The Instigator
GeoLaureate8
Pro (for)
Losing
22 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Con (against)
Winning
63 Points

The Law of Parsimony Supports the Existence of Intelligent Extraterrestrials

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/1/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 5,578 times Debate No: 8495
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (38)
Votes (15)

 

GeoLaureate8

Pro

I assert that the Law of Parsimony supports the existence of extraterrestrial life. (For those who are unfamiliar with the term, parsimony, scientifically speaking, is the preference for the least complex explanation for an observation. Also the most probable.)

Here's why:

- Crop Circles. It is highly unlikely that pranksters are behind every crop circle. It would actually be nearly impossible for even one of them (the elaborate ones) to be a prank. Many crop circles are so incredibly complex, geometrical, cryptic, and precise, that it would require a genius with a lot of time on his hands, an aerial view assistance, and special equipment to accomplish something like that. And even at that, still unlikely. Some crop circles are so unearthly and mathematically advanced, that an extraterrestrial with advanced intelligence and a message would have to be the only logical explanation.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk...
http://www.aliencrossing.com...
http://www.enlightenedbeings.com...

- The Drake Equation. This equation was devised to calculate an estimation of the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is based off of a ratio of the amount of potential life supporting planets per star that has planets, among other factors. Basically it predicts that it is probable that intelligent life exists on other planets in our galaxy based on math and logic. It would be unparsimonious to suggest that the earth is the only planet in the infinite universe that bears life.
http://en.wikipedia.org...

- As you can see, it would be unwise to suggest intelligent extraterrestrials do not exist. We can only see about 5-10% of the electromagnetic spectrum. We are essentially blind. Also, up to 95% of the Universe is made up of dark matter. Surely we cannot claim that they do not exist.

Resolution affirmed. Extraterrestrials must exist based on the Law of Parsimony.

.
RoyLatham

Con

I will rebut the proposition with three arguments:

1. The Law of Parsimony is not a Law, therefore it cannot be used as a basis of a proof.
2. Complex crop circles are most easily and best explained as hoaxes.
3. Drake's Equation is indefinite and not derived from Parsimony.

1. The Law of Parsimony is not a law.

"For every complex problem there is a simple solution, and it is wrong." -- H.L. Mencken

Let's consider some questions: Why does the stock market go up and down? Why does it rain? Why did Hurricane Katrina strike New Orleans? The true answers to these questions are enormously complex. The stock market depends upon many interacting factors. The weather depends upon complex interactions of terrain, the atmosphere, and the sun. The paths of hurricanes are at best approximately predictable, even with the latest computers and models. There are much simpler explanations: a stock market god, a weather god, and a hurricane god. So, does the Law of Parsimony demand that we accept the assortment of gods over the complexity of the real world?

I claim that there is nothing in Parsimony that is so compelling. One problem is that it is often difficult to tell what is simpler. Extraterrestrials, like gods, are apparently simple, because they are expressed in one or two words, but they comprise enormous hidden complexity. How do they overcome speed-of-light limitations? Why do they leave so much consequential evidence, but so little direct evidence? If they want to communicate, why would they use crop circles rather than, say, an interview of the evening news? There may be explanations, but each one adds to the complexity of an extraterrestrial explanation, and there hundreds more of such questions.

The Law of Parsimony is actually a useful guide only in very limited circumstances. For example, if an event can be explained with four parameters rather than five parameters, the four parameter explanation will be preferred. Use of parsimony depends upon some sort of apples and apples comparison. For example, parsimony makes the explanation of the motion of the planets as simple ellipses preferred to a theory of orbs upon orbs, but the problem to be solved is highly constrained. Even in those circumstances, it is no more than a guideline.

Using the Law of Parsimony to explain events otherwise unexplained is no better than using gods to explain the unexplained. In fact, gods are even more parsimonious an explanation. Gods don't need space ships that travel faster than light.

2. Complex crop circles are all hoaxes.

There is some evidence that simple round crop circles can be caused by the weather, but all complex ones are hoaxes. The methods were explained by one of the original perpetrators. The crops are pushed down by stepping on a four-foot board pulled up by ropes on each end. Circles are defined with a wire attached to a stake. Straight lines are walked using a wire sighting device attached to a hat. The original perpetrator was forced to come clean when his wife started to suspect he was sneaking out at night for purposes other than stomping down crops. Complex crop circle patterns become valuable tourist attractions, so farmers sometimes aid in there construction. http://en.wikipedia.org...

"Among the most famous hoaxers are the British team of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, known as "Doug and Dave." In 1991, the duo came out and announced that they had made hundreds of crop circles since 1978. To prove that they were responsible, they filmed themselves for the BBC making a circle with a rope-and-plank contraption in a Wiltshire field (see the next section for information on making a crop circle).

"Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) says that crop circles have all the hallmarks of hoaxes: They are concentrated primarily in southern England; they've become more elaborate over the years (indicating that hoaxers are getting better at their craft); and their creators never allow themselves to be seen." http://science.howstuffworks.com...

With the simple techniques for making straight lines and circles, and pattern can be constructed that could be equivalently done on paper with ruler and compass. The includes constructing perpendiculars and parallels, and bisecting angles. In addition, a tape measure can be used to measure lengths and a compass to measure angles. That enables virtually any construction.

Given that any crop circle pattern can be constructed by humans, that is a simpler explanation than demanding that ET do the job.

3. Drake's Equation is indefinite and not Parsimonious

Drake's Equation is an interesting basis for computing the probability of intelligent extraterrestrials. However, the equation is posed with many unknown parameters. http://en.wikipedia.org... We have fairly good ideas of numbers of galaxies and stars, but things like the probability of intelligent life developing from simple life and the probability of intelligent life surviving the risks of extinction are unknown. Perhaps future studies will provide solid estimates, but as of now it is pure speculation. Therefore Drake's Equation provides nothing beyond speculation.

Using optimistic guesses for the parameters in Drakes Equation, there might be ten intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy, per the article cited above. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light years in diameter. http://en.wikipedia.org... That means we optimistically expect the nearest ET civilization to be about 15,000 light years distant.

Drake's Equation says nothing about the overcoming the problem of traveling faster than the speed of light. For extraterrestrials to make crop circles, they must travel here to do so. That now seems impossible, so supposing that can be overcome assumes a far more complex technology than guys with boards stomping around in farmers fields.

Pro's case does not clearly state whether it is crop circles in conjunction with Drakes Equation that is supposed to imply intelligent life, or whether Drake's Equation by itself is supposed to be an independent reference to the Law of Parsimony. Parsimony only operates to distinguish two alternatives. There is no alternative formulation to Drakes equation, so I assume Pro is not using the Equation itself as if derived from parsimony. There is, of course, the alternative to Drake's Equation that there is no other intelligent life, because God did not make any other. Is the zero alternative more parsimonious? I argue in (1) above, that it is not, but it would seem by Pro's line of thought it would be.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
GeoLaureate8

Pro

{*The stock market depends upon many interacting factors. The weather depends upon complex interactions of terrain, the atmosphere, and the sun. The paths of hurricanes are at best approximately predictable, even with the latest computers and models. There are much simpler explanations: a stock market god, a weather god, and a hurricane god. So, does the Law of Parsimony demand that we accept the assortment of gods over the complexity of the real world?*}
Many of your examples are not parsimonious. Our known science can explain weather. Introducing weather gods would complicate things. Richard Dawkins has stated that asserting a god is unparsimonious. The beings would have to be incredibly complex. Extraterrestrials don't have the same requirements as a god such as omnipotence, benevolence, etc. An extraterrestrial's existence would not stump scientists one bit. We exist on a planet, therefore, why can't other life exist on other planets.

{*I claim that there is nothing in Parsimony that is so compelling.*}
That's besides the point. We aren't debating parsimony itself. We are debating if parsimony supports extraterrestrial existence.

{*One problem is that it is often difficult to tell what is simpler.*}
That's what we are debating. Is the simplest explanation a universe with extraterrestrials? Or a universe without. Many prominent scientists agree that other life is likely to exist elsewhere in the universe. If it wasn't, an incredibly complex question would arise. Why is earth, in this infinite universe, the only life-bearing planet?

{*How do they overcome speed-of-light limitations?*}
That's not a necessary attribute for their existence.

{*Why do they leave so much consequential evidence, but so little direct evidence? If they want to communicate, why would they use crop circles rather than, say, an interview of the evening news?*}
I don't have to prove they visited earth. Intelligent extraterrestrials can exist regardless. To answer your questions though, they do communicate in ways without crop circles. They communicate through channelers, they communicate through writing on the internet, and they communicate directly on video. Though crop circle communication is understandable because the alien's primary forms of communication are symbolism and telepathy.

{*Using the Law of Parsimony to explain events otherwise unexplained is no better than using gods to explain the unexplained. In fact, gods are even more parsimonious an explanation. Gods don't need space ships that travel faster than light.*}
There's several things wrong with this. First of all, like I said before, we are not arguing about the pragmatism of parsimony. My argument is simply that the law of parsimony supports (intelligent) extraterrestrial life. Second of all, gods are not parsimonious. I don't know why you keep making this ridiculous assertion. The very nature of a god is complex and contradictory.

{*Complex crop circles are all hoaxes.*}
Wow. That's an extraordinary claim. Can you prove it?

{*"Among the most famous hoaxers are the British team of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley*}
http://www.museumofhoaxes.com...
Can you show me a picture of a man made crop circle? I've yet to see any man made, complex crop circles. I'm curious as to how these look and if they really are complex and geometrically precise. My guess is that they are relatively simple with visible mistakes.

{*With the simple techniques for making straight lines and circles, and pattern can be constructed that could be equivalently done on paper with ruler and compass.*}
"There are approximately 20 percent of crop circles that cannot be proven to be made by man. Some of the earlier ones, from the 1700's, still have not been explained." - http://stargatelemuria.com...

Just by looking at these crop circles, it looks impossible for any man to construct these. Even scientists will agree with that, which is why they are trying to come up with their own naturalistic, unparsimonious theories to explain them.
http://www.alienseekernews.com...

Think about this:
"Around one thousand of these amazing geometric configurations appear out of nowhere each summer all around the world. The aerial photos below are as wide as 500 feet or more, yet the amazing aspect is that each one has shown up in a matter of seconds in broad daylight! Scientists have analyzed the actual crops these circles are created in and have found that the genetic DNA structure of the cells of these plants have been changed through high amounts of heat and radiation. Other stalks of wheat were found to be bent, and not broken which is an astounding feat to accomplish for any human or machine to design a perfect geometric formation of such magnitude. For years people have reported there are bright balls of light found hovering over these circles after and before their formation. These bright floating balls of light swirl and form these miraculous HUGE precisely designed perfectly geometric patterns over large areas in a matter of seconds." - http://www.enlightenedbeings.com...

Also, there have been eye witnesses who have seen beams of light descend into their own crop. http://www.bltresearch.com...

{*Given that any crop circle pattern can be constructed by humans, that is a simpler explanation than demanding that ET do the job.*}
Eye witnesses have seen beams of light create crop circles. Many crops are perfectly bent, not broken. Many circles are perfectly calculated and geometrical which would be difficult for a man even with an aerial view. There are 1000's of crop circles continuously being formed. Assuming every single one is done by a prankster is an extraordinary claim yet to be proven.
A crop circle research team has discovered many anomalies associated with crop circles which proves that a man with wooden boards could not have been responsible.
http://www.bltresearch.com...

{*Drake's Equation is indefinite and not Parsimonious*}
The concept of the Drake Equation is definitely parsimonious. The equation itself happens to be complex for the sake of being accurate. It had to take an many variables into account for best results. The concept though is parsimonious which is based on the likely life-bearing planets per star with planets in the Milky Way. We can go beyond the equation and ask, then how many life-bearing planets are there in this infinite universe?

{*Perhaps future studies will provide solid estimates, but as of now it is pure speculation. Therefore Drake's Equation provides nothing beyond speculation.*}
That's besides the point. Like I've said many times, I'm arguing that the law of parsimony supports extraterrestrials.

{*Drake's Equation says nothing about the overcoming the problem of traveling faster than the speed of light. For extraterrestrials to make crop circles, they must travel here to do so.*}
I realize that my crop circle explanation requires that extraterrestrials have visited earth, but that's not what I'm arguing. My point was that the most parsimonious explanation for crop circles would be an extraterrestrial with a message, not a genius with knowledge of sacred geometry, advanced mathematical concepts, who can create 1000s of elaborate 500 foot crop circles in less than 6 hours each. Also, an explanation doesn't require an explanation. When we discover ancient artifacts, we can infer it was man made, but we don't start saying, "How can it be man made? Who created man? Well, that rules out that possibility."

In conclusion, my opponent continually demanded me to prove things that aren't required to affirm the resolution. The resolution was simply that the law of parsimony supports intelligent extraterrestrial existence, in which case, I fulfilled my burden.

Resolution not negated.
RoyLatham

Con

Pro calls upon the Law of Parsimony to prove his case. If the Law of Parsimony is not a general law, but only applies in limited circumstances, then it does not support Pro's case. I gave reasons why Parsimony is at best suggestive, and only applies to similarly formed theories. Pro gave no rebuttal, only saying "We are not debating parsimony itself." If Pro uses it, I claim it's validity can be challenged.

Would the universe be simpler with or without Tasmanian devils? With or without unicorns? Tasmanian devils do exist, and unicorns do not exist, but neither outcome depends upon parsimony. They are questions of fact. The answers of question of fact may be posed as probabilities conditioned on evidence, but that does not relate to Parsimony either. Parsimony applies when there are more or fewer variables in the explanation. A universe with or without extraterrestrials is no more simple or complex than if Tasmanian devils or unicorns are present or absent.

A newspaper in New York City published an interview with a woman who witnessed a UFO hover over her back yard, do many amazing things, then take off with astounding speed. A report sent to investigate when he went to the local airport in Rhinebeck and found the restaurant was serving "UFO burgers." He later discovered that antique airplane enthusiasts were draping their biplanes with Christmas lights and flying in formation. Eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to lights in the sky. There are very few observers trained to sort out what they are seeing in night events.

The only eyewitness account Pro cites is from a pseudoscientific "research team" whose goal in life is prove that crop circles are made by ETs. That is not a credible source. It is like a spiritualist testifying that he saw a ghost. What is required is an impartial trained observer who is unlikely to be hallucinating, perpetuating a hoax, or easily tricked.

I explained exactly how to create crop circle patterns of virtually any geometric complexity. Since there are mechanisms for creating lines, circles, measured angles, and measured distances in crop circles, Pro could counter my argument by showing a figure that could not be created with these elements. Note that two stakes and a wire loop can be used to generate ellipses, and there are simple mechanisms for other geometric elements. It does not require a genius to figure out how to form the patterns. Simple geometry overlays to make complex patterns. "Crop Circles can easily be used to help teach geometric symmetry to children K-12 because most Crop Circles seem to be created using combinations of basic mathematical symbols" http://www.papercropcircles.com...

The top video shows how complex crop circle patterns are derived from the simple geometric elements. The geometry is shown in faint red lines after each crop circle. Note that there is complex pattern from Wiltshire, the site of the original hoaxers. Are we to believe that aliens are fond of Wiltshire as well? Note also the appearance of an image of movie-stereotyped ET in one of the patterns.

The second video is an example of a complex crop circle being created by humans. That it is done by humans is revealed at the end.

Students are documented creating a crop circle in four hours. http://web.mit.edu... The students had no prior experience in the art, so they are at the level of Doug and Dave starting out. Over time they could be expected to create more complex patterns, and to create them much more quickly.

Why has the complexity of crop circles increased over the years? One possibility is that hoaxers have increased their skills. The other possibility is that aliens could travel from another planet, but could not figure out how to make complex patterns from the beginning, only figuring it out slowly over time. Which explanation is simpler?

Why would aliens travel from another planet to flatten wheat fields rather than communicate conventionally? Pro claims, "They communicate through channelers, they communicate through writing on the internet, and they communicate directly on video." (I'm interested in the video. Is it on YouTube?) But they do not communicate by any means that could not be performed by a person perpetuating a hoax. They are not interviewed on the evening news, nor do they go to shopping malls. They travel from distant planets, but do not know how to communicate in any conventional way. Moreover, Pro supposes they want to communicate, but cannot master English or figure out television appearances. This does not make sense. Interplanetary travel implies technology that could also master communication.

A stock market god or a hurricane god does not require anything close to omnipotence or omniscience. Their domains are extremely limited. One could alternately suppose that extraterrestrials actually control the stock market and hurricanes, and once you believe in extraterrestrials, the powers they would need are readily conceivable. More easily conceived than traveling faster than light. Pro argues that the stock market and hurricanes clearly have explanations within the realm of science, but that we just don't know what those explanations are. However, he contends that the geometric patterns of crop circles have no conceivable worldly explanation, and therefore ET or gods or something unworldly is more likely. Yet every observed pattern falls with the realm of lines and circles that can be accomplished well within the bounds of Doug and Dave technology. While the stock market and hurricane paths are outside of known science, crop circles are well within current technology. Therefore calling upon higher powers is not a simpler explanation.

All the examples of crop circles Pro has shown are producible with lines and circles, using the "Doug and Dave" techniques demonstrated. Pro says "scientists" cannot explain them. What scientists? Moreover, scientists are not particularly good at explaining magic tricks, so what magicians cannot explain them?

I granted that the simple round circles may be caused by wind. However, the "Doug and Dave" method would have worked fine in 1700. It is simple. It isn't necessary for science to explain each and every crop circle to be satisfied that they are all explainable. If cookies are missing from the cookie jar, but we have no evidence as to who took them, it does not follow that extraterrestrials are then the simplest explanation. The simplest explanation is that someone did it.

Pro claims that he only needs to prove the strict wording of the resolution. First of all, the strict wording requires that he establish that the Law of Parsimony is in fact a law and that it applies as Pro supposes. He has done neither. Second, it is reasonable to suppose that his discussion of crop circles has something to do with proof of the resolution. The space allotted for typing resolutions is small, so it is common that the full exposition requires consideration of the opening argument. Pro clearly argued that the simplest explanation of crop circles was that they were created by ETs. that's not true, the simplest explanation involves Doug and Dave, or someone else, stomping down the crops.

I'm inclined to believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but that's based upon probabilities applied to a hundred billion stars in each of a hundred billion galaxies. It has nothing to do with whether the universe would be simpler or not. Crop circles are far more simply explained as hoaxes rather than visiting extraterrestrials flattening wheat.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 2
GeoLaureate8

Pro

- Crop Circles -
Video footage of a UFO making a crop circle with a scientist proving it.
Video proof of authentic crop circles.

- Alien Communication -
Video message by a Pleiadian. Fits the exact description of the Plejaren (Pleiadian) race.

- Drake Equation -
Can stand on its own. It's a parsimonious concept. Intelligent extraterrestrials are extremely likely to exist.

- Parsimony -
If you are against parsimony, you are against science. This is a scientific concept used to guide science in the right direction. My argument was that this scientific concept was in favor of the existence of extraterrestrials.

"If anyone has a problem with the existence of life beyond this planet, by the way, consider this. Even according to conventional, and desperately limited "science," it takes a hundred years for light to travel from one side of this one Milky Way galaxy to another, and this at a speed of 186,000 miles a second! There are estimated to be at least a million galaxies in the universe, a billion planets, and a billion trillion stars. There are a hundred million planets in the visible universe with conditions very much like those on Earth, according to Dr. Melvin Calvin of the Department of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. And that is only in this one density or frequency range of existence. Imagine the scale of what must exist in all the other frequency ranges beyond our physical senses. So given all this, do we really believe that life as we know it has only evolved on this one little planet in this one little solar system in one galaxy?" -- David Icke

In conclusion, the law of parsimony does indeed support the existence of extraterrestrials. I proved that the parsimonious explanation for the complex, anomalous crop circles is extraterrestrials. I also demonstrated that the Drake Equation is a parsimonious concept that supports the existence of intelligent extraterrestrials. Even my opponent agreed with my second assertion. "I'm inclined to believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but that's based upon probabilities applied to a hundred billion stars in each of a hundred billion galaxies."

(I'd like to clarify for those who believe that the only likely extraterrestrial existence is simple life forms, remember, modern science says that complex life emerges from simpler life forms. Therefore, intelligent extraterrestrial life is highly probable.)

Resolution affirmed.

.
RoyLatham

Con

"Where ever there is smoke, there is a smoke maker." --?

Pro's argument is that the most likely explanation of crop circles in that they are made by extraterrestrials. In getting to that conclusion Pro mistakes an alleged "Law of Parsimony" with "more probable." All of the evidence for crop circles could be the products of hoaxes. Doug and Dave stomped out hundreds of crop circles in England, mystifying "science," before demonstrating their dumb-as-dirt techniques for the BBC. Before Doug and Dave came forward with their wires, hats, and boards, "science could not explain" how the the stalks were bent and not broken, and so forth. Nothing of substance has changed. It is far more probable that crop circles are hoaxes, or, if you would, works of art -- they are, I think, clever and attractive-- rather than the products of extraterrestrials who have bested the speed of light to travel across the galaxy to stomp wheat and make YouTube videos.

Pro shifts grounds and claims that even if crop circles have other explanations, there is probably intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe. I'm inclined to agree that there is ET life, but that conclusion has nothing whatsoever to do with an alleged Law of Parsimony. I challenged Pro to say whether his Law of Parsimony favors the existence of Tasmanian devils or of unicorns. Is the world simpler or more complex with or without these creatures? Pro did not respond. The reason, of course, is that the question has nothing to do with parsimony. It is at most a matter of probabilities, not parsimony.

The evidence Pro presented in Round 3 is well within the means of hoax technology. The admittedly fake video of lights making crop circles that I presented in Round 2 is more convincing than Pro's video claimed to be authentic.

The "genuine" alien artifacts found in crop circles are destined to fetch a good price on eBay. If I had been asked to authenticate them, I would have taken them to a metal sculptor, not a metallurgists. They are made of ordinary metals, so that reveals nothing. There is nothing magical about varying the components of a bronze alloy. What is interesting is that they appear from the video to be crude castings. A sculptor could say how they were made. I would be interesting to know that beings from an advanced civilization were still making sand castings.

The physicist who analyzed the crop circles may have been doing his best, but he didn't think it through. He deduced that the circular patterns had characteristics matching a point source of electromagnetic radiation. That contradicts the idea that the patterns were created by a beam as claimed, and it contradicts the observation of the grasses being swirled rather than radially splayed. There is also no explanation as to how electromagnetism pushes grass over. EM ordinarily cooks things, like a microwave oven. An alternative explanation is that the people stomping out the pattern naturally work faster near as they get to larger radii.

The moral is that if you want to detect a fraud, send a magician to investigate, not a scientist. Mother nature is mysterious, but she never lies. Scientists tend to go in with the assumption that there is no hanky-panky going on. Magicians are not so generous. The magician Randi has had an offer for many years of $1 million to anyone who can perform a paranormal act under controlled conditions. http://www.randi.org... No one has ever collected.

Now to the YouTube video of the guy with a Hungarian accent from the Pleiades. The Pleiades are a near star cluster, about 440 light-years distant. So Pleiadians would only have to travel 440 years at the speed of light to stomp wheat fields and make YouTube videos. http://en.wikipedia.org...(star_cluster). However, the Pleiades are a very young star cluster, about 115 million years old. That's not enough time for planets to cool off, and four billion years or so short of the time needed for intelligent life to evolve, assuming life evolves according to the common assumptions used in the Drake Equation.

Give the evidence at hand, it is far more likely that the speaker on the YouTube video came from Budapest than from the Pleiades.

The Drake Equation allows calculation of the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe. The answer depends upon the numbers put into the equation as values of the many parameters. Thus the Drake Equation does not provide any answers at all, it only neatly formulates the question. Pro is incorrect in asserting that the Drake Equation makes ET life highly probable.

What the numbers ought to be put into the equation is controversial. One biologist argues that the probabilities are must lower than supposed, http://www.abc.net.au... There is book devoted to arguing that the numbers are very small:

"Since intelligent life took a long time to develop on Earth, some believe it will take just as long on other worlds. The paleontologist Peter Ward and the astronomer Donald Brownlee expressed this belief in their book, "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe." Intelligent life on Earth, they say, is due to a long chain of events that greatly relied on happenstance. The odds of such a chain of events occurring on other worlds seem to be impossible. Thus, as the title of their book indicates, they believe that simple, microbial life may be common in the universe, but complex life will be rare. They certainly don't expect to find very many advanced alien civilizations out there." http://www.astrobio.net...

I don't know what the numbers in the Drake Equation ought to be, although I'm inclined to think that even with very small probabilities, multiplying by 100 billion galaxies each having 100 billion stars is likely to produce at least one other intelligent civilization. That is not the subject of the debate, however. The subject is whether the alleged "Law of Parsimony" leads to the conclusion that there is extraterrestrial life. If you go to Las Vegas and win at keno, that is not a demonstration of the Law of Parsimony, that's only a result of the laws of probability. Drake's Equation does not even give the odds of extraterrestrial life, it gives you the odds after you give it a dozen or so assumptions.

Thus if we consider Drake's Equation independent of crop circles Pro is wrong on two accounts. Drake's Equation is not an expression of parsimony. Parsimony favors the simpler of two things, and Drakes Equation is one thing. Second, Drake's Equation says extraterrestrial civilizations are probable or not only after assumptions have been plugged into it. Put in optimistic numbers and you get an optimistic outcome. Put in pessimistic numbers, and the equation yield pessimism. There is no agreement on the numbers, so the probabilities are not determined.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
38 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
The website circlemakers.org http://www.circlemakers.org... has lots of photos of man made crop circles. Some are sponsored advertising, like one that includes the words "shredded wheat." They also have published a book with photos and techniques. http://www.strangeattractor.co.uk...
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Lex, OK, I just don't agree. I think that for A to "support" B, it is necessary for A to able to "support" B, not merely be consistent with B having happened. It is a semantic argument on what it means to support something.

I'm impressed that this topic turned out to be a lot more interesting than it seemed it would be at the outset.
Posted by Lexicaholic 8 years ago
Lexicaholic
... the law of parsimony.

...darned character limits.
Posted by Lexicaholic 8 years ago
Lexicaholic
"Suppose the resolution was "Astrology supports Obama's election as President." Does that proposition require that astrology be accepted as fact?"

Yes. The resolution "Astrology accurately predicts Obama will become President" is open to attack on the grounds that astrology is nonsense, but the resolution that "Astrology supports Obama's election" only requires one practicing system of astrology to have the 'stars align right' for the resolution to be true. Similarly, were the resolution here "The Law of Parsimony predicts (or even supports) extraterrestrials as the cause of crop circles" then the relationship between the observation and the method of observation could be scrutinized.

"In this debate, the issue was that the L of P does not work the way that Pro thinks it works, so the L of P is true but doesn't apply. For example, try the resolution, "The Laws of Probability support oxygen forming chemical bonds with two hydrogen atoms." The Laws of Probability are valid laws, and bonds with hydrogen are indeed formed. The flaw is that it is something other than probability that explains the chemical bond."

Completely agree, but that's an issue in argumentation of the resolution, not with the resolution itself. Geo argued crop circles and probability, thereby failing to argue anything about the law of parsimony (except that aliens were likely the cause, and by extension must exist). You responded that parsimony was not a law. The proper response was: parsimony does not apply or, as you put it "Parsimony has nothing to do with favoring simpler results from theories."

That's why I mentioned reducing the cause of life through L of P from divine to natural, arguing from there. I'm pretty sure L of P could be argued to support the natural development of life. After that, just argue the reoccurance of natural phenomena from a probability approach. L of P supports, indirectly.

You still won, of course. You suggested a simpler theory for crop circles, using
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Geo, Doug and Dave were said to have made several hundred crop circles between 1978 and 1991, but I didn't try to find pictures of them. The Wikipedia article probably has references. In the first video I posted, one of the patterns is identified as being from Wiltshire, which where Doug and Dave worked, so it is a good bet. In that video, there is crop circle pattern that includes an image of an alien, good chance that is man-made. The article I linked on students making a crop circle for the Discovery channel shows a picture of the one they made.

In Japan, there is a town that has gotten into making patterns in a field by planting different colors of rice plants. It's not crop circles, but the intricacies of the layouts is really impressive. http://www.pinktentacle.com...
Posted by Chase_the_Bass 8 years ago
Chase_the_Bass
@Mimo1991 Could you post the links to the sources? I think that I went through every link in the debate and didn't find one that led to a page discussing alien interaction with humans, reptiles, or ET on ET throw downs. I really would like to read it cause it sounds very interesting.
Posted by GeoLaureate8 8 years ago
GeoLaureate8
Roy, just for kicks, can you show me some pictures of admitted or proven man-made crop circles? I am really curious as to how they look.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
Lex: "Because the resolution was L of P supports ET, arguments against validity of L of P may be ignored."

No, if the L of P is flawed, then it doesn't *support* the existence -- and it does support many other things. Suppose the resolution was "Astrology supports Obama's election as President." Does that proposition require that astrology be accepted as fact? If so then if the stars were right then the proposition would be true. But the proposition is in fact not true, because astrology is incapable of supporting anything. If one wanted to debate only the reading of star charts, an "assuming astrology works" caveat could be put either in the resolution or in the opening argument.

In this debate, the issue was that the L of P does not work the way that Pro thinks it works, so the L of P is true but doesn't apply. For example, try the resolution, "The Laws of Probability support oxygen forming chemical bonds with two hydrogen atoms." The Laws of Probability are valid laws, and bonds with hydrogen are indeed formed. The flaw is that it is something other than probability that explains the chemical bond."

Suppose a new alternative to Drake's Law was proposed that replaced two of Drake's parameters with one new parameter. Parsimony would favor the reformulated equation. The Law of Parsimony favors simpler theories. It has nothing to do with favoring simpler results from theories.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
"In the early 1990s, American biophysicist Dr. William Levengood discovered that crops in circles were damaged much in the same way as plants heated in a microwave oven."

The Doug and Dave technique was not revealed until the early 90s. Before the technique was revealed, a number scientists proclaimed that Doug and Dave's crop circles were beyond the realm of ordinary scientific explanation. Scientists have very narrow fields of expertise, so it's not difficult to get a scientist to opine outside of his expertise. A point source of electromagnetic energy, as proclaimed by the physicist in one of the affirming video, would cook the whole plant, not just the small region where it bent. Of course, the easy rebuttal is that aliens have super magic science that cannot be understood by our primitive technology. The only magic they do not possess is the ability to communicate by means other than stomping grass.
Posted by RoyLatham 8 years ago
RoyLatham
>Con seems to have the idea that extraterrestrial denotes a certain type of being. He's arguing that >"would the universe be more simple if a certain type of being existed or not."

No, it's not the type of being, it's the number of types of beings. If there are N species in the world, is it simpler or more complex with N+1? I chose a real one and a mythical one to emphasize that the answer to the question shouldn't depend upon whether the N+1 species exists or not. If you said it was simpler with N+1 species, I would have replied that the law of parsimony requires that unicorns exist. If fewer is simpler, then the Law of Parsimony requires that Tasmanian devils not exist. The answer, I claim, is that the world is neither more or less complex. It is a question of fact irrelevant to complexity. The universe question is similar, with N=1.
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate reminds me of that meme, "I dont know, therefore, aliens." Pro argues that Occam's Razor means we should assume ET life is resonsible for inexplicable phenomena on earth. Con says that he accepts ETs are probably real, but Pro hasn't explained why the law of parsippany suggests this is true. Con says the Drake Equation is unreliable because we dont know the variables to plug into the equation, and the equation doesnt account for things like time travel, which Pro drops.
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