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Are we alone in this Universe?

  1. Feb 7, 2008 #1
    I'm not a very religious person myself. I find religions a bit hard to take in what they preach, and the ideals that they contain. But that is not the matter here. All religions (correct me if i am wrong, but to my understanding all religions) offer the explaination that we are special. One of a kind. Possibly the only intelligent life capable of achieving great things.

    But how can this be possible? I do not see how in this vast extensive universe that we could be the only beings capable of questioning and investigating our surroundings, the only beings able to think at a deeper level than the animals around us (no offence!)

    Should we be looking for other life (if it exists?) or should we be focusing on our own struggles here on Earth like the divison between first and third world countries?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2008 #2
    I think SETI isn't an unreasonable expenditure on that count. But I don't think we ought to invest much spiritual or existential meaning in the answer.

    I've always enjoyed science fiction's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_uplift" [Broken]'s work. If we don't find any intelligent alien life to keep us company in the big cold universe we just make some.

    Another good tie-in with both SETI and religion is Carl Sagan's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Demon-Haunted_World" [Broken] in which he describes how alien encounter and alien abduction phenomenon have in many ways taken the place of ghosts, imps, and demons in our culture.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Feb 7, 2008 #3
    No. In my opinion we are not alone. I don't know how any reasonable person can look at the Hubble's ultra deep field picture and still maintain that we are special in a universal sense. That picture has around 10,000 galaxies in a piece of sky about 1/50th the area of the moon that was previously considered to be empty.
  5. Feb 7, 2008 #4
    I agree with you kev.

    Although it is widely held that finding extraterrestrial life (such finding colonies of bacteria on Europa or Titan) would somehow be devastating to organized religion, I take the opposing view that it would have very little impact on theology at all. Religious texts do not specifically exclude the presence of lower life forms on other planets or moons, either inside or outside our galaxy. In fact, at the time of the creation of the major religious texts, mankind had no idea of the structure of the universe as we understand it. And the same could be said for higher life forms.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2008
  6. Feb 7, 2008 #5
    C.G. Young, one of the founders of modern psychology wrote a little book called "UFO's a modern myth for modern man." This was around the time of the second world war when a sence of futility was at its peak. The popularisation of modern science fostered by the reliance on efficient machines of war had effectively depopularised God.

    His point was that our need as a species, to have a greater intelligence that could come down and save us from ourselves, and lead us into some form of heaven, hadn't gone away. Instead it had begun to be seen in myths of alien sightings that where essentially very similar in characture to the sighting of angels and gods in our past.

    We now know from physics, that travelling the distances from remote stars is going to be extemely difficult. It could almost be argued that we are quaranteened from spreading. As far as I am aware SETI has been unsuccessful and there are few reports of planets having been found orbiting relatively close stars. So it looks unlikely that there is much credibility in UFO sightings being from extraterrestrial sources.

    I have to agree, that it is unlikely that we are the only intelligent life form in the entire universe, not to mention how sad that makes me feel if its true. But, it is a growing likelyhood that if they exist, they are not local and it is difficult to see how we would ever succesfully communicate with them over the distances that are available in the universe.
  7. Feb 7, 2008 #6


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    What does this have to do with religion??

    Arguably, science as an institution holds the same view. Rigorously treated, the number of intelligent races in the universe is exactly one.

    A healthy dose of atheists feel the same way.

    The fact is, that what you have there, is an unfounded belief, which sure sounds a lot like religion to me...:rolleyes:
  8. Feb 8, 2008 #7
    What percentage of the universe has been tested for intelligent races? I think there was a time when science, as an institution, knew that the sun and all the stars orbited the earth and that the earth was flat and....

    Intelligence beyond our planet is not an "unfounded belief", but rather a currently untestable hypothosis. To suggest that our civilization is superior intelligence in a universal arena, sounds like a "GOD" complex to me.
  9. Feb 8, 2008 #8


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    Actually, it is a simple statement of the current facts as we know them.
  10. Feb 8, 2008 #9
    Does no proof for either condition result in a fact for one? So by that reasoning, at some point in history the earth was the center of the universe? That was a statement of current "facts" as they were known.
  11. Feb 8, 2008 #10


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    There are no known intelligent races except on Earth. That is fact.

    It does not preclude that we won't find any.

    This is such a hackeyed, inaccurate and irrelevant argument.

    No, it was never fact, nor scientifically demonstrated, that the Earth was the centre of the universe. It was a model used to explain observations; it can neither be fact nor non-fact.

    And despite what so many people like to believe, it was not a view held by the scientific minds of the day, though it was a belief among those who did not study such things.
  12. Feb 8, 2008 #11
    I agree with that statement, since it finally provides a limit to the scope of the information. It encompasses a much smaller sample than: " the number of intelligent races in the universe is exactly one".

    Your previous statements had applied the term fact to a universal scale. Has intelligence been scientifically demonstrated to not exist everywhere else in the universe? Of course not, and the suggestion is absurd. If we look at the fact that a star with eight planets developed intelligence on a rocky planet in the habitable zone, we could develop a hypothosis that could be tested over time. I don't think this represents an "unfounded belief".

    By the way, what is hackeyed? I was not able to find a definition online.
  13. Feb 8, 2008 #12


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    Sorry, hackneyed.
  14. Feb 12, 2008 #13
    so, is it worth looking for another race? SETI does its part yes, but it can only cover a certain amount of the sky at one time right? Would any of you agree with me that we need to go further, if not to find other races then at least to expand our civilization to other planets and moons?
  15. Feb 12, 2008 #14
    To search for other intelligent races? It seems pretty certain we won't be finding any in our solar system. Better to spend effort on other things.
  16. Feb 12, 2008 #15
    my point would be more that
    1. i think finding other races would let us learn alot about ourselves. We then know for certain its not "divine providence" that we are here. We are not the special creatures of "the creator" because there are more around. It would let us advance together more as one race then as a race which has great divisions because of different beliefs.

    2. Advances due to alliances with any other races we do find
  17. Feb 12, 2008 #16


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    Yeah, I just can't help but wonder if this sounded like a good idea to the native North Americans and the Aztecs of 500 years ago too.:uhh:
  18. Feb 12, 2008 #17
    The way I see it, if life were created by accident through a co-mingling of chemicals sometime in the past, then the same accident must occur for the 'others' as well. If the astronomical occurrence were recreated, the chances for a viable atmosphere must also be taken into consideration. If it were to occur, it would only mean that other lifeforms are out there, not necessarily 'intelligent' life.
    Also, if consciousness came about through a 'random mutation' as suggested by evolution, it is even more unlikely that intelligent life is out there. We must also take into consideration how short our lifespans are in respect to time itself. We would only register as a blip in time. Overlapping 'blips' of existence add even more to the unlikelihood. I personally find it unlikely based on the astronomical improbabilities involved.

    Of course these improbabilities only mean something if the Universe is finite. If it were infinite, then these astronomical improbabilities would all add up and change my opinion to 'very likely'.
  19. Feb 13, 2008 #18


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    Well yes, that's rpetty much the "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation"[/URL], you've pretty much coverd the last five steps.

    [QUOTE]Also, if consciousness came about through a 'random mutation' as suggested by evolution,[/QUOTE]
    Random mutation? I've never heard of that suggestion. i've always assumed that consciousness is merely a matter of degree - directly correlated with complexity of the brain.
    [QUOTE]Of course these improbabilities only mean something if the Universe is finite. If it were infinite, then these astronomical improbabilities would all add up and change my opinion to 'very likely'.[/QUOTE]Maybe, but it would be moot. If ETs exist outside the sphere beyond which they are forever cut off from us due to c, then it is a meaningless conclusion.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  20. Feb 13, 2008 #19
    Oh, I have never heard of the Drake Equation. I was just rambling on how I felt.

    Well I have also never heard it explicitly stated as well. We go from a time in history where no consciousness exists to a time where it does. I merely used evolution to fill in the gap. Evolution is directly related to 'random' gene mutations. I can only speculate that a mutation occurred in the brain of some early primate long ago and continued to adapt into the prefrontal cortex we have today. I think the brain itself came about through some gene mutation as well. Of course this is mere speculation. I have no clue how consciousness actually came about.

    But if they in fact did exists beyond our scope, doesn't that still address the original issue? Are we alone in the Universe?

    Sorry I am new here so I don't really know how to quote people and stuff yet.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2008
  21. Feb 13, 2008 #20

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    Whether we are alone is one thing. The universe is big; very, very big, afterall. Whether we are effectively alone is quite a different thing. If intelligent life does exist in a galaxy far, far away (sorry about the mixed "literary" references; can't resist), how are we to know? What difference could it possibly make if such a species does exist?

    If our current thoughts on the speed of light being inviolate are correct, we are effectively alone if the nearest intelligent species is much more than 100 light years away. 100 light years is the effective range of SETI, and that is pushing it. Extending the SETI range doesn't help much. Does it really matter if there is intelligent life beyond 100 light years? Many generations will have passed on Earth from the initial "Hello, I'm from Earth! How are you?" to the first response. We won't be able to hold a conversation with these remote aliens, let alone visit them.
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