Although many believe that intelligent life thrives throughout the cosmos, today, we have found no hard scientific evidence of their existence. Experts even disagree that intelligence of human quality is the normal culmination of evolution.
Posted by Christian Corralejo on 02/09 at 11:37 AM
“However, many physicists believe that some kind of humanoid-type life with sense organs similar to ours has probably developed in other places and times, although skin type, facial arrangement, number of digits etc. could differ from ours.”
Which physicists say that? Every time I look into alien life on scientific articles it always mentions that they wouldn’t look any thing like us, and for very valid reasons. For starters, the morphology of an organism is strongly determined by its environment. That’s how we got our appearance (the process is best illustrated in an episode of Discovery Channel’s Curiosity titled “Mankind Rising”). In order for aliens to look anything like us, they would have to have existed on a planet with the same conditions as ours and go through the same selective pressures as we have. The odds of that are very low given how diverse planets are. Even panspermia and convergent evolution don’t alleviate the issue very much. With the former, even if the same genetic code was seeded on all habitable worlds, panspermia would only result in organisms with the same biochemistry, not the same morphology. With the later, we do have examples of convergent evolution on earth but there are far more examples of “divergent” evolution. Even in convergent evolution there are still radical differences. A good example of this is flight. Flight evolved four times in earth organisms: in insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. They all solved the same problem with very different solutions. One last thing, the humanoid form is rare in nature and cannot validly be considered the optimal form for intelligence. Even if took some characteristics that would probably be found in an intelligent organism (relative height, general senses located near the head, a means to manipulate the environment, social, etc), you would get something like an elephant. Elephants of course are considered very intelligent animals and they meet the characteristics I just mentioned but they don’t look anything like us. So again, which physicists say that aliens would be humanoid? you did say there were many.
The lack of a signal from ET has not, however, prevented astronomers and biologists (not to mention film-makers) coming up with a whole range of ideas about what aliens might be like. In the early days of Seti, astronomers focused on the search for planets like ours – the idea being that, since the only biology we know about is our own, we might as well assume aliens are going to be something like us. But there’s no reason why that should be true. You don’t even need to step off the Earth to find life that is radically different from our common experience of it.
“Extremophiles” are species that can survive in places that would quickly kill humans and other “normal” life-forms. These single-celled creatures have been found in boiling hot vents of water thrusting through the ocean floor, or at temperatures well below the freezing point of water. The front ends of some creatures that live near deep-sea vents are 200C warmer than their back ends.
“In our naive and parochial way, we have named these things extremophiles, which shows prejudice – we’re normal, everything else is extreme,” says Ian Stewart, a mathematician at Warwick University and author of What Does A Martian Look Like? “From the point of view of a creature that lives in boiling water, we’re extreme because we live in much milder temperatures. We’re at least as extreme compared to them as they are compared to us.”
On Earth, life exists in water and on land but, on a giant gas planet, for example, it might exist high in the atmosphere, trapping nutrients from the air swirling around it. And given that aliens may be so out of our experience, guessing motives and intentions if they ever got in touch seems beyond the realm’s even of Hawking’s mind.
Paul Davies, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and chair of Seti’s post-detection taskforce, argues that alien brains, with their different architecture, would interpret information very differently from ours. What we think of as beautiful or friendly might come across as violent to them, or vice versa. “Lots of people think that because they would be so wise and knowledgeable, they would be peaceful,” adds Stewart. “I don’t think you can assume that. I don’t think you can put human views on to them; that’s a dangerous way of thinking. Aliens are alien. If they exist at all, we cannot assume they’re like us.”
Yes, Christian, selection pressure does have a major impact on the form a species takes. I wonder, however, if their brains MUST be similar to ours, to be able to be considered intelligent, creative, AND conscious? There are only so many pressures out there to be detected by biological organisms, that, indeed, the brain, if controlling the awareness of several primal qualia: what it feels like to experience:, lets say photons (eyes), waves in atmospheres (ears), gravity (inner ear), chemicals that are harmful or good to their bodies (taste - tongue, and smell - nose), high frequency wave lengths (sonar [bats], touching (extremities) and the extremities would have to be able to manipulate matter in such a way as to have control over the environment to create technology, such as, spaceships etc, etc.? however the list is not infinite at all…
Posted by Christian Corralejo on 02/09 at 07:03 PM
Very good points Kris. Unfortunately Dick is probably going to evade those points and say something about being positive and minds/reasoning being radically different in the future or something. Though it probably happened a while ago, this article lost him some credibility for me.
Dick wrote: “However, many physicists believe that some kind of humanoid-type life with sense organs similar to ours has probably developed in other places and times, although skin type, facial arrangement, number of digits etc. could differ from ours.”
So i did a little research and found that experts do indeed struggle with the answer as to how extraterrestrials would look like. In fact experts in biology are rather split on the answer. However think of this, if aliens did indeed become as intelligent as we are they had to have some kind of way to manipulate their environment. The humanoid shape, with arms, with fingers is immensely useful for creating new technology. If we gave dolphins brains just like ours, how long would it take them to figure out how to create technology like the computer, or a space shuttle? Their bodies are incredibly limited.
So, how does one create the printing press, or a technology similar to it under water with mostly just a nose to push things around? Sure if I and everyone else had dolphin bodies (and human brains) we might figure out how nudge this and that in the proper place, but as a dolphin body animal brain species how long would it take to create a space shuttle? Would story telling like the Native American’s tradition be the only option for us to build upon generations of knowledge? Or would it be close to impossible to manipulate the world with such precision with a dolphin’s body as to create a supercomputer and the like?
So lets just assume this actually happens, that the dolphin human brain species takes 10X longer then humans to produce the technology in order to leave earth, to communicate via the speed of light (radio waves, fiber optics, etc).
Experts think if such a scenario was possible, that, it would only be logical to create a body (transdolphinism, postdolphinism) that has extremities similar to ours that are so precise. And in the transdolphin world they would probably, like we are, make robots that are even more precise at manipulating matter. Just like transhumanists/posthumanists hope, aliens would also probably transfer over to a robotic like machine – and that machine – if mind uploading is possible – would be conscious and more intelligent – and that intelligent machine would again have extremities similar to the human hands. (and be our next step in evolution)
Then theres what we cannot predict. As Goertzel recently pointed out, perhaps extraterrestrials go nano after a certain time. (uploading their minds to a nano machine that is so small it would be like a box, a building, etc, instead of the ever so popular notion of the Jupiter brain.)
Now I can go on and on, and speculate about the future of biological evolution, mind, robots, etc until I get carpal tunnel in my humanoid extremities known as my hands and wrist, but I think I will leave it at that for now.
(BTW, I would also like to end with a disclaimer – I do not believe in animal cruelty – therefore using this analogy of the dolphin body says nothing about my personal view that dolphins are very intelligent and deserve much better lives than we humans are giving them.)
Posted by Christian Corralejo on 02/09 at 10:22 PM
Cephalopods are considered very intelligent and are better at manipulating their environment than dolphins. Also, I used elephants as an example and they also can manipulate objects to a greater extent. Another advantage they have over dolphins, and cephalopods for that matter, is that they live on land. This is significant because they knew how, they could utilize fire which is what gave us an edge. None of those examples look like us but are intelligent. The last one was even the inspiration for the aliens in the book Footfall (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b0/Footfall(1stEd).jpg). I’ve actually participated in discussions about how humanoid an alien can be while remaining plausible in a speculative biology forum that I’m a member of. So far the best example in science fiction that we can think of are the prawns from District 9.
Posted by Intomorrow on 02/10 at 06:54 AM
Don’t know if anyone has written this:
bilateral symmetry would be likely for ETs—if they exist. However aside from that can’t think of any highly likely similarities. Ears, conceivably, some kind of sonic pickups. Eyes? don’t know. Hands, feet? less likely IMO—too simian; it would be our projecting our hominid locomotion on beings v. far way. ETs might be somewhat similar to pterodactyls, say, in their weight and mobility.
But perhaps they’ve been getting broadcasts of our television for years, maybe since the ‘90s; so perhaps some ETs have watched so many episodes of ‘Friends’, they have modelled themselves after Jennifer Aniston—or say Jason Alexander from ‘Seinfeld’.
Posted by Intomorrow on 02/10 at 09:34 AM
“sorry” to post 4x in a row today, but forgot something:
intelligence of ETs. It is difficult to speculate on the hypothetical intelligence of ETs, more so than on their hypothetical morphology. What we consider high intelligence might not apply to ETs (apology if someone has written this before recently): remember the ‘Alien’ book and films? the aliens were intelligent yet their intelligence was concentrated on moving rapidly to catch their prey, and reproducing—the aliens did not play chess or study nuclear physics.
There’s no DSM-type Handbook for Galactic Intelligence.
Even on Earth, there may be no definite guide for what intelligence is, no rhyme or reason to how intelligence is related to behaviour; a brilliant college student gets drunk, arrested for DUI, screws his life up bad whereas a retarded person lives with his parents until they die and saves up a couple million—who is the more ‘intelligent’ of the two? (there are janitors in China who are highly intelligent and CEOs in the West who are dumbasses with great family connections).
This is all to write I personally would speculate on an ET possibly possessing the body weight of a pterodon- but would never want to speculate on the intelligence of the ET.
Posted by Intomorrow on 02/11 at 09:05 PM
One more comment:
ETs might possibly possess high intelligence albeit their intelligence could be disappointing—what we would consider an evolutionary dead end. Perhaps they are smart but spend all day looking for food anyway; maybe they spend much time to say extract and refine charcoal in some way for purification purposes…
It’s certainly possible that the first intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms we become aware of may appear in a biology-like ‘housing unit’; however, in this writers mind, our first encounter might include a species that have advanced into non-biological form – intelligent machines.
On the other hand, as wild as it may seem, our ET friends may have evolved into a digital life form, without need for matter of any kind. They would not even need a planet to hang their hat on, living comfortably as residents of the cosmos.
I believe that this is one of the most exciting times in human history when we meet other intelligent life forms. I anxiously wait this monumental occasion.