Are we alone in the Universe?

The cosmos at our fingertips.
User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 9681
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Ann » Sun May 12, 2019 5:15 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
A video essay by Professor David Kipping was recently uploaded to Youtube. In his video essay, David Kipping made the point that we might indeed be alone in the Universe, because we don't yet know how common or easy "abiogenesis" is. "Abiogenesis" is the appearance of life from non-life.

In his video, Professor Kipping made an interesting thought experiment. Imagine a million people being locked up inside cells, being told that they have only one minute to escape by picking the lock of their cell with a hairpin. Imagine, said Professor Kipping, that it is incredibly hard to pick the lock, but by pure chance one out of every million prisoners will pick his lock and escape. When asked whether it was easy or hard to escape, the lucky ex-prisoner will insist that it was easy. He picked the lock of his cell almost immediately! No big deal!

But that, said David Kipping, could be a case of pure statistics. Some one has to get lucky even if the odds are very much against each of the prisoners. Similarly, said David Kipping, we could be the lucky ex-prisoner of the Universe. The Earth could be the only planet anywhere where life got started quick and easy and was given the chance to evolve from that point on.

We simply don't know if we are alone or not, says David Kipping, but we might be, in which case the Earth and everyone living on it would be incredibly special.

Ann
Color Commentator

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Sun May 12, 2019 8:58 pm

Ann wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 5:15 pm

We simply don't know if we are alone or not, says David Kipping, but we might be,
in which case the Earth and everyone living on it would be incredibly special.
Well...I know for a fact that I'm incredibly special.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 14458
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon May 13, 2019 1:38 pm

Ann wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 5:15 pm
In his video essay, David Kipping made the point that we might indeed be alone in the Universe, because we don't yet know how common or easy "abiogenesis" is.
I would argue that we have good reason to believe it is very easy, and therefore likely to be very common. All the evidence points to life developing very early in Earth's history, which makes a case for "easy". And Earth appears to have nothing remotely unique in its makeup or characteristics. A planet like ours may represent only a small fraction of all the possible types of planets, but that still adds up to millions in the galaxy and countless billions in the Universe. That makes a case for "common".

I think, given what we know, that the most reasonable assumption is that life is common in the Universe. For me, a much more interesting question is how common complex life is. Life beyond single-celled organisms or colonies of single-celled organisms. That's the only form of life that existed on Earth for most of its history, after all.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

The Kipping Point

Post by neufer » Mon May 13, 2019 3:15 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 1:38 pm
Ann wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 5:15 pm

Kipping made the point that we might indeed be alone in the Universe, because we don't yet know how common or easy "abiogenesis" is.
I would argue that we have good reason to believe it is very easy, and therefore likely to be very common. All the evidence points to life developing very early in Earth's history, which makes a case for "easy". And Earth appears to have nothing remotely unique in its makeup or characteristics. A planet like ours may represent only a small fraction of all the possible types of planets, but that still adds up to millions in the galaxy and countless billions in the Universe. That makes a case for "common". I think, given what we know, that the most reasonable assumption is that life is common in the Universe. For me, a much more interesting question is how common complex life is.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Mon May 13, 2019 4:06 pm

that video is incredibly problematic
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Mon May 13, 2019 4:56 pm

geckzilla wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:06 pm

that video is incredibly problematic
Which video & why?
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Mon May 13, 2019 10:17 pm

the one you just posted, it's oozing white supremacy
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Tue May 14, 2019 12:17 am

I imagine that Kenneth Clark might have gracefully accepted some of your criticism, geck, but only to a degree. The rather famous BBC TV series "Civilisation" was only intended to cover European/Western civilisation, from the dark ages to early 20th century, and attracted much more praise than criticism. It did not suggest western civilisation as superior to any other. Most of the criticism was directed at Clark's "personal view", which emphasised the exploits of great (white) men almost exclusively. But much of the praise was directed at Clark's personal and at times emotional style of presentation.

Interesting article on the topic:
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-tu ... vilisation

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: The Kipping Point

Post by neufer » Tue May 14, 2019 1:40 am

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
geckzilla wrote:
Mon May 13, 2019 4:06 pm

that video [you posted] is ... oozing white supremacy :arrow:
For all its faults,
  • Western Civilization is primarily responsible for promoting:

    1) scientific methodology... as well as the concept

    2) that all men & women are created equal with equal
    rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Tue May 14, 2019 3:13 pm

yeah, and we're always noble conquerors bringing "civilization" to others, who are savages and barbarians. right.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Tue May 14, 2019 5:21 pm

geckzilla wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 3:13 pm

yeah, and we're always noble conquerors bringing "civilization" to others, who are savages and barbarians. right.
  • Mostly...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation wrote:
<<Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common. UNICEF estimated in 2016 that 200 million women living today in 30 countries—27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen—have undergone the procedures.>>
  • .. but I don't think you could really call the Chinese "savages and barbarians."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding wrote:
<<Foot binding was the custom of applying tight binding to the feet of young girls to modify the shape and size of their feet. The practice possibly originated among upper class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in 10th century China, then gradually became popular among the elite during the Song dynasty. It has been estimated that by the 19th century, 40–50% of all Chinese women may have had bound feet, and up to almost 100% among upper-class Chinese women. It was not until the early 20th century that foot binding began to die out as a result of anti-foot-binding campaigns. Only a few elderly Chinese women still survive today with bound feet.>>
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Tue May 14, 2019 6:12 pm

hi, I'm white people, I like to point out all the bad stuff other cultures do while simultaneously ignoring the fact that my idea of civilization is turning Earth into Venus and that the things done in the name of democracy have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the last decade alone
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Tue May 14, 2019 6:42 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
geckzilla wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:12 pm

hi, I'm white people, I like to point out all the bad stuff other cultures do while simultaneously ignoring the fact that my idea of civilization is turning Earth into Venus and that the things done in the name of democracy have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the last decade alone
Hi white people. I represent the rest of deplorable humanity.

Since we expect to have the bomb soon
don't sweat the global warming thing.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Tue May 14, 2019 10:21 pm

We're just another flawed species, so perhaps our crappy civilisations are the best we can aspire to until a more intelligent species takes our place.

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Tue May 14, 2019 10:47 pm

I can't help humanity, but I can call out the language and ideas that white supremacists politely use every day like not breaking decorum makes it alright.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Wed May 15, 2019 12:26 am

If you view the Civilisation series for what it is, in context, created 50 years ago, and presented with enthusiasm by an aristocratic aesthete, already renowned for popularising the arts, and nearing the end of his career, you might cut the old guy some slack. (Clark that is, not neufer. I feel that neufer's additional commentary doesn't align with Clark's series [or Ann's original topic.])

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Wed May 15, 2019 12:30 am

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
geckzilla wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 10:47 pm

I can't help humanity, but I can call out the language and ideas that white supremacists politely use every day like not breaking decorum makes it alright.
For someone who literally gets high on processing Hubble images it just seems a little hypocritical to go all "noble savage" on us about the flaws of Western Civilization.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Wed May 15, 2019 1:44 am

geckzilla wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 3:13 pm
yeah, and we're always noble conquerors bringing "civilization" to others, who are savages and barbarians. right.
In the first episode of Clark's Civilisation, it was described more as small pockets of civilisation, surviving the barbarians (mainly Germanic and Norse people) over a period of a few centuries up to 1000 CE, through seeking isolated shelter. Nothing to do with white supremacy. And hardly related to contemporary Germanic and Norse people.

Clark seems to discriminate between the civilised and the barbarian, based on whether or not they wrote and/or maintained books.

(And I enjoyed the "White at the Museum" video, neufer. Thank you.)

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16153
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by neufer » Wed May 15, 2019 2:56 am

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Nitpicker wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 1:44 am

In the first episode of Clark's Civilisation, it was described more as small pockets of civilisation, surviving the barbarians (mainly Germanic and Norse people) over a period of a few centuries up to 1000 CE, through seeking isolated shelter. Nothing to do with white supremacy. And hardly related to contemporary Germanic and Norse people.
It was basically the title that captured my attention:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_of_my_teeth wrote:
Skin of my teeth is a phrase from the Bible. Job 19:20: "My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth." In modern times, "by the skin of my teeth" is used to describe a situation from which one has barely managed to escape.
Art Neuendorffer

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Wed May 15, 2019 3:32 am

neufer wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 12:30 am
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
geckzilla wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 10:47 pm

I can't help humanity, but I can call out the language and ideas that white supremacists politely use every day like not breaking decorum makes it alright.
For someone who literally gets high on processing Hubble images it just seems a little hypocritical to go all "noble savage" on us about the flaws of Western Civilization.
Literally gets high? Wait, so because I process Hubble imagery, I can't criticize an old video? I think I'm done here, and I think you should listen to "other" people more often. I didn't make this up myself, as a white person. I read a lot and listened to a lot of different people.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Wed May 15, 2019 3:36 am

Nitpicker wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 1:44 am
Clark seems to discriminate between the civilised and the barbarian, based on whether or not they wrote and/or maintained books.
And that is a very problematic way to describe humanity.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Wed May 15, 2019 3:46 am

Okay, I can now see the link between the success of complex life and the success of Western civilisation, since both successes were, supposedly, "by the skin of our teeth". This particular link only became clear to me when you pointed it out explicitly. Other links could easily be made between the two videos.

I mainly felt compelled to write in defence of Clark's series. Describing it as "oozing white supremacy" is grossly unfair in my humble opinion.

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Wed May 15, 2019 4:03 am

Well, I didn't mean that it was decked with swastikas or something like that. It's just using very dated language and the general feel of it is that one particular way of doing things, which happens to be described by one particular subset of people, is the best, the highest achievement, to be exalted, and all others just get lumped into the inferior barbarian category, regardless of how much violence or oppression each individual strand of history contained. And from that I gathered overt feelings that a particular group of people is superior.

I'm sure it goes on to mention some other sorts of people that were noteworthy, but it felt so much like a history class from my high school education it didn't seem worth finishing. The more I learned about what I *didn't* learn about, the more I realized that this style of education fosters patriarchal, white supremacist societies. And by that I don't mean that people necessarily hate other races, they just feel like they're a bit better than them—more civilized. The feelings are so overt and common that it's not even seen as white supremacy. It's normalized, so the only thing recognized as white supremacy is extremist racism, and most people are not extreme racists, so they do not realize that they are participating in white supremacy.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.

User avatar
Nitpicker
Inverse Square
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:39 am
Location: S27 E153

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by Nitpicker » Wed May 15, 2019 4:09 am

geckzilla wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 3:36 am
Nitpicker wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 1:44 am
Clark seems to discriminate between the civilised and the barbarian, based on whether or not they wrote and/or maintained books.
And that is a very problematic way to describe humanity.
But the series is not so broad as to cover "humanity". The series is on western European civilisation; a subset of humanity. That Clark was a civilised western European and presented his series with such enthusiasm, does not make him a supremacist.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilisat ... Background
The series consists of thirteen programmes, each fifty minutes long, written and presented by Clark, covering western European civilisation from the end of the Dark Ages to the early twentieth century. As the civilisation under consideration excludes Graeco-Roman, Asian and other historically important cultures, a title was chosen that disclaimed comprehensiveness: Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark. Clark later commented, "I didn't suppose that anyone would be so obtuse as to think that I had forgotten about the great civilisations of the pre-Christian era and the East. However, I confess the title has worried me. It would have been easy in the eighteenth century: Speculations on the Nature of Civilisation as illustrated by the Phases of Civilised Life in Western Europe from the Dark Ages to Present Day. Unfortunately, this is no longer practicable."
(I agree that using writing as the basis for describing a society as either civilised or barbarian, is perhaps not the most common basis. Writing is more typically used to discriminate between historical and prehistorical societies. Whether such means of discrimination are acceptable, depends more on whether the terms "barbarian" and "prehistorical" are deemed pejorative, which in turn depends on the context.)

User avatar
geckzilla
Ocular Digitator
Posts: 8973
Joined: Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:42 pm
Location: Modesto, CA

Re: Are we alone in the Universe?

Post by geckzilla » Wed May 15, 2019 5:36 am

It's always pejorative. They had names. The most respectful way to refer to a group of people is to use their name. Lumping them into one nondescript bloc is one way white supremacy (and other forms of supremacy/fascism/colonialism) removes and destroys the identities of people.
Just call me "geck" because "zilla" is like a last name.