but can we be certain that simple extraterrestrial life forms haven’t already been found? Such life may well have been found 38 years ago by the Viking Mars landers. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/04/120413-nasa-viking-program-mars-life-space-science/ Additionally, there were those Martian meteorites found in Antarctica that displayed what, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be fossilized microbial organisms. http://news.discovery.com/space/alien-life-exoplanets/mars-meteorite-structures-cautious-optimism-for-alien-life-140228.htm And then there is that little matter of those strange, pancake shaped objects that have been seen innumerable times swarming around our space craft and other space debris by our own astronauts and mission controllers. They sort of look like flat, semi-transparent jellyfish swimming around in the vacuum of space, and they have still not been identified by NASA. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8njYpyAkMp8

    Maybe instead of looking for intelligent life on exoplanets we should first try to confirm the existence of simple extraterrestrial life in our own solar system. It seems to me that there are many good reasons to put some greater effort into that search.

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