The Instigator
2-D
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points
The Contender
etherealvoyager
Con (against)
Losing
3 Points

DDO Olympics: Science

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
2-D
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/13/2014 Category: Science
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,097 times Debate No: 48991
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (3)

 

2-D

Pro

Resolution: It's likely that there are many forms of intelligent life in the universe.

Looking forward to an interesting debate. For the purpose of this debate likely indicates there is greater than a 50% chance. The first round is for acceptance and the last round is for rebuttals only.
etherealvoyager

Con

I accept.

I thank 2-D for instigating what almost certainly is going to be an interesting debate; particularly as he has a formidable record. I will be arguing that it is unlikely that intelligent life is common in the Universe. Astronomer Richard Pogge, of Ohio State University, provides a criterion for what is 'intelligent.' According to Pogge, a living being is intelligent if it:
  • Has self awareness
  • It uses tools to manipulate its environment
  • It uses language to communicate with other intelligent beings.

[1]

Pogge's criterion shall be satisfactory enough for the purposes of this debate.

I look forward to an interesting debate!


[1] http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu...

Debate Round No. 1
2-D

Pro

Thanks to Con for accepting; It’s clear he has an innate natural talent so I am looking forward to the debate! Con has cited a source specifically used to identify extraterrestrial life equivalent to our own when the resolution does not specify a degree of intelligence. I now need to build a case for the many lower levels of intelligence common in all life ironically establishing my burden of proof since the debate resolution does not specify extraterrestrial life.

There are many forms of intelligent life on earth.

-Intelligence

Due to our natural Xenophobia it is easy to forget that intelligent life is common on earth but this is simply true. Con has only assumed that by intelligent I was referring to a mind equivalent to our own but that is not the case. The source Con references sites chimpanzees, dolphins and bonobos as intelligent as dolphins communicate and many primates use tools care for their young etc. It also references the Encephalization Quotient as a decent ratio used to estimate intelligence placing humans on a sliding scale with many animals.

Without a definition in the resolution standard dictionary definitions apply. Merriam Webster defines intelligence as: the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations [1]. Dictionary.com specifically refer animals when defining intelligence: giving a good understanding or a high mental capacity; quick to comprehend, as persons or animals: an intelligent student [2]. It would certainly be interesting to find life with a directly comparable form of intelligence but there are many forms of intelligent life right here on earth.

-Many animals communicate.

Animals use a variety of methods to communicate and this is common in the animal kingdom [3]. Many animals use visual cues to communicate such as gulls, bonobos, wolves/dogs, various amphibians and chimps. Others communicate through sounds in mating rituals, indicating a food location, territory or warning calls as seen in various bats, deer, whales and elephant seals.

Many animals have some form of communication [4]. One researcher has worked with prairie dogs extensively and the animals have word like sounds that are combined into sentence like calls for a variety of warning calls to distinguish between predators. Cats have around 35 vocalizations and various signals utilizing body language. It’s also important to note that, among humans, when our words and body language contradict we naturally accept the body language as more accurate and this is a common form of communication among animals.

-Animals demonstrate problem solving ability to adjust to new situations.

“Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error. Some higher animals, such as apes and cetaceans, have demonstrated more complex problem-solving abilities, including discrimination of abstract stimuli, rule learning, and application of language or language like operations [6].” “It is clear that animals of quite a range of species are capable of solving a range of problems that are argued to involve abstract reasoning.”

-Animals have many qualities associated with intelligence.

Many animals demonstrate a memory and the ability to learn in areas like long distance navigation a shortened modified response to repeat stimulus etc [3]. Many Mammals, Birds, fish and invertebrates have been observed using tools and/or weapons. Animals adjust to circadian rhythms and identify time intervals. Many animals demonstrate numeracy accurately estimating quantities or with a rudimentary ability to count.

Animals demonstrate emotional behavior [6] and even insects and molusks have states of attentiveness and decision-making. Birds have a parallel evolution of consciousness and there is evidence of near human-like consciousness particularly in African Grey Parrots. “The weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.”

Although animals lack aspects of human psychology there are many examples of intelligent forms of life right here on earth.

Are humans really one single form of intelligence?

It’s easy to group together and pretend we all think the same but the reality is we are all uniquely alone in our minds (I’m great at parties). The Widely used Myers-Brigs type indicator indicates there are 16 distinct personality types all based on a sliding scale of four dichotomies that indicate preferred methods of cognitive functions [13]. The personality test is fairly simple (compared to psyche tests for high security clearances for example) but it generates 1.6 billion distinct personality values.

This is compounded when you consider the many distinct cultural memes that can have a large impact on how we think. There are 195 countries with how many clicks, classes and social varieties?

There are 400 different definitions for mental disorder and easily 150+ ‘mental disorders’ on wikipedia, which raises a question [14]. How many forms of healthy thought process are there? It is simply not accurate to state that humans are one form of intelligent life. Intelligence takes many forms.

Also aliens

The many local forms of local intelligent life likely have a large multiplier in the rest of the galaxy. Whatever the mechanism of abiogenisis (the spontaneous formation of the first self replicating molecules leading to ‘life’) the early appearance indicates that there is a good chance that life will spontaneously occur given the right conditions [8].

The Drake Equation has been used to estimate the number of active civilizations with advanced communication in our galaxy [9]. It multiplies several factors to estimate the potential to identify an advanced civilization in our galaxy intent on communication. The equation includes several factors that are relevant here such as the fraction of sunlike stars, average number of planets per star, planets suitable for life and the fraction of plants that actually develop life.

However, many of the factors are not strictly relevant to this debate. The number of stars, fraction of civilizations that develop technology and the ratio of civilization lifetime are also multipliers used to calculate the probability. There are many more stars in the observable universe than there are in our galaxy and a civilization is not necessary to demonstrate many forms of intelligent life as seen on earth.

There is a wide range of calculated values for the drake equation anywhere from 0.125 to 400 planets in our galaxy with advanced intelligent life [10]. The range here assumes that civilizations last from 1,000 to 10,000 years but many forms of intelligent life have existed on earth since the first mammals for over 200 million years [11]. These values are also calculated for a single galaxy, the Milky Way. It is estimated that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe recently estimated to be as high as 500 billion [12]. This places the estimate of the number of planets in the universe with many forms of intelligent life in the range of 1.25*10^16 to 4*10^18.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com...

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[4] http://tinyurl.com...

[5] http://www.britannica.com...

[6] http://fcmconference.org...

[8] http://www.hawking.org.uk...

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[10] http://www.astro.umd.edu...

[11] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[12] http://www.dailygalaxy.com...

[13] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[14] http://en.wikipedia.org...

etherealvoyager

Con

I thank Pro for his novel argument. However, before I begin, I would like to note that Pro has already made this debate quite semantic. I will continue to. It is now necessary, for the purpose of this debate, that the word ‘many’ is defined. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “a large number of.” [1] However, the question comes up of “a large number” compared to what? Given that, the resolution relates intelligent life to the universe, the universe shall be the comparison from which ‘many’ is made. As that there are approximately 10^24 planets in the observable universe, my opponent is essentially claiming that there is there are ‘many’ forms of intelligent life, when in comparison to 10^24 planets.

I will argue that it is not likely that many forms intelligent life is widespread throughout the universe. I will argue for the ‘Rare Earth’ hypothesis that was introduced by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee in their book “Rare Earth: Why Intelligent Life is Uncommon in the Universe,” which states that the rise of intelligent life on Earth was due to an unlikely combination of factors. I will refer to Ward and Brownlee as W&B.

W&B introduce 18 factors that must be right in order for the existence of intelligent life. [2] Of course, throughout the debate, I will not defend all 18 factors, but I will put forward some of the main factors.

In order for a planet to be able to support intelligent life, it must be located in a specific position within a galaxy, for most zones of galaxies are unable to harbour planets supporting life (dead zones). The zones of a galaxy that is able to harbour planets supporting life is called the galactic habitable zone. According to Evolution Wiki, “this [habitable] zone is primarily a function of distance from the galactic centre.” [3] A habitable planet cannot be located too close to the centre of the galaxy, for as W&B explain: “Any galactic centre is a mass of stars, some the lethal neutron stars, and it seems unlikely that any form of life as we know it can live nearby. They then explain: “Any star going supernova would probably sterilize life within a radius of 1 light year of the explosion and affect life on planets as far as 30 light-years away. The very number of stars in galactic centres increases the chances of a nearby supernova.” [4]

The outer reaches of galaxies are also not suitable for life. Antarcticaedu.com, writes, “[as that distance increases]…The metal content of stars decline, and metals are necessary for the formation of terrestrial planets.” It even may be that the type of galaxy a planet is situated can affect whether intelligent life will arise. This is illuminated by W&B: “[Earth] may be fortunate in being in a spiral rather than an elliptical galaxy. Elliptical galaxies are regions with little dust which apparently exhibit little new star creation. The majority of stars in elliptical galaxies nearly as old as the universe. The abundance of heavy elements is low, and although asteroids and comets may concur, it is doubtful that there are full sized planets. [5]

Due to this, a significant proportion of the galaxy has been ruled out for possibility of intelligent life. Innovative research from Gonzalez et.al suggests that, due this, as well as the fact most stars’ rotation do not synchronize with the turn of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, the habitable zone only consists of about 5% of the Milky Way. [6]

A planet must also be orbiting at the right distance from a suitable star, in order to harbour intelligent life. This notion is rather simple; it is taught in primary school! It is obvious that a planet must be orbiting from the right distance from a suitable star. In the Solar System, for instance, neither Venus, nor Mars, our neighbouring planets, are capable of harbouring intelligent life, whilst Earth is far more suitable. It is also necessary that a planet is orbiting a suitable star. Cohen elucidates: “A too-massive star would emit too much ultra-violet energy, preventing the development of life. A star that is too small would require the planet to be closer to it (in order to maintain liquid water). But such a close distance would result in tidal locking (where one face of the planet constantly faces the star, and the other always remain dark—as with the moon in its orbit around Earth). In this case one side becomes too hot, the other too cold, and the planet’s atmosphere escapes.” [7] Consequently, ‘massive stars,’ ‘small red dwarf stars,’ ‘red giants,’ and ‘white dwarfs’ have virtually been wiped out as potential candidates. [8]

Plate tectonics is required for the development and subsistence of complex life. Ward and Brownlee argue this is the case by pointing to several reasons. First, plate tectonics is necessary in order to creating and maintaining biodiversity. W&B write: “Plate tectonics can augment diversity by increasing the number and degree of separation of habitats (which promotes speciation)… [it promotes environmental complexity—and thus increased biotic diversity—on a global scale. A world with mountainous continents, oceans, and myriad islands, such as those produced by plate tectonics is far more complex and offer more evolutionary challenges, than would either totally land-or ocean dominated planets without plate tectonics.” [9]

Second, plate tectonics is necessary for the maintenance of greenhouse gases, which indirectly allows liquid water to exist. According to Cohen, “Plate tectonics play an important role in a complex feedback that prevents too many greenhouse gases existing in the atmosphere.” [10] This, according to Kasting, “kept Earth’s surface temperature within the range that supports liquid water.” [11]

Third, plate tectonics ensures that the Earth has a magnetic field, which is beneficial, for it keeps harmful cosmic rays from reaching the Earth’s surface. W&B write: “without some sort of protection, life on Earth’s surface would be extinguished within several generations by cosmic rays hitting our planet’s surface…without plate tectonics, there would not be enough temperature difference across the core region to produce the convective cells necessary to generate Earth’s magnetic field.” [12]

As far as we know, the only planetary body, or moon with tectonic plates is Earth, although it is certainly possible that either Mars or Europa has some sort of tectonic activity in the past, or right now. [13]

The final argument that I am going to propose this round is an argument from evolutionary history. Andrew Watson identifies four evolutionary steps needed to produce intelligent life: the emergence of unicellular bacteria, complex cells, specialized cells, and finally, intelligent life with an established language. Watson calculates, via mathematical models, that the probability of the 4 steps occurring is less than 0.01%. [14] However, Watson’s four steps are rather limited in scope, for there are even more steps to be taken into consideration. The origin of life itself is one; one that ridiculously hard to figure out. Another would be the Cambrian Explosion, a geological event that occurred approximately 542 million years ago, resulting in the rapid emergence of a significant portion of animal phyla existing today, that also has not been satisfactorily figured out. Of course, it is not realistic to expect ‘exactly’ the same event happening in a planet located 250 light years away; the point is that similar events must happen, in order for complex life to emerge.

Thank you.
[1] http://is.gd...

[2] Rare Earth pg. xxxi

[3] http://evolutionwiki.org...

[4], [5] Rare Earth pg. 26-29

[6] http://www.astrobio.net...

[7] http://tal.forum2.org...

[8] http://is.gd...

[9] Rare Earth pg. 194

[10] http://tal.forum2.org...

[11] http://www.earth.northwestern.edu...

[12] Rare Earth pg. 213

[13] http://is.gd...

[14] http://www.sciencedaily.com...

Debate Round No. 2
2-D

Pro



Thanks to Con for an informative argument. I agree with many of the points presented but I will press a few points for being to pessimistic with respect to the possibility of many forms of life. I disagree that I have made this debate semantic. My section on human intelligence being varied may press the spirit of the debate but I do not expect it to have a strong impact in and of itself. My version of the resolution was quite literal.


Semantics


I disagree with Con’s usage of the word many and agree that this is pushing a semantic argument. This is a colloquial term and in no context would refer to 10^24 and there is no reason to compare the number of intelligent forms of life with the number of planets. If I say that there are many planets in the known universe that would not in any way communicate the vast incomprehensible number to anyone not aware of the figure.


There are clearly many intelligent life forms of life on earth and those who study the issue agree that there are likely many forms of intelligent extraterrestrial life as well. The google definition elaborates adding several synonyms of many: “a large number of. "many people agreed with her" synonyms: numerous, a great/good deal of, a lot of, plenty of, countless, innumerable, scores of, crowds of, droves of, an army of, a horde of, a multitude of, a multiplicity of, multitudinous, multiple, untold; More.” Any synonym can be applied to the large amount of life both on earth and predicted in the rest of the universe.


I strongly disagree that intelligence requires language but language can definitely indicate a complex intelligence. No standard definition of intelligence requires a language and, as I pointed out, Con’s cited source to argue for the need of a language acknowledges that dolphins, chimpanzees and bonobos are intelligent [15]. The indication that language is a requirement only indicates what form of intelligent life scientists are looking for. Without advanced communication and technology the search is pointless simply because space is too vast to search without some kind of emitted signal released by technology.


For the most part, I concede Con’s point.


Intelligent life is not common in the sense that it is a very large number when compared to the number of planets and there is no reason to suspect that this was implied by the resolution. I have set a range for the number of planets that contain life anywhere from 1.25*10^16 to 4*10^18 which are small in comparison to the number of planets or the atoms in a glass of water.


Why should the magnitude of life be compared against planets vastly different from earth? The vast empty vacuum of space and the scorching surface of stars are also hostile to life. Does this mean that there cannot be many forms of intelligent life because the majority of the volume of the universe cannot support life?


No, there is no reason to compare the vast numerous forms of intelligent life with the hostile universe and conclude there cannot be many because there is a vastly larger void empty of life. There are many people on earth. This is in no way disproven when you realize there are more insects in a square mile than there are people in the United States [16] or that the vast majority of other animals are in fact insects.


Con is objecting to two variables in the drake equation.


To clarify here is a list of the factors that are multiplied to estimate the number of planets in our galaxy that are capable of interstellar communication:


• N is the number of currently active, communicative civilizations in our galaxy.


• R is the rate at which stars form in our galaxy.


• fp is the fraction of stars with planets.


• ne is the number of planets that can potentially host life, per star that has planets.


• fl is the fraction of the above that actually do develop life of any kind.


• fi is the fraction of the above that develop intelligent life.


• fc is the fraction of the above that develop the capacity for interstellar communication.


• L is the length of time that such communicative civilizations are active.



Leading to the equation to estimate the number of planets with interstellar communication.



N = R*fp*ne*fl*ny*fi*fc*L


In the previous round I substituted L for a conservative estimate of the amount of time that many forms of intelligent life have existed here on earth (200 million years). I also multiplied by the total number of estimated galaxies. Con has argued that large portion of galaxies cannot support life. Even if only 5% of each galaxy can this does not diminish the mind-boggling figures noticeably enough to affect the resolution.


Con has also argued that ne, the number of planets per star with planets, is low. How low? I have used a range from 1-2 to establish a range but suppose the number is closer to 0.01-0.02. This only reduces the estimated number of intelligent life forms by two orders of magnitude.


Further, Con has argued that fl, fi and fc are quite small meaning the fraction of planets that will develop life, intelligent life and interstellar communication are low. Notice I did not initially omit the fraction of planets that will develop interstellar communication keeping the estimate range of intelligent life low since this is not necessary to demonstrate intelligence.


The probability of life forming initially may be quite high since life first formed very quickly on earth. Con essentially argues that since we do not understand the mechanisms the formation of life is unlikely. The fact remains that intelligent life exploded in vast variety on the sole planet we can observe that has the ideal conditions for DNA based life [19].


The simplest forms of animals have some level of intelligence


There are around 1.2 million non-insect species of animal currently living on earth [16,18]. 99.9% of animals have gone extinct [17] and life has been varied since the Cambrian explosion around 542 million years ago. Animals all demonstrate some level of learning, problem solving and an ability to adjust to new situations i.e. some level of intelligence.


As I mentioned, I did not initially omit one key fraction from the drake equation: the fraction of planets that develop interstellar communication. This is clearly a sign of a complex intelligence on par with humans and this is the form of life that scientists currently would be capable of identifying from a distance. Omitting this term, as it is not a requirement for intelligent life, and multiplying by the number of intelligent species currently residing on earth and we have a range of 1.5*10^24 to 4.8*10^25 forms of intelligent life in the universe.


100,000 could easily be characterized as being ‘many.’ The lowest estimates are a full18 orders of magnitude above this figure and the resolution is satisfied. Let’s take a worst-case scenario where the fraction of life that forms interstellar communication is omitted and the number of current intelligent species on earth is taken into account. Since Con has challenged ne, fl and fi I will assume drastically low values for these far lower than anyone is suggesting multiplying the low estimates for these values by 0.0001.


in this case:


R = 5, fp = .05, ne = 0.0001, fl = 0.00005 and fi = 0.000001 and again multiplying by the time frame of intelligent life’s existence on earth, the number of intelligent species and the estimated number of galaxies in the Universe and we are still left with 1.5*10^11 forms of intelligent life. There are many forms of intelligent life on earth and, in all likelihood, the universe is teaming with extraterrestrial life as well.




[15] http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu...


[16] http://insectzoo.msstate.edu...


[17] http://en.wikipedia.org...


[18] http://www.sciencedaily.com...


[19] http://en.wikipedia.org...


etherealvoyager

Con

Thanks, Pro, for your cogent response.

I disagree with Pro’s claim that this debate is not semantical.

The debate resolution itself: “It’s likely that there are many forms of intelligent life in the universe,” displays syntactic ambiguity, for it has been interpreted by Pro in a ‘literal’ manner; he is using intelligent life on Earth to support this claim! However, I, on the other hand, interpreted the resolution in regard to the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. These are completely different interpretations!

The word ‘intelligent ‘is ambiguous. Pro, has provided definitions for this, whilst dismissing my definition in his Second Round. He gives two reasons for dismissing my definition. First, the debate resolution does not specify a degree of intelligence. Second, my definition of ‘intelligent’ only applies to humans. Both of those are at best misguided.

Whether the debate resolution states a degree of intelligence is completely irrelevant to the debate. As a matter of fact, the definition would be very suitable towards this debate. We are debating about a subject in astrobiology, and it would only seem rational that we use a technical term, advocated by scholars in the field relevant to the subject, rather than an arbitrary dictionary term.

It is simply not true that my definition only is applicable towards humans. Dolphins also would fit the definition. Dolphins do have self-awareness [1], do use tools [2][3], and do have a language. [4] Bonobos also, under this definition are considered as intelligent. They do have self-awareness, as they pass the mirror recognition test [5], do use tools [6] and do have a language. [7] So, Pro’s criticisms that the website I used to derive the definition from also classify dolphins and bonobos as ‘intelligent’ simply makes no sense whatsoever.
Pro’s ‘definition’ of ‘intelligent,’ when applied to astrobiology, is also completely meaningless. If astronomers and astrobiologists were using such a definition, they would virtually have to start from scratch as they have a completely different working definition of ‘intelligent.’ Gleiser, for instance, defines an intelligent animal as being “capable of self-awareness and developing technology through the directed manipulation of energy and materials.” [8] Other astrobiologists relate intelligence to language and social behaviour.

Pro, in advocating his dictionary, non-technical ‘definition’ of ‘intelligent’ is merely attempting to win by definition. It would be suicidal to deny the mountains of peer-reviewed scientific articles supporting his argument, which is based on his definition! He also notes: “Animals all demonstrate some level of learning, problem solving and an ability to adjust to new situations i.e. some form of intelligence.” But how would that demarcate the boundary of intelligent life and life itself? Pro needs to answer these criticisms.

Let’s move onto the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

Pro has used the Drake Equation in order to support his argument that there are many forms of intelligent life. I’ll recalculate the amount of intelligent life in a more comprehensive way, through the formula of:
Ng, the number of galaxies in the Universe is about 176 billion. [12]
I’ll calculate Il, and Hp through using a ‘Great Filter’ where numerous, successive circumstances each have a probability, which are multiplied together. Here is an example of a ‘Great Filter’ (I won’t actually exactly use this, but the point should be obvious):

Hp, the number of habitable planets within our galaxy can be calculated with the formula:

N*, the number of stars in the Milky Way, is determined to be 300 billion, through a quick Google search.

Ng, the number of stars in the galactic habitable zone is 0.05, according to Gonzalez et.al’s research (I discussed this in Round 2)

Fp, the fraction of stars with planets, is 2%, or 0.02, according to astronomer Derek Fox; this is based on the Kepler Mission. [10]

Fpm, the amount fraction of metal rich planets, (gaseous planets do not support life) is very uncertain; we have a few in the Solar System, and have found about 200 beyond the Solar System. Let’s assign this as 0.4

Ne, the planets in star’s habitable zone shall be assigned 0.125, based on our Solar System.

Fm, the fraction of planets with large moon, (it gives rise to tidal pools, which are needed for the formation of complex life [11]) is also uncertain. If the Giant Impact Theory for the formation of the moon is true, then the probability would be extremely low. 0.1 would be an optimistic guess.

Fj, the fraction of Solar Systems w. Jupiter sized planets, (they give Earth a stable orbit) is also speculative; let’s assign this as 0.5 as a guess.

We calculate N (ne) to be 750000.

Il can be calculated through the following formula:

Pro argues that the origin of life is likely (or O), as life took rather quickly to start on Earth after the Great Heavy Bombardment. Of course, this may be also complete statistical fluke; biologists like Jacques Monod have suggested this. Let’s assign this as 0.5 to compensate for both sides.

Watson has already assigned Ub, the development of unicellular cells, and Cc, the development of complex cells as 0.1 (source found in Second Round)

Nick Lane has suggested that the likelihood of Mo, the development of multicellular organisms, is low. Even though simple life arrived quickly enough, complex organisms took half of Earth’s lifetime before arsing. Lane believes that the evolutionary pathway from simple life to complex life involved a process that is very unlikely. [13] This is also supported by modern paleontology, which suggests that the Cambrian Explosion may be a chance event caused by the buildup of calcium concentration, in the sea, during the Cambrian explosion. Let’s assign this as 0.001

L, or the development of intelligence I’ll assign a paltry 0.00001, because intelligence took an extraordinarily long time to develop stably, without life forms being wiped out due to mass disaster ( this took over 3 billion years!), during a time when the Sun was still burning stably. In other planets, in the case that life actually developed, they may not even be as remotely lucky.
Lme, the probability of having a no mass disasters after intelligence has developed, shall be assigned as 0.0001. Earth is actually quite lucky that it is located in a Solar System which resides in a quiet corner of the galaxy, as compared to other regions, with relatively nearby gamma rays, supernovas, etc, which would result in a quick death even of intelligent species. There are also other possibilities of mass extinction that could occur, including alterations of the planet’s spin rates (causes ½ of the planet to become extremely hot, ½ to become extremely cold), moving out of the star’s habitable zone, and an increase in the Sun’s energy output. We have not had any significant extinction since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years, which in my opinion, is an amazing feat. If this is the case, then it would indicate that we are quite lucky.

In total, after multiplying all the variables together, we find that the amount of planets in the Universe that holds intelligent life to be a low 660.

I have already argued that we should compare this to the size of the Universe, but Pro has argued that most of space is inhospitable. He is correct, but the sheer size of the Universe (the observable Universe is 93 billion light years across! [14]) even if we assume that 99+% of the Universe is inhospitable, would still make it silly to argue that there are ‘many’ forms of intelligent life.

Thank you. I apologise if my sources are muddled up; I had difficulty organizing them.

[1] http://is.gd...
[2] http://is.gd...
[3] http://is.gd...
[4] http://is.gd...
[5] http://is.gd...
[6] http://is.gd...
[7] http://is.gd...
[8] http://is.gd...
[9] http://is.gd...
[10] http://is.gd...
[11] Rare Earth pg. 223
[12] http://is.gd...
[13] http://is.gd...
[14] http://is.gd...
Debate Round No. 3
2-D

Pro

Thanks to Con for an interesting, well reasoned response.


Semantics

‘Many’ is not a comparative term and there is no reason to compare life to the empty void of space. That there are 6.022*10^23 molecules in ten grams of water does not mean that a 48 pack of water is not many. Based on any definition there are many forms of intelligent life in the universe.


Both my version and Con’s resolution omit any mention of extraterrestrial life or indicate a definition to one narrow form of scientific inquiry, astrobiology, which makes the resolution appealing for Pro. I disagree that there is ambiguity. It is only a natural bias toward human intelligence and a focus on the search for extraterrestrial life that leads one to interpret the resolution in this context.

I’ll point out again that astrobiologists clearly accept that animals are intelligent as Pro’s source indicates. What they are looking for is a type of intelligence that can communicate across interstellar distances. I will submit that this is not even an attempt to define intelligence but to define a very narrow range of intelligence larger than humans currently possess.

Con is essentially arguing that because he was focused on a narrow field of science before accepting the debate that standard definitions for terms should not apply. I would say that scientists should stop using the term ‘intelligence’ in such a xenophobic way that miscommunicates ideas to the public. Scientists are looking for electronic signals sent by intelligent life not any form of intelligent life, which is common.

Personally, I am interested in Zoology and the emotional, empirical and moral thought patterns commonly seen in many ‘lesser’ forms of life. Ironically, many studies of intelligence in animals make it a point to emphasize the ambiguity of intelligence as Con has.

For instance, one prominent researcher has shown that starfish are intelligent for working to remove a source of discomfort and working to avoid danger [20, pg 153]. When they cannot remove a source of discomfort they try again until they are successful. Researchers use measures of response and sensory abilities along with motivation and perspective to observe intelligence in animals [21]. Researchers often point out that other animals are often better at certain tasks that require intelligence outperforming humans. Chimpanzees beat humans hands down on measures of memory [22].

I have not used narrow zoological definitions of intelligence but have applied the standard dictionary definitions for the terms I used. Just because this is a scientific debate does not mean terms should be defined based on the narrow scientific wording in a specific field of scientific inquiry.

That a degree of intelligence is not specified is highly relevant in my opinion. The debate resolution only requires some level of intelligence to be satisfied while Con is insisting on a highly advanced intelligence.

If I communicated that I objected to the narrow definition of intelligence applying only to humans then I was incorrect. The definition can indeed be applied to many (see what I did there:) forms of intelligent life on earth but is still referring to a very narrow definition used with scientists focused on one area of research. Zoologists use measures of intelligence much closer to the standard dictionary definitions that I have put forward.

You cannot define intelligence based on one scientific discipline that was not specified in the resolution. I dispute that the definition of intelligence that Con has used is technical. I would say that it is highly specialized to the point that it is not useful to those outside the field.

I think there is a good argument that all animals are intelligent including insects. If Con is arguing that all life adheres to standard dictionary definitions of intelligence I won’t disagree. I do agree that narrowly applying intelligence to non-insect forms of life in the animal kingdom was a conservative estimate of the vast number of intelligent life that forms before one form is adaptive enough to have complex tools, language and measurable self-awareness.


Con’s constants are arbitrarily low.

I’ll assume that Con is not involved in the search for extraterrestrial life and neither am I. We depend on scientists in the field to make these estimates and we cannot just assign values; I was showing how vast the estimates of intelligent life in the universe are when I threw in arbitrarily small estimates into the drake equation last round. Specifically I am questioning Con’s estimates for Mo, L and LME that Con has not stated a reference for. As for Ne there may well be four habitable zones in our solar system Venus, Earth, Mars, and Europa [10] but this doesn’t have a large impact.

I used values dictated by scientists in the field to come up with a range for my numbers and ended up with a reasonable figure to estimate a range of advanced civilizations and by extension all forms of intelligent life in the universe. You need many forms of intelligent life, as seen on earth, before you arrive at a version that can build advanced technology and finding this form of life is the goal of the drake equation. I used a low estimate for a range of the Drake equation of 0.125-400 compare to the classic equation that arrived at a figure of 3,500 [23].

With the very low figures Con has still estimated 660 planets with advanced intelligent life. This number would be quite low as out of the 1.2 million forms of intelligent life on earth there is only one that fits the criteria for the research directed at finding advanced intelligent life. Still using Con’s low-end figure there are still 792 million forms of intelligent life in the Universe, many by any definition.


Statistical Drake Equation

Modern methods acknowledge that there uncertainty when estimating the constants for the Drake equation and apply statistical analysis to arrive at a probability distribution. This reveals a very high probability of finding at least one form of intelligent life within about 42 thousand light years [23]. This is a volume of space of about 3.16*10^14 cubic light years.

Galaxies are about 100,000 light years in diameter [24] or a volume of 4.2*10^15 light years. Multiplying by Con’s conservative figure for the number of galaxies, 176 billion, 1.2 million forms of intelligent life (as on earth) and dividing by the volume with a high probability of at least one form of life and you arrive at a figure of 2.79*10^18 forms of intelligent life in the universe.

Recent studies into the issue critical of the drake equation have come up with estimates as high as 4,590 technologically advanced, extraterrestrial forms of life in our galaxy alone [23]. Remember this estimate is low because technologically advanced animals are rare among intelligent forms of life. Even though Con’s source points out that the figure for 176 billion galaxies was a large increase over previous estimates and that the number is always growing I will use this figure along with my conservative estimate of 1.2 million forms of intelligent life and arrive at a figure of 9.7*10^20 forms of intelligent life in the universe.


By any definition there are many forms of intelligent life in the Universe.


[20] University of California Publications in Zoology, Volume 4

[21] http://nationalzoo.si.edu...

[22] http://news.bbc.co.uk...

[23] http://www.dailygalaxy.com...

[24] http://scienceblogs.com...

etherealvoyager

Con

(Note: This was quite rushed, I really have no time to write in the coming days.)

I would like to begin this Final Round by noting that it truly has been a pleasure debating with 2-D. The debate has been rational, enlightening, informative, and rather even, and I commend Pro for being able to make this debate like that.

Pro starts off his final round by arguing that 'many' is not a comparative term. I'll concede this, for many is an irregular adjective. [1] However, the word 'many' is extraordinarily vague! The only way to demarcate between two completely different interpretations of 'many,' especially as we are not using 'many' in the normal, everyday sense, is to use it in a comparative manner. Pro argues, once again, that I am comparing life to an 'empty void of space.' That is not true. I have noted, that even if we take into account that space is extraordinarily empty, there is still an extremely large 'non-empty' segment, that still makes the amount of intelligent life in the Universe, as calculated through my equation as pitifully low.

Pro argues that my definition of intelligent is invalid. He gives several lines of reasoning for this. First, he argues that astrobiologists are only interested in looking life that can engage in communication across interstellar distances. While it is true that astrobiologists spend a substantial amount of time and effort in looking for technologically advanced animals, capable of interstellar communication, that is merely because it is practical. Astrobiologists still take into consideration intelligent life that does not have the potentiality to communicate across interstellar distances. SETI, for instance, still invests money, and time, in dolphin research, as well as possibilities to recognize non-human intelligence [2] [3] [4] Several major staff members of SETI' have research interests in aspects such as animal cognition and communication systems of animals. [5] Surely, if SETI was only interested in life that are capable of interstellar communication, that they would simply remove research programmes such as recognizing non-human intelligence, and dolphin research, for SETI's budget is not exactly massive, ever since the government removed it altogether from NASA funding. The Pufendorf Institute, also has interests in non-human intelligence. [6] Therefore, we conclude that astrobiologists, despite spending substantial amounts of time and effort on ilife that has the potentiality of interplanetary communication, also take into account non-human intelligence sources, with one example being dolphins.

Pro gives two responses to my argument that we should be using astrobiological definitions, as we are debating a topic relavent to the subject. First, he argues that astrobiologists are somewhat xenophobic in using such a definition. While I cannot fathom how there is a logical connection between xenophobia and how astrobiologists interpret intelligence, I shall offer no response to this, as I have already critiqued the view that astrobiologists are only interested in intelligent life capable of interstellar communication. Second, he appeals to the zoology discipline, which granted, use a broader definition of intelligence. I have already argued that such definitions are useless in an astrobiological sense. How does such a definition of intelligence demarcate the boundary between 'intelligent life' and 'life? Pro argues that such an argument is invalid, for my definition of intelligence is so specialised that it bears no relevance to anyone outside astrobiology. But my question is: Why does that matter, when we are debating about a topic in such a subject? Even if the name of the scientific discipline was not shown in the resolution, it does not mean that we can stray to definitions in zoology. It is self evident that the notion of intelligent life is clearly a subject by far the most associated with astrobiology.

We now can move along to equations.

Pro makes a criticism regarding my equation, which in turn takes into account research developed by W&B. He argues that my estimates are arbitary; he especially questions Mo, L, and Lme. He does this by arguing that I have not given scientific references to such subjects. However, scientific research is so vague, and limited on such topics, (Pro admits this himself) that the only rational method of plugging in numbers for specific values is through somewhat arbitrary. Second, I did as much reasoning for this as possible. For Mo, for instance, I cited Nick Lane. Some of the other reasoning is based more through some general knowledge, and really can be found through a quick Google search. But, nevertheless, despite the fact that this is the final round, I shall, due to Pro's criticism, provide scientific references to my reasoning.

Mo: The Cambrian Explosion claim is based off recent research in geology. [7] [8]

L: Virtually all the reasoning for this can be found in Paul Davies' book The Eerie Silence (I am using an online e-reader, and there are no pages shown), Chapter Four, Subsection: The Perils of Using Statistics of One & The Great Filter.

Lme: Virtually all the reasoning for this can be found in W&B's book Rare Earth. [9] Unlike The Eerie Silence (which I have in an epub format), I have a pdf version of Rare Earth, so I'm able to be more exact on this one.

He also criticises Ne. He argues that there may be 4 habitable zones: Venus, Earth, Mars, and Europa. There is, unfortunately only one, at least when taking into account intelligent life. Venus has a hideously runaway greenhouse effect that would surely prevent complex life from forming, Europa, according to astrobiologists only possibly anticipate microbial life. [10] Mars is not habitable for life, as “the planet has too little mass to hold an atmosphere, and this has made the situation much worse (although it seems more hospitable for life in the past.) [11]

Pro, while criticising me for not providing scientific sources, did not seem to provide a reasonable source for his '1.2 million forms of intelligent life' figure. I do however, note that he provided a source for there being 1.2 million forms of non-insect species in Round 3. However, the problem with this is that Pro has not been able to demonstrate that all non insect species are considered as 'intelligent.' Even if he does, the term 'intelligence' still would be his dictionary definition, one that I have rebutted, and one that he has not satisfactorily defended.

Finally, Pro argues from appealing to the Drake Equation. The Drake Equation does no better than my equation avoiding the fact that several parameters are highly disputed! [12] The Drake Equation is also rather vague. Another probem with the Drake Equation is that it does not take into account other factors that I have 'attempted' to take into account in my reasoning. Dvorsky, argues that the Drake Equation does not take into account “the presence of physiochemical variables necessary for the presence of life (such as metallicity needed to form planets)...The equation assumes a sort of cosmological uniformity rather than a dynamic and everchanging universe.”[12]

The resolution has been negated.

[1] http://www.eflnet.com...

[2] http://www.seti.org...

[3] http://saganet.org...

[4] http://www.astrobio.net...

[5] http://intelligence.seti.org...

[6] http://www.teokem.lu.se...

[7] http://www.news.wisc.edu...

[8] http://ncse.com...

[9] Rare Earth, Chapter 8. Specifically Page 162-169, if one is talking about scientific references for my reasoning. However, Page 170-183 are also relevant.
[10] http://www.usnews.com...

[11] http://www2.astro.psu.edu...

[12] http://ieet.org...




Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by etherealvoyager 2 years ago
etherealvoyager
I don't object.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
2-D
Thanks for rereading Lordgrae and for the summary! It sounds like you agree with bladerunner; Con may appreciate more details but I'll leave it to him to object or agree.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
2-D
I meant to CC you Ethereal, I objected to the vote in a pm and waited for a reply. His RFD just said that Con's arguments were stronger so I reported the vote and it was removed. I'm not overly picky but I'd like to see a summary of the reasons for a vote. Even listed in general this gives those who worked hard on a debate a chance to challenge the vote or improve their debate tactics. I disagree with Romanii but he listed the reasons behind his vote.
Posted by etherealvoyager 2 years ago
etherealvoyager
Don't remember, but his RFD was not overly detailed.
Posted by EndarkenedRationalist 2 years ago
EndarkenedRationalist
How did he vote?
Posted by etherealvoyager 2 years ago
etherealvoyager
Lordgrae already voted but his vote got removed.
Posted by EndarkenedRationalist 2 years ago
EndarkenedRationalist
If neither LordGrae nor Tylergraham vote before the period ends, then the winner (for DDOlympic purposes) will be 2-D.
Posted by 2-D 2 years ago
2-D
@Lordgrae April fools vote; Would you mind clarifying your RFD? At this point all I know is that you chose to vote Con. I need some reason to buy off on your 'vote'.
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
A fine debate from both sides!

S&G, Sources, and Conduct were equal. This was overall a very fine debate.

As to the long one (arguments):

Fundamentally, I'm surprised this debate came down to what it did: The definition of "many". While it wasn't the "intended" subject of the debate, I don't think, it's what the debate wound up resting on in my opinion.

Pro instigated the resolution. As such, I give him a bit of deference in what he "meant" by the word. I do think that Pro should probably have set a parameter for "many". But then, I also think Con should have questioned it prior to starting if that was a sticking point.

When Con said he would "argue that it is not likely that many forms intelligent life is [sic] *widespread throughout the universe.*" (asterisks used for emphasis; emphasis mine), I felt he was modifying the resolution in order to make his semantical point. If you're going to go for semantics like that, Con, you have to be extremely precise...and when you modify the resolution (even if it's just by adding the "widespread throughout the universe), it weakens your semantical case.

I think Pro won his case with two points. The first was when he said "There are many people on earth. This is in no way disproven when you realize there are more insects in a square mile than there are people in the United States", and the second was when he pointed out that one could say they had "many" bottles of water if they had a 48 pack of water, even though there is a huge number of *molecules* in any one bottle. The burden, to me, was on Con to demonstrate that his definition of "many" was stronger than Pro's, and in this regard I don't think he succeeded.

As Pro said, "100,000 could easily be characterized as being "many."", and he went on to point out, "using Con"s low-end figure there are still 792 million forms of intelligent life in the Universe, many by any definition."
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
RFD 2/2:

Con, if you're really going to push the semantical argument in the future, I would recommend that, if you're objecting to the syntactic ambiguity, that you remove the ambiguity entirely. Had you come up with a "floor" for the definition of "many", and defended that floor, I think you might have been able to do better.

On a side and final, non-point-determinitive subject: Technically, Con, I don't believe the sentence was syntactically ambiguous. You were objecting to a definitional ambiguity, not a semantical one. A syntactically ambiguous sentence would be one where the meaning of the sentence was unclear--the meaning, here, was perfectly clear, it was what is sufficient to constitute "many" that you were objecting to. Also, it is an irregular adjective, but in this context it would be more appropriate to discuss its status as a determiner or quantifier.

Taking all of that into account, arguments to Pro in the end, for a better semantical argument regarding the word "many", upon which IMHO the debate wound up resting.

As always, happy to clarify this RFD.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Lordgrae 2 years ago
Lordgrae
2-DetherealvoyagerTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: I'm revoting after rereading the entire debate. This time, I think I took away something different. While everything seemed passable, I felt that Con focused to much on the semantics, which betrayed a weakness in his arguments. I felt like he failed to successfully combat Pro on his arguments, so he fell back, by necessity, to a semantics debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
bladerunner060
2-DetherealvoyagerTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Romanii 2 years ago
Romanii
2-DetherealvoyagerTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.