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Advanced ground and space-based telescopes are discovering new planets around other stars almost daily, but an environmental scientist from England believes that even if some of those planets turn out to be Earthlike, the odds are very low they'll have intelligent inhabitants.
In a recent paper published in the journal Astrobiology, Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia describes an improved mathematical model for the evolution of intelligent life as the result of a small number of discrete steps.
Evolutionary step models have been used before, but Watson (a Fellow of England's Royal Society who studied under James Lovelock, inventor of the "Gaia hypothesis") sees a limiting factor: The habitability of Earth (and presumably, other living worlds) will end as the sun brightens....
Watson estimates the overall probability that intelligent life will evolve as the product of the probabilities of each of the necessary steps. In his model, the probability of each evolutionary step occurring in any given epoch is 10 percent or less, so the total probability that intelligent life will emerge is quite low (less than 0.01 percent over 4 billion years). Even if intelligent life eventually emerges, the model suggests its persistence will be relatively short by comparison to the lifespan of the planet on which it developed.
Originally posted by FlyersFan
I don't think we have to worry about not finding ET.
They've already found us.
Our scientists are myopic. They think things like 'you have to have water to have life'. This isn't true. Energy is life. Energy can be anywhere and everywhere. Life can be in other dimensions as well.
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, had this comment on Watson's work: "We have, of course, only one example of intelligent life (indeed, of life of any type). That means we cannot possibly estimate from this single instance what is the probability of life on other worlds unless we are completely confident we understand all the relevant evolutionary processes. Watson argues that intelligent life will be dismayingly rare: There is no way to prove that is true. On the other hand, if the converse is the case — if the galaxy is home to many intelligences — that is amenable to proof. We should do the experiment."