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Could an alien civilization evolve underwater?

Posted on Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 | Comment icon 86 comments

Could intelligent life evolve entirely underwater ? Image Credit: CC 1.0 Parent Gery
Planetary scientist Alan Stern has suggested that some civilizations may live below a planet's surface.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, Stern, who is the principal investigator of the New Horizons Pluto mission, put forward one possible explanation for why we have yet to encounter intelligent extraterrestrials.

The key, he argues, could be that not every alien civilization actually lives on its planet's surface.

Recent findings have suggested that planets with habitable subterranean oceans could be quite common - perhaps even more common than worlds with habitable surface conditions.

There is a chance that alien life forms - even intelligent ones - could evolve and form complex societies entirely underwater without ever venturing to the surface.

"Water worlds are naturally cut off from communication by their interior nature below a thick roof of ice or rock and ice, therefore do not easily reveal themselves," said Stern.

Some scientists however, such as Dr Fergus Simpson from the University of Barcelona, have questioned whether such an environment could ever actually support intelligent life forms.

"The main reason I'm sceptical about there being lots of intelligent underwater alien species is that I think it's harder for aquatic creatures like dolphins to use tools or build a fire," he said.

Source: | Comments (86)

Tags: Extraterrestrial, Ocean

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #77 Posted by _Only on 3 November, 2017, 18:19
No, it's just the fact that you are trying to create debate and argument in a one sided manner, so much so that you are attacking someone saying "hey, it's cool to imagine". "Well, good luck imagining humans doing stuff without fire!" Sigh..
Comment icon #78 Posted by stereologist on 3 November, 2017, 18:47
I already posted such an idea.
Comment icon #79 Posted by stereologist on 3 November, 2017, 19:00
I suppose this never happened:
Comment icon #80 Posted by Hammerclaw on 3 November, 2017, 22:01
Some of the hottest places in the world are in the deep ocean and life flourishes there in those most unlikely of places. If unintelligent species can adapt and thrive there, there's nothing preventing an intelligent species from learning how utilize them for their own purposes. After all, we're only speculating and speculation requires imagination. It's easy to be dismissive, out-of-hand, from a human perspective, of fanciful notions, while we rely on concepts firmly grounded in a human frame of reference. The challenge is to visualize the way things look from a non human perspective and how ... [More]
Comment icon #81 Posted by stereologist on 6 November, 2017, 13:14
The problem is that this is like land animals using volcanoes for this sort of work. The smokers and other geothermal vents do not provide an environment conducive to the production of materials such as metals. Thriving is not the issue. Bacteria thrive in t he deep Earth and their biomass may exceed the surface biomass. I would not consider thriving as a condition for the creation of a civilization.
Comment icon #82 Posted by Hammerclaw on 6 November, 2017, 17:41
No, intelligence is the prerequisite for the creation of civilization. Fire occurs, naturally and is not conducive for the production of metals unless manipulated, intelligently. Since we are positing the existed of an aquatic, technological communicating species the challenge on our end is to consider possible ways they could have advanced to that state. There is usually more than one answer to an engineering problem and it is fallacy to think one species, in different environmental circumstances, has discovered and utilized all of them. There's the rub; to look at a world through alien "eyes... [More]
Comment icon #83 Posted by stereologist on 6 November, 2017, 18:30
EM communication underwater is limited. Production of goods is limited underwater. These are just facts of physics. Fire cannot occur underwater because it is not naturally there. There is no oxidizer. Heat is quickly removed. Those are 2 of the 3 parts needed for fire. A civilization does not need to have metals, ceramics, or any of the fired materials. Sure they could form a civilization underwater, but it would be limited by their environment. Communications in water is restricted by physics. Electricity in water is limited too. Chemistry cannot be done in the open either.
Comment icon #84 Posted by Hammerclaw on 6 November, 2017, 18:43
Oh, please. We weld metal underwater all the time. It doesn't take much imagination to elaborate on that technology. Seawater itself is full of dissolved metals. You take the easy road. It's quite convenient to be dismissive, out of hand. As a purely intellectual enterprise try approaching the problem from the other end. Assume, for the sake of argument, that such a civilization exists and find ways to make it work.
Comment icon #85 Posted by Essan on 6 November, 2017, 19:27
We are also looking at this from a anthrocentric perspective. And, indeed, Earthocentric perspective. Just because we found a way to do something doesnt mean that is the only way. Oceans on other worlds may be different. Gravity will very likely be different! life itself may be very different. Who knows what silicon-based lifeforms living in a methane or sulphuric acid ocean on a planet 4 times the size of Earth, with a 12 day year, might be able to achieve? Meanwhile, I am reminded of one of Terry Pratchetts "Science of Discworld" books in which the first technological civilisation o... [More]
Comment icon #86 Posted by stereologist on 6 November, 2017, 19:46
Oh, please. Give me a break. Here is what I posted " Fire cannot occur underwater because it is not naturally there. There is no oxidizer. Heat is quickly removed. " That was in reference to this post. " Fire occurs, naturally " I am well aware of welding underwater. As you notice it does NOT involve fire, but electricity. Here are reasons why that is done. It all gets back to the physics. Is this true? Not really unless you are thinking about sodium, magnesium and calciu... [More]

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