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Yeah, I agree. In fact, I think it's very likely that it exists, given the vastness of the Universe and sheer number of stars and planets...I just find it likely that there are other planets where conditions would be sufficient to support the evolution of life. I also agree that we will probably not contact them within our lifetime. Of course, there is also the possibility that, if an alien civilization is much older than ours, that they started sending out radio waves millions of years ago, in which case, they could reach us at any minute. Of course, if that happened, it would be very likely that the civilization which sent the messages would no longer exist.

Edited by Moose
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Why does Objectivism need to have an official stance on every topic or issue?

The Objectivism philosophy provides the tools to come to a reasonable conclusion, but it is unreasonable that the same conclusion will be reached by everyone.

I feel that the beauty of philosophy is that there are no restrictions on thought processes. By developing an official stance, the necessity for thinking has evaporated.

Oh, and I do think it is reasonable that life exists elsewhere in the universe. It is scientifically possible that an ideal situation like ours on Earth developed in other regions. But I guess that it is statistically possible that extra-terrestrial life has not been created.

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I figured it would be considered a violation of Objectivist epistemology to believe in alien life, because there is no sensory evidence for it. So, it seems to me that the de facto Objectivist position is that it should be accepted as false, until there is evidence.

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I figured it would be considered a violation of Objectivist epistemology to believe in alien life, because there is no sensory evidence for it.  So, it seems to me that the de facto Objectivist position is that it should be accepted as false, until there is evidence.

What would qualify as evidence here? There are thousands of 'eye witness testimonies' that claim to have encountered extra-terrestrial life - this certainly qualifies as evidence by any reasonable definition of the word (what evidence do you have that Mongolia exists?). The question isnt whether there is evidence for extra-terrestrial life, but rather how much significance you attach to the existing evidence. While I dont personally believe extra-terrestrial life has visited earth, I'm not entirely happy with writing off the experiences of thousands of people as being 'deluded'/'misled'/'made up'/'incorrectly interpreted' with a wave of the hand - its almost the very definition of dogmatism. I certainly wouldnt call someone irrational, or misguided, for believing in extra-terrestrial life at the present time - I think this is one of those topics where there is room for honest disagreement.

As to whether extra-terrestrial life exists 'somewhere in the universe', I would say yes almost without question. The sheer size of the universe makes me find the idea of Earth being the only planet to have ended up harbouring life unfeasible.

Edited by Hal
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What is the Objectivist stance on the possibility of extra-terrestrial life somewhere else in the Universe?
Pretty much the same as the Objectivist stance on the possibility that any arbitrary proposition will turn out to be (describe) a fact. It isn't false -- that would indicate that you had evidence against the proposition. For the moment, it is arbitrary.
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Pretty much the same as the Objectivist stance on the possibility that any arbitrary proposition will turn out to be (describe) a fact. It isn't false -- that would indicate that you had evidence against the proposition. For the moment, it is arbitrary.

I don't know if that's actually true. We have plenty of evidence that life exists here on Earth. It is actually a fact that each one of us knows first hand. If life developed here on this planet is it at all a non-sequitor to assume it developed on other planets in an "infinite" universe? I don't think that it is, but of course you should not draw any other inferences off this one, such as intellgient life is visiting us and so forth. But it is NOT arbitrary to claim life exists elsewhere using the firsthand evidence we have from Earth.

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I don't know if that's actually true. We have plenty of evidence that life exists here on Earth. It is actually a fact that each one of us knows first hand. If life developed here on this planet is it at all a non-sequitor to assume it developed on other planets in an "infinite" universe? I don't think that it is, but of course you should not draw any other inferences off this one, such as intellgient life is visiting us and so forth. But it is NOT arbitrary to claim life exists elsewhere using the firsthand evidence we have from Earth.
That argument is pretty close to one of Peikoff's examples of an arbitrary assertion -- that a convention of gremlins is studying Hegel's Logic on the planet Venus. We know that there do exist conventions of academic gremlins studying Hegel's Logic right here on Earth. So it is possible, i.e. imaginable, that a convention of non-academic gremlins is studying Logic on Venus. However, we have no evidence at all that this is so. What we learn from the existence of life on Earth is that life is possible (duh!). Therefore it is imaginable, possible, that life exists on Mars. But still there is no actual evidence that there is life on Mars, and saying that there is life on Mars is an arbitrary claim, one with zero support. If you multiply the number of places under consideration, you still are multiplying an infinite number of places by zero support. The existence of life on Earth is definitive proof that life exists (duh!), and any epistemology that denied the possibility of life would be really stupid (duh!). Without any evidence al all that life exists elsewhere, the claim for extraterrestrial life is arbitrary, but still imaginable.
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well, there are two sides to this coin. the first is that although we have no compelling evidence that they exist, there is a good probability that there is something out there. There are ten billion stars in our Galaxy alone, if the odds were one in a million, that'd still leave what, around 10,000 planets? And that's just in our Galaxy alone. There is an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe. I'd say the likely hood of life existing beyond the Earth is pretty high.

Though on the other hand, I would discount the "eyewitnesses" of UFOs. I read figures that prior to the Roswell incident, there wasn't a single UFO sighting. There was, however, a large number of Angel sightings. After Roswell, UFO sightings swelled, while angel sightings dropped off dramatically. Taking UFO sightings as evidence of aliens would be the same as taking Angel sightings as evidence for God.

As for crop circles, I am still skeptical. A civilization advanced enough to master Faster than Light travel, and yet the best method of communication they can come up with is to draw patterns in the crops? Any Alien civilization we come across is either going to be extremely primitive, or advanced beyond our comprehension. It would be like cavemen trying to figure out how a computer works.

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I read figures that prior to the Roswell incident, there wasn't a single UFO sighting. There was, however, a large number of Angel sightings. After Roswell, UFO sightings swelled, while angel sightings dropped off dramatically.

Maybe all the people thought that they were seeing angels were really seeing aliens the whole time. :)

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That argument is pretty close to one of Peikoff's examples of an arbitrary assertion -- that a convention of gremlins is studying Hegel's Logic on the planet Venus. We know that there do exist conventions of academic gremlins studying Hegel's Logic right here on Earth. So it is possible, i.e. imaginable, that a convention of non-academic gremlins is studying Logic on Venus. However, we have no evidence at all that this is so. What we learn from the existence of life on Earth is that life is possible (duh!). Therefore it is imaginable, possible, that life exists on Mars. But still there is no actual evidence that there is life on Mars, and saying that there is life on Mars is an arbitrary claim, one with zero support. If you multiply the number of places under consideration, you still are multiplying an infinite number of places by zero support. The existence of life on Earth is definitive proof that life exists (duh!), and any epistemology that denied the possibility of life would be really stupid (duh!). Without any evidence al all that life exists elsewhere, the claim for extraterrestrial life is arbitrary, but still imaginable.

This is what I figured the Objectivist stance would be. I think I agree with it, but I'm not sure.

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Something to think about:

The universe is 13.5 billion years old.

The earth is 4.55 billion years old.

Life on earth began a sometime over 3.5 billion years ago.

Multicellular animals evolved 600 million years ago.

Mammals evolved 248 million years ago.

Humans evolved 2 million years ago

The first cities began with the discovery of agriculture 10,000 years ago

The first western civilization is 2600 years old

The industrial revolution and a general grasp of the universe is 150 years old.

The ability to generate or record radio signals powerful enough to reach the stars is less than 80 years old.

When looking at these numbers, a paradox comes to mind: industrial civilization is common enough that I am living in one, but rare enough so that the only know industrial civilization in 13.5 billion years is only 150 years old.

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I'm not sure I see what you're getting at.

Known: we are living in an industrial civilization.

Known: in 4.5 billion years, an industrial civilization has only existed on earth for 150 years.

Unknown: How common are industrial civilizations?

Extrapolating from these facts, it is likely that industrial civilization as we know them are very rare, and therefore the chance of encountering other industrial civilizations is unlikely.

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The problem with DavidOddens analysis is gremlins are arbitrary and positing their existence anywhere is therefore also arbitrary. But life is NOT arbitrary and positing its existence elsewhere is therefore NOT arbitrary. Duh. Was Einstein's Theory of General Relativity just an arbitrary postulate before 1919 when it was experimentally confirmed? NO. Neither is postulating life in some form exists elsewhere because we DO have existence that life exists already. Duh. :)

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there is a good probability that there is something out there. There are ten billion stars in our Galaxy alone, if the odds were one in a million, that'd still leave what, around 10,000 planets?
No doubt, but why do you claim that the odds are 1 in a million? Let's put it this way: I think the odds of life on the sun (or any fusile gas-wad) is zero in infinity. If you can put knowledge-based meat on those bones, that's an somewhat acceptable argument, but I'm betting that the number 1 in a million is given by the godess Shirley ("Shirley, there must be at least a one in a million chance that..."). There are perfectly good heat and radiation based reasons to question the uniformity of conditions in the Galaxy, so there may well be a principled reason why life is impossible except in a very small region of the Galaxy. And here on Earth, only man is a rational animal -- what are the odds? I guess 1 in 30 billion. A priori guessing about the chances of this and that don't constitute an argument. If you've got a credible scientific argument, I'm all ears.
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Was Einstein's Theory of General Relativity just an arbitrary postulate before 1919 when it was experimentally confirmed? NO.
That's irrelevant because there was known evidence in support of the theory before that time, which necessarilt means that it isn't arbitrary. Perhaps you don't understand the nature of the arbitrary in Objectivist epistemology.
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That's irrelevant because there was known evidence in support of the theory before that time, which necessarilt means that it isn't arbitrary. Perhaps you don't understand the nature of the arbitrary in Objectivist epistemology.

No. I understand it perfectly, and the evidence is that life exists, and we know it. So unless one wants to give Earth some "magical" property such that only it can harbor life the real arbitrary assertion is that it's an arbitrary assertion to assert life only exists on Earth. Say that ten times fast. :)

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I think there is evidence of (primitive) alien life. Remember the Mars meteroite back in '96?

http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/snc/nasa1.html

Edit: Clinton even did a press conference about it.

This was shown to be contaminated by earthy creatures, I think. I will look for a source and post it when found. Very recently, last few weeks, there was a press release showing the release of chemicals into the Martian atmosphere that are thought to only arise via biological processes, I will also post a link to that as soon as I remember where I saw it.

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My view on extraterrestrial life is as follows:

1. We cannot know whether life exists on other planets in other solar systems.

2. basic relativity, which says that no matter can possivbly exceed the speed of light, means that whether there is such life or not doesn't matter because we will never contact it and it will never contact us.

So in other words, a.) we can't know for sure, and b.) it doesn't really matter.

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So unless one wants to give Earth some "magical" property such that only it can harbor life the real arbitrary assertion is that it's an arbitrary assertion to assert life only exists on Earth.
I agree, and don't assert that life exists only on Earth. I don't know if life exists outside Earth, and I know of no evidence that life exists outside Earth; it's the lack of evidence that make it impossible to say that the evidence supports or argues against the proposition. That said, I did start to look for the Martian rock life evidence, and don't know what impact that has on the question. There are competing explanations for the rocks, so while we don't want to take nutter claims about UFOs to be "evidence", the argument for and against Martian life is scientifically credible, so the status of "evidence in dispute" is pretty important to this question.
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My view on extraterrestrial life is as follows:

1. We cannot know whether life exists on other planets in other solar systems.

2. basic relativity, which says that no matter can possivbly exceed the speed of light, means that whether there is such life or not doesn't matter because we will never contact it and it will never contact us.

So in other words, a.) we can't know for sure, and b.) it doesn't really matter.

I wouldn't say never. First off, there is the possibility that some civilization that is way older than we are started sending out signals a long time ago. Secondly, if we could somehow harness wormholes, anything could happen.

Man, I sound like a Trekkie right now.

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