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Life As We Do Not Know It

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posted on Dec, 20 2006 @ 01:15 AM
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Some food for thought...

Launching the Alien Debates

www.astrobio.net...


At the Astrobiology Science Conference last March, Astrobiology Magazine organized a debate about alien life. Using Peter Ward’s book, “Life As We Do Not Know It” as a launching pad, the participants debated everything from how to define “life” to what kind of strange aliens we can expect to find in our explorations.

Here’s a sample from the first speaker, Peter Ward, who starts off with how he got booed at a sci-fi convention…


After I wrote a book called "Rare Earth," I was asked to go to a science fiction convention to debate science fiction writers about the frequency of complex life in the universe. When I got in there, I looked about the audience and there were Wookies, and Klingons, and Vulcans -- everybody was in uniform! They started this low growling at me, and it got worse and worse. Someone said, "How can you take our aliens away from us?"

[ Go figure, he'd probably get the same reception here
]


I didn't mind that, but someone else said, "You dumb fool, what about life as we don't know it? What about life that's chemically different from Earth life?" That's a very reasonable question, and hence I started thinking about this.

What do you really need for life? Right off the bat we have debatable elements. Certainly life on our planet needs membranes, it needs metabolic machinery, an information system, and reproduction.

We've had three and a half billion years of life at least, and maybe four billion years. My suspicion is that even our simple life is complex. There may be life that's much simpler yet. That is really one of the great frontiers.

How do we define life as we do know it? Life on Earth has DNA, a specific genetic code. It also uses only 20, and the same 20, amino acids. Life is always cellular according to some people, but I think not. I personally define a virus as alive.

The funny thing is, if you read the rest of what he and the other panelists have to say, you may discover (if you haven’t already) that “mainstream” science’s views aren’t as closed minded as many of you may think… in fact quite the opposite is more often true in my experience.

The next panelist kind of lost me but I have to admit the third panelist, Steve Benner, made me rethink some of my own assumptions…


I'd like to get you to play a game. It's called the dialectic game, and the rules are that you must take a widely accepted conclusion, based on facts, and build an argument that draws the opposite conclusion. You're not going to be allowed to deny the facts, although you can certainly add more facts to the ones that are presented to you.

The game is designed to manage the natural propensity of the human mind to accept without question what is familiar to it. This game is useful throughout science, and it's absolutely essential to the topic of "life as we don't know it."

So let's see if we can play the game. The widely accepted conclusion is that water is uniquely ideal as a solvent for life. The dialectic game requires that you come up with a contrary proposition and generate facts that support it. So the contrary proposition is that water is NOT uniquely ideal as a solvent for life.

So now the question is, can we support that? If you play this game for about ten minutes, you'll be convinced that almost everything that you know about water, at least as the basis for life, is on shaky grounds.

So what do you guys (and gals) think?




posted on Dec, 20 2006 @ 02:09 AM
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I want in on this debate, lets have it! One right here on ATS!



posted on Dec, 20 2006 @ 02:41 AM
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A very thought provoking post Saviour Of The Real.

I can't help but think of episodes of Star Trek when I read this.
The shows that they come across life forms that are a gaseous cloud or silicone based, or ones that live in the vacuum of space. Entities that are just some form of energy but they are still intelligent beings.

We only have the life on this planet to base our conclusions on right now, and even with some of the extremophiles found on this planet, they all still require water to survive.
But with only life on one planet to study I don't think we should rule out anything at this point. Who knows what could evolve in all the diverse environments that exist in this massive universe.

It could get quite interesting if we find something alive on Mars, even if it's a bacteria or bit of lichen. If it has similar traits or structures to what we find on this planet people will just say it wasn't a unique development on that planet, but a case of panspermia.

What Peter Ward said about a virus being a life form, I have to agree. Though they can't replicate without a host, I still think of them as a crude form of life.

I guess we'll only know when we actually get out there and find something, or something comes to us.......

[edit on 20/12/2006 by anxietydisorder]



posted on Dec, 20 2006 @ 02:45 AM
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great post saviour.

I agree with Jiffy.A debate like that would be good here although I think there is already a forum similar to that on this site."one on one" I think its called or something.



posted on Dec, 21 2006 @ 12:45 AM
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Originally posted by anxietydisorder
A very thought provoking post Saviour Of The Real.

Cool. Did you read the whole article? I just noticed the link I gave was to the second page of the five page (so far) article that actually starts here…

www.astrobio.net...

I thought the other panelists opening arguments, particularly those made by the women, were intriguing as well. If anything, it’s definitely a multi-disciplinary problem.


I can't help but think of episodes of Star Trek when I read this.
The shows that they come across life forms that are a gaseous cloud or silicone based, or ones that live in the vacuum of space. Entities that are just some form of energy but they are still intelligent beings.

LOL those shows made perfect sense to me too even if it turns out it doesn’t upon closer examination.


Who knows what could evolve in all the diverse environments that exist in this massive universe.

I think the jury’s still out and probably will be for some time to come unless…


It could get quite interesting if we find something alive on Mars, even if it's a bacteria or bit of lichen. If it has similar traits or structures to what we find on this planet people will just say it wasn't a unique development on that planet, but a case of panspermia.

Even then the question still remains, did life only originate once in the Universe?


What Peter Ward said about a virus being a life form, I have to agree. Though they can't replicate without a host, I still think of them as a crude form of life.

The reverse-evolution hypothesis sounds plausible but I guess I’d like to think maybe they’re alien. Unlike most “natural” things they don’t seem to serve a purpose other than being a real PITA.


I guess we'll only know when we actually get out there and find something, or something comes to us.......

[ shudder ]


Originally posted by southern_Guardian
I agree with Jiffy.A debate like that would be good here although I think there is already a forum similar to that on this site."one on one" I think its called or something.

Unless there are any experts here (I’m certainly not) I think an open debate would be great. Not sure where to start but I was thinking of defining a list of possibilities and then outlining our arguments for or against each one. Here’s what I came up with on first pass…

The Basic Possibilities for Life

1. We are alone.
2. We are not alone but there’s only one possible form of life in the Universe.
3. We are not alone and there’s more than one possible form of life in the Universe.

The Basic Possibilities for Life (my initial thoughts)

1. That would suck.
2. Ockham's razor would seem to favor this.
3. Is intelligence unique to a certain form of it?



posted on Dec, 21 2006 @ 06:33 PM
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Originally posted by Saviour Of The Real


After I wrote a book called "Rare Earth," I was asked to go to a science fiction convention to debate science fiction writers about the frequency of complex life in the universe. When I got in there, I looked about the audience and there were Wookies, and Klingons, and Vulcans -- everybody was in uniform! They started this low growling at me, and it got worse and worse. Someone said, "How can you take our aliens away from us?"

[ Go figure, he'd probably get the same reception here
]


Yeah probably , but only from the Wookies, Klingons, and Vulcans.

But seriously , this is an interesting topic.

I think the recent discovery that organic chemistry is prevailent in the Universe really , to quote Douglas Hudgins , "changes everything".


NASA Discovers Life's Building Blocks Are Common In Space

"Our work shows a class of compounds that is critical to biochemistry is prevalent throughout the universe," said Douglas Hudgins, an astronomer at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. He is principal author of a study detailing the team's findings that appears in the Oct. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

"NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has shown complex organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are found in every nook and cranny of our galaxy. While this is important to astronomers, it has been of little interest to astrobiologists, scientists who search for life beyond Earth. Normal PAHs aren't really important to biology," Hudgins said. "However, our work shows the lion's share of the PAHs in space also carry nitrogen in their structures. That changes everything."

"Much of the chemistry of life, including DNA, requires organic molecules that contain nitrogen," said team member Louis Allamandola, an astrochemist at Ames. "Chlorophyll, the substance that enables photosynthesis in plants, is a good example of this class of compounds, called polycyclic aromatic nitrogen heterocycles, or PANHs. Ironically, PANHs are formed in abundance around dying stars. So even in death, the seeds of life are sewn," Allamandola said.



posted on Dec, 21 2006 @ 06:53 PM
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The only way I can make any sense of the matter is by looking at it this way:

The soul and consciousness is eternal and transmutable - the physcial body is a vessel.

The earth is where all the souls and consciousness of various entities have come together in an effort to better understand each other, work together, share technology and storytelling, etc...

..and because of the dictates of this planets environment we have all adopted a pretty much similiar form for our work here.

Also - having similar bodies really cuts down on the visual distractions that might impede further peacefull interactions, or completely make communications impossible due to variations of communicative styles and the possibility of not even having said biological apparatus on said homeworlds.

Creates a level playing field, so to speak.


*two cents*



posted on Dec, 26 2006 @ 10:17 PM
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Originally posted by GENERAL EYES
The soul and consciousness is eternal and transmutable - the physcial body is a vessel.

So do you believe there's only one form of intelligence in the Universe (the "soul") and Earth is the only place where the soul exists in physical form?

Also, since you believe the soul is eternal, do you believe there’s a fixed number of souls in the Universe?



posted on Dec, 26 2006 @ 10:28 PM
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Originally posted by Saviour Of The Real

Originally posted by GENERAL EYES
The soul and consciousness is eternal and transmutable - the physcial body is a vessel.

So do you believe there's only one form of intelligence in the Universe (the "soul") and Earth is the only place where the soul exists in physical form?

Also, since you believe the soul is eternal, do you believe there’s a fixed number of souls in the Universe?


Wow. Excellent questions! Tough ones, even.


I'll try my best...

Personally I am of the opinion that there are several different levels of intelligences out there - unfortunately I can only comprehend those I have terrestrial examples of, and I would have to say that some are more specialized in their primary fields than others.

However, the soul or "id" (as I understand it) is different than intelligence - the soul being the spark of life, the ability to feel and empathize with others (for example), to have knowledge of itself without being able to explain itself - intelligence is another matter, more the ability to retain information and cross reference it with new learning materials, translate and communicate ideas, so on and so forth...

As far as whether there are a fixed number of souls in the Universe - I can't say proof postive if there are or not. That's an interesting question though...one I might have to consider more deeply before giving an ultimate hands down opinion about.

Wow. You really worked my brain this evening.
Thanks!



posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 01:02 AM
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I realize this is a bit of a one-liner, but I'm going to throw out this question anyway:

Do you think that alien life might be so fundamentally different from life on Earth that we would not even be able to recognize it as life?



posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 02:54 AM
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I just finished reading the entire series and......

I like the statement from the unidentified audience member the best.



Fundamental to problem-solving for our species seems to be the utilization of our own unique experience and/or expertise. While this may serve those who share some aspect of that experience or expertise, I think it only reflects part of any solution.

Seems to me that we understand so little of human consciousness and self-awareness - which is fundamental to what I think separates us from other Earth species - that we're trying to run a marathon before we've even learned to walk when we try to define Life - either as we do OR do not know it.

To truly understand the nature of the Universe, one must first understand the nature of the Self. Is it possible to even begin to define Life when we continue to view others within our own species who look, think or act differently from ourselves as somehow separate from us? I think not.

Until we understand the interconnectedness of All, we will continue to struggle with trying to define Life.

In my most humblest of opinions, of course.

Always,
Shawnna



posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 03:59 PM
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who knows if life beyond earth is carbon based i think i remember somewere a story i read a bout a scientist who said their could be silicon based microbes near the earths core so if that could happen on earth who knows what could happen in this huge multiverse were living in



posted on Dec, 27 2006 @ 04:43 PM
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Is it possible to have electronic life in cyberspace. Small collections of *objects* that exhibit self awareness, hiding away in the recesses of some server. Is that life? Is self replication a precondition for sentientness.

Man, with his arrogance, false ideologies, dogmas, really is no more than a talking monkey in the grand scheme of things. True growth and realization of the "other" will only come thru spiritual awareness; not science.

Anyway, that's what I think.



posted on Dec, 29 2006 @ 12:44 PM
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Allow me to put on my amateur armchair philosopher hat for a moment…


Originally posted by lost_shaman
I think the recent discovery that organic chemistry is prevailent in the Universe really , to quote Douglas Hudgins , "changes everything".

Actually I’m not so sure it does. I think it just confirms what we already know to be true at the very least by virtue of the fact life happened here… i.e. life as we know it is a product of the evolution of the Universe... as is the formation of stars and galaxies and everything else. It all just fits… otherwise it wouldn’t be… the true nature of “God” perhaps?


Originally posted by GENERAL EYES
Personally I am of the opinion that there are several different levels of intelligences out there - unfortunately I can only comprehend those I have terrestrial examples of, and I would have to say that some are more specialized in their primary fields than others.

You could be right but I think that may depend on whether or not any form of intelligence that evolves is intelligent enough to recognize their own mortality in time to figure out how to avoid going the way of the dinosaurs. We’ve got some serious problems to figure out before it’s too late… overpopulation, pollution, viral outbreaks, meteors, comets etc… the odds are kind of stacked against us.


Originally posted by DragonsDemesne
Do you think that alien life might be so fundamentally different from life on Earth that we would not even be able to recognize it as life?

If you’re asking me I have no idea but regardless I think it’s far more likely we will encounter life as we DO know it and there won’t be any doubt when we do.


Originally posted by Shawnna
I just finished reading the entire series and......

I like the statement from the unidentified audience member the best.



Sounds like a page right out of ATS doesn’t it?



Until we understand the interconnectedness of All, we will continue to struggle with trying to define Life.

Well put. What’s not to understand about quantum mechanics (probabilities and uncertainties) acting on the microscopic (atomic/subatomic) scale and general relativity (“everything happens for a reason”) acting on the macroscopic (the world as we “see” it) scale?


Originally posted by whaaa
Is it possible to have electronic life in cyberspace. Small collections of *objects* that exhibit self awareness, hiding away in the recesses of some server. Is that life? Is self replication a precondition for sentientness.

AI? Why not? Actually, I just read an interesting article the other day about a study that indicates that as our brains get more complex the harder it may be for it to evolve further. A random mutation may actually screw up what may already be as good as it gets and result in reverse evolution. If so, then the only way we’re going to evolve any further is by extending ourselves through our own creations that help make us even “smarter”… computers, artificial intelligence etc.

Check it out…

cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com...

Anyway, hell if I know… when I think really hard about it I find it impossible the Universe exists at all. I mean if the Universe expanded from a singularity surrounded by an infinite space of nothingness where is it?

And to put this all back on topic, my current theory about ETI is they’re likely in the same boat we are and asking themselves the same questions…

Then again I could be wrong.



posted on Dec, 29 2006 @ 02:11 PM
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Originally posted by Saviour Of The Real

I think the recent discovery that organic chemistry is prevailent in the Universe really , to quote Douglas Hudgins , "changes everything". - lost_shaman

I think it just confirms what we already know to be true at the very least by virtue of the fact life happened here… i.e. life as we know it is a product of the evolution of the Universe... as is the formation of stars and galaxies and everything else. It all just fits… otherwise it wouldn’t be… the true nature of “God” perhaps?


Well admittedly I don't know about the true nature of "God" , but what I was getting at was the "old" veiw of the "sterile" Universe and the idea that organic chemistry was something special that happened on Earth now have no foundation in Science.

But your right , that just confirms what some of us were already pretty sure was true.




Originally posted by Saviour Of The Real

when I think really hard about it I find it impossible the Universe exists at all. I mean if the Universe expanded from a singularity surrounded by an infinite space of nothingness where is it?



Really , and since that was apparently the case why didn't it just act like a giant Blackhole anyway?

[edit on 29-12-2006 by lost_shaman]

[edit on 29-12-2006 by lost_shaman]



posted on Dec, 30 2006 @ 02:28 PM
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Originally posted by lost_shaman
Well admittedly I don't know about the true nature of "God" , but what I was getting at was the "old" veiw of the "sterile" Universe and the idea that organic chemistry was something special that happened on Earth now have no foundation in Science.

Understood but that's the funny thing about Science, it has to be considered special until there's enough evidence to support a contrary leading hypothesis... now all we need is some proof.



Originally posted by Saviour Of The Real

when I think really hard about it I find it impossible the Universe exists at all. I mean if the Universe expanded from a singularity surrounded by an infinite space of nothingness where is it?

Really , and since that was apparently the case why didn't it just act like a giant Blackhole anyway?

I dunno... maybe the Universe IS a giant black hole feeding on itself and the singularity is what comes out the other end after everything get's sucked back in. Lather, rinse, and repeat...

These and many other questions Man has pondered through the centuries.



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