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A couple interesting science links from Prufrock

16 May

David Gelernter, the well-known professor of computer science at Yale, grew up believing Darwin’s theory of the origin of life. Well, he doesn’t believe it any more: “There’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.” 

[…]

It is not uncommon for scientists to believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. After all, if “the ingredients for life are everywhere, and there are astronomically large numbers of stars and planets where it’s possible for life to have arisen, then we’d expect many instances in which intelligent aliens rose to prominence well before the advent of human life on Earth.” But maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe life is extremely rare, Ethan Siegel writes, and maybe it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the complexity that it exists on Earth:

“While we certainly owe it to ourselves to look for their presence with all the resources we can muster, we must confront the possibility that perhaps we’ve got it all wrong about just how common life in the universe is. Perhaps the ingredients and conditions on Earth don’t inevitably lead to life arising on a potentially habitable world beyond our planet. And even if life does arise elsewhere, it may be the case that it frequently fails to thrive. Maybe it’s the case that even successful life only rarely becomes complex, differentiated, or intelligent as we understand those terms. Or, quite possibly, it’s exceedingly rare that even intelligent life becomes technologically advanced. In all of space, as far as intelligent life goes, perhaps humanity is truly alone.”

Read the rest.

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9 Comments

Posted by on May 16, 2019 in "science", Linklove

 

9 responses to “A couple interesting science links from Prufrock

  1. Carnivore

    May 16, 2019 at 7:41 am

    The assumption that intelligent life exists on countless planets in the universe is fine for sci-fi but to carry that over into the scientific realm is ridiculous. They must do so, otherwise the grants for their ‘research’ would stop. Note: “While we certainly owe it to ourselves to look for their presence with all the resources we can muster”.

     
    • Will S.

      May 16, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Agreed, though I also think that they want to believe that we aren’t special, unique, because the rabid atheists among them (unfortunately many scientists) think that life on other planets would undermine theism, as they think it would make life’s appearance appear more of a random accident. Thus the posters your Dawkins and Harris type undergrad atheists have on their dorm walls, of U.F.O.s with the phrase “I Want To Believe” on them…

      I think the rabid atheists who go into science end up bringing this mindset with them, and thus extraterrestrial life exploration is an imperative for them, to prop up their worldview and silence their own internal, subconscious voices countering their conscious ideology.

       
  2. rugby11

    May 19, 2019 at 11:46 pm

    Good listen

     
  3. c matt

    May 22, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Isn’t that basically Fermi’s challenge? Given the alleged likelihood of intelligent life, and the age of the universe as calculated by these guys, shouldn’t we have heard from/detected these intelligent beings by now? Where are they?

     
    • Will S.

      May 22, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      Indeed.

       
  4. Dave

    May 24, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Gelernter thinks evolution explains the emergence of new races but not of new species? What does that even mean? A race becomes a species when taxonomists decide to call it a species.

    A Darwinist wondered why, of the many hominid species in the fossil record, only one survives today. I told her it’s because, for political reasons, we decided to classify all extant hominids as one extremely diverse “species”, while finely dividing other animal genera into many nearly identical, fully interfertile “species”.

    During a lecture on how race is unrelated to brain size, a point on which he was posthumously proven wrong, Steven J. Gould asked, what if e.g. Homo habilis were alive today? Would we display them in zoos like gorillas, or try to integrate them into our society? How would we accommodate their cognitive limitations? My answer: We would reclassify them as Homo sapiens, assign them full civil rights, affirmative-action them into Harvard, and politely ignore their violent chimp-outs.

    Earth is not an impossible planet, but it does have a great many uncommon properties — high density, large moon, plate tectonics, just the right amount of water, etc. Changing any one of these properties would prevent its remaining habitable long enough for large animals to evolve. So intelligent life might be vastly less abundant than previously assumed.

    The universe, however, is far larger than most people imagine. In fact we have no idea how large — we can see 13.8 billion light-years in every direction, but its true size could be 100 orders of magnitude greater. The universe’s expansion is accelerating (gravity seems to be repulsive at distances over a billion light years), so even less of it is causally connected to us as time goes by.

    There might be a trillion advanced civilizations in the universe without even one close enough for a single photon from their galaxy to ever reach ours. If that’s the case, we really are alone.

     
    • Will S.

      May 25, 2019 at 11:17 am

      “The universe, however, is far larger than most people imagine. In fact we have no idea how large — we can see 13.8 billion light-years in every direction, but its true size could be 100 orders of magnitude greater. The universe’s expansion is accelerating (gravity seems to be repulsive at distances over a billion light years), so even less of it is causally connected to us as time goes by.

      There might be a trillion advanced civilizations in the universe without even one close enough for a single photon from their galaxy to ever reach ours. If that’s the case, we really are alone.”

      Effectively, yes…

       
    • Will S.

      May 25, 2019 at 11:19 am

      “During a lecture on how race is unrelated to brain size, a point on which he was posthumously proven wrong, Steven J. Gould asked, what if e.g. Homo habilis were alive today? Would we display them in zoos like gorillas, or try to integrate them into our society? How would we accommodate their cognitive limitations? My answer: We would reclassify them as Homo sapiens, assign them full civil rights, affirmative-action them into Harvard, and politely ignore their violent chimp-outs.”

      Have you ever read:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Different_Flesh

      It was inspired by Gould’s thoughts; interesting thought experiment…

       

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