Author Topic: aren't people jumping the gun when assigning probability to life on Europa?  (Read 3964 times)

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Offline God Bomb

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I recently listened to a skeptoid episode where Dunning said that if Europa had hot vents, we would "almost certainly" find life there.

Just because we know life can thrive in places like hot vents, and liquid water, how sure are we that those are ideal or even suitable conditions for abiogenesis?  What if the clay hypothesis is correct and clay is crucial to abiogenesis, all other life spread out and adapted to live in the wide varieties of conditions we see on Earth? 

I don't know if Europa has clay, but if this is the way all known life arose, then the presence of hot vents is irrelevant.  There may be an entire ocean there perfect for life, but if the conditions for life to arise from non-life were not in place, it would still be a barren rock.  Conversely if the best model we have for the formation of life is from a dark oceanic hot vent, then Europa may be perfect.  The point is that current living conditions aren't relevant.  Conditions for abiogenesis are relevant.  So any speculation that talks about how much life we see around hot vents is completely moot.  (Panspermia theories aside)

Until we have a better understanding of how abiogenesis actually happened, assigning a probability to life on other planets seems frivolous, even somewhat arrogant.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 11:48:58 PM by God Bomb »
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Offline lubbarin

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Think you're right.
The best we could probably say is that if there is life nearby that's our best, most accessible shot
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Everybody's lining up to say "told ya!"
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Offline The Latinist

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"Almost certainly" is almost certainly too strong given the state of our understanding of the mechanisms of abiogenesis.

But then, "arrogant" is a good word to describe Brian Dunning in general, and I don't think the view he expressed there is common enough to draw conclusions about what "people" are doing.
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Offline Ah.hell

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"almost certainly" is a lot to strong and jumping the gun but I'd say most discussions I've heard or read leave it at something more like, its the mostly likely place outside of earth for life to exist.  Which is probably accurate. 

The fundamental problem is we have a sample size of one which doesn't give us much ability to say how likely or common extraterrestrial life is.

Offline God Bomb

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Everybody's lining up to say "told ya!"

Not even sure what you mean.  Read my post and make a more intelligent reply if you can be bothered.
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Offline lubbarin

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Everybody's lining up to say "told ya!"

Not even sure what you mean.  Read my post and make a more intelligent reply if you can be bothered.
Think what he's saying is that people are placing their bets.
Psychics do this. If it doesn't pan out, oh well, it'll hardly be news who was wrong
But if it does people like to play it off as though they had some deep insight that was vindicated by the news.
Seemed like a pretty straight forward point to me
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Everybody's lining up to say "told ya!"

Not even sure what you mean.  Read my post and make a more intelligent reply if you can be bothered.
Perhaps if you were intelligent enough to understand it...
"Sunday's horoscope is note worthy because of its strange, sudden and wholly unpredictable and inexplicable occurrences, affecting all phases of life." Your Horoscope" L.A. Evening Herald Express, Sat, 12/06/41

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Everybody's lining up to say "told ya!"

Not even sure what you mean.  Read my post and make a more intelligent reply if you can be bothered.
Think what he's saying is that people are placing their bets.
Psychics do this. If it doesn't pan out, oh well, it'll hardly be news who was wrong
But if it does people like to play it off as though they had some deep insight that was vindicated by the news.
Seemed like a pretty straight forward point to me
See? Lubbrain is intelligent enough to understand it.
"Sunday's horoscope is note worthy because of its strange, sudden and wholly unpredictable and inexplicable occurrences, affecting all phases of life." Your Horoscope" L.A. Evening Herald Express, Sat, 12/06/41

Offline God Bomb

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i still don't get it.  I must be too dumb.
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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i still don't get it.
People are anxious to be able to say "I said that months ago!" to fluff up their ego, market value, whatever. If they're right (even if it's through no fault of their own, they can take credit for having said it. If they aren't right nobody will really care.
Quote
  I must be too dumb.
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Offline daniel1948

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Did Dunning say "almost certainly"? I don't remember that. Maybe it's in an episode from the last couple of weeks when I was out of town that I haven't listened to yet.

I totally agree that "almost certainly" is a ridiculous thing to say about life on Europa. I'd say it's an extreme long-shot, but a possibility. As you point out, we don't know what conditions are required for life to exist. We don't know if it inevitably arises anywhere there's liquid water and an energy source, or if a large number of very exacting conditions are needed.

And we might never know. It may be necessary to drill down several miles to find out, and Bruce Willis won't be around forever.  ;D
Daniel
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Offline Noisy Rhysling

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And we might never know. It may be necessary to drill down several miles to find out, and Bruce Willis won't be around forever.  ;D
It's very rare to find a cubic meter of water on Earth that doesn't have life in it. If the geysers are coming from subsurface and not via some system we know of of, then it might contain signs of life. Or not. Maybe the biology works differently there, existing only on the bottom, perhaps. Or it could be rare there, just struggling to survive and not yet ready to populate the whole orb.
"Sunday's horoscope is note worthy because of its strange, sudden and wholly unpredictable and inexplicable occurrences, affecting all phases of life." Your Horoscope" L.A. Evening Herald Express, Sat, 12/06/41

Offline The Latinist

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The sort of trace life people often seem to expect to find just eeking out an existence in odd corners of hostile worlds has always seemed to me unlikely.  I expect that life anywhere would adapt to fill every possible niche just as it has on earth and that, moreover, it would transform any environment it existed in in unmistakeable ways.  Consider Earth: our planet has been fundamentally changed in everything from geology to atmosphere by even the tiniest of creatures.  I think life elsewhere would do the same.  I don't expect it to be hard to find if it exists.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Fortunately, Skeptoid publishes full transcripts of every episode, so we can check the quote.

The exact quote is as follows:

Quote
If Jupiter's ice moon Europa has hydrothermal vents at the bottom of its vast oceans, we expect to find life almost to a certainty, just as we've found it around Earth's own deep-sea vents.

https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4570

Note: If Europa has hydrothermal vents.

 

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