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Chapter 4: Aliens 
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 Chapter 4: Aliens
Chapter 4: Aliens

Please use this thread to discuss Chapter 4: Aliens.

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Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:04 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Well, never having been particularly interested in UFOs or Aliens, although I love a good science fiction novel now and again, I didn't find this chapter particularly edifying.

I love crop circles - they are an artform in their own right. I haven't ever seen one in real life, as I guess one would need to be in an aircraft to see them properly. But aren't they beautiful?

https://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&s ... UyWdXsiHOk

We did, however, see the space debris re-entering the earth's atmosphere, when we were driving back from my son's house in the south of England a couple of years ago. It was a good example of misinterpretation of facts as both my husband and I thought the lights looked to be a couple of miles away in the sky, and in fact, they were hundreds of miles away. Amazing though....and people did think they were meteorites, not alien spacecraft you will notice:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19683687


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Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:38 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
I have one firm objection about the content of this chapter:

Franz Mesmer and the saga known as "mesmerism" do not belong here.

It is really a very unfair thing for Sagan to have done. It's an extremely cursory treatment of Mesmer's story.
Sagan's usage of Mesmerism as nothing more than an example of pernicious beliefs run amok is a very anemic analysis.

Although I support Sagan's desire to share critical thinking skills, this is an example of a scientist giving a terrible history lesson, yet again.



Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:03 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
By the way;

So far I have to say after four chapters I am a bit disappointed.
Maybe I am being too hard on Sagan. I dont know.
Maybe this isnt the Sagan book that I personally would find most engaging.



Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:08 pm
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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Thought/Question:

Why is SETI not psuedoscience?

There is no evidence that intelligent life exists in the universe.

There is no evidence that alien life is capable of understanding radio wave frequency signals.

There is no evidence that intelligent civilizations would be detectable by us for similar or the same reasons that our civilization should be detectable.

If the scientific method justifies the search for alien life, how is it able to be falsified?

This seems to be scientists, specifically Sagan here, unabashedly adopting Pascal's Wager.



Last edited by ant on Mon Jan 26, 2015 12:07 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
ant wrote:
Thought/Question:

Why is SETI not psuedoscience?

There is no evidence that intelligent life exists in the universe.

There is no evidence that alien life is capable of understanding radio wave frequency signals.

There is no evidence that intelligent civilizations would be detectable by us for similar or the same reasons that our civilization should be detectable.

If the scientific method justifies the search for alien life, how is it able to be falsified?

This seems to be scientists, specifically Sagan here, unabashedly adopting Pascal's Wager.


It's a valid proposition that intelligent life may exist and that such life might be emitting radio signals that can be detected by radio telescopes. As such, the SETI project is a relatively simple experiment that could potentially yield an amazing discovery—evidence of alien intelligence.

Granted, it's a shot in the dark. But still very much a scientific experiment, akin to sending the Mars Rover to Mars to search for evidence of microbes in the soil. There's no evidence that such microbes exist, but we can still look.


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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Quote:
ant wrote:

By the way;

So far I have to say after four chapters I am a bit disappointed.
Maybe I am being too hard on Sagan. I dont know.
Maybe this isnt the Sagan book that I personally would find most engaging.


I think that there is too much emphasis on alien abduction, so far. My excuse for Sagan is that he is an astro-physicist.

I thought Richard Dawkins was much more dynamic - The God Delusion. That book really changed my attitudes and challenged my belief system, whereas Sagan is more into aliens and space - about which my feelings are indifferent or arbitrary. Still, the point for me is that I am reading a book which I would never read otherwise, and I can still find things to talk about because I am such an opinionated woman. I have an opinion about absolutely everything........ :P


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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
geo wrote:
ant wrote:
Thought/Question:

Why is SETI not psuedoscience?

There is no evidence that intelligent life exists in the universe.

There is no evidence that alien life is capable of understanding radio wave frequency signals.

There is no evidence that intelligent civilizations would be detectable by us for similar or the same reasons that our civilization should be detectable.

If the scientific method justifies the search for alien life, how is it able to be falsified?

This seems to be scientists, specifically Sagan here, unabashedly adopting Pascal's Wager.


It's a valid proposition that intelligent life may exist and that such life might be emitting radio signals that can be detected by radio telescopes. As such, the SETI project is a relatively simple experiment that could potentially yield an amazing discovery—evidence of alien intelligence.

Granted, it's a shot in the dark. But still very much a scientific experiment, akin to sending the Mars Rover to Mars to search for evidence of microbes in the soil. There's no evidence that such microbes exist, but we can still look.


These comments do not really address my questions.

Why is the expectation that radio signals should be recognizable by alien civilizations?

"Mights" and "maybes" go so far. At what point do you need more tangible evidence to distinguish this from pseudoscience, after which you move on to more practical things, like, say, "detecting" just how many people are starving on our planet and what science can do about it?


A shot in the dark?
I thought we had the scientific method to illuminate darkness?
How effective has the scientific method been for SETI?


I for one support our search for ET.
But still.., SETI is Sagan's pet. At this point it very much is Sagan's Wager - ("hey, what have we got to lose here?")



Last edited by ant on Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:48 am
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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Penelope wrote:
Quote:
ant wrote:

By the way;

So far I have to say after four chapters I am a bit disappointed.
Maybe I am being too hard on Sagan. I dont know.
Maybe this isnt the Sagan book that I personally would find most engaging.


I think that there is too much emphasis on alien abduction, so far. My excuse for Sagan is that he is an astro-physicist.

I thought Richard Dawkins was much more dynamic - The God Delusion. That book really changed my attitudes and challenged my belief system, whereas Sagan is more into aliens and space - about which my feelings are indifferent or arbitrary. Still, the point for me is that I am reading a book which I would never read otherwise, and I can still find things to talk about because I am such an opinionated woman. I have an opinion about absolutely everything........ :P



I think you're making some great comments.
It's great to have many different opinions and perspectives. :)



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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
If there's any controversy about SETI, it seems to be about how we should best use our resources, not whether sending out probes for intelligent life is a scientific endeavor. Even looking into the possible basis for astrology can be a scientific project. It's been done, in fact. We're talking about pseudoscience when there are unproven assumptions employed--not "could be's" as with SETI, but assertions about reality such as homeopathic medicine uses. The valid argument would be whether, given the lack of results for SETI, it's worth our money to continue, when we could spend it on less speculative science. The amount of money being spent is relatively tiny, so my opinion would be that SETI is worthwhile.

Didn't I hear that Stephen Hawking doesn't think we should be looking for other intelligent life? If we draw attention to ourselves, we might be visited by an intelligent race that can't even fathom why our existence should be valued more than we value the existence of cockroaches.



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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Quote:
DWill wrote:

Didn't I hear that Stephen Hawking doesn't think we should be looking for other intelligent life? If we draw attention to ourselves, we might be visited by an intelligent race that can't even fathom why our existence should be valued more than we value the existence of cockroaches.


He's been reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Gallaxy - the Vogons -



“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Penelope wrote:
I think that there is too much emphasis on alien abduction, so far. My excuse for Sagan is that he is an astro-physicist.

Perhaps the big UFO craze was still in Sagan's mind when he wrote this book. I wonder what kind of pseudo-science, fantastical beliefs are in vogue today. What are today's unfounded beliefs that should be challenged? Religion was sort of off limits back then, not so much any more. I know the skeptic "rogues" (who do the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast) frequently point out the many pseudoscience claims in alternative medicine.


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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
DWill wrote:

Quote:
If there's any controversy about SETI, it seems to be about how we should best use our resources, not whether sending out probes for intelligent life is a scientific endeavor.


SETI is not using public funds any more. If it was, the debate would be legitimate, in my opinion, because by strict definitions, a SETI hypothesis does not have most of the ingredients of the scientific method:

Quote:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[1] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

Do you say it does?

What are our measurements?

What experiments can be conducted to confirm intelligent life and how does falsification get its chance?

How do we account for progress and at what point does no progress mean abandoning the hypothesis and its methods (the two go hand in hand, I think)


Again, lots of people might think that because I am questioning SETI as being a pure scientific endeavor, I must be against it.
That's false.
I just haven't seen anyone here directly answer each of my questions.

I am skeptical that the general public (especially skeptics) have even bothered to think about stuff like this.
It must be science if scientists are doing it is not necessarily true. That is a blind appeal to authority (not saying you are, DWill)



Last edited by ant on Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Seti does not broadcast. We are only listening, so it isn't about sending signals to aliens and hoping they can understand us, but instead listening to the cosmos for signs of artificial broadcasts.

As outlined by Sagan himself, one of the possible dead-ringers for an un-natural signal source would be a progression of beats that produce prime numbers. Using the reasoning that if we humans decided we wanted to make ourselve obvious to another society searching the skies for signs of us, we would use a simple pattern that could only have been generated by intelligent entities. That's not saying that that specifically is what SETI is looking for, but things along those lines.

Falsification. If there ever was a signal like this detected, the people dog-piling ways to falsify would be lined up around the block. Not being an astronomer myself, what i would do is sit on that signal and look for the signal to change to something that can be explained through natural means. Then comes the big question that if we've actually discovered an alien signal, would we want to broadcast back to them to reveal ourselves in like signals?

Trying every possible formulation of natural phenomena to duplicate a pattern like the primes would of course come first on the list. IS there any combination of pulsars and black holes that could make that signal? If anything else at all could be responsible, that will be probably taken as the most likely scenario, especially if the signal does not repeat itself.

When do we abandon the search? When it is no longer economically feasible. When a better more cost effective method is created to scan the skies for signals. Given the size of the visible universe and the miniscule amount of sky that SETI can cover it would take forever to really look at enough sky to say we've ruled out any territory. SETI trains itself to look at a pinprick of the night sky for however many hours and then moves on. The very second they turn away from that star they could be getting bombarded by alien S.O.S. signals and we wouldn't know. SETI is even worse than scooping a spoonful of water out of the ocean and concluding that there were no whales. You could never rule out any star based on having just listened to it last month.

It really is a tremendous crap-shoot with no gaurantee of success. Does it need to go on? I think it's worth while. But i also think the odds are incredibly stacked against it. If i really thought there was a good chance of SETI turning up an alien signal i would go volunteer to man the headset. But thinking the odds are against it does not mean i think it's impossible, or that we should be trying to stop those who DO volunteer to man the headsets.

so how is it all scientific?

Hypothesis. There may be intelligent species who have learned to modulate RF frequencies and transmit them for their own purposes.

It is known that such signals as generated in our own experience can be intercepted and interpretted to be evidence of our own existence. And even if such signals can not be decoded to read the specific message, they can be shown to carry coded content, distinct from natually occuring sources of radiation.

Experiment. Listen to stars and look for signals not consistent with naturally occuring "noise".

This is as far as they've got with SETI, because no signal has been detected that leads them to believe an alien inteligence is responsible for it.

If or when that happens they will have to establish that no other source of radiation could be responsible, or that the likelyhood is too low to consider probable.

And then i imagine the real big telescopes would become very interested in that particular speck in the sky.


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Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: Chapter 4: Aliens
Has anyone even bothered to go tohttp://www.seti.org
Seems there's more than just listening for manufactured space noise going on.



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