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Aster's avatar

Why is it laughable to many that beings from other solar systems visit earth?

Asked by Aster (15864 points ) February 28th, 2012

“We are alone in the universe” is the refrain. Why do you, if you’re one of these people, think it’s silly to think that other intelligent life forms exist and are visiting earth?

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31 Answers

tom_g's avatar

It’s not silly to think that there are planets that could support life in the universe. In fact, from what I understand, the odds are pretty good that there are. However, what is “silly” is making a claim for which there is no evidence, such as “other intelligent life forms exist and are visiting earth”.

Aster's avatar

I made that claim? I don’t think I did but I certainly do believe in the entire scenario. You can’t have evidence without making a film with sound of aliens communicating with you. Without that, it will remain silliness to many. No; with a film of such a thing most would dismiss it anyway as a hoax.

ragingloli's avatar

It is not. And there is a certain amount of supporting evidence.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

The idea that we are alone in the universe is ridiculously self-centered, such as the old days when humans thought the earth was the center of the universe. I am sure there are planets out there that also support life. The type of creatures or plants that evolved would depend on the chemical makeup of that planet and its atmosphere.

We have studied the surrounding planets enough to know that there isn’t one in our immediate vincinity. For beings from distant planets to have visited the earth, they would have to be different than we are, because we wouldn’t live long enough to travel that far. They would have to live a lot longer, or be able to travel much faster. I don’t think the idea is completely impossible, but I do concede that it would be improbable.

tom_g's avatar

@Aster: “I made that claim? I don’t think I did…”

I meant to say, it would be silly to make such a claim. I apologize if you are not making that claim.

@Aster: ”...but I certainly do believe in the entire scenario.”

Wait. What? When you say that you “do believe in the entire scenario”, are you not stating that you support that claim?

@Aster: “You can’t have evidence without making a film with sound of aliens communicating with you. Without that, it will remain silliness to many. No; with a film of such a thing most would dismiss it anyway as a hoax.”

? Evidence == films. How would a film be evidence (and the only evidence) of a life form visiting earth? I’m confused. And if a film would suffice in your opinion, and a film doesn’t exist, what evidence do you accept as sufficient to support the claim?

Lightlyseared's avatar

The idea that there are other inteligent beings in the universe and they may visit us is not laughable. The idea that aliens have visited earth and the only people they bothered to communicate with are crazy homeless people is.

Aster's avatar

@tom_g LOL !!! I didn’t make the claim IN MY QUESTION is what I meant.
That’s what I said. A film would not be evidence in most peoples’ minds of aliens visiting earth. A film might suffice as evidence in peoples’ minds; depends on the film. lol What evidence would I accept? Not sure. LOL
Ok; it’s time for tommy to take a nap.

saint's avatar

There probably are other intelligent beings somewhere out in the infinite universe.
It’s just that there is no evidence that they have been here.

Aster's avatar

@Lightlyseared yes; the only people with whom they’ve communicated are the crazy homeless. Do you have a film of that?

ucme's avatar

It’s clear that another solar system somewhere must support life, the notion that our little rock stands alone in this is, well…..plain bloody daft.
I just think the personalities of some “believers” invite ridicule because they’re freakishly nerdy & stuff.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I don’t think it’s silly to believe there are other beings in the universe. However, that they visit Earth is a much more specific assertion – I’m much more inclined to believe that they don’t visit Earth, or did visit Earth awhile back (maybe hundreds, thousands, millions of years ago) but aren’t necessarily making yearly trips to Earth. Or that if they did visit, they’d be randomly kidnapping humans (and not dogs, pigs, dolphins, algae, redwoods) for anal probbing, instead of discreetly being tourists or trying to take over Earth.

WestRiverrat's avatar

The laws of physics would apply to any life forms in the universe. It would take faster than light ships for anyone from another solar system to get here within any reasonable amount of time for any data learned here to be returned to the system of origin.

It is not unreasonable to assume there are other life forms with intelligence similar to ours, but why would they waste resources to visit us?

How long ago were the Voyager and Pioneer deep space probes launched? They have barely made it beyond our solar system in 40 years. When will they reach the next star system?

Aster's avatar

@WestRiverrat I think we’d have to assume their ships, if you will, are faster than anything we can imagine or build. IF they’re out there somewhere it would be possible that they are 10K years ahead of us. I guess that would explain their technology.

deni's avatar

It’s laughable to the same people who say “I didn’t come from no god damn monkey”....so we can mostly just disregard those people because they’re idiots, because those of us who aren’t narrow minded realize that it’s obnoxious to think we’re the only living things out there. I doubt many people even have any idea how large the universe is. I didn’t until I read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and he explains it is impossible to draw the universe to scale because even if Earth was the size of a pea, Pluto would be like a mile away. I had no idea….it made me question a lot of things. These other beings would have to be extremely intelligent and advanced technologically to get all the way here, but there’s no reason we should think they couldn’t.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think it’s very likely that there is life elsewhere in the Universe. I also haven’t ever seen any convincing evidence that they have visited the Earth. I think it’s unlikely for several reasons:

1. According to known physics, space travel is limited by the speed of light. The exception may be wormholes but (according to my admittedly limited understanding of the subject) the energies required for traveling large distances via this method are insanely large and therefore very unlikely (although not completely impossible I don’t think). This means that it would take a VERY long time to travel here from even our closest neighboring systems.

2. We tend to think of ourselves as being pretty interesting and important as a species. To an alien race with the technological capabilities to travel those distances, we are probably very insignificant, and almost certainly not worth the effort required to make the journey to visit/study/conquer.

3. Some have theorized that once any civilization gets technologically advanced enough, there is a very high likelihood that they will annihilate themselves via wars, conflicts, catastrophic failures of technology, or via exhausting all of the natural resources required for survival. This theory ultimately suggests that the human race will likely suffer the same fate one day in the distant future. The implication is that it’s exceedingly unlikely that there are any intelligent species that have survived their “technological adolescence” phase to reach the point where they can both utilize incredibly powerful technology to visit Earth and not have wiped themselves out.

There are other reasons as well, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind. As for evidence, it’s important for me to follow the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Magicians are a great example of how easily it is to deceive even exceptionally smart people. I’m not going to believe the girl in the box vanished and then reappeared without the word of several independent experts who have inspected the box she was standing in. This is partly why video evidence is so weak, if we took things at face value based on footage, then we would all believe in magic.

Cameras suffer from several problems that make them unreliable as the sole means of evidence. Forced perspective is a great example, not to mention if images are doctored. What would convince me is verification from multiple independent reliable sources.

Symbeline's avatar

I don’t find it silly, but I do eschew most, if not all, of what the media and entertainment has to say about it. No doubt to me there’s life out there, whether it’s some fungus or an entire civilization of intelligent beings, but it seems that so many encounter cases follows the same approach as the belief in witches and demons did back when people didn’t know what sleep paralysis was.

augustlan's avatar

I think it’s highly probable that there is life of some kind on some other planets, somewhere in the vastness of the universe. I think it’s highly improbable that they are visiting Earth, because there has been no convincing evidence that they are.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think it’s laughable. I think it’s likely that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, maybe even in our galaxy.

I just think the actual specific claims made by people about aliens visiting are laughable. It’s laughable to say that aliens look like little green/grey bipeds, fly through space in saucers, are interesting in performing crude medical experiments on humans, or had anything to do with making pyramids in ancient Egypt.

I also think it’s incredibly easy to understate how difficult interstellar travel is. I blame Star Wars and Star Trek. I think it’s likely that the human race is going to solve all sorts of other weird problems—like converting our consciousnesses into robot bodies—a long time before we solve the problem of interstellar travel. Which leads me to suspect that any life that has achieved interstellar travel will be unrecognizably advanced to primitive meatbags like us.

bkcunningham's avatar

What hard scientific evidence do we have that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? I’m serious. Not looking for an argument. Can you link something for me to read through?

deni's avatar

@bkcunningham We don’t have evidence because there is no way of getting evidence. We’ve been to what, two planets? The chance of the planets near us also just happening to have life is so slim….but that’s not the point. The universe is huge, and I don’t think it matters if we have proof or not. We’ll most likely never have proof because we can’t travel far enough to find it!

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, none. Well, depends on how you define “hard.” But we haven’t seen any clear signals, like city lights on the dark side of a planet.

On the other hand, there’s been a huge, huge influx of data about extrasolar planets. They are ridiculously common. Most stars in the galaxy have planets! Just about everywhere we look, there’s planets. Earth-sized planets—very hard to detect presently (compared to Jupiter-sized planets)—appear to be commonplace. And there’s also nothing special about planets that occupy the so-called “habitable zone,” where liquid water can exist.

Now put the numbers together. There are hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s hundreds of billions of planets. That’s at least millions, if not billions, of Earth-sized planets. Statistically speaking, there are probably lots of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone. Now we get into the statistics of life forming on such a planet, and it’s an open question. But whatever the range of unlikelihood, let’s remember that we’re just talking about our own galaxy—and there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies around too.

(Intelligent life in other galaxies, however, is even more unlikely to make contact with us than in the Milky Way. If interstellar travel is virtually unimaginable from an applied physics standpoint, it ain’t nothing compared to intergalactic travel. The distances are almost beyond comprehension.)

bkcunningham's avatar

I can easily grasp the concept of water or oxygen on a plant and there being life. Intelligent life? Depends on your definition. I have seen many arguments for controversial topics regarding intelligent life or substainable life or whereever the line is you draw and what you call it for your definition of life.

Also, @Qingu, “Statistically speaking, there are probably lots of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone….” How many is lots?

Qingu's avatar

I’ll have to look it up later, but basically it looks like our solar system layout (4 earth sized, 2 gas giants, 2 smaller gas giants) is mundane. Some systems have even larger gas giants, there’s also planets called “super-earths” that are somewehre between Earth and Neptune in size.

bkcunningham's avatar

Are there unicorn there, @Qingu? jk ;)

Qingu's avatar

Well, you can’t prove there aren’t unicorns there. :)

Wikipedia’s article on exoplanets is actually quite good, if you’re interested.

to answer your question “how many is lots,” right now there appears to be 1.6 planets for every star. I don’t know if that’s just based on current observations (which are heavily weighted to Jupiter-sized planets). But we know that rocky planets are just as common if not moreso than gas giants. So in our galaxy alone there are very likely billions and billions of Earth-sized planets.

And this doesn’t even take into account moons. Looking at our own solar system, there are at least two moons that could conceivably host life (Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Titan). They probably don’t because they’re far from the sun. But we’ve discovered gas giants within the habitable zone of stars, those planets might have Earth-sized moons like Jupiter and Saturn do.

bkcunningham's avatar

Do you think there is “intelligent” life, besides Earth, @Qingu, in the universe?

Qingu's avatar

I think the statistics make it almost certain.

Especially if we get trippy and define life “broadly.” Mostly we think of life in terms of cells—water-based vacoules with lipid membranes. Something like cells could certainly exist on other planets with liquid water. But what about storms? Are storms alive? The Great Red Spot on Jupiter has been in existence for at least 300 years, and possibly much longer. It has something like a metabolism—it “eats” nearby storms for energy. The turbulence in its wake can spawn other storms. Can a storm observe, process, and react to information, like intelligent cellular-based life? I don’t see why not.

My view is that if we ever find (or are found by) intelligent life in this here universe it will be like nothing we’ve imagined. Hell, we find stuff living in the deep sea that is like nothing we’ve imagined, and that’s on our own planet.

bkcunningham's avatar

I don’t think of a storm as an intelligent lifeform though. In my mind it is sort of like perpetual motion set into motion by chemical based circumstances. A storm can’t say there is nothing to feed on here. I’m moving south.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think a storm (on Jupiter or elsewhere that I know of) is intelligent either. But then a bacterium isn’t intelligent. It’s a collection of chemical processes, too, and it doesn’t decide to move south for food. It responds to its environment as dictated by chemistry, just like a storm does by fluid mechanics.

Both a storm and a cell do seem to qualify broadly as “life,” though. And we know that cells can, given enough time, evolve into intelligent life. Why not something like storms? Or magnetic plasma filaments on stars? “Life” is just a set of structures and processes that meets certain conditions (reproducibility, metabolism, growth) ... intelligence is just another set of conditions laid on top of that.

mattbrowne's avatar

Because tv was invented only 100 years ago.

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