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Aliens- do they exist?? Poll section  

77 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think aliens exist?

    • yes
      57
    • no
      5
    • maybe
      15
  2. 2. If aliens do exist, do you think we should fear them or befriend them?

    • lets all just get along..
      16
    • humans can't handle each other, we sure can't handle aliens.
      24
    • depends on the aliens..
      38
  3. 3. If aliens were to arrive on earth tomorrow, how would you react?

    • Run
      2
    • Panic
      14
    • Fight
      4
    • Ask for an alien telescope (they came from space, maybe they have superscopes)
      58


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29 minutes ago, saac said:

If you are looking for a widely held scientific definition of what constitutes life then you do well by starting with the 7 processes defined by the mnemonic MRS GREN. All seven of these processes must be carried out to qualify as life. 

Movement

Reproduction

Sensitivity (must be capable of reacting to its environment)

Growth

Excretion

Nutrition

Jim

I think the R is missing, the last two though should be any form of energy change either chemical/heat or electromagnetic unless we only consider organic life..

Alan

Alan

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41 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

I think some of your definitions are tautological but others seem valid. 'The distinction between animate and inanimate objects and living objects and non-living objects,' is surely tautological? They're animate because they're animate and they're living because they're not non-living. However, taking in nutrients, reproducing, moving autonomously, all seem promising. Intelligence is harder. For example, so far as we know plants move without 'intelligence' and yet they move where they need to move so they are, in the old sense of the word 'intelligent' of where the light is. Hmmm, this is a thorny one!

Olly

Now then Olly, that's being pernickety!   Substitute the 'and' for 'or'.  You must make some allowances for us Greys. :)

The animate and inanimate view of life is not my definition but the scientific communities definition. Which is the most accepted form and distinction between the living and non-living.

Which was my point in another thread that I don't think science is the be all and end all of everything. As human beings, we are much more complex in our understanding of the Universe than pure science can give answers to. That is not knocking it, but simply highlighting the extent of its boundaries. Science made itself sterile when it divorced itself from the other sciences. It no longer has any 'feelings' for life.

I get upset when people cut down weeds, to me they are flowers, just like any other flower, they deserve to be admired for what they are. Can science distinguish between a weed and a flower? Or between a dead flower and a living flower, both can be beautiful in my opinion.  Because if it can, it will be making a segragation between a lower lifeform and a higher lifeform. In the old days of Edwardian and Victorian hierarchy, we saw the instance of the 'pecking order' as a way to measure 'intelligence'. The lower on the pecking order scale the lower the intelligence of that being. And along with that kind of thinking, gives way to a view that a lower life form is insignificant whereas a higher lifeform is somehow more precious. Hence the term 'pond life', being a remark given to non-desirable human beings but in my pond there are quite some seemingly intelligent little critters....only thing is, none of them would pass the Turing test!

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12 minutes ago, Moonshane said:

Faithfully creating a reproduction  of yourself is life. The genetic code is the active ingredient.

Reproduction on its own is not life - all seven life processes need to occur. The debate as to whether a virus constitutes life is a well worn in life sciences. The virus cannot make a copy of itself without using the mechanisms to copy DNA from a host cell. Interestingly though, there is a line of though to say that life here had origins in virus biology. 

 

Jim 

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12 minutes ago, Delasaurus said:

Science made itself sterile when it divorced itself from the other sciences. It no longer has any 'feelings' for life.

 

I'm sorry I'm really not being rude here but that is just so much nonsense the antithesis really of what science is about. Science is nothing more than making observations, forming logical conclusion and testing those conclusion to confirm the logic. Nothing magical about it, nothing requiring some other form of human emotion - it is cold, it is mathematical it is logical. It does not have, nor any need for, "feelings".  Now, if you wish to examine the qualities of life through another human experience such as music, poetry or art then that is an entirely acceptable proposition and has merit in contributing to the human condition. However, that would certainly not be science and certainly not the basis to proceed in determining if the green goo on the astronaut's boot returning from mars is life.

Jim 

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17 minutes ago, saac said:

Reproduction on its own is not life ...... Interestingly though, there is a line of though to say that life here had origins in virus biology. 

 

Jim 

That is true, but none of it has been provern as yet and it's basis lays in RNA rather than DNA.

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19 minutes ago, saac said:

Reproduction on its own is not life - all seven life processes need to occur. The debate as to whether a virus constitutes life is a well worn in life sciences. The virus cannot make a copy of itself without using the mechanisms to copy DNA from a host cell. Interestingly though, there is a line of though to say that life here had origins in virus biology. 

 

Jim 

According to some arguments yes but I disagree. Life is about genes not moving about or excreting. I doubt fungi excrete but i don't doubt they are alive. Try making a copy of yourself without the DNA of a partner. There are parallels to the viral method in some ways. As i am sure you know mitachondrial dna only follows the female route in human reproduction. This is a wide and very interesting subject ?

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21 minutes ago, Moonshane said:

According to some arguments yes but I disagree. Life is about genes not moving about or excreting. I doubt fungi excrete but i don't doubt they are alive. Try making a copy of yourself without the DNA of a partner. There are parallels to the viral method in some ways. As i am sure you know mitachondrial dna only follows the female route in human reproduction. This is a wide and very interesting subject ?

Yet the 7 life processes described by Mrs GREN represent the accepted scientific definition of life. Fungi do indeed excrete, they must do in order to remove the waste material that they are unable to process. There is no doubt within the life sciences as to what constitutes life. The mechanism or reproduction is entirely irrelevant to the test and - the test of reproduction simply concerns itself with  - can the organism reproduce? - if it does that with/without DNA, sharing or not sharing it does not matter. 

 

Jim 

Edited by saac

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6 minutes ago, saac said:

I'm sorry I'm really not being rude here but that is just so much nonsense the antithesis really of what science is about. Science is nothing more than making observations, forming logical conclusion and testing those conclusion to confirm the logic. Nothing magical about it, nothing requiring some other form of human emotion - it is cold, it is mathematical it is logical. It does not have, nor any need for, "feelings".  Now, if you wish to examine the qualities of life through another human experience such as music, poetry or art then that is an entirely acceptable proposition and has merit in contributing to the human condition. However, that would certainly not be science and certainly not the basis to proceed in determining if the green goo on the astronaut's boot returning from mars is life.

Jim 

Oh I quite agree. :) As an ex engineer, a mm is a mm and not a thou difference. And like science, engineering will never explain the workings of the Universe. But also like science, engineering removed itself from the other Arts. But in doing so, have we lost something? The segregation of the arts and sciences have led to compartmentalization. Where as they used to compliment each other and the boundaries were much narrower than they are now. 

The anology I would like to make regarding 'feelings' is this, by the work of Spainish architect Calatrava. Here, his work unifies the sciences and is not ashamed to blur the edges of all disciplines. Is he an engineer, a scientist, an architect or an artist or poet? You could say that engineering (structural, genetic or other) has no place for feelings because it is 'engineering' and engineering abides by the rules of form following function. (supposedly)

'Science is nothing more than making observations, forming logical conclusion and testing those conclusion to confirm the logic', your exactly right. An hypothesis, which is recognised until provern otherwise. Something that seems to fit the bill...until something else comes along.

On the other hand Engineering according to this definition, which has changed since my days as knowing what engineering was broadly about;

Engineering is the application of mathematics, science, economics, and social and practical knowledge to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions, and organizations.

That's a whole world away from my apprenticeship experience, working on the shop floor turning out lumps of metal...and as long as they fitted between the test rig and were within a certain tolerence, then that was engineering my boy! :)

So what if we bend the rules a bit? What if science, as we know it by your definition, cannot resolve an observation without another input, such as philosophy? Quantum mechanics is full of riddles that scienctists know they cannot resolve as yet or never will because of it's nature...they have to put in the X factor, the unknown quantity, the 'hunch factor' for the hypothesis to function. Is that still science then? Is that not just guessing, disguised as scientific fact? It is nothing more than an hypothesis, and a hypothesis as we know, doesn't necessarily make anything fact. Logically or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

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28 minutes ago, Delasaurus said:

 

What if science, as we know it by your definition, cannot resolve an observation without another input, such as philosophy? 

 

 Then we are not dealing with science.

A hypothesis is nothing more than than an educated guess. I don't think the science body puts any more store by a hypothesis, I have certainly never seen a hypothesis been promoted as received or concluded "science".   I think this is another case where the public view and understanding of science departs from what is understood by the professional bodies themselves. Science has not removed itself from art, philosophy, music  etc no more than an apple has removed itself from a spanner. Science is what it is, a methodology with its own operational doctrine, it stands in its own right.  I really don't see why you need to conflate science with other disciplines. It is more than happy and certainly has the proven track record in standing on its own. It, together with mathematics,  has outperformed any other human discipline in explaining the nature of the world in which we live. Now that is not to say that science alone provides the full account of the human condition. Our experience is of course more than science which is cold and rational. Music, art, poetry, philosophy, theology, and a host of other "ologies" contribute to provide the warmth, the passion and fire of the human condition. None however are science.   

Jim 

Edited by saac
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2 hours ago, saac said:

Yet the 7 life processes described by Mrs GREN represent the accepted scientific definition of life. Fungi do indeed excrete, they must do in order to remove the waste material that they are unable to process. There is no doubt within the life sciences as to what constitutes life. The mechanism or reproduction is entirely irrelevant to the test and - the test of reproduction simply concerns itself with  - can the organism reproduce? - if it does that with/without DNA, sharing or not sharing it does not matter. 

 

Jim 

As with anything like this there are always differing views. Mine differs from yours about what is and is not accepted in terms of life definitions. This is why it's still debated so widely. It's not hard to find sources suggesting that not everyone agrees with 'mrs gren' E.g. 

https://www.astrobio.net/origin-and-evolution-of-life/defining-life/

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2 minutes ago, Moonshane said:

As with anything like this there are always differing views. Mine differs from yours about what is and is not accepted in terms of life definitions. This is why it's still debated so widely. It's not hard to find sources suggesting that not everyone agrees with 'mrs gren' E.g. 

https://www.astrobio.net/origin-and-evolution-of-life/defining-life/

No it's not hard, there are other definitions, but that is why I said at the beginning a good starting point is Mrs GREN. It remains a widely accepted position within the broad scientific community,  but indeed there are others.

Jm 

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It's always more fascinating and worthwhile / progressive when people (respectfully as in this case) disagree ?

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Ps another positive tenet of science - free thinking ☺

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1 minute ago, Moonshane said:

It's always more fascinating and worthwhile / progressive when people (respectfully as in this case) disagree ?

I think without disagreement the world would be rather bland Moonshane. Often thought it is a rather British thing to avoid disagreement - stiff upper lip and all that :)  That's a shame because disagreement drives much of science. So I thank you for the opportunity to disagree with me and I you :) 

 

Jim 

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27 minutes ago, saac said:

 I really don't see why you need to conflate science with other disciplines

That is because I believe there can be a cohesive overlap. Just as there used to be in antiquity. And indeed, it was the apple removing itself from the spanner that led to modern day science and mathematics. Which, to my mind, has evolved to a certain arrogance of superiority in defining life.

' It, together with mathematics,  has outperformed any other human discipline in explain the nature of the world in which we live. Now that is not to say that science alone and on its own provides the full account of the human condition', maybe not Jim, but it does smack a bit of self-righteousness among the other disciplines. Obviously, we can't go back in time but we can acknowledge it's (science) historical roots, where the edges were once blurred.

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8 minutes ago, Delasaurus said:

That is because I believe there can be a cohesive overlap. Just as there used to be in antiquity. And indeed, it was the apple removing itself from the spanner that led to modern day science and mathematics. Which, to my mind, has evolved to a certain arrogance of superiority in defining life.

' It, together with mathematics,  has outperformed any other human discipline in explain the nature of the world in which we live. Now that is not to say that science alone and on its own provides the full account of the human condition', maybe not Jim, but it does smack a bit of self-righteousness among the other disciplines. Obviously, we can't go back in time but we can acknowledge it's (science) historical roots, where the edges were once blurred.

 

Delasaurus,

In the spirit of moonshane's note above I'm respectfully going to disagree delasaurus,  we have divergent views on science. We may close the gap elsewhere but not on this I think. :) 

 

Moonshane

Yes I'm  sorry that was perhaps a bit ambiguous (unintentionally). To be clear, I think the debate was really enjoyable and welcomed the opportunity to disagree and for others to disagree with me.:help:  There I think that's better. :) 

 

Jim 

Edited by saac
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3 minutes ago, saac said:

 

Delasaurus,

In the spirit of moonshane's note above I'm respectfully going to disagree delasaurus,  we have divergent views on science. We may close the gap elsewhere but not on this I think. :) 

 

Moonshane

Yes I, sorry that was perhaps a bit ambiguous (unintentionally). To be clear, I think the debate was really enjoyable and welcomed the opportunity to disagree and for others to disagree with me.:help:  There I think that's better. :) 

 

Jim 

Yes, that's OK, lets let moonshanes wisdom shine through... and not get ourselves trapped in what is otherwise another interesting thread.

Del. :)

 

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Maybe this is not a legal argument in term of science but according to wikileaks, the US government would already be in direct contact with aliens.

 

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6 hours ago, N3ptune said:

Maybe this is not a legal argument in term of science but according to wikileaks, the US government would already be in direct contact with aliens.

 

Please can we avoid conspiracy theories or it will inevitably end what has been an enjoyable debate. 

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Two thoughts. Hypothesis is not concluded science but it is surely part of the scientific process. I think Jocelyn Bell was encouraging the role of hypothesis to be given more importance a few years ago. Many hypotheses fail the destruction test of experiment but those which don't seed new theories.

Beauty and science. They are not, in real life, unconnected because many of the great scientists, in regarding the existing work of their colleagues or considering their own and colleagues' hypotheses, make beauty an arbiter. I gather that Einstein considered Maxwell's equations to be too beautiful to be at fault, so much so that he was prepared to take the unprecedented step of considering the mutability of time and space to be a physical reality. (Others had seen it only as a mathematical excercise.) Gallileo's dialogues invite the reader to consider the beauty and simplicity of the heliocentric universe as compared with the epicycles and machinations of Ptolemy's system. (His ignoring of Copernicus' epicycles is something of a mystery! Did he ignore them because they were over-ruled by his sense of the inherent beauty of the idea?)

But I do thnk that quantum theory may have changed everything in regard to the beauty of physics. It's a non-conceptual theory because nobody has a physical conception of the inside of an atom and, therefore, the arbiter of beauty is confined only to mathematical beauty. I think this is a big disadvantage.

I also suspect that beauty and science may have a genetic link in the human brain. My hunch is that our sense of beauty is linked to a sense of 'rightness.' It may offer a different way than calculating, analysing, testing, of making a life saving or fatal decision. If it looks right (and therefore beautiful) it is right. The beauty test may be the shortcut alternative to calculation, if you like. That doesn't make it infallible which is possibly why our ability to calculate has been genetically selected in.

Olly

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Defining the border between being alive or not is a very hard one. Relying on autonomous reproduction rules out a eunuch, or indeed any worker bee, as being alive, which is clearly undesirable. One of the best definitions of life I have heard is that an entity is alive if it actively preserves its structure, or put more physically keeps its entropy low. A crystal might keep its structure but there is no activity involved, it is just a stable equilibrium state of matter. A living organism is clearly not an equilibrium state, though through a process of homeostasis (or perhaps better homeodynamics) it preserves its structure. Viruses are not included in this definition as being alive, they can be seen as a complex toxin that causes the cells it enters to produce more of the same toxin. This exclusion might seem undesirable to some. This may point to the fact that alive/dead is not a binary issue, maybe we should simply speak of the degree to which something is alive, just like we must speak of the degree to which something is intelligent. Stuart Kaufman has suggested that in its very simplest form, life is an auto-catalytic cycle, in which substance A makes B, which makes C, ... etc which makes A. Given enough energy and nutrients such a cycle could perpetuate itself indefinitely. All that is needed is some form of catalysis. I think this is the best explanation for the emergence of life: all it needs is catalysis (which we know exists), and under some very plausible assumptions we get auto-catalytic cycles developing in a geologically very short time.  This is a far better idea than the rather fragile RNA-world models.

Reproduction is required for evolution of course as one of its key ingredients. You also needs inherited features (hence information replication in DNA), generation of variability (mutation, cross-over), and selection pressure. So any auto-catalytic cycle that evolves some means of preserving and replicating information on its own structure has the edge over those that cannot, because it allows the evolution of evolvability, as Richard Dawkins put it (R. Dawkins (1989) "The Evolution of Evolvability" In: Artificial Life (C.G. Langton, ed.), Addison-Wessley, pp 201-220).

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Now that's what you call a post, Michael. My reading is mapped out for some time to come!

Olly

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5 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

Two thoughts. Hypothesis is not concluded science but it is surely part of the scientific process. I think Jocelyn Bell was encouraging the role of hypothesis to be given more importance a few years ago. Many hypotheses fail the destruction test of experiment but those which don't seed new theories.

Correct, the whole point in fact of the hypothesis; it frames the scope of the investigation. To conflate the hypothesis with concluded science is simply incorrect.

Jim

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