Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Intelligent life out there?

I mentioned in my last post that I hurt a friend's feelings recently. It was in our small group fellowship that meets on Sunday nights, and somehow we got to talking about extraterrestrial life.

When I commented that I was almost sure there was lots of intelligent life in the universe, he was completely floored and said that if that was true, he'd lose his faith. His reasoning was that humanity is God's special creation, made in His image, and if we're not alone then we're not special and we might as well throw out the bible.

I did not have a good poker face. My friend saw that I thought his stance was ridiculous, and it crushed him. It was not one of my better moments.

So as a heart/spirit issue, I blew it! All that blogging I do about having an open mind, and respecting the opinions of others, and then I openly show condescencion to the feelings of a brother. Shame on me.

But besides the heart issue, a few of you were curious about my intellectual approach, and why I would be so sure that there is other intelligent life out there. Let me start by confessing my bias.

I grew up as a total science fiction nerd. Books, movies, short stories... I devoured them all and regularly read tales of alien species. I loved it, so in a way I really really want ETs to be real. Which of course has no bearing on whether or not they actually exist.

So biases aside, my logic is very simple -- the universe is so unbelievably massive that the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of there being other intelligent life. Not just one or two civilizations, but millions.

In the 1960s the "Drake equation" was formulated in an attempt to calculate the # of alien civilizations that might exist just in our Milky Way galaxy. They included multiple factors (chance of a sun having a planet like Earth, the chance of that planet having life, the chance of that life becoming sentient, etc...) and put the probabilities really low, like 1% and under for each factor. The final calculation came out to over 10,000 intelligent civilizations just in our galaxy.

And our galaxy is barely a blip in the universe. There are billions of other galaxies out there. If our sun was a grain of sand, then all the grains of sand on all the beaches of our planet might equate to how many stars are in the universe. Think about that one for a moment until it gets too big to fathom.

See this previous post for another illustration on how huge our universe is.

I actually think the Drake equation is a bunch of bunk as a final calculation, because we just have no clue what those probabilities are. And when you completely guess at eight different factors, then multiply those guesses together... you get crap. Statistically speaking.

But even if you set the probabilities at .000000001% for each number, there are still many intelligent species all over the universe. Unfortunately it's so big out there, we'll almost surely never meet any of them.

Perhaps first we should continue the search for proof that we have intelligent life on this planet! That gets more difficult every time I watch television. :)


Bob Barbanes said...

I can see why people might think we are the exclusive sentient life in the universe. It gives them comfort. But my mom, who is very wise, says that it's entirely possible that God created other beings as well - before or after us - but it doesn't diminish our importance in *our* universe.

Who can say? It's not worth getting into arguments over or being offended by or throwing your faith away.

Don said...

All you have done is express your "humanity". By the way, I totally agree with you. I truly believe that there is a good chance that before my generation moves on, we will discover proof that we have already been visited by EIL. Some folks just aren't ready to have their horizons expanded. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

MamaRose said...

Yeah, THAT'S WHAT I'd like to see--MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE on THIS PLANET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I, also, believe there's 'other LIFE' 'out there', but have NO PROOF, either--I just know that OUR GOD IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO HAVE CREATED IT ALL--however MANY HE wanted/wants!!!!!!!!!

And, it does NOT affect MY FAITH IN HIM, AT ALL--'How can ANY of us KNOW the mind of God?', etc.--IF it really does/will affect your 'brother's' faith, then HE needs to WORK ON IT, MORE!!!!!!!!!

What our God has DONE for us has NO bearing on what he CHOOSES to do for others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He's 'BIG ENOUGH', He can do whatever HE WISHES--and, at just a thought or ONE WORD--like he created US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You didn't really 'mess up' THAT badly, I don't think--that other guy just has a VERY SMALL mind--bless his heart--hopefully, one/some day, it will GROW, too!!!!

LOVE this post, as I ALWAYS DO!!!!!
Give your family hugs & kisses for/from us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom

Roland said...

I read a lot of sci fi, too. I agree that even with a teeny, tiny percentage, the odds are there that there's more life out there. Of course, what are odds to God? 100%, right? So, there is a "them" out there.

Just be ready, for if God can make us and them and all the space in between, he can make the warp drive possible, so it's a matter of time... Not just that and them, but don't forget worm holes, phasers, folding space, bussard ramjets, photon torpedos, transporters, ringworlds, dyson spheres, and green orion slave girls.

I'm not necessarily joking. Matter. Of. Time.

Merry Christmas!

Tit for Tat said...

Interestingly enough, if we are spiritual beings and created in Gods image, we dont really even know what we look like. Who knows, maybe it is just like an alien. ;)

Steve H. said...

I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi, especially intelligent Sci-Fi like "Contact" which is one of my favorite movies. I would like there to be others out there (provided they didn't think we looked delicious with a cream sauce and white wine)

...but have no idea whether there really are any.

Debby said...

I agree with Bob over this one. Who can say? I will never say there is not intelligent life someplace else. Never. Likewise, I've not seen any proof that there is, so it remains a mystery, like so many other mysterious things in this world.

TV sort of sucks the brains right out of your head. Your life begins to be limited by your television 'line up'. Really, I think that the most intelligent thing that we've ever done is simply decide it wasn't worth the money.