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Author Topic:   What type of biological life will more than likely be found on other planets?
onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 1 of 178 (670450)
08-14-2012 2:34 PM


Got into a discussion the other day about the idea of "intelligent" life existing elsewhere in the universe.

My position: I don't doubt that life, as in living organisms, exists elsewhere. But to me the thought of one specific trait, that one specific species has had for only (roughly) 150,000 years, arising in another planet doesn't make sense. For me, something like, say, sonar is probably more likely, if there are large species, than intelligence.

Their argument followed the logical thought process that, if there is intelligence on one planet, why not on other planets? Which seems like a fair position. But, not convincing enough for me.

I find all traits unique to Earth and it's specific, random and chaotic natural history, and don't believe any of the traits that species have on this planet should have to be common anywhere else but here.

To make an analogy, the species on Earth are like human fingerprints, unique to the individual and not shared by anyone else.

Now, we can definitely debate my position, but, what I'd like to talk about would be, what traits, if any, would be realistically favored in a biological system?

Is there a common pattern that any biological system follows? Are there common traits that more than likely will exist on another planet? Like for example, more than likely we'll find plants and other organisms using photosynthesis.

Could any of the biology folks here chime in on this? What would more than likely be found on other planets, and, will intelligence be a common trait?

Also, as an aside, if they'd like, the creationist can give their take on what life elsewhere in the universe says about evolution and it's mechanisms.

- Oni

Edited by onifre, : No reason given.

Edited by onifre, : cleaned up a bit


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Message 2 of 178 (670452)
08-15-2012 10:52 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the What type of biological life will more than likely be found on other planets? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Stile
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Posts: 2848
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
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Message 3 of 178 (670458)
08-15-2012 11:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by onifre
08-14-2012 2:34 PM


I like to guess
onifre writes:

I find all traits unique to Earth and it's specific, random and chaotic natural history, and don't believe any of the traits that species have on this planet should have to be common anywhere else but here.

Perhaps. And, with no substansive data (yet...) it's not like anyone can argue authoritatively either way.

My view aligns with the whole "from what information we do gather... Earth seems less and less 'unique' and more and more 'average'" idea.
Extrapolating with this view would lead one to believe that any trait that allows a species to dominate to a large degree is going to happen... sooner or later.

Swimming.
Flight.
Breathing air (or local livable atmosphere).
Intelligence.

Each of those is a huge factor and has led to total dominance of a large portion of the planet.

What do they require?

Water (...maybe just liquid?).
Air/Atmosphere.
Host.

Given those things... and limited resources where evolution will 'arms race' to take advantage of... I really only see it as a matter of time.

Was the development of intelligence on Earth fast or slow?

Again, if the history of Earth looking more and more 'average' rather than 'exceptional' is any indication... we can guess that we were likely not "fast" in becoming intelligent.

I would agree that using the central star for energy (photosynthesis of some kind) is a likely beginning for some sort of slow-growing, generally hardy life (like plants).

I don't know, of course. But my "naive sensors" start blasting angry noises whenever I try to think about humans being "the only intelligent life" in the entire universe. It's a big place.

Edited by Stile, : And he's across the finish line! But wait, it seems like he has forgotten the baton...


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Genomicus
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(1)
Message 4 of 178 (670462)
08-15-2012 12:22 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by onifre
08-14-2012 2:34 PM


My position: I don't doubt that life, as in living organisms, exists elsewhere. But to me the thought of one specific trait, that one specific species has had for only (roughly) 150,000 years, arising in another planet doesn't make sense. For me, something like, say, sonar is probably more likely, if there are large species, than intelligence.

Intelligence hasn't been around for only 150,000 years. We aren't the only intelligent species on the planet. Dolphins are quite intelligent, for example. It is fair to say that we are the most intelligent species on the planet, but we are not the only one.

Intelligence exists in a whole bunch of animals - the only difference is the level of intelligence.


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Lithodid-Man
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Posts: 504
From: Juneau, Alaska, USA
Joined: 03-22-2004


(2)
Message 5 of 178 (670465)
08-15-2012 1:21 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by onifre
08-14-2012 2:34 PM


Biochemistry
Thanks Oni, this is a great topic. I hope the following makes sense. I am just spouting some thoughts based on what I know about this planet.

If I had to bet on the biochemistry of extraterrestrial life, my money would be on that some of the basic processes of terrestrial life would be common. Things like photosynthesis, glycolysis, etc.

I say this based on a few assumptions. One being that that Earth is 'ordinary'. That is, the early history of a planet in the ballpark of Earth's size and position around any remotely similar star will be more similar than dissimilar to our own history. If this is correct then it is not a complete leap to assume that at some stage in that planet's development abiotic carbohydrates and other critical components of terrestrial biochemistry (such as adenine) were abundant.

While it is fun to speculate about different biochemistries, given how readily some of the building blocks of terrestrial biochemistry have been shown to form suggests to me that we should expect to see them elsewhere. What I mean is that while carbohydrates do not have to be the basic energy source for life, it would seem strange to me for it not to be the most common one given the abundance of such.

So if that is the case, then glycolysis is likely to be common, and if that is the case, then photosynthesis (and/or chemosynthesis) should also be common as they are remarkebly similar chemical pathways (just in reverse).

From there, using Earth as a model, I would guess that the vast majority of life in the Universe are analogs of our prokaryotes (yes I know that this applies to Earth as well!). As I understand it prokaryotic life, including photosynthesizers, appeared on Earth just about as soon as they were able to exist. Then they just existed for billions of years. That suggests that from a probability standpoint life is easy to make, eukaryotic life on the other hand is tough and unlikely. So probably a lot more extraterrestrial stromatolites than green-skinned Orion slave girls.


Doctor Bashir: "Of all the stories you told me, which were true and which weren't?"
Elim Garak: "My dear Doctor, they're all true"
Doctor Bashir: "Even the lies?"
Elim Garak: "Especially the lies"

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NoNukes
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Posts: 9322
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 6 of 178 (670491)
08-15-2012 6:01 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Lithodid-Man
08-15-2012 1:21 PM


Re: Biochemistry
I say this based on a few assumptions. One being that that Earth is 'ordinary'. That is, the early history of a planet in the ballpark of Earth's size and position around any remotely similar star will be more similar than dissimilar to our own history. If this is correct then it is not a complete leap to assume that at some stage in that planet's development abiotic carbohydrates and other critical components of terrestrial biochemistry (such as adenine) were abundant.

Is Venus similar enough in size and location to Earth in order to make this argument questionable? Venus is not much like earth.


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead. William Lloyd Garrison


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 7 of 178 (670495)
08-15-2012 8:23 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Stile
08-15-2012 11:21 AM


Re: I like to guess
My view aligns with the whole "from what information we do gather... Earth seems less and less 'unique' and more and more 'average'" idea.

Extrapolating with this view would lead one to believe that any trait that allows a species to dominate to a large degree is going to happen... sooner or later.

I agree that Earth is not unique in a wide sense, but like I tried to explain in the analogy, neither are finger prints, but everyone's is different. There are enough genetic material to have every single finger print be unique in that sense.

This is how I think planets are. There is enough material to make each unique.

But you make a good point with traits that help dominate.

Swimming.
Flight.
Breathing air (or local livable atmosphere).
Intelligence.

Each of those is a huge factor and has led to total dominance of a large portion of the planet.

What do they require?

Water (...maybe just liquid?).
Air/Atmosphere.
Host.

But why intelligence? It has not proven dominance for a very long time. Dinosuars were giant dummies by our measure of intelligence, and they lived way longer than us? And would have continued to do so had an asteroid not hit the planet.

I know we can only assume we'll survive but how do we know too much intelligence doesn't lead to our demise?

I don't know, of course. But my "naive sensors" start blasting angry noises whenever I try to think about humans being "the only intelligent life" in the entire universe. It's a big place.

Yeah, me too. But I'm slowly being able to accept it more and more. And at this point, don't really mind the thought of being alone.

- Oni


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 8 of 178 (670496)
08-15-2012 8:24 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Genomicus
08-15-2012 12:22 PM


Intelligence hasn't been around for only 150,000 years. We aren't the only intelligent species on the planet. Dolphins are quite intelligent, for example. It is fair to say that we are the most intelligent species on the planet, but we are not the only one.

For the sake of "drawing a line" lets call intelligence the ability to create art, music, do science, create mathematical equations and have complex communication.

- Oni


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 9 of 178 (670497)
08-15-2012 8:28 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Lithodid-Man
08-15-2012 1:21 PM


Re: Biochemistry
Thanks Oni, this is a great topic. I hope the following makes sense. I am just spouting some thoughts based on what I know about this planet.

No doubt, it's a great topic I think.

If I had to bet on the biochemistry of extraterrestrial life, my money would be on that some of the basic processes of terrestrial life would be common. Things like photosynthesis, glycolysis, etc.

I say this based on a few assumptions. One being that that Earth is 'ordinary'. That is, the early history of a planet in the ballpark of Earth's size and position around any remotely similar star will be more similar than dissimilar to our own history. If this is correct then it is not a complete leap to assume that at some stage in that planet's development abiotic carbohydrates and other critical components of terrestrial biochemistry (such as adenine) were abundant.

While it is fun to speculate about different biochemistries, given how readily some of the building blocks of terrestrial biochemistry have been shown to form suggests to me that we should expect to see them elsewhere. What I mean is that while carbohydrates do not have to be the basic energy source for life, it would seem strange to me for it not to be the most common one given the abundance of such.

So if that is the case, then glycolysis is likely to be common, and if that is the case, then photosynthesis (and/or chemosynthesis) should also be common as they are remarkebly similar chemical pathways (just in reverse).

From there, using Earth as a model, I would guess that the vast majority of life in the Universe are analogs of our prokaryotes (yes I know that this applies to Earth as well!). As I understand it prokaryotic life, including photosynthesizers, appeared on Earth just about as soon as they were able to exist. Then they just existed for billions of years. That suggests that from a probability standpoint life is easy to make, eukaryotic life on the other hand is tough and unlikely. So probably a lot more extraterrestrial stromatolites than green-skinned Orion slave girls.

Dude, great lesson in biochemistry. I agree with all of it.

But then I gather that you like me feel intelligence is more unlikely than likely?

- Oni


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jar
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Message 10 of 178 (670498)
08-15-2012 8:44 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by onifre
08-15-2012 8:24 PM


Are those measures of intelligence or technology?
Are those measures of intelligence or technology? Couldn't something still be intelligent if it was quadrupedal with nothing comparable to hands?

Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

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Dr Adequate
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(1)
Message 11 of 178 (670499)
08-15-2012 8:45 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by onifre
08-14-2012 2:34 PM


Well, if the planet is Earthlike ... and if they've got past the "small uninteresting blobs" stage ... then I guess what we would likely find are those things which have evolved several times on Earth, convergently. So, for example, besides all the gliders we have true flight evolving separately in insects, birds, bats, and pterodactyls. This demonstrates that flight is quite likely, so we'd expect it to happen on Earth II at least once.
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NoNukes
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Posts: 9322
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
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Message 12 of 178 (670501)
08-15-2012 8:56 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by onifre
08-15-2012 8:24 PM


For the sake of "drawing a line" lets call intelligence the ability to create art, music, do science, create mathematical equations and have complex communication.

How few of those things can dolphins do? How many of those things can you do?


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison. Thoreau: Civil Disobedience (1846)

The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead. William Lloyd Garrison


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 13 of 178 (670504)
08-15-2012 9:40 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by NoNukes
08-15-2012 8:56 PM


How few of those things can dolphins do?

None of those things. I'm just making an arbitrary line in the sand, where this is intelligent and "that" is not. It is specifically to separate us from every other animal.

I get that other things are "intelligent", but for the sake of this thread they are not.

How many of those things can you do?

All of them. You can too.

- Oni

Edited by onifre, : No reason given.


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 14 of 178 (670505)
08-15-2012 9:48 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Dr Adequate
08-15-2012 8:45 PM


Thanks Dr. A.

So flight definitely would more than likely be a trait seen, given the post-blob Earth-like state is acheived.

Would you, could you, can "we", know how likely it is to get past that stage?

From what I've seen and read, it seems like getting past the blob stage requires a group effort of surrounding celestial bodies and rock stuff (not the technical term).

- Oni

Edited by onifre, : No reason given.


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onifre
Member (Idle past 301 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 15 of 178 (670506)
08-15-2012 9:49 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by jar
08-15-2012 8:44 PM


Re: Are those measures of intelligence or technology?
Couldn't something still be intelligent if it was quadrupedal with nothing comparable to hands?

I would think so given the vastness of the universe and the diversity of life.

- Oni

Edited by onifre, : No reason given.


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