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Science of ET's

  1. Jun 23, 2009 #1


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    It seems that on Earth, the scientific revolution was by no means something guaranteed to happen; if circumstances had been slightly different in the 16th and 17th centuries--for example, if religious oppression had been slightly more severe--humans may never have discovered the power of science in explaining the natural world and would have continued to depend on religion and philosophy in answering questions about the universe.

    What do SETI researchers think about the probability of intelligent life undergoing a scientific revolution? Is it something that's almost certain to happen, or something that happens in just a tiny minority of civilizations?
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  3. Jun 23, 2009 #2
    According to a sort of convergence theory, given enough time, living organisms evolve, simple life evolves intelligence and intelligent life evolves to technology and space exploration. It’s pretty simplistic.
    BTW, Galileo, Kepler and Darwin were all deeply religious men, and scientists. When Monsignor Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory, he was criticized by scientists, because of his religious background. So scientific oppression almost nipped that one in the bud.
  4. Jun 23, 2009 #3


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    Hm, convergence. Why, though, can ET be expected to go through a scientific revolution if such a thing depended on many coincidences to happen on Earth?

    "BTW, Galileo, Kepler and Darwin were all deeply religious men, and scientists."

    Galileo was nevertheless persecuted by religious authorities, and the heliocentric model would have been forgotten if the church had been slightly more harsh in repressing it. My point was that the scientific revolution would not have happened if circumstances had been slightly different, not that religion always hurts science. It often does, but not always.

    BTW, Darwin was not religious. Also, what's the scientific oppression you're talking about?
  5. Jun 23, 2009 #4
    The point of convergence is that it is inevitable. It wouldn’t necessarily have to happen like it did here, but it would happen. It’s kind of the 100 monkeys with typewriter’s eventually coming up with one of Shakespeare’s plays. I don’t really care for this theory/conjecture, so I can’t do SETI’s job for them, but that’s the argument.

    By convergence, someone other than Galileo would then have popularized the heliocentric theory. The point is that the scientific method would have eventually been discovered and applied to the universe, no matter what.

    Darwin studied to become an Anglican clergyman and quoted the Bible during his voyage on the Beagle. Only later in his life, did he call himself an agnostic.

    The scientific community, to include Einstein, ridiculed Lemaître and his theory of a primordial atom as some kind of Genesis. Sounds like oppression to me.
    “Intellectual brilliance is no guarantee against being dead wrong.” Carl Sagan
  6. Jun 23, 2009 #5


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    Like Arch2008 explains, and as the subtler implication of convergence states, the point is it will happen eventually. You seem to be convinced that had certain scientists of the mentioned centuries discovered their theories when they did, they would be lost forever. This is most likely patently false. It may have been "coincidence" or "luck" that it happened when it did, but the fact that it will happen at all is much more a function of human nature of inquiry, which states that it eventually will.

    Similarly, you could argue that with the decline of the influence of Greece and the great philosophers of that age, the opportunity to develop calculus/astronomy/science was missed. The middle ages took over and no one got much done for quite a long time. But we see that middle eastern cultures were taking a stab at very similar things, as well as some asian cultures. Just seems to be the way this kind of stuff turns out for us humans.
  7. Jun 23, 2009 #6


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    Simplistic, and also quite wrong. There is NO guarantee--none--that technological-capable intelligence will evolve. There is, in fact, very little evolutionary pressure to develop significant intelligence at all. Note the fact that even here on Earth, 99.9999% of organisms that ever lived have been dumb as posts and not even capable of basic tool use. Human-level intelligence simply isn't necessary for survival as countless other creatures have deftly proven over the past 3.5 billion years. Now, one might argue (and I'm not entirely convinced this is the case, either; to this day there are still isolated pockets of humanity with no technology more sophisticated than spears and fire which hasn't been brought in from the outside) that once a certain level of language use evolves, then technology is inevitable, but that's not the same thing as saying that technology is inevitable given life.
  8. Jun 23, 2009 #7
    True. There have been something like 10^12 species on Earth and less than 10 could build a campfire. As I posted, this is SETI's theory, not mine.
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