September 26, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

SETI Club Goes Bonkers

Flush with new money, the astronomers who support SETI have lost all restraint in their speculations.

Help Robert Trotta (New Scientist). He’s lonely with just one populated earth.

Who believes in aliens? Live Science posted an infographic about survey results in an effort to prove that SETI is “far from a fringe belief.” Sounds like Karl Tate is worried it is a fringe belief. On average, 54% of Americans, Germans and Brits believe space aliens exist. But of course they do. They’ve been watching Star Trek for decades now, and the Knowers of the Culture (scientists) keep telling them that we’re here, so they must have evolved out there. It’s not helping SETI’s scientific reputation that Tate decorated his article with images of Hollywood space aliens.

About the same percent of those polled, when asked why we haven’t heard from aliens yet, put their hope in future technology that may finally succeed in contacting them. Only 6% figure that alien civilizations probably destroy themselves too fast (see Evolution News & Views about SEETI, the Search for Extinct Extraterrestrial Intelligence.)

Finding a majority that believes in space aliens may be a shot in the arm to SETI scientists, but they don’t seem alarmed that a sizeable minority (44 to 48%) do not believe in them, or don’t know. But the materialist media never requires an overwhelming majority for its agenda anyway. Here is some of the nonsense being bantered about in the media over a subject that is entirely lacking in evidence.

Expand your horizons: In Science Magazine, Nola Taylor Redd gives SETI scientists the go-ahead to look for aliens in the centers of galaxies, contrary to earlier convictions about the Galactic Habitable Zone. But aren’t there too many supernovas in that region? Sure, but what the heck; there’s probably so many aliens everywhere that some of them will survive to be detected even in the uninhabitable places.

Giddy up: Astrobiology Magazine shares how veteran SETI guy Seth Shostak is giddy with all the money given by that private benefactor, Russky billionaire Yuri Milner (PhysOrg). Shostak doesn’t have enough fingers on his hands to point to all the ways he wants to spend it. At least taxpayers don’t have to contribute. Does Milner expect a return on investment?

Ruling out one class of super-aliens: Another Astrobiology Magazine article at first seems like a downer, announcing that “super-advanced alien civilizations” are either “rare or absent” in the local universe. Daniel Clery at Science Mag hums this dirge, too. But the thinking that led to the conclusion is far out; if a “Kardashev Type III Civilization” (no, not a Star Trek invention) built a “Dyson Sphere” (a humongous structure to capture all the energy of its dying star), we should be able to detect it by its infrared radiation. We haven’t; ipso facto, they don’t exist. That still leaves the Kardashev Types I and II to look for, though.

Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from nature: In July, Charles Lineweaver asked if humans are indistinguishable from nature (PhysOrg). If not, then what exactly is SETI looking for? He bounces off Stephen Hawking’s speech at the Breakthrough Initiative event where the award was announced.

Let’s take a careful look at Hawking’s logic. He said: “We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth. So in an infinite universe there must be other occurrences of life.”

We have good reasons to believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth, but there are many things that “arose spontaneously on Earth” that have almost certainly not occurred elsewhere. Stephen Hawking is one of them. The English language is another.

How about Hawking speaking English with an American accent and Milner speaking English with a Russian accent, in London. How many Londons are there in an infinite universe? How many Londons with Stephen and Yuri speaking English with their accents?

If we include a little bit more detail, things get quirkier. Stephen may have had wheat, milk and orange juice in his stomach. Yuri, coffee and a banana. This whole quirky assemblage “arose spontaneously on Earth”. But arising spontaneously does not mean there will be other occurrences of it in the universe.

Aliens aren’t secret spies: Live Science takes to task American turncoat Edward Snowden’s off-the-cuff speculation that we can’t hear anything but noise, because the space aliens are encrypting their messages. This sent Seth Shostak, Doug Vakoch and other SETI clubbers into media defense mode. “We’re not looking for the message,” Shostak retorted. “We’re looking for the signal that tells us that somebody has a transmitter.” But isn’t that a message of sorts? Doesn’t it reveal that an intelligent mind built a transmitter to transmit a message? Think of a spy listening to an encrypted message; “The message itself might be indistinguishable from noise if it were well encrypted, but it would still, obviously, be a message,” Live Science writer Stephanie Pappas reasons, using the design inference.

Hot in the kitchen: The last example is not strictly about SETI, but astrobiologists (who search for any life, intelligent or not) are comrades with SETI folk, so here goes. Michael Page, a prof at U of Huddersfield (where’s that?) doesn’t need evidence to make progress. He can just play video games with Second Life or something. The title of his piece in The Conversation is, “Imagining strange new lifeforms could help us discover our own origins.” The article was enthusiastically republished by Live Science without criticism.

The hard realities of the primordial soup kitchen have apparently got him down. He knows that “the origin of life remains one of the major scientific riddles to be solved.” Real world experiments have been depressing. In fantasyland, though, your wishes can come true!

The assumption that early life forms must have been similar to what we see today may be preventing us from answering this question. [of “how this ‘machinery’ of chemicals came together to generate life“]. It’s possible that there were many unsuccessful precursors that bore little resemblance to present-day life. There has been speculation that primitive starting points could even have been based around an element other than carbon (the substance at the heart of all life today). Some researchers suggest that life may have originally evolved in liquids other than water. These alternatives are fascinating, but it’s difficult to find a starting point for researching them because they are so unfamiliar.

Professor Page briefly recounts the “bottom-up” approach of stirring chemical soups and the “top-down” approach of stripping cells down to see what they can live without.

BM-EmperorCharlie-smWhile both approaches may be enlightening, the precise moment of transition from chemical to life (and vice versa) still evades us. But the lack of discovery is fascinating in itself – it confirms that creating life is difficult and requires conditions that are no longer naturally present on the Earth. A breakthrough in this area would not only tell us the requirements for life, but also the circumstances of its emergence.

So that’s why the headline of his speculation is a drawing of weird, unreal swimming things in an imaginary soup.

Hey, can we do that? Sounds like fun. Come up with weird ideas, with absolutely no evidence, and get paid for it? Speculate wildly about things nobody can possibly know, and be respected by the mainstream media and Big Science? What a sinecure! Tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Actually, Dr. Page will know all about the “vice versa” transition from life to chemicals in due time. He’s been to other people’s funerals, hasn’t he?

We had to keep rubbing it in, but if you find infrared radiation and conclude it’s from a Dyson Sphere built by a Kardashev Type III Civilization, you’re making a design inference, supporting the validity of intelligent design reasoning. Without ID, SETI could not exist.



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  • John C says:

    Would aliens at the level of K-III want anything TO DO with us (other than destroy us as blights on the universe)?

    I like the opinion of an evangelist when asked, who said while he didn’t think intelligent (read human) life would be found, he’d have no problem with plant or animal life on in other star systems. These would certainly be the kind provision of a loving Creator to supply His creatures needs as they ventured out.

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