April 19, 2015

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Astrobiology, the Pseudoscience and Wishful (though very, very Educated) Thinking – Part 2


Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in London this past August, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. The link is provided below…

Hart-Tipler are WRONG! (add echoing sound effect); Sagan-Anyone That Believes Wildly Enough MUST BE RIGHT!!!! (add earthquaking and echoing sound effect)…

It’s funny, because the author George Dvorsky here (http://io9.com/11-of-the-weirdest-solutions-to-the-fermi-paradox-456850746) says, “Most people take it for granted that we have yet to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. Trouble is, the numbers don’t add up. Our Galaxy is so old that every corner of it should have been visited many, many times over by now. No theory to date has satisfactorily explained away this Great Silence, so it’s time to think outside the box.”

What exactly does “the numbers don’t add up” and “No theory to date has satisfactorily explained away this Great Silence” mean to these people? Apparently it means, ignore reality and propose ever more fanciful and wild explanations when Occam’s Razor is quite clear: “...among competing hypotheses that predict equally well, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove to provide better predictions, but—in the absence of differences in predictive ability—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.”

Thus far, all of the hypotheses are equal: not one has produced evidence of intelligence beyond Earth. Ergo, the one hypothesis that DOES explain the evidence: “There’s no one but us”, is correct.

But science fiction writers and pseudoscientists refuse to accept such a conclusion and try to come up with wilder and wilder explanations for the observable fact that there are no intelligent alien life anywhere but here. In fact, despite brightly optimistic claims from NASA its very self, “‘I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,’ NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said April 7, 2015 during a panel discussion that focused on the space agency's efforts to search for habitable worlds and alien life.” There remains no EVIDENCE that there is life, space scientists insist that there is WATER everywhere, “For example, oceans of liquid water slosh beneath the icy shells of the Jupiter moons Europa and Ganymede, as well as that of the Saturn satellite Enceladus. Oceans covered much of Mars in the ancient past, and seasonal dark streaks observed on the Red Planet's surface today may be caused by salty flowing water.”

For whatever reason, they leap to the conclusion that where there is water, there certainly must be life. While evidence on Earth certainly supports this belief, “...extreme heat and some synthetic laboratory environments might be the only sterile conditions on the planet’s surface that it’s possible to find zero traces of life. New organisms are regularly discovered that push the boundaries of life as we understand it, although where that line will ultimately be drawn remains unknown. As Santos says, ‘What does not exist is more difficult to prove than what does exist.’”

While it is certainly possible – and despite the abundance of negativity above, I still hope we discover life off of Earth – confirmation of life off Earth awaits presentable, incontrovertible EVIDENCE. As for the arrival of that dubious day – I am not holding my breath.

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