But the skeptics say....
Well yeah, the skeptics will say anything if they can't see everything with their eyes, they don't have the creativity and rational skills to see how probable something is, or they don't want to face the truth even if they do see the reality. Still, we can understand their views.
The mathematical probability of life arising in the Universe
One of the arguments put forward by the skeptics is the question of whether life, given its tremendous complexity, can arise at all given the incredible odds of the raw materials coming together on their own to create a self-replicating DNA-like molecule.
In the 1970's, British astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle (b. 1915) calculated the probability of the simplest free-living lifeform on Earth – a bacterium – spontaneously appearing from a primordial soup containing only left-hand amino acids. Since the lifeform needs about 2,000 independent and fully functional proteins in order to perform the task of cellular metabolism and reproduction, Hoyle determined the probability of such an event from occurring is one chance in one followed by 40,000 zeros (i.e. 1 in 1040,000). Given that an event having a probability of one chance in 1050 is considered by mathematicians as virtually impossible, Hoyle stated that the probability of spontaneously generating a bacteria "is about the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a 747 from the contents therein." (1)
Such a low probability for life to arise according the Hoyle assumes the universe is not infinite in size and hence old enough to provide enough time for these raw materials to combine in a random way and there is absolutely nothing directing (or guiding) these raw materials under the right conditions to the formation of life. The probabilities he is talking about are based on a set of purely random combination of encounters with molecules and nothing else.
Yet the Earth provides clear evidence of this unlikely event. How can this be?
One possible explanation suggested by some people is how the only thing that can direct these raw materials to produce life has to be a mysterious organizer called God. Take, for instance, Ray Baker of Penshurst in Sydney, Australia, and his view for why he attributes the creation of life to God:
"David Nicholls of the Atheist Foundation (Letters, April 14) states that there is no credible evidence in support of anything supernatural. However, consider the origin of the amazing biological complexity of the life forms on the planet. In a representative cell, for example, there are between 300 and 500 protein molecules and the cell's DNA had to hold information consisting of 1,200 to 2,000 "code letters" in correct sequence in order to build each one of those protein molecules.
In view of this complexity, one has to take a great leap of faith to attribute the origin of life to random chance aggregation of chemicals existing in a "prebiotic soup". Much more credible is the hypothesis that a super-intelligent designer and implementer (that is, God) was responsible." (2)
"God? How preposterous!" as the scientists would say. "Are we going back to the long defunct creationist theory?"
Not necessarily. We just have to understand that God may need to be defined in a more scientific sense. God could be DNA, or an intelligent and technologically-advanced ET going around seeding planets with new life. Or could God be light?
For example, in another SUNRISE book (to be published in 2014) titled Albert Einstein's Unified Field TheoryA New Interpretation, we notice a link between light and God. Let's assume for now that God is really light, or radiation, in science. What then? Well, for a start, we know that light has the ability to guide matter along certain paths in space as occurs with quantum particles passing through the double slit of the modified Thomas Young's experiment and we quickly see how matter can be manipulated by radiation. Funny how we hear religious people say God helps to guide matter and life to create everything of what we see in the universe. We also know that light exists everywhere and makes up the very molecules and atoms of ordinary matter. How odd? Religious people often say God is everywhere and God is within you. Furthermore, it is claimed God promotes life in all its complexity. In science, we know, in the case of the molecules, how they can become electrically charged after, say, a chemical bond is broken through the application of heat or an electrical spark. In the presence of other similar molecules, radiation will eventually push them together in what scientists call electrical attraction to form larger and more complex molecules. Evidence for this electromagnetic interaction between molecules leading to greater complexity can be seen in the Stanley Miller's experiment. Add some clays containing zinc or nickel and the electromagnetic world of the molecules see themselves get attracted to this surface where they form highly complex structures.
So it doesn't mean that God can't create life. Scientists should define God in a scientific sense and everything will start to make sense again once we know the way light interacts with matter.
But even so, despite the increasing complexity of the molecules, scientists have not yet seen the creation of life before their very eyes. Why?
Or maybe this is more a question of time, and whether we have all the right raw materials?
For example, scientists do know the Earth has all the raw materials needed to build the very stuff of life thanks to the gravitational field for concentrating these materials in one region of space. Whether the gravitational effect is more an electromagnetic effect and hence the possibility we are looking at the concept of God from a religious point-of-view, it really doesn't matter. What we do know is that planets will concentrate certain types of atoms and molecules to their surfaces. And should the planets be of sufficient size, all the raw materials needed to build life will be available.
Since we know planets exist beyond our solar system and are more than capable of concentrating these raw materials, this leaves us with the question of time.
Analysis of rocks and fossil evidence suggests the Earth formed nearly 6 billion years ago and a minimum of 1.4 billion years of time had to pass before life suddenly appeared. Since then, a further 4.6 billion years has seen the evolution of humans capable of building a seemingly impossible to build jumbo jet known as a 747. But even if there wasn't enough time, all it would take is for an Earth-like planet to be shattered by a supernova explosion or other body and for large asteroids to collide with it and eject material into space and the molecular remnants of the natural Stanley Miller experiment can be sent flying into space in all directions. Any of these chemicals can reach another planet in the universe given enough time where the experiment can continue again and again.
Then, at some point in the history of the universe, one of the planets must have developed the first alien bacteria. Further asteroid collisions or exploding stars can send countless numbers of these bacteria out into space where it has the potentially to seed other planets with life. In other words, alien bacteria can be locked up inside an icy comet or piece of rock. Knowing that bacteria can remain frozen for tens of thousands and potential millions or billions of years (in fact, there is no evidence to show they can't survive in the frozen state for any length of time) according to studies conducted by NASA, there is absolutely no reason why bacteria couldn't travel from one planet to another across the tyranny of distance and time to start new life. All the bacteria needs is protection from re-entry into a feeble early atmosphere. A large enough comet or asteroid would be sufficient. Once a single bacteria emerges unscathed into an Earth-like world and make use of the available organic soup on the Earth's surface, anything can happen.
If not, give this alien bacteria roughly 4.6 billion years and an alien civilization would surely have emerged. Now just imagine what one alien civilisation could do to start life on another Earth-like planet. Who knows? If ETs do exist, all it would take is for one alien creature sitting inside, say, a spacecraft to find itself in desperate need for a dump and it may have found the nearest planet to do it over 4 billion years ago: the Earth. Is this how life began on Earth?
As religious people say, God created the Earth and life. Or it may be more accurate to say, "We came from God's ass!" quite literally and no one would ever know. It is perfectly reasonable to consider the possibility that an alien could have inadvertently seeded the Earth with new life from whatever it was doing.
It is not as silly as it sounds. As we speak, astronauts are already dumping their poop and urine in space in the frozen state and ejected in various directions. There's even poop on the Moon left behind by the first men to have landed there. Should an asteroid collide or the Sun explode and shatter the Moon and send the rocks flying through space, who knows where this poop will end up.
But even if there is no God, or alien or something in the molecules and radiation to direct things to increasing order and complexity to eventually form life, something must have began life here on Earth. Earth is our clearest example yet. It has happened at least once in the universe. Whatever made it possible on this planet, from now on the creation of life on other planets must surely be quicker to achieve once bacteria starts flying around in space from our activities. Therefore, we can safely say that when given enough time, not only is life in the universe possible, but highly probable no matter how small the probability might seem. The mathematics may try to make it look pessimistic in its probability for life in the universe to exist as it likes, but if enough time is given, such an unlikely event will eventually happen. Even more so now considering the Earth exists and there is life already emerging on it. So we don't need to be so pessimistic.
Actually, if you look at the mathematics by Hoyle more closely, we discover how it is designed not to show the event of life occurring in the universe as impossible, This is an important point. A mathematician may have no hesitation to use the number 0 (impossible) or 1 (a certainty) in any mathematical discussion. However, when mathematicians become physicists and need to apply their mathematics to the real world, they don't like to use 0 or 1 as if they need to temper their answer by expressing a certain sense of doubt. They do this by saying an event is either unlikely or likely to occur by calculating a number between 0 and 1. Never do they say it is absolutely impossible when it comes to whether life can spontaneously arise on a planet like our own. Well, clearly they can see the Earth is an example. So naturally no scientist would be prepared to stick their head out by saying it is impossible for life to arise anywhere in the universe. At the same time, a scientists will avoid saying it is an absolute certainly that life will occur (even though the Earth is an example). This is natural for scientists mainly because they have not seen alien life directly with their eyes to help them adjust the probability figure. They are just being safe. So you will always find the mathematical physicist giving a probability figure that is not quite zero.
Yet by choosing not to give a zero probability, no matter how small, it opens the door to improbable events probably occurring in reality if enough time passes by. How much time is needed? It all depends on how big and hence how old the universe is.
At present, a number of scientists are hedging their bets for the universe to be finite and no older than 20 billion years. It is a figure based on an interpretation for the red-shifting effect of light emitted by distant galaxies suggesting all matter is moving away from a central point presumably because of a Big Bang. If this is true, then Hoyle's argument would suggest the probability should be effectively zero in a finite universe given how small the odds are and the limited time. Yet somehow the Earth defies these odds. Why the Earth? Does this mean it took 4 to 6 billion years since the formation of the Earth to create life? if so, why not other Earth-like planets in the universe? Surely we cannot be the only ones. Or did it take 20 billion years and we are the first? Either way, the universe must have provided ample time for life to arise on Earth no matter how improbable it might seem. And once Earth exists, surely the probability of life on other planets existing would increase dramatically now that we are doing our bit to seed other planets with out excrement.
However, Einstein's Unified Field Theory is suggesting we may actually live in a much bigger place than we dare imagine and could well be infinite.
Whether this is true or not, an infinite universe does reveal another interesting thing: such a universe would allow even the most improbable events to occur no matter how low the probability might be. If the probability is not zero, it will happen. So who knows? A 747 may have been built many times before we came to exist in this universe. Really, that is the meaning of infinite when it comes to time itself.
And now we have Earth as evidence the universe has managed to create life no matter how improbable. Why the Earth? Given how great the effort has been by scientists to avoid making the Earth significant by ensuring it is not at the centre of the universe, surely life in the universe could not have begun here on Earth. It must have occurred somewhere else in the universe.
Already this is suggesting we are not alone.
Even so, once life begins on another planet, the infinite amount of time would eventually see an incredible number of planets in the universe harbouring life. Because all it takes is one bacteria ejected into space to reach another planet for the process to repeat itself. Remember all the crap we are flinging out into space? We are doing a very good job of it. Eventually all this matter will help to continue the experiment on as many planets as required until eventually life is created. And if not, what would stop one civilisation from seeding other planets with life? Nothing. Assuming interstellar travel is a practical reality, a civilisation could carefully target many planets in a vary short period of time and each one could be harbouring life..
If all this is true, it is unlikely our planet is the only life-bearing world in the universe.
But even if the universe is finite and relatively young so to speak, we know the Earth has somehow been created or been seeded with life. Either on Earth or elsewhere life has definitely begun. In which case, this is telling us that the chemistry of the early Earth and the amount of time needed for life to arise still remains the biggest unknown for the scientists. The major problem is not knowing precisely how much time is needed and whether all the right molecules and conditions have been taken into account when performing the Stanley Miller experiment. We know all the raw materials are there and can be concentrated in a region of space by planets, clays and other factors. And there is certainly a lot of time available to combine these raw materials during the history of the Earth. But we don't know what type of molecule or molecules are likely to be produced given enough time. Of particular interest to scientists in this regard are the various types of inorganic and organic catalysts (3) that may be created or be already present on the surface of the Earth in its early history. And if we had a few hundred million years to throw at the Stanley Miller experiment then maybe we will know the answer.
From a non-mathematical point-of-view, the answer suggests we have not given enough time in our Stanley Miller experiment for things to happen and do not know enough about the chemistry of the early Earth and how radiation and different types of molecules and compounds can form, interact and direct other molecules in a certain way before we can give a firm probability figure.
We simply cannot be sure exactly what is probable in this universe given enough time and concentrations of the right types of materials.
There is no hard and verifiable evidence for ETs
About the only other opposing argument against ETs is the lack of hard and verifiable evidence to support their existence, whether it be a shred of alien DNA, or a piece of technological hardware produced by an alien civilization. It is the old 'seeing is believing", and while we can't see them, there must be no evidence for their existence.
Is it too difficult for them to appear in the Universe? Or are they hiding from us? Well, if you were a primitive creature on another planet, scientists on Earth can understand why you're too busy escaping predators on a world that's just too far away. It doesn't mean ETs don't exist. Clearly they do (here you are). But the scientists don't know it. Unless scientists have a technology to go visiting planets around other star systems, these "experts" would have no idea if ETs exist. They can argue no ETs because they can't see them, but you know very well what the truth is. On the other hand, if you were a technically advanced alien civilization, you could choose to make yourself known to the scientists. The technology is there. Even sending radio signals is not exactly hard to do for any technically-advanced alien civilisation. In that case, why haven't the scientists picked up the evidence? Perhaps scientists are simply out of the communication loop (either we don't know, or the alien civilisation is not making it easy for the scientists to find them)? If so, what then? We simply can't assume ETs don't exist in the universe if we can't find the evidence. There is so much of the universe we have not yet explored to make any rash judgements about whether or not they exist.
As the late Dr Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996), distinguished astrophysicist and professor of astronomy at Cornell University, USA, said:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
Until we do the work of finding out what is possible in this universe, we simply don't know the answer. We are just guessing, or making assumptions.
And now that the work has been done (as if should have been done in the first place), we can see more things of what is possible. For instance, we now have the concept and technical means of developing a new electromagnetic technology to take us to the stars. Of course, skeptics will argue it can't be true. Fine. Then it is time to put their money where their mouth is. Let's test the electromagnetic concept and see whether such a machine can be built. If it doesn't work, fine. At least other people don't have to follow in our footsteps and we can all move on. But if it turns out we are right, it would be a shame to not implement the technology because of what a number of skeptics wish to believe. We just don't have the time to waste. Our future on this planet may be short, and here is humankind still focussed on making money, using up the natural resources, and still fighting one another because people in power want to remain rich and powerful and don't like change to a more balanced way of life. If, by some miraculous chance, we should make the effort to find out, then we will know whether other lifeforms have visited us or not. And, who knows? Maybe the world will be a better place because of it.
It is time we broaden our minds and gain a bigger perspective of our place in the universe and what we should be doing for the long-term.
All this is irrelevant since we already know the answer
So let us not muck around and debate this issue any further. We know the answer. Therefore, it is time to see if the technology is for real and build it ourselves. Then we will know what else is possible in the universe.
Skeptics can argue until the cows come home. In the meantime, we have something we can test and put into the practice. Simple and sweet.