The Instigator
LogicalLunatic
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
bsh1
Con (against)
Winning
24 Points

A Sentient Alien Species, if they exist, will likely look humanoid

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
bsh1
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/6/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,497 times Debate No: 62705
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (4)

 

LogicalLunatic

Pro

First Round is for acceptance. Burden of Proof is on me. Last Round is for rebuttals only. No profanity, no sexually explicit language, no violent threats, and no trolling.

By humanoid, I mean a life form with anatomical symmetry, two arms, two legs, and upright stature, as well as perhaps some other human features which I may include later. Let's be flexible enough to allow for slight deviation from this this definition, as long as overall the lifeform is humanoid.

May the better debater win.
bsh1

Con

I accept. I thought I would take a break from debating, but I want to get in 100 debates before I do that. Thanks to Pro fro instigating this intriguing topic, and I look forward to what is to come.
Debate Round No. 1
LogicalLunatic

Pro

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate. Now, I shall begin.

CASE FOR HUMANOID FEATURES IN SENTIENT EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
By C.E. Turner.

Whether you believe in the "Christian God" and a Young Earth divinely created or in no God and an Old Earth shaped by factors like Natural Selection, it's reasonable to assume that through either process life forms with the best features would form. After all, an Intelligent Designer would create His physical creations with a highly functional design. Doubtless His sentient creations would display the greatest amount of design.
If you believe that life is shaped by the process of Evolution through mutations and Natural Selection, it's also presumable that a sentient life form would also possess the physiological means needed to take advantage of this sentience.

In either case, I would argue that the body structure that goes best with sentience is a humanoid body.

1. Bipedalism
For shaping, holding, and ultimately using tools requires a structure which is handlike (that is, fingers with opposable thumbs). You cannot hold a tool with hooves or wings. A claw would have a quite difficult time manipulating an object held within its clutches.
My opponent may make the argument for multiple tentacles which can each serve the role of a finger, but wouldn't an arm with a fingered hand at the end be more efficient?
At the same time, two arms with touch-sensitive hands do not fare well holding up a person, as this would require almost constantly having your hands walk across the tough floor. That may mess up your fingers and make them less dexterous. Also, can you handle a tool when your hands are busy pushing against the ground to support your weight?
The best design, clearly, is to have your hands off the floor.
To have your arms and hands off the floor, you'd obviously need legs that can support your weight without support from your hands, meaning that either you need more legs or you need stronger legs.
If you have more legs and arms (like a mythical centaur does), you'd be more likely to trip over your legs. Also, it'd require a long horselike back structure. If you fell on your back, you'd find it very difficult to stand, as your arms would have a hard time lifting such a heavy part of your body into a proper position. That is, a sheep with arms would still have a difficult time getting up if it fell on its back. Also, it'd be harder to turn around or look behind you, and your ability to jump would be impaired by your weight.
Two strong legs (as humans have) make for easy turning around, sitting down and getting up, and jumping.

Therefore, I think that I have proven that two arms and two legs is a useful system compared to other physiological systems.

2. Body Symmetry
Humans possess Bilateral Symmetry, making them part of a group called "Bilateria".
I do not know the consensus of the scientific community on why Bilateral Symmetry exists, if such a consensus even exists.
But, as a large percentage of known life forms are Bilatera, there's probably a very good reason for it.
And...here's an article which may explain it.
http://m.sciencemag.org...
So, methinks it is likely that a sentient lifeform will have a Bilateral Symmetry, as humans do.

3. Head
A humanoid life form would need a head. In the case of a life form is Bilateral and Bipedal with two arms, the head would need to be put in a good place. Where it is in humans, with rotation of the head possible and no other body parts to impede the head's ability to see, the human position for the head is the best place for a head that contains eyes. Now, the ability to see what is around you is essential for the survival of a large organism, and it is also vital for establishing a civilization. I am sorry if this offends blind people, but society could not function if everyone was blind. The location of the head makes it the ideal place to put eyes. The head is also an ideal place for the brain, as otherwise the head would be empty. Also, signals from the eyes to the brain can travel at maximum speed if the two parts are right next to each other. The ability to speak intelligently also works best when the mouth is right next to the brain, as does the ability to smell and hear.

I await my opponent's rebuttals.
bsh1

Con

At this time I will present my case. I will reserve rebuttals for round three.

MY CASE

Sentience implies, "the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively." [1] What this means is that a sentient being is not merely rational, but emotional. In its common, colloquial usage, however, sentience oftentimes also encompasses an ability for higher order cognition.

Let's consider the resolution. We are asked whether alien, sentient lifeforms will resemble humans. To answer this question, we need look no father than our own planet: Earth. There are many bizarre lifeforms on Earth that have come close to obtaining sentience. I will argue that the existence of such animals on Earth means that sentience could evolve in non-humanoid aliens elsewhere, because the evidence suggest that the qualities necessary for sentience: higher order cognition, the ability to feel, and the ability to experience subjectively (i.e. rudimentary emotions), are found in animals here on Earth already.

I will talk about several animal groups in particular: Cephalopods, Porpoises, and Proboscids. I will show, through a variety of means, that animals in these groups exhibit higher order cognitive powers and/or emotion, which should be sufficient to make my point. Before I begin this analysis though, let's set some standard for the two criteria I intend to meet: (1) higher order cognition, and (2) emotion.

Higher order thinking implies problem-solving in a creative or analytical fashion. If I am told or shown that I can break the shell of a coconut with a hammer, that is not higher order thinking, because it require no ingenuity on my part. However, if I deduce that hitting something hard against it might break it open, leading me to grab a hammer, I have engaged in higher order thinking. Perhaps we can summarize this to say that higher order cognition is the ability to think or problem-solve creatively.

Emotion is a fairly clear concept, but to avoid any ambiguity, we can say that emotion is a psychophysiological phenomenon whereby someone experiencing it enters a specific mental state associated with each emotion (e.g. an empathetic mental state) and undergoes a physiological response (e.g. the release of adrenaline).

Cephalopods

Cephalopods are an order of animals primarily composed of octopi, squid, and cuttlefish. Cephalopods have successfully undergone classical conditioning regimens, meaning that through a process of inducing pain or pleasure, scientists have been able to reinforce or disincentivize certain behaviors. [2] More importantly, however, Cephalopods have been reported to engage in observational learning and have a great spatial learning capacity. [2, 3] Why are Cephalopods so awesomely smart? One explanation is their encephalization quotient (EQ). The EQ "measures the size of a creature's brain against the size of the rest of its body, and compares this ratio to that of other species of roughly the same size." [4] Octopi have the highest EQ of all invertebrates. [2]

Cephalopods are also noted tool users. Some octopi have been observed using coconut shells as tools--as shields from predators or as shelter for them on the sea floor. This type of behavior is highly complex and "involves picking up and carrying a tool to use later on." [2 - See Image] This seemingly creative use of tools to achieve various objects illustrates, in my opinion, higher order cognition. "Tool use has long been considered an indicator of rational thought because it involves complex cognitive processes, such as planning, problem-solving, and manipulating an environment." [5]



Ultimately, Cephalopods are amazing little animals. Consider, "These creatures can navigate mazes, open jars, and modify their homes using found objects." [5] I believe I have demonstrated that at least some cephalopods meet the definition of higher order cognition I set out earlier.

Porpoises

Porpoises, in a colloquial sense, refers broadly to all dolphins, whales, and porpoises. They are an eclectic, lovable, and enigmatic group of animals, whose intelligence, as determined by their EQ, is rivaled only by our own. In other words, they are probably the smartest non-human animals, surpassing even primates. Notice that dolphins lack the bipedality Pro argues is so key--as aquatic animals, they have no need for feet anyway.

Let me start with perhaps the most amazing piece of evidence in favor of dolphin intelligence: they have a language. While this language is not comparable to human language, it does show evidence of a sono-pictorial communication system amongst a dolphin species that is, nonetheless, highly developed. [6] Moreover, a research "team was able to teach the dolphins simple and complex sentences involving nouns and verbs, revealing that dolphins comprehend elements of human language, as well as having a complex visual language of their own." [7]

Dolphins are fantastic observational learners, are self-aware, are highly social, have demonstrated numerical continuity, have shown awareness of the future, have participated in cross-species participation, and--importantly--have "demonstrated the ability to produce creative responses." [8] The full creativity-inducing experiment can be read about here [8], but it is important to note that the "experiment was repeated with humans, and it took the volunteers about the same length of time [as the dolphins] to figure out what was being asked of them. After an initial period of frustration or anger, the humans realised they were being rewarded for novel behavior. In dolphins this realisation produced excitement and more and more novel behaviors--in humans it mostly just produced relief." [8]

Dolphins have also bee shown to use tools [8], which, as noted earlier, is another hallmark of creativity. Thus, dolphins also seem to meet the standard of higher order cognition I set.

Proboscids

Proboscids are, very simply, Elephants. Perhaps one of my favorite animals out there, they are truly remarkable beasts. They can experience emotions in an almost human-like way. "Studies show that structures in the elephant brain are strikingly similar to those in humans. MRI scans of an elephant's brain suggest a large hippocampus, the component in the mammalian brain linked to memory and an important part of its limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions. The elephant brain has also been shown to possess an abundance of the specialized neurons known as spindle cells [which dolphins also have], which are thought to be associated with self-awareness, empathy, and social awareness in humans. Elephants have even passed the mirror test of self-recognition, something only humans, and some great apes and dolphins, had been known to do." [9] Experts have even concluded that, like humans, elephants can suffer from psychological disorders such as PTSD. [9] Elephants even mourn their dead and even display altruistic activities. [10]

Besides having human-like emotions, elephants are highly intelligent, about on par with the porpoises. [11]

The first conclusion we can draw from these three examples is that non-humanoid animals can develop high-level cognitive and emotional capabilities, and so there is no reason to believe that non-humanoid aliens could not develop such capabilities, and perhaps even develop them beyond those of the species I mentioned.

I think also we can negate the topic in an entirely separate way. Let's consider the infinite potential for life--there are many diverse landscape throughout the universe, from nebulas in space to worlds caked in ice, where life could evolve. Life will adapt in such a way that it is best suited for the environment it lives in; not all such environments will lend themselves to humanoid shapes. What leads to intelligence, most experts seem to agree, is predation. [4] Hunters become smart in order to better hunt down and track prey. Prey sometimes becomes smarter to avoid predators, but usually evolves other mechanisms instead. But, nevertheless, as prey becomes more challenging to capture, predators become smarter and smarter. Therefore, I would conclude that in any environment or ecosystem where animals are capable of neurological or neurologic-like functions, and where predation takes place, sentience and, perhaps even, civilization is possible.

And finally, the universe is a big place [12]--there are just so many possibilities out there, how can we reasonably assert that a sentient alien will likely take on one specific set of traits? That assumption in itself seems statistically unsupportable. Thus, I rest my case and turn things over to Pro.

SOURCES

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
3 - http://www.pbs.org...
4 - http://dinosaurs.about.com...
5 - http://academic.reed.edu...
6 - http://wakeup-world.com...
7 - http://www.speakdolphin.com...
8 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
9 - http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com...
10 - http://video.nationalgeographic.com...
11 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
12 - http://www.space.com...
Debate Round No. 2
LogicalLunatic

Pro

LogicalLunatic forfeited this round.
bsh1

Con

At this juncture, I will address Pro's case. I hope Pro will have returned to DDO with sufficient time to conclude this debate.

To boil Pro's case down into its essence, it is arguing that because human-like traits are the traits bested suited to survival and intelligence, these traits are the ones that "Sentient" life forms would naturally exhibit. Firstly, my case already rebuts this notion, and so it can be cross-applied as a response to Pro's arguments. However, I will also briefly take time to examine the particular claims made by Pro in this round.

BIPEDALISM

Pro argues: "For shaping, holding, and ultimately using tools requires a structure which is handlike (that is, fingers with opposable thumbs). You cannot hold a tool with hooves or wings. A claw would have a quite difficult time manipulating an object held within its clutches."

Yet, tentacles are just as efficient, despite what Pro claims. If we look at Cephalopods again, "[t]he highly sensitive suction cups and prehensile arms of octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish are as effective at holding and manipulating objects as the human hand." [1]

We could also look at something akin to an Elephant's trunk. While the trunk is likely not as efficient as a hand or a set of tentacles, it is still an effective means of manipulating objects. "The trunk's ability to make powerful twisting and coiling movements allows it to collect food, wrestle with conspecifics, and lift up to 350 kg (770 lb). It can be used for delicate tasks, such as wiping an eye and checking an orifice, and is capable of cracking a peanut shell without breaking the seed. With its trunk, an elephant can reach items at heights of up to 7 m (23 ft) and dig for water under mud or sand." [2] Surely, this type of appendage is sufficient enough to obviate the need for bidepalism, while still giving the alien a significant ability to use tools and control objects.

And look at dolphins, who use tools sans any hand-like structure, and who are incredibly intelligent despite not having such a structure. Pro hasn't really demonstrates that such a structure is even necessary, but yet he uses that assumption to claim that bipedalism is necessary. (A) Pro's assumption (that some kind of structure that allows for the easy manipulation of tools is necessary) is faulty, as the dolphin example proves, and (B) even if it weren't faulty, the examples of the elephant's trunk and the cephalopods' tentacles show that the need to be able to manipulate tools doesn't require hands or bipedality.

Pro writes, "To have your arms and hands off the floor, you'd obviously need legs that can support your weight without support from your hands."

But what if the animal is in a marine environment, like a cuttlefish or a dolphin? Certainly, their buoyancy obviates any need for any legs or hands to hold them up.

BODY SYMMETRY

Pro just asks us to read an article without actually telling us what it says--this could easily be a way for Pro to circumvent the character limit, and should not be allowed. So, discounting Pro's source, Pro is basically asking us to believe that an alien will be bilateral because more Earth animals are...I would again refer to the vastness of the universe, the diversity of environments, etc. Pro cannot possibly extrapolate from what happens on just one planet for the rest. Moreover, being bilateral doesn't make something humanoid. An elephant is bilateral, but not humanoid.

THE HEAD

Pro states, "Now, the ability to see what is around you is essential for the survival of a large organism."

Pro assumes that the organism is large, but that's not really important. What is important is that he assumes it must have vision. If the alien develops in an extremely dark environment, it may never evolve eyes. Echolocation, touch, or some other device could have evolved to allow it to function effectively in the ecosystem it inhabits. There is no need for sight.

Pro states, "The head is also an ideal place for the brain, as otherwise the head would be empty."

Pro is basically saying that because the head is where the brain is supposed to go, that you need to have a head to have a brain. Surely, an alien could find a body cavity elsewhere on its body to locate the brain--perhaps it finds space in its torso amidst other organs. Really, the possibilities of evolution are infinite, and so, by extension, so too are the possible locations for the brain. Pro just lacks creativity in his thinking here.

Finally, Pro says, "The ability to speak intelligently also works best when the mouth is right next to the brain."

Perhaps the aliens have developed some other form of communication. Bees communicate by dancing. [3] Other bugs communicate via chemical signals. Presumably, the ability to speak is not, evolutionarily speaking, essential for communication or survival.

For all these reasons, I think the resolution can be negated. Over to Pro...

SOURCES

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
LogicalLunatic

Pro

I apologize for forfeiting like that.

Anyway, my opponent is right. My argument was based off the assumption that all environments would have an Earthlike land environment, where the humanoid form is the best. My opponent showed that in other terrains, such as water, other models may be better suited for survival and the development of civilization.
I forfeit. Vote for Bsh1.
bsh1

Con

I thank my opponent for his gracious concession.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by DaPro7822 2 years ago
DaPro7822
wow, so intense!
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
I never thought I'd get to use a picture of an Octopus in a debate...lol.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
Just to point it out...this is my 98th debate! Woot!
Posted by Big_Nick 2 years ago
Big_Nick
I would just like to say I believe with all the countless billion of stars in our own galaxy alone, alien life elsewhere is very likely. However, if the rare Earth theory is true and accurate, then the first "aliens" we are likely to encounter will be human colonists, sent out from Earth on colony ships that settle down on an alien world and become aliens themselves, simply by adapting to life on another planet. Then again, most of the descriptions of alleged alien encounters describe a mainly humanoid figure, but whether or not those are fact of fiction isn't really provable either way.
Posted by hatshepsut 2 years ago
hatshepsut
Humanoid with stone age technology. Sounds like failure of imagination. Since our statistics have N = 1, we can't conceive any of what must be zillions of possibilities for life, sentience, and social organization, urban civilization, or technology, if the latter are applicable. Instead, the aliens are like us. Just as in Egypt, the gods were very Egyptian!
Posted by RevL8ion 2 years ago
RevL8ion
:O There's a mini-debate in the comments section too?
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
Please don't straw man what I said. Having "rudimentary civilization" is not the same as having "stone age-level technology." I agree to the former addendum, not to the latter.
Posted by LogicalLunatic 2 years ago
LogicalLunatic
That's what I mean. The aliens have a minimum of stone age level technology.
I'm glad you agree.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
bsh1
Can we just say that the alien species would have some form of rudimentary civilization? I will agree to that, but not to the stone age part.
Posted by LogicalLunatic 2 years ago
LogicalLunatic
Oops. There was something that I forgot to include in making the debate. The alien species in question would also have civilizations and at least a stone age level of technology.
Is my opponent okay with this change?
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
lannan13
LogicalLunaticbsh1Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture
Vote Placed by DanK 2 years ago
DanK
LogicalLunaticbsh1Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's argument was far more reasonable and pro's concession.
Vote Placed by 1harderthanyouthink 2 years ago
1harderthanyouthink
LogicalLunaticbsh1Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF; concession
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
YYW
LogicalLunaticbsh1Tied
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit.