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Sunday, September 6. 2009
For practical purposes, the third category is really the only one that concerns us. The first type might be nothing more than a colony of microbes. Sure, it's "life"... but so what?
The second type might be 'intelligent', but most likely we'll never find out. It could be anything from some parachute-shaped beings floating around in an atmosphere of pure methane to some formless creature living 10,000 feet below a sea of hydrochloric acid.
We've been so brainwashed by Hollywood that I'm sure the first impulse of a great number of people would be, "Just build a voice translator and we'll be able to understand them perfectly!"
Sorry, it just doesn't work that way.
Nor, after such a long journey, are we going to be equipped to fly through an atmosphere of pure methane or dive 10,000 feet beneath an ocean of hydrochloric acid.
Again, it just doesn't work that way.
No, for our purposes, we really have to be talking about carbon-based life forms similar to us, and from a world similar to ours, if we want to have a real chance of communicating with them.
And that's really what it's all about. If we sent back a signal to Earth declaring, "We've found alien life forms floating around in an atmosphere of pure methane!", well, everyone's going to find that pretty exciting for a minute or two, then it's back to the daily grind.
If we can communicate with them, however, then there's a real chance that we'll learn something that will vastly improve mankind, such as a new, pure form of energy or a transgalactic space drive.
So, what are the odds of there being intelligent carbon-based life forms out there living on a world similar to ours? Let us construct such a scenario step by step and see.
A sun much smaller than ours wouldn't provide both the heat and solar wind so necessary for weather. A sun much larger than ours would bake the planet to a crisp. It has to be exactly the right size.
And you saw in the video how wildly different the sizes of suns can be and, for that matter, how far, far down the scale we are. It's almost like ours is the smallest sun out there, or near to.
You also saw how many colors of suns there are. Carbon-based life forms require a red sun, such as ours, which means we need to catch the sun at just the right age. Suns grow hotter over time, then cool, so we have to catch it when it's not too hot or too cold.
So, given what you saw in the above video, what are the odds the sun will be exactly the correct size, type and age?
Now we need a planet that's a precise distance from the sun. Too near and the oceans boil away; too far and it's a frozen ice ball flying through space.
And certain laws in the carbon-based universe are immutable, such as "organic matter decays over time." So when it comes to the size of the sun and the planet's distance from it, you can't simply say that any size of sun will do and then place the planet farther away so it doesn't burn up. At some point fairly quickly the planet is going to be taking 500 years to circumnavigate the sun and organic matter such as seeds and eggs simply wouldn't be able to last out the duration. A few spores might, but life as we know it would never flourish.
Plus, in order for the planet to have distinct seasons, it must circumnavigate around the sun in a precise elliptical orbit and have a particular tilt to its axis. It can't be too near at its closest point or too far away at its furthest or it'd burn up or freeze over. And if the tilt of the axis isn't just so, the seasons aren't distinct enough to signal it's time for a change in the cycle of life.
So, given the vast size of an average solar system, what are the odds that a planet would end up that exact distance from the sun, and have that precise elliptical orbit and axis tilt?
Next, we need a moon so as to churn the oceans around. Without tidal action, our planet would be a rotting cesspool.
Moons such as ours are formed by huge asteroids colliding with the host planet, throwing tons of debris into space which eventually coagulate into a moon.
But if the asteroid is much larger, or strikes it more head-on, it could destroy the entire planet. That's what the Asteroid Belt is in that big gap between Mars and Jupiter; a shattered planet.
But if the asteroid is much smaller, or hits the planet more of a glancing blow, not enough matter is flung into space to form a moon and the debris eventually settles back. So it has to be just the right size and hit it at just the right angle.
Plus, the moon that's formed has to be exactly the correct size and distance away from the planet so that its gravitational field affects the tides below just enough, but not too much.
So, what are the odds that an asteroid would even hit the planet to begin with, and then be just the right size and hit it at just the right angle so as to throw off just enough material to form a moon that exerts just the right amount of gravitational influence on the planet below?
And we certainly need an atmosphere breathable by carbon-based life forms. I'm sure you've read how wildly different the various atmospheres of our neighboring planets and moons are. One will be pure methane, the next will be a delightful mix of sulfur fumes and semi-frozen helium.
Plus, the atmosphere has to be the exact correct thickness in order to trap exactly the right amount of heat from the sun. Too thick and you end up with a steam bath like Venus. Too thin and the solar winds sweep it away and you end up with a barren rock like Mercury.
So, given the incredibly vast array of chemical choices, what are the odds that a planet will have an atmosphere composed of material that can sustain carbon-based life forms, and be the perfect thickness?
Okay, let's do some rough math and then we'll continue:
Give or take a few percentile points, of course.
All right, let's assume the odds have been overcome and the planetary cauldron awaits the first sign of life.
What are the odds of life appearing out of nowhere?
But it does. It thrives and mutates and grows for millions upon millions of years.
Right up until 65 million years ago.
At the time, our ancestors were small, muskrat-like creatures scurrying around the underbrush while dinosaurs ruled the earth. Things had already been that way for a couple hundred millions years, so there's no reason to assume they wouldn't still be that way today if it hadn't been for the next billion-to-one circumstance, the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event.
As before, the asteroid that struck the Earth had to be exactly the right size. Much smaller and it wouldn't have blanketed the planet with dust and storms (which caused the major vegetation to die off and the dinosaurs to wither away), and if it had been much larger, it might have totally destroyed the planet's ecosystem and sent us all back to the microbe stage.
So, what are the odds that an asteroid would hit us at all, be precisely that size, and hit us at that particular point in our planetary evolution?
But it did. The dinosaurs conveniently skedaddled out of the way and the Day of the Muskrat arrived. 65 million years later and I'm sitting here typing about it, eagerly awaiting contact with some extraterrestrial carbon-based life forms.
But getting us this far was only half the battle.
Next up, the species, itself, must show it can survive the test of time. How many worlds came this far, only to fail because some intangible essence, such as a core belief in God, was missing from the puzzle?
But how does the concept of God begin in the first place?
So bear this in mind; that many worlds might have advanced to a certain degree, but some core, intangible factor was missing from the greater scheme of things, keeping them in the dark ages of Us Against Them, Good Against Bad, and thus keeping them from evolving technologically to the point of deep space exploration. They would tend to evolve to the point of nuclear technology and, without some greater belief staying their hand, would presumably start lobbing nukes at one another as fast as they could. They might hold off for a while, but eventually someone would crack, and that'd be that.
So, what are the odds of God appearing?
And there's a timeline factor that must be considered. Civilizations rise and fall, as do entire planetary ecosystems. There are two factors, alone, that could impact our little hunt for intelligent life quite severely.
The planet is roughly 4½ billion years old. Let us say that we have been cognizant enough to handle the concept of meeting alien life forms in a calm, intelligent manner for the past 100 years. That's probably being too generous (the 'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast which faked an alien landing and panicked half the nation was only 70 years ago), but I like round numbers.
So, for approximately 0.00000000023% of the planet's history, we have been receptive to meeting aliens in a calm and intelligent manner.
Since we also need a future date in order to get an accurate figure, we must first look at two scenarios:
But let's be generous and assume that (1) mankind doesn't wipe itself out and (2) the next Ice Age is still 10,000 years away. Adding the past 100 years to the future 10,000 years, we have a figure of 10,100 years as a time frame to work with.
That's 0.0000023% of our planet's existence that we have been, and hopefully will be, receptive to alien beings.
That's not much, as these things go, but at least this time we've got some hard numbers to work with.
So, given the infinite vastness of space, and what it takes to make a planet suitable for carbon-based life forms, and assuming other civilizations arose somewhat like we did, what are the odds that we'll meet up with intelligent beings within that 0.0000023% time frame of both planetary histories?
I wanted to work out the equation on my calculator but it doesn't have a hundred trillion decimal places.
The proponents of the "there are thousands/millions/billions of intelligent civilizations out there" theory basically use a 'by-the-numbers' argument: There are billions and billions of stars in our galaxy, and billions and billions of galaxies in the universe. Therefore, by the numbers, it would seem obvious that there would have to be — by the odds, alone — a couple thousand/million/billion advanced civilizations out there just like ours.
But I see the odds a different way.
When you think of how perfect everything had to be to get here; the perfect sun, the perfect planet, the perfect elliptical orbit and axis tilt, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect asteroid creating the perfect moon, another perfect asteroid wiping out a predominant life form blocking our way, and on and on and on, it strikes me that the odds against all of the pieces lining up matches up fairly well in the by-the-numbers game.
And if that's true, then it could very well be that we are currently the only intelligent, sentient, carbon-based life forms in the whole damn universe.
Just call us lucky.
Tuesday morning links
Why women have sex: Surber. Sheesh. I thought it was because they were crazed with desire for my magnificent body, my Apollonian face, my endless charm and wit, and my six-pack abs. Obama the Mortal. Krauthammer Alinksy nods. Tiger The Great
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Any 'House MD' fans out there? Dip below the fold for a couple of goodies. Note: These videos are designed to be played in full-screen mode. Click on the little symbol on the player's tool bar to pop them open. If you don'
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These are what I consider my better pieces: "Do these genes make me look fat?" â€” As these things go, this is probably the most official 'exposÃ©' on the site. It's amazing how we're being lied to. Beautiful Camp Elmwood â€” I just lov
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Lucky or Blessed? Or made in the image of a Creator? If you jump out of the box of a physical universe all manner of ideas are possible. Perhaps there are millions/trillions/gazillions of other experiments in life out there at various stages of maturity. Certainly some of them would be looking for us as well.
"When you think of how perfect everything had to be to get here; the perfect sun, the perfect planet, the perfect elliptical orbit and axis tilt, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect asteroid creating the perfect moon, another perfect asteroid wiping out a predominant life form blocking our way, and on and on and on, it strikes me that the odds against all of the pieces lining up matches up fairly well in the by-the-numbers game.
And if that's true, then it could very well be that we are currently the only intelligent, sentient, carbon-based life forms in the whole damn universe"--or not.
Thanks always for the thoughts, Doc. Can you even begin to imagine how much you have been missed?
You left out most of the arguments in "The Privileged Plant" and "Rare Earth" so you estimates are too optimistic by several orders of magnitude. Call it zero.
It's almost certain that we are alone in the galaxy. But there are so many galaxies there migh be another intelligent species somewhere. We will never know; any communication over tens of millions, or billions, of light years is impossible.
Anyone who takes modern physics and cosmology seriously, who doesn't dismiss them as mere pseudosciences, must be overwhelmed by the immensity and age of the universe, and the fine tuning of all those constants orbits that make us and the universe possible. Some atheists invoke the multiverse to explain everything away. This is just an "epicycle" used to save appearances
That there is no God behind this is insanity. That we are alone is appalling. The beginning of all wisdom: Fear the Lord.
I'm not a believer in literal interpretation of the Bible. I do not think earth was created in six 24 hour periods as we know them today. I think God used evolution as a tool to create mankind, with some "perturbations" along the way to guide things as He saw fit. It is comforting to me to think that He altered the laws of Optical Physics to create a rainbow after the great deluge. That's part of why I see God as a supreme being. Perhaps my beliefs are wrong in some folks' eyes (and likewise I am sure would be branded as believing something akin to "Intelligent Design" by some agnostics) but I believe that thinking minds can accept Christian Salvation, deductively-reasoned science, and evolution at the same time. I certainly cannot accept that a loving God would provide evidence of evolution to "test one's faith". He gave us thinking, reasoning brains for a purpose.
Given what I have read about the Universe, along with imagery from Hubble, I too wonder if we are the only ones in it. I suppose that may be branded as closed-minded by many scientists, but it truly is a miracle that what we have today on this little planet has come to be. With black holes swallowing up galaxies, intense radiation of all sorts, and supernovae, it's hostile out there. To my way of thinking, our existence cannot have been a fluke of nature.
OTOH, I wonder about aberrations like Hitler & Stalin. Maybe those are "rogue events" that are just intended as "tests" for humanity to "fix"; who knows?
Thanks to Dr Merc & all commenters for thought-provoking posts. cheers chuck
Thalpy - That's very appreciated. Thank you.
Canookles - Face it, buddy, it doesn't take much to make you Canooks happy. A warm fire in the igloo, a fresh slab of raw seal meat for dinner, a loving wife bundled in three feet of polar bear fur. How good does it get!
Bob - Speaking of the "immensity" of the universe, one thing I debated mentioning (but obviously didn't) was how mind-bogglingly huge the universe is. An animation that someone linked to in my 'Sagan clips' post made a very good point. It started on a kid's arm, then backed away until the continent was in view, then backed away until the earth was in view, then kept backing away until the solar system, and then the galaxy was in view.
Then the galaxy got smaller and smaller, until it was just a pinpoint.
And then even the pinpoint disappeared.
And if the 'camera' had spun around 180 degrees, the next upcoming galaxy might not even have been a pinpoint yet. The universe is truly immense.
As to the movies, 'Privileged Planet' is now at the top of my Netflix queue. They don't have 'Rare Earth', though. Is that the right name? I'm not sure what other keywords to use and a Google search for "rare earth" turns up nothing but song names and periodic tables of the elements. :)
Careful with the "nics" Merc...that's a "nuck" notta "nook" !!
"Careful with the "nics" Merc...that's a "nuck" notta "nook" !!"
Not so fast, Wilderness Boy. A "nook" is a very treasured item. Granted, English is your second language (after Inuit), but bear with me here.
Consider that one of the most adorable things to imagine is a cute nook and cranny. Of course, no one actually knows what a nook is -- or how it differs from a cranny -- but we know it's adorable!
"Nuke", however, is a very bad thing. Let's go over the List of Horrible Things, shall we?
4. Using nukes
5. Being Canadian
As you can plainly see, this is NOT a list you want to be associated with. I mean, any more than you already are.
However, since warmongering Canadians have decided that "Can Nuke!" is their country's motto, I'll be glad to abide by convention and use the shortened term "Canuke" from now on.
By the way, just curious, but who do you have your nukes aimed at?
My guess is Quebec. :)
Parle-tu francais?? 'ppears we'll hafta sign y'all up for a spelin' be...
A little harsh with #'s 1 - 3 eh?
"A little harsh with #'s 1 - 3 eh?"
Oh, you mean comparing murderers, rapists and pillagers to Canadians? Well, yes, it was kind of demeaning to them as a group, but I was in a hurry and didn't have time for pleasantries. I'll watch my step next time. And thanks for the tip!
"Think nothing of it! Glad to help!"
You Canadians are such a generous lot. The next time I have a hankering to dig my teeth into some raw seal blubber, I'll be thinking of you!
BTW, just curious, but what do eastern Canucks think of the western Canuckians? Is Vancouver viewed as filled with a bunch of dirty, evil hippies, like our Seattle and San Francisco?
I've lived in Vancouver (turned 19 there..a coupla years ago), travelled coast-to-coast but I've spent most of my life in Ontarario. BC (Vancouver) is known as "La La Land"...VERY socialisticly governed...that being said, the mountains and the sea make for a beautiful visual. In recent years immigration has completely changed the ambiance...not to everyone's liking.
I've visited both San Francicso and Seattle (had friends in Coos Bay, Oregan) but I don't think there's an exact match though...
BTW, thanks for handlin' your comuppance like the man you want to be!
(sorry to be so off thread ). Good post! BTW.
Yes, but most of what we know is biased by what we know of this galaxy. And biased in favor of this corner of this galaxy. Knowledge of the finer points in other galaxies is limited by the minimal amount of information (light) gleaned from them. If we consider our past history of being wrong about "knowing" what we thought we at one time "knew" based on what was available to our senses in then, we must consider that current projections could be off by enormous orders of magnitude. To infer such greater knowledge is more than a little pretentious. That's not to say probabilities would be > 1, just that they are undefined/undefinable. Much like the "God" proposed to represent the "purpose vacuum" of what we supposedly do know.
I'd add this to your comment.
There's a documentary called 'Hyperspace" with the always-excellent Sam Neill narrating. It states that it's estimated that everything we know about the universe, from every source we have, doesn't even cover a tenth of what's out there. We could be living in some weird 9% anomaly where the laws of physics are vastly different than what applies in the other 91%.
I'm guessing we won't be finding out anytime soon, though. Dang it.
Why can't the "sun" be larger, and the planet be further away?
Why can't the "beings" be silicon based, and breathe CO2?
Why can't they be carbon-based, but evolved to learn to live in a world which has had a massive shift so that it is a "cesspool", but they thrive?
By limiting the agenda, you've limited the possibilities. Like politics, in a situation like this, if you limit the agenda, you control the discussion and thus win the debate.
I'm not saying that I think there are billions of viable sentient life forms out there. But I do think there are other intelligent beings - possibly far advanced.
It's likely they may have advanced without "God", but with a set of moral codes that simply make sense for survival (Hammurabi's Code, perhaps?). God is simply a code word for moral behavior in most cases. The existence of a God is useful tool. I happen to believe in God - the concept of anything starting without a "starter" is beyond reason.
I believe Einstein said "God doesn't play dice with the universe" when he rejected Quantum Physics. Feynman's reply (again, the reference may be wrong) was "God does play dice, but they happen to be loaded."
There are not alot, but some life forms that are not carbon based that may not require our atmosphere. We may be able to communicate with them regardless.
I am very interested in the movie "Avatar", since this is the very concept which you've said is unlikely - a life form which we cannot communicate with due to the atmosphere. James Cameron is positing the combination of DNA to create "Avatars" which will interact in both worlds (or some such solution) to produce a desired outcome.
Are we alone?
I doubt it.
Are there billions of sentient, communicative life forms out there for us to relate with?
I doubt it.
Are there other life forms out there which we could communicate and relate with that may not be carbon based?
Assuming God plays dice with the universe, but the dice are loaded, what's the likelyhood that other life forms exist?
Probably pretty good. From the history of life here on earth, God has shown that in His Infinite Wisdom, He is not content to rely on one solution to meet the solution(s) He desires....whatever the questions He has may be.
I'm a believer, and I happen to believe we're nearing a point at which much, much more information will be available regarding this topic. Whether it's in MY lifetime is questionable (damn trucks are everywhere these days and I have a habit of not paying attention). But I'm sure my kids may find out.
In addition, while I believe knowledge of God has played a major role in advancing society and staying the hand of destruction, the opposite is also true. Plenty of believers would willingly destroy themselves in order to forward their views of God......God is a double edge sword, and highly dependent on your view of what His goals are. Certainly Al-Qaeda believes in God. I'm just not sure their God has similar goals to mine, as they are happy to eliminate themselves entirely in pursuit of making me believe in their version of events.
"Sure, it's "life"... but so what?"
Lots. Has it DNA, RNA, or something else? If it has DNA, is it the same as ours, or does it have other nucleotides?
"If we sent back a signal to Earth declaring, "We've found alien life forms floating around in an atmosphere of pure methane!", well, everyone's going to find that pretty exciting for a minute or two, then it's back to the daily grind."
I wonder if that's true, actually. I'd think the imagination of the our whole culture might well be captured by the idea of an alien life form that was demonstrably intelligent, but with whom we had yet to figure out a way to communicate. Look at how fascinated we are with dolphins, and we can't even be sure if they're intelligent and self-aware in the same way we are.
Let me quickly give my own take on some of the excellent questions raised.
"Why can't the "sun" be larger, and the planet be further away?"
I mentioned that. It wouldn't have to be much farther away before it was taking eons to circumnavigate it. Neptune, for example, takes about 165 years to circle the sun. Now picture a much-larger sun then ours and how far out the planet would have to be. And it's exponential, in that for every little bit the sun is larger, the planet takes much more time to circle it.
"Why can't the "beings" be silicon based, and breathe CO2?"
Well, everything on Earth is carbon-based, so I'd have to assume a silicon-based world would be so unimagineably different than ours that it would fall under the #2 category, "Life of any type", no matter what they breathed. But, assuming even silicon-based beings need the right sun, right planet, right asteroid to create a moon for tidal action, and maybe even an asteroid clearing the evolutionary way, the odds are still stacked against it happening.
"Why can't they be carbon-based, but evolved to learn to live in a world which has had a massive shift so that it is a "cesspool", but they thrive?"
Mmm, good question. "How would our planet change if suddenly the moon disappeared?" I'm honestly not sure how much influence the moon and tides have on overall weather patterns and such.
The difference might be that once a civilization is going, the moon's influence becomes unnecessary. But the microbe stage might be different.
The topic is finding intelligent life forms. While discovering DNA in an other-world molecule would be seriously exciting, it's not the object of discussion.
Well, you're right, it would be more than a moment's interest. But practically speaking, if we discovered parachute-shaped beings that exibited a measure of intelligence, unless they also had an advanced civilization it's doubtful we'd learn any great truths of the universe. Like a pure form of energy or intergalactic space drives.
It's like the dolphins. We'll spend 200 years and hundreds of billions of dollars to finally crack their code, only to find out they're saying, "I'm hungry! Want food!"
Not an intergalactic space drive is sight. :)
I'm not sure why the period of time circling a sun is problematic to live evolving. Neptune is further out, but if the sun was large enough, Neptune could potentially be habitable (assuming the right gas mix, etc.). Life as we know it didn't evolve because of changing seasons - the primary life forms related to man's evolution developed in regions where seasonal change was nearly non-existent. So I am still confused about why this inhibits life development.
As for the silicone based life-form - being "unimaginably different" is exactly why we have cars today. If you asked President Jefferson (who was no slouch in the science department) about the potential for horseless transportation, I'm sure he'd have said that whatever it would be would be "unimagineably different" than what he knew. It is, too. But it still happened in about 100 years. I am ambivalent about this as a response to the possibility for life forms. Regardless, assuming it's possible (silicone being the most likely other element to base life on besides carbon), I'm sure it would be unimaginably different - after all, computers are silicone based, as are their cousins robots. They are nothing like us. Yet. But on other planets who developed faster and further than us - maybe they are very similar.
It's hard to say how life will evolve is tides stop. Lots of things have happened during the short lifespan of man, but the interesting thing is that man has survived due to his intelligence, motivation, and innovation. This is what sets us apart - we are capable of massive innovation on a large scale in relatively short time frames. No other animals show this capacity.
I believe it could be possible to make this change in environment a livable situation. Consider, for example, the plight of Burke and Wills - 2 men in the Australian Outback in dire straits. Unlike their counterparts Lewis and Clarke, Burke and Wills didn't adapt to their environment and work with it. Their belief was Aborigines were somehow different - but they lived in a region considered inhospitable to human life. As a result, by ignoring what the Aborigines had to teach them, Burke and Wills had the exact OPPOSITE situation - 1 man survived as opposed to Lewis and Clarke's 1 man dying.
Even seemingly "dead" areas of the earth teem with life....life which can sustain a man with the right attitude and willpower.
As I said, I'm a believer that it's possible there are other life forms out there. I'm not sure that by limiting the possible to simply what we know makes us better prepared to deal with what we don't understand.
After all, for years the belief was there were only WHITE Swans. Until they discovered BLACK Swans in Australia.
Today, the improbable event that becomes reality is known as a "black swan" event. It's so improbable, it's written off as nearly impossible (thus impossible), until it happens.....then everyone says, "gee....you'd have to think somebody would've guessed that would happen."
Black Swans are the result of defining everything based on what we understand and recognize and negating the possibility that odd situations create odd results, particularly when you least expect them.
"Boondoggle" is almost being kind. Here's my take on it. And as if going back to the Moon for more valuable moon rocks isn't bad enough, talk of colonizing Mars leaps right into the realm of insanity. Unless, of course, it provides us with more valuable things to enrichen our lives. You know, like Tang and Teflon.
"Yippee! My eggs don't stick to the frying pan anymore! Well, THAT was certainly worth 200 billion!"
That was a very interesting comment and deserves a reply. Sorry it took a few days, I've been busy.
"So I am still confused about why this inhibits life development."
Well, while it's certainly true that microbes don't need seasons, higher life forms do in the sense that everyone has to eat. And since plants are kind of dumb, they need to be told via amount of sunlight and termperature that it's time for the next stage in the cycle. And there have to be cycles or the aforementioned food doesn't perpetuate through the ages.
"being "unimaginably different" is exactly why we have cars today."
That strikes me as an "eye of the beholder" concept. As long as one could conceive of a self-propelled engine, imaging a future car, airplane, submarine, whatever, certainly wouldn't be "unimagineable". If you walked up to Jefferson, lit a match and said, "Feel the heat from this fire? One day man will harness this heat and propel carriages with it", would he have found that an "unimagineble" concept?
"I believe it could be possible to make this change in environment a livable situation."
I think we already covered this point. If something bad happened now, we might have the technology to handle it and survive. Say, another dinosaur asteroid blackening the skies for a few hundred years. Greenhouses would spring up everywhere. But the technological "we" is a pretty small slice of the last 10,000 years.
"As I said, I'm a believer that it's possible there are other life forms out there."
I think we're all in agreement that there are probably some category 1's out there ("life of any type"), and there are probably some forms of what we'd deem "intelligent" life out there, but, as I said, it's not going to do us much good if they're residing 10,000 feet below a sea of hydrochloric acid. Be they silicon-based or carbon-based, they'd still have to go through the amazing set of coincidences that we did in order to have the things necessary to sustain life (atmosphere, seasons, possibly getting rid of a predominant life form blocking our way, etc), and when you start adding them all up, it seems like long odds no matter what "-based" you are.
If might be very common in the universe for the few planets that made it this far to have some dinosaur-type beings take over the planet due to sheer size alone. The predominant life form eats and grows and eats and grows until it can grow no more. But it's brain doesn't develop because all it has to do all day long is...eat!
So it isn't just the size of the dino asteroid that's in play (and that, alone, is long odds), but the time it hits the planet. If it had been 50 million years earlier, our muskrat forefathers might not have been second-in-line and some other goofy, non-evolving species might have taken over and, without another bad-boy asteroid, they'd be here today instead of us.
"I'm not sure that by limiting the possible to simply what we know-"
Well, now, that's kind of an offbeat sentence, because you're implying that we should know what we don't know -- otherwise, we're "limiting" ourselves. Hey, we know what we know.
"'gee....you'd have to think somebody would've guessed that would happen.'"
You mean like the wheel? Yeah, you'd think!
Thanks for the comments,
Wow! Very nicely worked out. How can anyone argue with that? Well, I just happen to have a spanner in my hand. So let me throw it in the works. You have just outline that path earth followed to produce... us. You then go on to point out how infinitesimally small the odds of all those events happening in sequence on some other planet. Let me ask, then, what if there are other paths - that neither you nor anyone else can see, much less account for, since we haven't experienced the results - to producing carbon based intelligent life? Frankly, I think this is MUCH more likely then your jury rigged justification for why it could only happen here. Just sayin'.
I stick to the facts at hand and it's "jury rigged"??
The problem here is that your argument can be used to counter any metric.
"Two plus two equals four."
"Oh, yeah? What about in the Ninth Dimension, where two plus two equals five?! What about THAT, huh??"
Or, to rephrase your argument, "I think the unknown is MUCH more likely than the known!"
Does that really make sense to you?