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Intelligent life 'extremely rare', study claims

By T.K. Randall
December 5, 2020 · Comment icon 144 comments

Just how likely is it that we will encounter intelligent aliens ? Image Credit: CC0 Pixabay
A new Oxford University paper has cast doubt on the idea that the universe is teeming with intelligent alien life.
The question of whether we are alone in the universe remains one of the biggest philosophical conundrums of our time. While it seems almost inconceivable that our civilization is alone in the cosmos, the fact still remains that we have yet to see any evidence to the contrary.

Now a new study by researchers from Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute has cast further doubt on the likelihood that we will ever come into contact with intelligent extraterrestrials by determining that such civilizations are 'exceptionally rare' in the universe.

The basis for this, the scientists argue, is that intelligent life on Earth required multiple 'revolutionary transitions' over billions of years, and that the odds of this happening on other worlds are very slim.

There is also the fact that humans have only been around for a measly 200,000 years.

"It took approximately 4.5 billion years for a series of evolutionary transitions resulting in intelligent life to unfold on Earth," the study authors wrote. "In another billion years, the increasing luminosity of the Sun will make Earth uninhabitable for complex life."
"Together with the dispersed timing of key evolutionary transitions and plausible priors, one can conclude that the expected transition times likely exceed the lifetime of Earth, perhaps by many orders of magnitude."

"In turn, this suggests that intelligent life is likely to be exceptionally rare."

That said, the researchers have not dismissed the idea of keeping a look out for signs of ET.

"Just because we got our results doesn't mean it is a waste of time to look at the actual universe," said Oxford's Anders Sandberg. "Data will always trump ever so careful reasoning and statistics."

Source: Times of Israel | Comments (144)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #135 Posted by Manwon Lender 3 years ago
I know your new on this forum, but treating people like they are ingnorant and below your level of intellect is rather rude. If you are unable to do anything else, why even post.  Becuase treating people like that will not win you any friends and others who read your comments will also avoid you like the plague. Now, I am not telling you what to do, only making a suggestion based upon my observations of your comments in this thread. You see I live with a very simple outlook on intelligence, if someone is gifted by birth with superior intellect they should be thankful for that advantage, an... [More]
Comment icon #136 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
And this comes at the end of the paper: "These in vitro and in vivo examples of carbon–silicon bond formation using an enzyme and Earth-abundant iron affirm the notion that nature’s protein repertoire is highly evolvable and poised for adaptation: With only a few mutations, existing proteins can be repurposed to efficiently forge chemical bonds not found in biology and grant access to areas of chemical space that living systems have not explored."   Did I say anything about life without carbon?
Comment icon #137 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago As anyone can read, scientists only come up with socalled 'educated guesses'. They don't really know. NO evidence.
Comment icon #138 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
Using my meager intelligence, I will give it a try. 1. Mars is an older planet than Earth? And therefor life evolved there before it did on Earth? 2. Your beloved scientists say that Mars did have a magnetic field, billions of years ago. 3. Why do you think those 'bacteria' as you call them, had to 'devolve'? From what I have read, the simpler the life form, the better it can tackle radiation hazzards.   I really do hope I did not waste your time again.  
Comment icon #139 Posted by Jon the frog 3 years ago
Extremely rare in combination with an extremely huge universe means there's a lot of organised life out there...
Comment icon #140 Posted by astrobeing 3 years ago
But if "extremely rare" is trillions of times more than the number planets in the huge universe means there's not much life of any form out there...
Comment icon #141 Posted by astrobeing 3 years ago
Mars is not an older planet. Which means it didn't have much time for life to evolve. Another planet did. It's called Earth. Because Earth has simpler life forms than the bacteria that would survive an interplanetary journey. Mycoplasma doesn't even have cell walls. Actually complex life forms can survive radiation better because they can heal cellular damage and their skin can stop some forms of radiation (like alpha particles) from damaging vital organs. When radiation hits a single-cell creature, it attacks everything that is keeping the cell alive and it can't heal itself.
Comment icon #142 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
1- According to this theory, Mars stopped 'growing' by accretion earlier than did Earth: 2- No one has an idea how much time is needed for life to evolve. 3- Good point. I will think about it. 4- A single cell would not survive, but several layers of them could prevent the ones insude the cluster from dying of radiation. And then there are those that live deep inside rock, and are anaerobic.
Comment icon #143 Posted by thelion318 3 years ago
Well that's true I don't know the fundamentals of abiogenesis but the point I'm making is that it is much more probable that there is life everywhere because it is here and made of the same stuff we see everywhere (elements, systems, and even Earth like planets--you should look they found a bunch) than the 1-to-100 quadrillion or more chance that you are giving it. Its more believable to me. Also, you don't know the fundamentals of abiogenesis on other planets or moons either so can't exactly use that as an argument. Your argument is that since you haven't seen it elsewhere here in our own sol... [More]
Comment icon #144 Posted by astrobeing 3 years ago
Unfortunately it takes a lot more than "stuff" to make life. It takes extremely rare conditions, a long series of extremely improbable events, and most importantly continuously rare conditions for an extremely long time to prevent that life from being destroyed. That fact that life has already nearly destroyed itself here on Earth once shows that even when life emerges in the best imaginable conditions it can easily be wiped out forever. You mean I shouldn't use our knowledge and understanding of life here on Earth and what we know about our own solar system to speculate on what life might be ... [More]

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