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Are we alone in the universe?


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3 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

In considering possible alien life I always reflect upon the Earth's being home to predation.  Predation is not nice and goes squarely against most of our professed ethics about killing and inflicting suffering - but it is natural here. I can imagine an alien talking to me, though, and saying 'You eat what??? It would certainly be a shame to introduce predation where none existed before and there is no reason to assume that it will be universal.

Olly

So very true, we seem to live in a cruel world, to some extent, and for most of the animal kingdom it appears to be designed that way (I say appear purposely meaning however we got to this point that's how things seem),  humans, generally as a race, make things far worse. As you say that could be pretty shocking to some aliens if they do exist. 

Steve

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Unfortunately,  predation is the most efficient way to obtain the high quality entropy complex organisms need. It is, in my opinion, almost certain to evolve if there is any limitation on resources leading to Darwinian competition. 

Regards Andrew 

Edited by andrew s
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Predation and competition for recourse are what fuels evolution, even plants do it..

Off topic but who else thinks the dominant most intelligent species on earth are plants, they have every other species working for them in one way or another 😃

Alan

Edited by Alien 13
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12 hours ago, ollypenrice said:

I'm not so sure about our ethics...

Olly

No I am not either. But then you meet a young child and that pessimism goes out of the window . So it depends if if you are glass half full or half empty person.

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1 hour ago, Alien 13 said:

Predation and competition for recourse are what fuels evolution, even plants do it..

Off topic but who else thinks the dominant most intelligent species on earth are plants, they have every other species working for them in one way or another 😃

Alan

That's true here but I can conceive of different environmental circumstances in which  a co-operative model might replace a competitive one.  I also wonder if competition drives extinction as vigorously as it drives evolution? Co-operation could also drive evolution perfectly well, the best co-operators being the best survivors.Someone must have done a PHD on this! :grin:

Olly

Edited by ollypenrice
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Social insects are living proof of the benefits of cooperation. They evolved from collections of individuals but found advantages in taking specialist roles within a community.

Edited by cajen2
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20 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

That's true here but I can conceive of different environmental circumstances in which  a co-operative model might replace a competitive one.  I also wonder if competition drives extinction as vigorously as it drives evolution? Co-operation could also drive evolution perfectly well, the best co-operators being the best survivors.Someone must have done a PHD on this! :grin:

Olly

Of course it already exists with symbiosis being common including the bacteria in our guts. Extinction is a consequence of evolution with the great oxygenation being a prime example.

I think the difficulty is how evolution could select against predation especially in primitive organisms. 

Regards Andrew 

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42 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

That's true here but I can conceive of different environmental circumstances in which  a co-operative model might replace a competitive one.  I also wonder if competition drives extinction as vigorously as it drives evolution? Co-operation could also drive evolution perfectly well, the best co-operators being the best survivors.Someone must have done a PHD on this! :grin:

Olly

Cooperative relationship exist here on Earth in certain forms of symbiotic relationships such as commensalism and more closely in mutualism. With commensalism one species benefits while the other neither benefits nor  is harmed. Commensalism relationships more closely match a model of mutual benefit and are sub divided into obligate mutualism (the interacting species are wholly dependant on each other) and facultative mutualism (the relationship provides benefit but is not dependant upon either for survival).   These types of relationships are generally restricted to small relatively simple animals (insects, molluscs, jellies, some forms of fish). It does not support more complex life, which requires the progressive  accumulation of energy density provided by predative food chains. Advanced locomotion, self regulation of temperature (both adopted by mammals) is energy intensive.  

Jim 

Edited by saac
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I remember a University lecturer of mine (a Professor of plant biology) semi humorously suggesting plants are and will be the dominant “intelligent” life form on Earth. Of course plants are not intelligent by most definitions, but are successful with almost unfathomable metabolic and physiological tricks to survive and prosper.    Within animals, the class Insecta are arguably the most successful biologically as oft quoted  … but are they “intelligent”  ?

I like the idea of a cooperative model as suggested above,  and I think there are probably some ecological examples but I’d say in the main this is a Human construct and that ultimately Darwinian competition and associated evolution is the main thrust of biology as we know it. Discuss!

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3 minutes ago, Astro_Dad said:

I remember a University lecturer of mine (a Professor of plant biology) semi humorously suggesting plants are and will be the dominant “intelligent” life form on Earth. Of course plants are not intelligent by most definitions, but are successful with almost unfathomable metabolic and physiological tricks to survive and prosper.    Within animals, the class Insecta are arguably the most successful biologically as oft quoted  … but are they “intelligent”  ?

I like the idea of a cooperative model as suggested above,  and I think there are probably some ecological examples but I’d say in the main this is a Human construct and that ultimately Darwinian competition and associated evolution is the main thrust of biology as we know it. Discuss!

Well there are truly symbiotic (commensalism) relationships as found with aphids and ants, coral and alge, clown fish and anemones as examples. 

Jim 

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3 minutes ago, Astro_Dad said:

The ecological examples of cooperation  @saac mentions above are exactly the types I had in mind when I posted my comment above. Good discussion - clearly a cloudy night! 

How did you know?  Also, just finished watching the next episode of The Ring Of Power on Prime :) 

Jim 

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37 minutes ago, Astro_Dad said:

 Within animals, the class Insecta are arguably the most successful biologically as oft quoted  … but are they “intelligent”  ?

If humans are more intelligent than bees, why are all cars sold with satnavs? 😉

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9 minutes ago, cajen2 said:

If humans are more intelligent than bees, why are all cars sold with satnavs? 😉

😀👍. Excellent question ! The boring answer is because bees can detect and use polarised light to navigate using the sun (humans can’t do this) and are possibly sensitive to  the Earths magnetic field - humans are not. Calls the definition of intelligence into question again though …

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3 hours ago, Alien 13 said:

Predation and competition for recourse are what fuels evolution, even plants do it..

Off topic but who else thinks the dominant most intelligent species on earth are plants, they have every other species working for them in one way or another 😃

Alan

I do sometimes think it may turn out that humans are not as intelligent as we like to think and that perhaps elephants or dolphins turn out to have it right.

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36 minutes ago, cajen2 said:

If humans are more intelligent than bees, why are all cars sold with satnavs? 😉

As much as it’s a funny remark, it’s actually an interesting topic 😁 Take the Japan metro slime mould phenomena for example. Or watching orangutang(s?) perform memory tests without hesitation. Perhaps our brains are so full and complex, or maybe we’re the dummies 😉

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The concept of intelligence is itself a human invention. What is it good for? There is no evidence yet that it leads to species longevity. We say it is useful only because it drives other human constructs such as wealth, understanding, comfort.

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Interestingly I was discussing similar themes last night at a meeting of the Harrogate Astronomical Society. We had an excellent external speaker - Sue Bowler - editor of Astronomy and Geophysics and RAS member, and as is often the way with these meetings a few of us segued into philosophical areas such as these after the main event. 
The Gaia hypothesis was mentioned for example… 

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I'm always surprised by the downbeat assessment, whimsical slight,  on human intelligence. Maybe it's a natural tendency in light of some of the more stupid things we have done (there are many). But come on seriously! No bee, slime mold or any other organism for that matter other than the naked ape has discerned its genetic code, manipulated it to prolong life, correcting congenital defects. The naked ape alone has discerned the very nature of matter beyond the limits of our own senses disclosing the very fundamental building blocks of our universe.  No bee, or dolphin has told the story of the very birth of universe, nor could ponder its evolution.  Human intelligence has equipped us to defy our biological design limitations. Sensing, interacting and contemplating our reality far beyond the confines of our senses and physical structure.  Ok, so the bees can navigate back to the hive, we navigated to the Moon and back ( a moving target in a life threatening environment); moreover, we did that within a lifetime of the first human powered flight - think about that! A bee can sense Earth's magnetic field, but it does so without any thought or recognition or understanding of that field, it's a slave to its nature. We have manipulated quantum fields, ripping atoms apart releasing fundamental energy while understanding what we were doing. We did that only 48 years after discovering the first fundamental particle (electron). We have left our solar system (Voyager probes), detected and imaged Black Holes, gravitational waves, and if it exits, we will for sure stand at the Tannhauser Gate and watch C-beams glitter  in the dark!  Meanwhile, slime mold will still be moldy, dolphins will still be strange fishy mammals and as for bees, well they ain't so smart, we will still be stealing their honey :) 

Jim 

 

 

Edited by saac
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39 minutes ago, PeterC65 said:

The concept of intelligence is itself a human invention. What is it good for? There is no evidence yet that it leads to species longevity.

I suppose it has to be - no other species  has the capacity to define or attempt to describe abstract concepts, let alone those that have debatable definitions. It is not necessarily good for species longevity (good discussion point) but is good for overall problem solving and therefore competitive advantage - even if only over the short term  - but then what about artificial intelligence? 

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1 hour ago, Astro_Dad said:

😀👍. Excellent question ! The boring answer is because bees can detect and use polarised light to navigate using the sun (humans can’t do this) and are possibly sensitive to  the Earths magnetic field - humans are not. Calls the definition of intelligence into question again though …

Actually, I did know that - I was being facetious. I've had a fascination with insects since early childhood. I was also referring to the 'dance' of the honeybee to communicate the location of nectar sources (Karl Von Frisch). So they know how to get there and don't get lost, which is more than can be said of drivers even WITH satnavs! 😄

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1 hour ago, Astro_Dad said:

I suppose it has to be - no other species  has the capacity to define or attempt to describe abstract concepts, let alone those that have debatable definitions. It is not necessarily good for species longevity (good discussion point) but is good for overall problem solving and therefore competitive advantage - even if only over the short term  - but then what about artificial intelligence? 

Artificial intelligence, what an interesting point! Assuming a singularity (or approaching) type AI, it has all the knowledge but only has so because of human input, so is it intelligent or just an example of human intelligence? Intelligence is also so often conflated/related to something’s ability to manipulate its environment. An AI with bundles of knowledge and information but no means to do anything with it.

Does it, with that infinite knowledge, understand its own existence? Just like with the slime mold; we don’t deem it more intelligent for figuring out an easier route with more precision than any human because it’s not thinking, so would we deem a knowledgable AI intelligent if it’s just following its own form of ‘reflexes’? 
 

I’m approaching verbal diarrhoea at this point; problem with telescope-like times but no clear skies to distract me 😴😆

For the record @saac, I’m only messing about suggesting humans to not be more intelligent 😁 the mechanisms for slime molds, bees etc. are all understood and aren’t reflections of intelligence, or in the very least don’t come close to human intelligence. An interesting thought experiment nonetheless.

Edited by sorrimen
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  • Mr Spock changed the title to Are we alone in the universe?

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