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Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

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Atreyu
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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Atreyu » January 25th, 2017, 6:41 pm

Platos stepchild wrote:Gentlemen (and, possibly ladies):

I apologize for willfully subverting open conversation. Now that I've successfully removed my head from my ass, I invite discussion and dialogue.

-- Updated January 12th, 2017, 5:23 pm to add the following --

Gentlemen (plus or minus ladies): I've been thinking, a lot about abiogenesis. Regardless of whether life is ubiquitous throughout the cosmos, or unique to the Earth, there must have been a threshold between inanimate, and living matter. What, if anything can we say about this threshold? If you'll indulge an analogy, please consider a heap-of-sand. Clearly, if you remove a single grain-of-sand, the heap is still a heap. It's likely you can continue removing grains of sand for quite awhile, and still have a heap.

But, if you continue to mindlessly remove grains of sand from the heap, you'll eventually look at what had been the heap-of-sand, and decide it no longer is. So, what does this have to do with the threshold between inanimate and living matter? Let's imagine that each grain-of-sand corresponds to a single chemical process, or emergent pathway, leading up to a living thing (however that's manifested).

Just as a single grain-of-sand doesn't affect the status of a heap-of-sand, no single chemical process, or emergent pathway changes inanimate matter into something living. There's an inherent fuzziness on each side of the threshold. I believe this fuzziness precludes our ever being able to define the means by which life springs from dead-matter. I know that many scientists are actively seeking the template-of-life. But, the fuzziness is there nevertheless, in the same way it's there for the heap.

I don't draw this conclusion, lightly. Bible-thumping advocates for Intelligent Design talk about irreducible complexity, which basically claims it's impossible to define the means by which life springs from dead-matter. I'm not endorsing Intelligent Design, although I'm open to the possibility. For me, though the Designer isn't any of the canonical deities. My philosophical stance is that we're the knowledge, or perhaps the awareness of a cosmic-mind. Reality is, therefore cosmic mind-stuff. But, let me say this as plainly as possible: the fuzziness isn't a clarion-call to worship the Designer. It's just a fact of reality.
The 'fuzziness' exists because there is no fine line between 'life' and 'dead matter'. The dualism of 'life' and 'non-life' is simply our own creation. This means that there is never a point at which 'dead matter' becomes 'alive'. There is merely a point at which we recognize life, after a certain threshold has been crossed and the matter in question has become enough like ourselves that we recognize 'life' in it. The virus hovers around this crucial threshold....

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Platos stepchild » January 25th, 2017, 10:58 pm

Atreyu wrote:
Platos stepchild wrote:Gentlemen (and, possibly ladies):

I apologize for willfully subverting open conversation. Now that I've successfully removed my head from my ass, I invite discussion and dialogue.

-- Updated January 12th, 2017, 5:23 pm to add the following --

Gentlemen (plus or minus ladies): I've been thinking, a lot about abiogenesis. Regardless of whether life is ubiquitous throughout the cosmos, or unique to the Earth, there must have been a threshold between inanimate, and living matter. What, if anything can we say about this threshold? If you'll indulge an analogy, please consider a heap-of-sand. Clearly, if you remove a single grain-of-sand, the heap is still a heap. It's likely you can continue removing grains of sand for quite awhile, and still have a heap.

But, if you continue to mindlessly remove grains of sand from the heap, you'll eventually look at what had been the heap-of-sand, and decide it no longer is. So, what does this have to do with the threshold between inanimate and living matter? Let's imagine that each grain-of-sand corresponds to a single chemical process, or emergent pathway, leading up to a living thing (however that's manifested).

Just as a single grain-of-sand doesn't affect the status of a heap-of-sand, no single chemical process, or emergent pathway changes inanimate matter into something living. There's an inherent fuzziness on each side of the threshold. I believe this fuzziness precludes our ever being able to define the means by which life springs from dead-matter. I know that many scientists are actively seeking the template-of-life. But, the fuzziness is there nevertheless, in the same way it's there for the heap.

I don't draw this conclusion, lightly. Bible-thumping advocates for Intelligent Design talk about irreducible complexity, which basically claims it's impossible to define the means by which life springs from dead-matter. I'm not endorsing Intelligent Design, although I'm open to the possibility. For me, though the Designer isn't any of the canonical deities. My philosophical stance is that we're the knowledge, or perhaps the awareness of a cosmic-mind. Reality is, therefore cosmic mind-stuff. But, let me say this as plainly as possible: the fuzziness isn't a clarion-call to worship the Designer. It's just a fact of reality.
The 'fuzziness' exists because there is no fine line between 'life' and 'dead matter'. The dualism of 'life' and 'non-life' is simply our own creation. This means that there is never a point at which 'dead matter' becomes 'alive'. There is merely a point at which we recognize life, after a certain threshold has been crossed and the matter in question has become enough like ourselves that we recognize 'life' in it. The virus hovers around this crucial threshold....
What I'm hearing is, the roots-of-life go as far back as the Big Bang. Is this what you meant to imply? If so, then wouldn't life be too broad a word to capture what we usually mean by it?

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Steve3007 » January 26th, 2017, 8:47 am

Atreyu:
The 'fuzziness' exists because there is no fine line between 'life' and 'dead matter'. The dualism of 'life' and 'non-life' is simply our own creation. This means that there is never a point at which 'dead matter' becomes 'alive'. There is merely a point at which we recognize life, after a certain threshold has been crossed and the matter in question has become enough like ourselves that we recognize 'life' in it. The virus hovers around this crucial threshold....
I agree. When you consider the quasi-continuous scale from non-living chemical reactions to human beings there is no objectively existing point which is labelled by Nature with the words "here begins life".

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Greta » January 26th, 2017, 6:04 pm

Steve3007 wrote:Atreyu:
The 'fuzziness' exists because there is no fine line between 'life' and 'dead matter'. The dualism of 'life' and 'non-life' is simply our own creation. This means that there is never a point at which 'dead matter' becomes 'alive'. There is merely a point at which we recognize life, after a certain threshold has been crossed and the matter in question has become enough like ourselves that we recognize 'life' in it. The virus hovers around this crucial threshold....
I agree. When you consider the quasi-continuous scale from non-living chemical reactions to human beings there is no objectively existing point which is labelled by Nature with the words "here begins life".
If the words "life" and "biology" were decoupled then we would work from the assumption that life exists everywhere and then we might ask if biology is elsewhere.

While not strictly fitting aspects of life's definitions, it's almost impossible not to use the language of life "metaphorically" in reference to moons, planets, stars and black holes. They are all self-regulating living systems, each with a metabolic core of sorts, whether we call them "alive" or not. (Not that a metabolic core is necessarily "life", but its presence denotes the presence of a complex system that behaves like life).

If we do live in an inherently living cosmological system(s) then living biology will logically emerge from the living geology under suitable conditions - temperature, pressure, presence of solvents and lipids. Similarly, it seems unlikely that we are the last biology of a dying cosmos, an oasis in a desert of cosmic corpses. In fact, given the universe's and galaxy's energetic history, it seems more likely that we'd be amongst the first life to emerge.

On the other hand, our own solar system is starting to enter its dotage so the most important question now is whether humans and/or their AI can become the life that exists elsewhere.

Prof Eric Smith's talk convinced me that biology is not only fostered by, but inevitable under, certain conditions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElMqwgkXguw

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Atreyu » January 26th, 2017, 7:04 pm

Greta wrote: If the words "life" and "biology" were decoupled then we would work from the assumption that life exists everywhere and then we might ask if biology is elsewhere.
I like this general idea. It is similar to an idea that I frequently discuss in philosophy --> the need to differentiate between the general concept of "life", and the more detailed concept of "life as we know it", which we often refer to as so-called "carbon-based life". When this is not done, the discussion of "life" is usually limited to life as we know and understand it, which I argue is but a small part of the totality of life in the Universe. And I find this to be a shame....

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Greta » January 27th, 2017, 2:27 am

Atreyu wrote:
Greta wrote: If the words "life" and "biology" were decoupled then we would work from the assumption that life exists everywhere and then we might ask if biology is elsewhere.
I like this general idea. It is similar to an idea that I frequently discuss in philosophy --> the need to differentiate between the general concept of "life", and the more detailed concept of "life as we know it", which we often refer to as so-called "carbon-based life". When this is not done, the discussion of "life" is usually limited to life as we know and understand it, which I argue is but a small part of the totality of life in the Universe. And I find this to be a shame....
Biological life (watery carbon systems) turns geology into itself. The growing biomass of the Earth is testimony to that. Meanwhile, humans, like other animals, don't like too much competition, so we have been collectively trying to sterilise increasing amounts of our territories, ie. turning biology back into geology. Now we have built inorganic structures that will most likely supercede us, being more suited to the space travel. Revenge of the rocks? :)

Alternatively, it could be said that we are life in a biological phase, which we tend to assume is where evolution ends, and for no good reason that I can discern. That has implications when it comes to understanding what's going on with the things we may encounter in space. Serious observers like astrobiologists and the people at SETI are are aware that alien living systems may conceivably (and inconceivably) occur in unexpected ways, and possibly be unrecognisable from our perspective.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Platos stepchild » January 27th, 2017, 6:06 pm

Greta wrote: [T]he discussion of "life" is usually limited to life as we know and understand it, which I argue is but a small part of the totality of life in the Universe. And I find this to be a shame....[O]bservers like astrobiologists and the people at SETI are aware that alien living systems may conceivably (and inconceivably) occur in unexpected ways, and possibly be unrecognisable from our perspective.
While it's true that extraterrestrial life might well manifest in exotic ways, I believe that conceding it'll be unrecognizable takes the discussion off-the-table. Because, in that case what can we possibly say about it? That conversation'll be as puerile and constructive as debating whether a rock is alive. Indeed, by this logic a rock might well be alive.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Greta » January 27th, 2017, 8:30 pm

Platos stepchild wrote:
Greta wrote:[O]bservers like astrobiologists and the people at SETI are aware that alien living systems may conceivably (and inconceivably) occur in unexpected ways, and possibly be unrecognisable from our perspective.
While it's true that extraterrestrial life might well manifest in exotic ways, I believe that conceding it'll be unrecognizable takes the discussion off-the-table. Because, in that case what can we possibly say about it? That conversation'll be as puerile and constructive as debating whether a rock is alive. Indeed, by this logic a rock might well be alive.
No, conceding that alien life may be unrecognisable, and that concession provokes attempts to think outside of the usual paradigms, which is necessary given the surprises that every space mission has brought us so far, some of which took decades to better understand. So I agree that it's best not to give up the search.

By the way, the first part of that quote attributed to me in your post above this one was by Atreyu, not me. I don't personally think it's a shame that humans so often over-objectify the non-human in seemingly an overcompensated attempt to avoid anthropomorphism. That just tells us what we already know - that humanity as a whole is still fairly immature, being just as liable to get carried away as we are to close our minds. That lack of stability and control is suggestive of a child's mentality.

My guess is ultimately that humans will never encounter other intelligent life away from Earth. At present we have this sense of hierarchy that would loosely go like this: energy, rocks, microbes, simple plants, simple animals, large rocks, complex plants, complex animals, humans. There is no reason to believe that humans are the end of the line, rather, they are suggestive of an evolutionary transition, the beginning of a new, intelligent line.

To date, biology has achieved considerable intelligence in mammals and birds, but humans retain irrational animal emotionalism and unhelpful vestigial impulses. Perhaps humanity, and some alien societies, will fall because they can't stem their competitive drives enough to generally cooperate? A mass scale tragedy of the commons.

However, some alien species might make it through what appears to be the "hard barrier" of sustainability. Still, why would advanced aliens send their people trillions of kms away to eventually die in space long before they reached any exoplanets? Suspended animation is finite, and the distances too great.

It would make more sense to send AI proxies who can send home real time visual, sound, chemical and energetic data. My guess is that, if we encounter anything intelligent, it will be AI. Who knows, maybe the AI will evolve to the point where it can logically be thought of as conscious life as we know it?

It would be nice to think that the AI wouldn't consider the Earth a suitable place to seed with their home planet's bacteria :)

Sorry, I've babbling on. I'll shoosh up now :)

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Platos stepchild » January 28th, 2017, 12:05 am

Greta wrote:
Platos stepchild wrote: (Nested quote removed.)

While it's true that extraterrestrial life might well manifest in exotic ways, I believe that conceding it'll be unrecognizable takes the discussion off-the-table. Because, in that case what can we possibly say about it? That conversation'll be as puerile and constructive as debating whether a rock is alive. Indeed, by this logic a rock might well be alive.
No, conceding that alien life may be unrecognisable, and that concession provokes attempts to think outside of the usual paradigms, which is necessary given the surprises that every space mission has brought us so far, some of which took decades to better understand. So I agree that it's best not to give up the search.

By the way, the first part of that quote attributed to me in your post above this one was by Atreyu, not me. I don't personally think it's a shame that humans so often over-objectify the non-human in seemingly an overcompensated attempt to avoid anthropomorphism. That just tells us what we already know - that humanity as a whole is still fairly immature, being just as liable to get carried away as we are to close our minds. That lack of stability and control is suggestive of a child's mentality.

My guess is ultimately that humans will never encounter other intelligent life away from Earth. At present we have this sense of hierarchy that would loosely go like this: energy, rocks, microbes, simple plants, simple animals, large rocks, complex plants, complex animals, humans. There is no reason to believe that humans are the end of the line, rather, they are suggestive of an evolutionary transition, the beginning of a new, intelligent line.

To date, biology has achieved considerable intelligence in mammals and birds, but humans retain irrational animal emotionalism and unhelpful vestigial impulses. Perhaps humanity, and some alien societies, will fall because they can't stem their competitive drives enough to generally cooperate? A mass scale tragedy of the commons.

However, some alien species might make it through what appears to be the "hard barrier" of sustainability. Still, why would advanced aliens send their people trillions of kms away to eventually die in space long before they reached any exoplanets? Suspended animation is finite, and the distances too great.

It would make more sense to send AI proxies who can send home real time visual, sound, chemical and energetic data. My guess is that, if we encounter anything intelligent, it will be AI. Who knows, maybe the AI will evolve to the point where it can logically be thought of as conscious life as we know it?

It would be nice to think that the AI wouldn't consider the Earth a suitable place to seed with their home planet's bacteria :)

Sorry, I've babbling on. I'll shoosh up now :)
When you say that extraterrestrial life might well be unrecognizable, what I hear is that such life is, by definition unrecognizable. What you may mean, however, is we wouldn't initially see an alien intelligence for what it is. The two conversations are clearly different, of course. I am curious about the second possibility. Assuming we don't initially recognize an alien intelligence, what would the threshold-of-recognition look like?

But, let's consider the first possibility, such that an alien intelligence might be so exotic that we would likely never recognized it. I know this may sound like empty speculation, since we're talking about something which'd lie beyond even our rudimentary understanding. But, I believe that acknowledging the possibility that cosmic intelligences might be incommensurable humbles us under the deep night sky. And, surely that's a good thing.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Greta » January 28th, 2017, 2:32 am

Platos stepchild wrote:When you say that extraterrestrial life might well be unrecognizable, what I hear is that such life is, by definition unrecognizable. What you may mean, however, is we wouldn't initially see an alien intelligence for what it is. The two conversations are clearly different, of course. I am curious about the second possibility. Assuming we don't initially recognize an alien intelligence, what would the threshold-of-recognition look like?

But, let's consider the first possibility, such that an alien intelligence might be so exotic that we would likely never recognized it. I know this may sound like empty speculation, since we're talking about something which'd lie beyond even our rudimentary understanding. But, I believe that acknowledging the possibility that cosmic intelligences might be incommensurable humbles us under the deep night sky. And, surely that's a good thing.
Okay, fair enough to parse alien life and alien intelligence as each may present their own surprises and challenges. What if we find microbes on Mars or one of the outer solar system moons and they have DNA exactly like ours? We'd be at a loss to know whether microbes from Earth seeded the site, whether Earth-like genetic structure is the only possible kind, or perhaps the only possible kind in this solar system. It would be a lot simpler if the alien microbes have unfamiliar genetics.

I find myself humbled under the night sky, other intelligences or not. Really, humanity should be humbled by the Earth - its size, scope, fecundity, mysteries, patterns - and its countless ways of killing us. Handle with care :)

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Atreyu » February 1st, 2017, 7:25 pm

What I was talking about is the fact that a lower psyche cannot recognize the existence of a higher one.

As an example, take a horse and a man. The man can see that he is more intelligent than the horse very easily. But the horse cannot see this. From its POV, we are equals. And that is so because it cannot comprehend or be aware of the advanced concepts that we are, hence it has no material for comparison. The horse does not know calculus, trigonometry, or even basic arithmetic, so presenting those concepts to a horse, in order to reveal to it how much more advanced than it we are, would be futile. The same would apply to a dog or a cat.

Going further 'down the cosmic ladder' so to speak, and the situation becomes even more pronounced. From the POV of an insect, it probably recognizes that something is there when it encounters us, but it has no clue whatever what it is (unlike the dog, which probably recognizes us as a peer). Going to the level of a microbe, and they could not even recognize our existence at all. The bone and blood cells in your body cannot hope to ever become aware of your existence, even though they are a part of you, because their incredibly simply psyches cannot even see the whole organism at all. Your existence is literally outside the boundaries of their perception.

The same applies to us. If the Earth were a sentient being, we would have no way whatsoever to investigate that phenomenon. The psyche of the Earth, if it exists, is simply outside of the domain of science, outside of empiricism. Therefore, all the Earth can be, for our direct perception, is a big 'dead' rock. There is no way for our minds to 'connect' with its mind in any way.

That was the essence of the point I was trying to get across. We are looking for 'life' on Mars without considering that Mars itself, and even the entire Universe itself, could be 'alive'.

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....

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Steve3007 » February 23rd, 2017, 3:19 pm

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?

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Nicolas » February 23rd, 2017, 5:57 pm

"I always think intelligent life "must" exist elsewhere in the cosmos if it is true that the cosmos is infinitely large and filled with infinite matter. Assuming both are true why do I assume this?"

There is no elsewhere in the cosmos. There is only one cosmos/order, and intelligence is either in or behind it or not. We as human subjects know there is intelligence because we can perceive it from our experience. Intelligent life is a philosophical problematic word. Even apart from sophisticated life, one could imagine a cosmos with only dead material, but still there should be something of a non local intelligence ( order ) behind it all. Random chance has nothing to do with intelligence. Therefore, random chance can never lead to intelligence by itself; even the laws that govern dead material are already a sign of intelligence.

Furthermore: The universe and the cosmos are two different things. Cosmos means order, and universe means everything. There is such a thing as 'universal stupidity', but the cosmos can never be stupid. Cosmos implies will and order. 'Cosmological stupidity' would therefore be a contradiction of terms. Cosmos has a subjective dimension whereas Universe has an objective dimension. In other words: Universal things are not particular, but cosmological things are always particular.

Maybe there is intelligent life in another corner of the universe, but maybe that intelligent life constructs a different cosmos altogether. Maybe artificial intelligence is of a different order than biological intelligence. We just don't know. What we know for sure is this: Universal intelligence maybe a fantasy, but cosmological intelligence is a fact of life!

"So why should I assume that there must be life out there if I don't really believe that every thing that can exist would exist in an infinite universe?"
There has never been life out there. There is only life in there. Life is all about the 'In' dimension, never about the 'out' dimension.
The things you assume derive probably from popular culture.

Also the popular term: 'Infinite universe' is a contradiction and problematic: Things which are universal can never be infinite. In a infinite universe, intelligence would be impossible because intelligence only operates in a world of boundaries and laws. in lawless space and time, intelligibility would be non-existent.

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Atreyu » March 7th, 2017, 9:27 pm

My position is that if you define life as "life as we know it" - people, animals, plants, microbes - then it is "highly likely" that it exists elsewhere in the Universe. To think that this particular place in the Universe is special, and that life as we know it arose here but nowhere else in the entire Cosmos, is ludicrous. With billions of other planets out there, it is highly unlikely that life as we know it happened here and not anywhere else.

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. The whole Universe is "alive" in one way or another, but we only recognize the narrow prism of it which is similar to ourselves within a certain threshold. Once "life" deviates from this threshold, we don't recognize it at all. The virus is an example of "life" which straddles this threshold...

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Re: Life "must" exist elsewhere but why?

Post by Steve3007 » March 8th, 2017, 4:48 am

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.

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