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Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Use this forum to discuss the philosophy of science. Philosophy of science deals with the assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.
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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Atreyu » March 30th, 2017, 6:01 pm

Steve3007 wrote:Atreyu:
Now, of course, one could argue that science, when using the term 'life', merely means 'life as we know and define it' (carbon-based' life), but again, that was why I said it's a shame. Rather than considering 'life' outside of their narrow definition, and considering what it could or might be, they assume that the life that we know is the only life worth discussing, thinking about, or searching for....
The entire post up until this point seemed to be demonstrating that there is no point in searching for anything other than "life as we know it" - for the higher forms of life that you demonstrated with your mathematically illiterate horse analogy. There's no point in searching for something that we have no ability to find, is there?
It can only not be discovered in our current state of awareness. The idea is that they might be found in an augmented state of awareness. If the horse becomes "enlightened" and its psyche rises to the level of our own, it will then be able to understand the human condition, and will immediately realize that a man is the more intelligent species.

In a higher state of consciousness a man might be able to directly perceive the Earth as a living organism, i.e. in a higher state of consciousness he might be able to "see" it.

And my point was basically that it's too bad that science isn't concerned with learning about the possibilities of attaining such a state of consciousness, particularly considering that such a knowledge is definitely out there...
Steve3007 wrote: Atreyu:
However, if you define life in a more broad and encompassing way - life as we might not know or recognize it - then I would argue that it is everywhere.

I can't argue with that. Trouble is it just shifts the problem onto the question of how broadly you are defining the word "life". If you define it in the broadest possible way then, by definition life is everywhere, because "Life" is another word for "The Universe". You don't need to argue for it. It's true by definition.
True, but I would never argue for such a ludicrously broad definition. In my definition, "life" implies a certain awareness, perhaps any awareness. If the Universe is not aware of anything I would certainly not argue that it is "alive"....

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Steve3007 » March 30th, 2017, 6:49 pm

In my definition, "life" implies a certain awareness, perhaps any awareness.
That seems to me not too bad a definition of intelligent or perhaps conscious life. But I'm not sure I would accept it as a definition of life in general. I think it could be argued quite convincingly that a plant or a bacterium is clearly alive but doesn't possess awareness in any meaningful sense. But I don't think there is any hard dividing line between living things that are aware and living things that are not aware - things that can be regarded as complex biological analogues of machines.

Also, this definition of life, like pretty much all definitions (in my opinion), is only really meaningful if it goes hand-in-hand with the way in which it is observed or measured. The definition of awareness is inextricably linked to the method that we propose to use to decide if any given thing is aware. What criteria do we use to determine if awareness is present? We have a pretty good idea when we are dealing with familiar things like human beings. But it's more problematic when looking for life elsewhere in the universe. And we've been caught out before - seeing patterns and regularities thought must be evidence of intelligent life but which have turned out to be things that most people (but perhaps not all?) would not regard as any kind of life, like pulsars.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Frewah » November 1st, 2018, 9:56 am

I think life is pretty common, life exists where there’s liquid water. Oxygen and hydrogen is common in the universe, water is therefore common as well. I think there may exist life in Europa, a moon of Jupiter.

Intelligence depends on where you draw the line. Are cats intelligent? What about elephants or dolphins? A much more interesting question is if the alien life is technological. Neither elephants nor dolphins have hands which makes it impossible for them to make tools. Aliens on Europa live in a water world. Heat is generated in the core as a result of the elliiptic orbit. The surface temperature is very low and the radiation is high. Even if these creatures have ”hands”, they will never be able to make fire, they are stuck. I don’t think it’s possible for sea dwelllers to develop any kind of technology.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Chasw » November 1st, 2018, 11:00 am

I concur with the proposition that life is probably ubiquitous throughout the universe. However, intelligent life must be quite rare, since it requires a long period of suitable conditions for evolution to work its magic. Furthermore, intelligent life by its very nature is self-limiting in that these organisms, including humans, inevitably face extinction by adapting to artificial environments and cutting themselves off from nature. Thus intelligent lifeforms likely emit signals through space for a relatively short while, then disappear. Also the vast expanse of the universe means that by the time such a signal from another galaxy reached out planet, the species that sent it would be long gone. Chancing upon contemporary intelligent life in our galactic neighborhood (say less than 100 lightyears distant), must be quite small compared to the universe at large. - CW
The central question of human existence is not why we are here, but rather why we behave the way we do -

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