Aliens?

HillsboroMom

Active member
This questions is mostly directed at atheists / agnostics. Do you believe that there is life anywhere in the universe other than on earth?

If so, why?

If not, why not?
 

Nouveau

Well-known member
Probably. Given that life appears to be a consequence of blind laws of chemistry, and given the vast size of the universe, it would seem that even if the circumstances required for life to arise were extremely rare or unusual, they would still be almost bound to occur somewhere else as well.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
This questions is mostly directed at atheists / agnostics. Do you believe that there is life anywhere in the universe other than on earth?

If so, why?

If not, why not?
I am hopeful that there's life elsewhere in our solar system. There are certainly a number of candidates. Anywhere with persistent liquid water is likely to have life. It would be astonishing if there is no life anywhere else, but we are unlikely to know for certain for a while yet.
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
I am hopeful that there's life elsewhere in our solar system. There are certainly a number of candidates. Anywhere with persistent liquid water is likely to have life. It would be astonishing if there is no life anywhere else, but we are unlikely to know for certain for a while yet.
Would if be fair to say that:
  1. Lacking evidence, you are not 100% certain there is intelligent life elsewhere (other than earth) in the planet
  2. You have reason to believe there are, and
  3. Your hope is that there is
?
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
This questions is mostly directed at atheists / agnostics. Do you believe that there is life anywhere in the universe other than on earth?

If so, why?
I suspect Yes. There's far too much space out there for this tiny speck of the universe to be special/unique. Plus, here on Earth we can see that life is opportunistic and varied in the extreme; if things can live in the equivalent of boiling acid or the melted core of a nuclear reactor, then why not on some planet we think of as hostile to life?
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Would if be fair to say that:
  1. Lacking evidence, you are not 100% certain there is intelligent life elsewhere (other than earth) in the planet
  2. You have reason to believe there are, and
  3. Your hope is that there is
?
Yes that would be close enough. However, I am a lot less sure that there is intelligent life than that there is life. Having said that, I have just read "Other Minds" by Peter Godfrey-Smith. It's about the evolution of intelligence, focusing on the octopus. It seems that intelligent life does arise fairly readily. Only once to the technological level here so far, but there are other species with minds on earth, and the octopus is a mollusc. Our last common ancestor was a tiny worm, without even bilateralism, let alone intelligence.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
Would if be fair to say that:
  1. Lacking evidence, you are not 100% certain there is intelligent life elsewhere (other than earth) in the planet
  2. You have reason to believe there are, and
  3. Your hope is that there is
?
You asked this question of Temujin, but if asked the same, I'd say Yes; it's a fair representation of my POV on the subject.
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
You asked this question of Temujin, but if asked the same, I'd say Yes; it's a fair representation of my POV on the subject.
I appreciate your response.

So, you hold a belief that lacks evidence.

Not unlike a person who holds a religious belief, without evidence of a god?
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I appreciate your response.

So, you hold a belief that lacks evidence.
I wouldn't say it lacks evidence, no. I would point to the last two items in your list I agreed to: I have reason to believe intelligent aliens exist, and I hope that they do. When it comes to evidence for both things, all I need is reasoning, and I provided that.

This may sound like semantics, but I was pretty specific in how I answered your question. I didn't say "I believe aliens exist", because that's not accurate of my POV. I believe it's probable that they do, but I'm not sure enough of this to state it as a belief.

If I'd said "I believe aliens exist", then I might point to reasoning as evidence, but that'd be pretty weak evidence IMHO. It wouldn't be enough to justify the formation of a belief; the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence would be pretty extraordinary, and I'd want extraordinary evidence to support it. Even with the US Navy recently declassifying that video of the pilots' footage (of tracking UFOs), I don't think that rises to the level of "extraordinary".

As such, I suspect aliens exist, but I don't necessarily believe it.

Not unlike a person who holds a religious belief, without evidence of a god?
First, I'm not an atheist who claims there's no evidence of God. I think "evidence" is actually a very trivial thing, and as such, it's extremely easy to find evidence for almost any idea. Instead, I'm an atheist who says the evidence for gods doesn't justify the formation of a belief in them.

Second, there are VERY FEW theists who express their POV like I did. I can't think of a single Christian who simply said "I hope God exists", or "I suspect God exists". Instead, almost all of them have come out more forcefully with "God exists".

That's the kind of claim which requires extraordinary evidence to justify. It's not just a suspicion or a hope; it's a positive belief.

That's not me.
 

Whateverman

Well-known member
I agree that many Christians don't see their theism like that, but I think believers of other religions, and some Christians, do.

I do. FWIW
I do know a few Christians who'll express their faith in less-than-absolute terms, so you're not alone.

Discussions like the ones here - in a conservative Evangelical forum for Christians - tend to force people into neat little holes. Atheist = angry/sad/angry, hostile, hates God, etc. Christian = right-win conservative Republican, fundamentalist, unreasonable, etc. The reality is that most of us fall somewhere between those two extremes.

For myself, I tend to like the Christians and atheists who are willing to admit they're like this, and less than absolutely sure about the issues discussed here :)
 

Temujin

Well-known member
I wouldn't say it lacks evidence, no. I would point to the last two items in your list I agreed to: I have reason to believe intelligent aliens exist, and I hope that they do. When it comes to evidence for both things, all I need is reasoning, and I provided that.

This may sound like semantics, but I was pretty specific in how I answered your question. I didn't say "I believe aliens exist", because that's not accurate of my POV. I believe it's probable that they do, but I'm not sure enough of this to state it as a belief.

If I'd said "I believe aliens exist", then I might point to reasoning as evidence, but that'd be pretty weak evidence IMHO. It wouldn't be enough to justify the formation of a belief; the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence would be pretty extraordinary, and I'd want extraordinary evidence to support it. Even with the US Navy recently declassifying that video of the pilots' footage (of tracking UFOs), I don't think that rises to the level of "extraordinary".

As such, I suspect aliens exist, but I don't necessarily believe it.


First, I'm not an atheist who claims there's no evidence of God. I think "evidence" is actually a very trivial thing, and as such, it's extremely easy to find evidence for almost any idea. Instead, I'm an atheist who says the evidence for gods doesn't justify the formation of a belief in them.

Second, there are VERY FEW theists who express their POV like I did. I can't think of a single Christian who simply said "I hope God exists", or "I suspect God exists". Instead, almost all of them have come out more forcefully with "God exists".

That's the kind of claim which requires extraordinary evidence to justify. It's not just a suspicion or a hope; it's a positive belief.

That's not me.
This reply goes for me too.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
This questions is mostly directed at atheists / agnostics. Do you believe that there is life anywhere in the universe other than on earth?

If so, why?

If not, why not?
I think it's probable; I woudln't say that I believe there is.

My reasons are similar to those already expressed above by others.

Sadly, even though (I believe) it's probable that life exists elsewhere, a wonderful galactic-wide civilization as in Star Trek or Star Wars will never happen...the speed of light will forever make interstellar travel and communication not feasible (I believe).
 

LifeIn

Well-known member
Whenever the subject of probability comes up, I find it very interesting because there is actually a well-developed mathematics and theory of probability. However that well-developed theory is often ignored or misused, as it is here is questions about the probability of life elsewhere in the universe. Calculations of probability require a probability space, which is the collection of items over which some statement may or may not apply, such as "the coin toss comes up tails". In the case of a coin toss we can check the probability through empirical tests - tossing a coin many times. In the case of life elsewhere in the universe, any meaningful notion of probability would require a probability space of universes - i.e. the multiverse. The MCU and WandaVision notwithstanding, there is no such thing except in the imagination. We have a sample of one. We don't even have anything else like the universe from which we can draw probabilistic conclusions. Of course if life is found somewhere else, that will settle it. But before that happens, there is no rigorous basis on which an assessment of probability can be made. I will believe it when I see it. Nor do I rule it out as impossible.
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
Whenever the subject of probability comes up, I find it very interesting because there is actually a well-developed mathematics and theory of probability. However that well-developed theory is often ignored or misused, as it is here is questions about the probability of life elsewhere in the universe. Calculations of probability require a probability space, which is the collection of items over which some statement may or may not apply, such as "the coin toss comes up tails". In the case of a coin toss we can check the probability through empirical tests - tossing a coin many times. In the case of life elsewhere in the universe, any meaningful notion of probability would require a probability space of universes - i.e. the multiverse. The MCU and WandaVision notwithstanding, there is no such thing except in the imagination. We have a sample of one. We don't even have anything else like the universe from which we can draw probabilistic conclusions. Of course if life is found somewhere else, that will settle it. But before that happens, there is no rigorous basis on which an assessment of probability can be made. I will believe it when I see it. Nor do I rule it out as impossible.
This is the exact kind of thinking I appreciate. An understanding of the limits, and acceptance within those limits. Thank you.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
Whenever the subject of probability comes up, I find it very interesting because there is actually a well-developed mathematics and theory of probability. However that well-developed theory is often ignored or misused, as it is here is questions about the probability of life elsewhere in the universe. Calculations of probability require a probability space, which is the collection of items over which some statement may or may not apply, such as "the coin toss comes up tails". In the case of a coin toss we can check the probability through empirical tests - tossing a coin many times. In the case of life elsewhere in the universe, any meaningful notion of probability would require a probability space of universes - i.e. the multiverse. The MCU and WandaVision notwithstanding, there is no such thing except in the imagination. We have a sample of one. We don't even have anything else like the universe from which we can draw probabilistic conclusions. Of course if life is found somewhere else, that will settle it. But before that happens, there is no rigorous basis on which an assessment of probability can be made. I will believe it when I see it. Nor do I rule it out as impossible.
I disagree - and here we have waded into a space about which I actually know a little bit. We certainly do not know of other universes to judge probability, as you say. But we do know of other planets, including one on which life has arisen - ours. We can look at the circumstances that led to life coming into existence on earth (to the extent that we know them), and the circumstances on other planets on which life has not come into existence. We can then extrapolate that to other solar systems in other galaxies. Add that to the extra-solar planets we've discovered, and I think it becomes meaningful to say that it is probably that life other than ours exists elsewhere in the universe.
 

LifeIn

Well-known member
I disagree - and here we have waded into a space about which I actually know a little bit. We certainly do not know of other universes to judge probability, as you say. But we do know of other planets, including one on which life has arisen - ours. We can look at the circumstances that led to life coming into existence on earth (to the extent that we know them)
There's the problem. We know what the circumstances were on earth and we know the life came into existence on earth. But we do not know that one thing caused the other thing. And again we have sample size of one. Assuming that the conditions on earth were sufficient to bring about life is a theory without any means of support at the present time. That may change, but at present we only have the one example from which to draw these deductions.


, and the circumstances on other planets on which life has not come into existence.
This part of the theory is on firmer ground. We know lots about conditions that are hostile to life, for we have multiple examples of planets and moons without life, and with conditions very different from earth. But what this is about is the difference between a necessary condition and a sufficient condition. We have the "necessary" part fairly well supported, but the "sufficient" part is as lacking as it always was.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
There's the problem. We know what the circumstances were on earth and we know the life came into existence on earth. But we do not know that one thing caused the other thing. And again we have sample size of one. Assuming that the conditions on earth were sufficient to bring about life is a theory without any means of support at the present time. That may change, but at present we only have the one example from which to draw these deductions.
But that one sample is sufficient (along with other facts we know) to make deductions from.
 

LifeIn

Well-known member
But that one sample is sufficient (along with other facts we know) to make deductions from.
If that is the case, I will make a deduction. The condition that brought about life on earth is having a single satellite that is 1.2% the mass of the planet. (Something like this was actually proposed in one of Asimov's stories. I can't remember which one.) There is as much support for that theory as there is for the theory that chemical conditions on earth is what brought about life. In both cases we have a sample of one.
 

Electric Skeptic

Well-known member
If that is the case, I will make a deduction. The condition that brought about life on earth is having a single satellite that is 1.2% the mass of the planet. (Something like this was actually proposed in one of Asimov's stories. I can't remember which one.) There is as much support for that theory as there is for the theory that chemical conditions on earth is what brought about life. In both cases we have a sample of one.
Great. Then all we need for life to exist elsewhere in the universe is a planet that has a single satellite that is 1.2% of its mass. Given the size of the universe, that is a virtual certainty.
 
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