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Probability of ET Life Arbitrarily Small, Say Astrobiologists

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posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 01:55 AM

Originally posted by Drunkenparrot
In my own opinion, anyone remotely serious about UFOlogy and the search for E.T. should read this book and give Dr. Sagan's words serious consideration when pondering the question.

It would surely change the tone of many here on ATS...

It wouldn't help much, and would probably cause just as many problems. The main problem is that most people are just too stupid and/or poorly trained by our intentionally-terrible school system to be able to think correctly. Replacing a predilection toward fantasy with skepticism would at best just turn them into arrogant skeptics, who still can't hold an objective view of the topic. "I believe there is alien life!" "I don't believe there is alien life!" Both of those are worthless statements. Good luck curing people of beliefs.

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 02:05 AM
Joke post? Life is everywhere

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 02:58 AM
With infinite possibility comes infinite probability.

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 04:38 AM

Originally posted by DarkSarcasm
With infinite possibility comes infinite probability.

No. There are infinitely many real numbers. Only one of them is 3. If only 3 = life, and 3 sat around pondering the likelihood of other life, and concluded "with infinitely many other numbers, one must have life", he would be wrong.

There are also infinitely many real numbers between 1 and 2. Thus an infinite universe could exist with infinite permutations and no life. Arguing based on infinity is usually fallacy.

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 04:52 AM
reply to post by Bigwhammy

The drake equation is a theory like everything else. I never put much weight in it and most I know do not either but it's a jumping point for the possibilities. As much as we have come to know in our own science, we have yet to even scratch the surface on such things. I think life is very possible out there. The question is what kind of life, and to what extent of intelligence and evolution, how far away, what environmental circumstances, and tons of other pondering questions. I do not subscribe to aliens visiting earth in ufos but I am open to the possibility of being wrong just the same. It's important to not rule out anything that even has the slightest chance of viability of existence. As science grows it also has to re-adapt and re-think itself on many things. I forbid to reject the possibility of life else where when we just don't truly know enough yet.

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 04:55 AM
reply to post by Bigwhammy

pure conjecture

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 05:08 AM
Right up there with Hawking's "Aliens are Hostile" proclamation.
Pure conjecture using incredible leaps of logic for what is essentially an unknown.
When professionals in the science field these days speak on extraterrestrial life I find I have to take them with as big a grain of salt as I do the "ufologists".
All these public faces have "ideas" and "answers" when they should all swallow their pride and just say "I don't know".

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 05:12 AM
There could be other dimensions of existence that we are unable to perceive, that support life.

That being said, the dimension that we occupy definitley does make it difficult for life to exist.

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 07:32 AM
Important post regarding BS about Carl Sagan on ATS. Please read the review below


Originally posted by Drunkenparrot
reply to post by Observer99
Drake equation aside, have you read Dr. Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World?
In my own opinion, anyone remotely serious about UFOlogy and the search for E.T. should read this book and give Dr. Sagan's words serious consideration when pondering the question.

It would surely change the tone of many here on ATS...

I also suggest you do your own research. The Demon Haunted World is probably Sagan's worst book by a country mile!

Originally posted by Aliensun
Sagan ignored any good cases that could not be explained in some conventional manner. Sagan was a social gad-fly scientist, hated by many scientists and wrong on some of his major scientific arguments (nuclear winter, etc.), but he was a great spokesman for the government in helping to keep the lid on UFOs while opening up the whole cosmos (pun intended) to the virtually ignorant public at large.

You're right that Sagan completely ignored the best evidence for many phenomena, at least later in his life. One of his books, which I read as a science undergraduate, shocked me to the core. I was amazed to discover how often he demonstrated biased, less than critical thinking and ignored a lot of the best evidence. Up until then I had really looked up to the guy.

After reading The Demon Haunted World I was inspired to start investigating the "paranormal" and UFOs. Even then, I had a great eye for BS and knew that what he was saying just didn't add up. His own baloney detection kit is something you should use when reading his book! Follow the evidence, not the popular mass media heroes.

I like this review. Please read it rather than skipping to the next post at this point. Go on.

Carl Sagan, the great American space scientist and extraterrestrial investigator. An honest, down-to-earth chap who believed in the classic guiding principles of science - fairness, inclusion of all data no matter where it might lead you and open-mindedness.

All good, lofty scientific ideals. And on reading the first few chapters, Sagan carefully constructs the image of scientist as impartial truth seeker and destroyer of charlatans. However, Sagan rapidly falls prey to the very traits he claims to abhor. UFOs and crop circles can all be neatly explained away as hoaxes or grand hallucinations, `alien abduction's' are all the result of some vaguely-explained form of sleep paralysis or some kind of contemporary religious mania.

Unfortunately for the many people who are not widely read in any of these exotic subjects, one could come away the impression that Sagan had solved it all. Even though he would like to have the reader believe that "he could be wrong", time and time again, well-known debunkers are used as rock solid evidence to prop his spurious conclusions and relevant researchers and substantial evidence that contradicts Sagan's beliefs is just ignored completely. Whatever happened to following the data no matter where it might lead?

Frequently, Sagan offers no evidence to support his claims. Indeed one could be forgiven that he tried to argue his case by simply thinking we would credulously accept his opinions on the basis that they were written by Carl Sagan. He never really shows any evidence or appeared to have done any research into these controversial subjects. For those who would like to have an object lesson in evidential sleights of hand and wholesale misrepresentation of events, please buy this book.

PS: I see in the gushingly sycophantic reviews that Sagan is now attributed with having disproved the existence of UFOs! Well I never thought proving a negative was considered least not since the witchhunts.

Some of the above was posted by me in a previous thread here.
edit on 1/8/11 by Pimander because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 12:15 PM
I politely disagree just looking at the sheer size of the universe there has to be life in my opinion
take a look at this I found this on another thread so gotta give him props but its pretty cool

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 02:28 PM
The title of the thread is a contradiction, why would someone decide astrobiology as a career
if they belived it was a futile endevour? A more interesting question for me is why do people
like you feel threatened by the posibility of a universe rich and diverse in life? are you a christian fundo by any chance? if so thats sufficiant answer enough for me thank you...

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 02:29 PM
These are the same people who say the earth is flat,and the earth has a core.Everyone knows the earth is round,there is no core and the universe has trillions of alien life forms

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 02:54 PM
The probability that life exists in the universe? 100%, look in the mirror. If life can form here, why not on other planets? Because we're "special"? The universe is filled with life and anybody who doubts that most likely doesn't understand how incredibly large the universe is.

The most current estimates guess that there are 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the Universe, each of which has hundreds of billions of stars.

So there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, and they've been around for over 10 billion years. The idea that just one planet orbiting a star happened to form the right chemical composition for live to develop and evolve is impossible. By sheer luck, however unlikely it is that life would develop, the universe is so incredibly huge that it would happen time and time again.
edit on 1-8-2011 by TupacShakur because: To edit my post

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 05:20 PM
By the tone and content of some of the posts in this thread it would seem that a few have neglected to read the article linked in the OP (on ATS

What is being said...

Astrobiologists naturally argue that because life arose so quickly here, it must be pretty likely to emerge in other places where conditions allow.

Today, David Spiegel at Princeton University and Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo say this thinking is wrong. They've used an entirely different kind of thinking, called Bayesian reasoning, to show that the emergence of life on Earth is consistent with life being arbitrarily rare in the universe.

At first sight, that seems rather counterintuitive. But if Bayesian reasoning tells us anything, it's that we can easily fool ourselves into thinking things are far more likely than they really are.

Spiegel and Turner point out that our thinking about the origin of life is heavily biased by the fact that we're here to observe it. They point out that it's taken about 3.5 billion years for intelligent life to evolve on Earth.

So the only way that enough time could have elapsed for us to have evolved is if life emerged very quickly. And that's a bias that is entirely independent of the actual probability of life emerging on a habitable planet.

"In other words, if evolution requires 3.5 Gyr for life to evolve from the simplest forms to sentient, questioning beings, then we had to find ourselves on a planet on which life arose relatively early, regardless of the value of [the probability of life developing in a unit time]," say Spiegel and Turner. #

When you strip out that bias, it turns out that the actual probability of life emerging is consistent with life being arbitrarily rare. In other words, the fact that life emerged at least once on Earth is entirely consistent with it only having happened here.

So we could be alone, after all.

That's a sobering argument. It's easy to be fooled by the evidence of our own existence. What Speigel and Turner have shown is the true mathematical value of this evidence.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we are alone; only that the evidence can't tell us otherwise.

And if the evidence changes then so to will the probabilities that we can infer from it.

I think its safe to put the pitchforks away.

P.S. The flat earth is a modern hoax, anyone who really cared has known the earth to be round for over 2000 years.

Myth of the Flat Earth

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 09:19 PM
The fact that we cannot detect them doesn't mean they aren't out there:

Brane Worlds, the Subanthropic Principle and the Undetectability Conjecture

Recently astrophysicist Ken Olum at Tufts University argued that anthropic reasoning applied to inflation theory predicts that we should find ourselves part of a large, galaxy-sized civilization, implying that the "We are alone" solution to Fermi's paradox is inconsistent with our best current theory of cosmology. Beatriz Gato-Rivera, a physicist at the Instituto de Matematicas y Fisica in Madrid, followed up on this with the hypothesis that Olum is correct, but that by design we would be kept unaware of a greatly advanced surrounding civilization. She also argues that modern superstring and M-brane theory further aggravate Fermi's "missing alien" problem.

edit on 1-8-2011 by Orkojoker because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 10:34 PM
I’ve posted this elsewhere but will do so again for this thread’s benefit. This is indeed a fascinating discussion – thank you for adding your insights and giving me and others different perspectives to ponder.

Forget the Drake equation. Too many unknowns and assumptions have to be made!

Like some of you here, I’ve done extensive research on this topic of extraterrestrial life, and while I personally believe in it, I admit we have no (public) empirical evidence of their existence. Nevertheless, I believe some of the logic presented can be used to validate a premise of quantifiable existence.

I agree that some of Drake/Sagan assumptions for variables in their equation are perhaps a bit optimistic, superfluous even. In circumspect, there are alternative ways to think and logically, mathematically, reach a similar conclusion.

I implore everyone here (esp. the OP) to pick up a copy of the following book and read it. You’ll find yourself amazed and quoting from it often. This is a great addition to any library for those interested in this subject. The author does not rely on Drake’s equation, yet clearly lays out in lay terms an unambiguous, irrefutable case for it to be impossible that our planet alone harbors life in the universe.

Almost no hard math and no complex equations will distract you from the treatise and it is an enjoyable, captivating quick reading. You’ll have no trouble finishing the paperback in a few sessions. The basis for the author’s study is heavily grounded in mathematics, however, particularly the probability laws, such as the:
*Union of collection of independent events
*Sequential probability paradigm
*Information inspection paradox
*Panspermia hypothesis
*Increasing entropy in thermodynamics
*Chaotic probability distributions in deterministic and random systems

For those unfamiliar with these terms, don’t let them intimidate you – the book is very easy to grasp…

Probability 1, by Amir D. Aczel, Harcourt, Inc., ISBN: 0-15-601080-1 (pbk.)

This is a fun, entertaining read and may even alter your thinking a bit. There are a bunch of used copies available at Amazon - often less than one dollar. See – now there’s no excuse not to read it!

You can get it here, right now (used from only $0.01!):
Probability 1.

Probability 1 should be a part of every library. I’ve shared it with many skeptics and believers alike. The result is always similar: “Wow – I had no idea it was so obvious…”

Intriguing Thread -thanks - and keep looking up!

Spend ONE lousy Penny - and get this book. Then let us know what the "likelihood" may be...

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 11:42 PM
reply to post by Pimander

Who's not doing their own research? I would tend to believe publications such as The Demon Haunted World are the type of material one should read as a condition to doing there own footwork.

Whether The Demon Haunted World is Carl Sagan's best or worst is entirely subjective. You failed to link any kind of citation sourcing the quote you posted so its difficult to place a substantial amount of weight that the person writing the critique was qualified to do so and not someone off of facebook who didn't like what Dr. Sagan had to say.

A quick google query returns reviews from publications like Science magazine and Smithsonian magazine which are in polar disagreement with the mystery review you posted above.

Can you cite an specific instance where Dr. Sagan has ignored legitimate evidence or used faulty logic?

I carefully read your post and the thread linked and what I got out of it was an familiar variation of the atypical smear commonly written by someone who has run out of facts to support their case and so resort to character assassination in defense of their own often poorly reasoned beliefs.

For anyone unsure, here is Dr. Sagan's "Baloney Detection Kit". I believe ATS would do well to sticky the text below on the homepage but it would probably kill the traffic based ad revenue if all of the "ZOMG,ABSOLUTE PROOF" threads with their accompanying youtube videos were put to the test as a condition prior to being posted.

Warning signs that suggest deception. Based on the book by Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World. The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments:

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

Quantify, wherever possible.

If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Additional issues are:

Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.

Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.

Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.

Argument from "authority".

Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavorable" decision).

Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).

Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).

Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).

Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).

Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)

Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").

Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.

Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).

Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).

Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").

Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).

Confusion of correlation and causation.

Caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.

Suppressed evidence or half-truths.

Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public"

edit on 1-8-2011 by Drunkenparrot because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 1 2011 @ 11:52 PM
reply to post by Outrageo

$4.00 USD with shipping and handling, I'll give it a go.

If the math starts making me cross-eyed I'll P.M. ClPrime and ask him to give me the rundown. He does a fairly snappy job of translating mathematic squiggles into sensible english.

posted on Aug, 2 2011 @ 12:07 AM
pretty much every star has a "goldilocks zone"

we have been looking for one like our own

and basically just looking for any planets at all so far.

all we have to work with is "life as we know it, jim"

posted on Aug, 2 2011 @ 12:22 AM
Drake's equation huh? Thank goodness we know everything!

Like a few hundred years ago, the moon was made out of cheese. A few thousands years ago, our planet was being carried on a the back of a tortoise. We know alien life can't possibly exist because an equation says so, nor can they possibly be visiting our planet.

Because in our advance state.. we know it ALL!

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