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The Drake equation and the lack of evidence

Ore_Ele
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4/9/2014 7:31:47 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Not sure if this should be science or philosophy, since it starts off a science topic and expands into a philosophical question.

But for those not familiar, the Drake equation [1] is an attempt to calculate (as a rough estimate) the odds of extra-terrestrial life. The goals is to provide conservative estimates for each variable and show that it is still overwhelmingly likely that there are thousands of planets with life, so the idea that we are along seems statistically absurd.

The question becomes whether something ought to be believed with no evidence at all, merely the theoretical probability that it is true. Should such a belief be considered a "faith" since it isn't based on any observable or testable evidence?

[1] http://www.seti.org...
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Skepticalone
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4/9/2014 8:13:18 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/9/2014 7:31:47 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Not sure if this should be science or philosophy, since it starts off a science topic and expands into a philosophical question.

But for those not familiar, the Drake equation [1] is an attempt to calculate (as a rough estimate) the odds of extra-terrestrial life. The goals is to provide conservative estimates for each variable and show that it is still overwhelmingly likely that there are thousands of planets with life, so the idea that we are along seems statistically absurd.

The question becomes whether something ought to be believed with no evidence at all, merely the theoretical probability that it is true. Should such a belief be considered a "faith" since it isn't based on any observable or testable evidence?

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

Well, it is not completely "no" evidence. We do at least have evidence of one planet with life. :-P Also, if you mean 'faith' in the religious sense, then belief in the possibility of extraterrestrial life does not equate based on this evidence (even if the sample size is small).
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Ore_Ele
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4/9/2014 8:25:49 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/9/2014 8:13:18 PM, Skepticalone wrote:
At 4/9/2014 7:31:47 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Not sure if this should be science or philosophy, since it starts off a science topic and expands into a philosophical question.

But for those not familiar, the Drake equation [1] is an attempt to calculate (as a rough estimate) the odds of extra-terrestrial life. The goals is to provide conservative estimates for each variable and show that it is still overwhelmingly likely that there are thousands of planets with life, so the idea that we are along seems statistically absurd.

The question becomes whether something ought to be believed with no evidence at all, merely the theoretical probability that it is true. Should such a belief be considered a "faith" since it isn't based on any observable or testable evidence?

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

Well, it is not completely "no" evidence. We do at least have evidence of one planet with life. :-P Also, if you mean 'faith' in the religious sense, then belief in the possibility of extraterrestrial life does not equate based on this evidence (even if the sample size is small).

I mean faith as in "believing something with no evidence" which is the religious sense, but I don't want to make this about religion.
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Sswdwm
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4/9/2014 8:51:38 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/9/2014 7:31:47 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Not sure if this should be science or philosophy, since it starts off a science topic and expands into a philosophical question.

But for those not familiar, the Drake equation [1] is an attempt to calculate (as a rough estimate) the odds of extra-terrestrial life. The goals is to provide conservative estimates for each variable and show that it is still overwhelmingly likely that there are thousands of planets with life, so the idea that we are along seems statistically absurd.

The question becomes whether something ought to be believed with no evidence at all, merely the theoretical probability that it is true. Should such a belief be considered a "faith" since it isn't based on any observable or testable evidence?

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

Belief on weak evidence and not in spite of contradicting evidence =/= faith.

L is an interesting variable, just think about it, we have been born only 500 years after the enlightenment. Not 5000, not 10,000, not 100,000.

Humans are 200,000 years old.

And life that is capable of travelling interstellar space/communication is barely 100 years old. Does that tell us something about how long we last for? Or is this a bad philosophical point?

Because the way I see it, if civilizations like ours lasted a long time, we would most likely have been born many, many years after the enlightenment (larger chance of being born early in a small, say 1,000 year window than it is in a long, say 1 million year window).
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bmnoble981
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4/9/2014 10:47:20 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
after looking up the Drake equation, my personal view is, that its more or less a guide, just one option or theory as a way for finding life out in space. Just because we haven't found life yet is not the fault of the equation. Humanity has only really been exploring space for just over half a century a large amount of that has been trial and error.

when you think about it, we haven't even finished exploring our own planet, new species our still being discovered by science, in remote places and at the bottom of the ocean. Surviving in places science previously thought, could not sustain life. In exploring our own world we are gaining further insight of where to look for life out in space.

based on how long it took us to evolve, it could take decades or centuries before we find anything even remotely similar to us. When you think about it our rise to dominance on the planet was a complete fluke an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, which had been evolving for millions of years, without developing our level of intelligence.

all we have is faith, that we might find something out there, people can complain about someones attempt, to find a solution or they can provide a better one. My view is right now we are exploring with the aim of finding habitable worlds, radio signals signs of sentience, while we have ignored countless worlds that do not fit our criteria, for all we know, we may have missed finding non sentient aliens on any number of worlds due to our search methods.

short of aliens, finding us, I think it will be a very long time before we find other life out in the universe. It wont be until we really get out into space and make detailed investigations until we start finding life. All we can do now is create a list of the best leads, or which worlds to visit first.

unless they find life on mars or in the solar system I doubt we will here about conclusive proof of extraterrestrial life being discovered within my life time.

well that is my 2 cents on the topic.
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
Posts: 720
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4/10/2014 3:15:06 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/9/2014 7:31:47 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Not sure if this should be science or philosophy, since it starts off a science topic and expands into a philosophical question.

But for those not familiar, the Drake equation [1] is an attempt to calculate (as a rough estimate) the odds of extra-terrestrial life. The goals is to provide conservative estimates for each variable and show that it is still overwhelmingly likely that there are thousands of planets with life, so the idea that we are along seems statistically absurd.

The question becomes whether something ought to be believed with no evidence at all, merely the theoretical probability that it is true. Should such a belief be considered a "faith" since it isn't based on any observable or testable evidence?

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

Interesting question, I would say its not faith as you are not required to believe the results. Its just a measure of probability and not meant to be conclusive at all. Its meant to lead to those deeper philosophical questions you were referencing earlier.
Floid
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4/10/2014 7:17:28 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/9/2014 8:51:38 PM, Sswdwm wrote:
And life that is capable of travelling interstellar space/communication is barely 100 years old. Does that tell us something about how long we last for? Or is this a bad philosophical point?

Because the way I see it, if civilizations like ours lasted a long time, we would most likely have been born many, many years after the enlightenment (larger chance of being born early in a small, say 1,000 year window than it is in a long, say 1 million year window).

If we were to somehow know that over the course of human history humans would be around 1 million years and there will be 500 trillion humans to live and then were to ask "What are the chances that a particular human was in the the first 15 billion?" (or wherever we are at now) then yes it would be unlikely that a particular sample was in that group. Yet there would be 15 billion samples that were in that group so any point predicated on that being unlikely doesn't make any sense.
Sswdwm
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4/10/2014 7:48:46 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 7:17:28 AM, Floid wrote:
At 4/9/2014 8:51:38 PM, Sswdwm wrote:
And life that is capable of travelling interstellar space/communication is barely 100 years old. Does that tell us something about how long we last for? Or is this a bad philosophical point?

Because the way I see it, if civilizations like ours lasted a long time, we would most likely have been born many, many years after the enlightenment (larger chance of being born early in a small, say 1,000 year window than it is in a long, say 1 million year window).

If we were to somehow know that over the course of human history humans would be around 1 million years and there will be 500 trillion humans to live and then were to ask "What are the chances that a particular human was in the the first 15 billion?" (or wherever we are at now) then yes it would be unlikely that a particular sample was in that group. Yet there would be 15 billion samples that were in that group so any point predicated on that being unlikely doesn't make any sense.

I'm confused, but ok.
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iamanatheistandthisiswhy
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4/10/2014 8:58:07 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 7:17:28 AM, Floid wrote:
At 4/9/2014 8:51:38 PM, Sswdwm wrote:
And life that is capable of travelling interstellar space/communication is barely 100 years old. Does that tell us something about how long we last for? Or is this a bad philosophical point?

Because the way I see it, if civilizations like ours lasted a long time, we would most likely have been born many, many years after the enlightenment (larger chance of being born early in a small, say 1,000 year window than it is in a long, say 1 million year window).

If we were to somehow know that over the course of human history humans would be around 1 million years and there will be 500 trillion humans to live and then were to ask "What are the chances that a particular human was in the the first 15 billion?" (or wherever we are at now) then yes it would be unlikely that a particular sample was in that group. Yet there would be 15 billion samples that were in that group so any point predicated on that being unlikely doesn't make any sense.

I have absolutely no idea what that means. I need pictures lol
Floid
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4/10/2014 9:26:54 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 7:48:46 AM, Sswdwm wrote:
I'm confused, but ok.

You take a 100 people and write down numbers 1 - 100 pieces of paper and randomly give them out.

If I were to bet you that you couldn't pick one person and that person have the number 57 would you take the bet? Probably not.

If I were to bet you that no one had the number 57 would you take the bet? Sure you would. The situation we have setup dictates that someone has that number so the fact that any 1 person having it is unlikely is meaningless.

So to say that it is unlikely that humanity will see 1 million generations just because we happen to be in generation 4,000 is meaningless. There has to be a generation 4,000 so why not us?

Perhaps a different way to point out the misuse.

The odds keep getting better the fewer generations there are. So by your logic it is more likely that humanity will end in 5,000 years than in 1 million years. But it is also more likely humanity will end in 500 years than 5,000 years... and more likely humanity will end in 5 minutes than 500 years because a multiple children are born every second. So would you say the world is probably going to end before I post this message?
Sswdwm
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4/10/2014 9:49:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 9:26:54 AM, Floid wrote:
At 4/10/2014 7:48:46 AM, Sswdwm wrote:
I'm confused, but ok.

You take a 100 people and write down numbers 1 - 100 pieces of paper and randomly give them out.

If I were to bet you that you couldn't pick one person and that person have the number 57 would you take the bet? Probably not.

If I were to bet you that no one had the number 57 would you take the bet? Sure you would. The situation we have setup dictates that someone has that number so the fact that any 1 person having it is unlikely is meaningless.

So to say that it is unlikely that humanity will see 1 million generations just because we happen to be in generation 4,000 is meaningless. There has to be a generation 4,000 so why not us?


Perhaps a different way to point out the misuse.

The odds keep getting better the fewer generations there are. So by your logic it is more likely that humanity will end in 5,000 years than in 1 million years. But it is also more likely humanity will end in 500 years than 5,000 years... and more likely humanity will end in 5 minutes than 500 years because a multiple children are born every second. So would you say the world is probably going to end before I post this message?

Ah, nonono.

I was simply stating that because we are here only a very short (cosmologically speaking) period time after the the only enlightenment period we know about, instead of 5000, or a million years after, then it seems more likely that the length of time an enlightened civiilization generally exists for is very short.

I already know it's not very convincing/probably fallacious. But I haven't seen a convincing rebuttal yet.

Let me give a cleaner analogy.

You have been given the nummber 5, and you know the number 5 was randomly drawn out of a hat. You also know this hat's lower bound is 1, but you don't know what the upper bound is.

Is it more likely that:
1. The 'hat' you got your number 5 from is a small hat, with only a dozen or so numbers in it

or

2. From a massive hat, with thousands of numbers in it

?

There have been tens of billions of people who have existged in the past, if humanity is to continue for say a million years before being wiped out at it's current technological height, then it'll likely have gone through trillions of people by the end of it.

Therefore, is it special that we are in just the first tiny fraction of a fraction of the population of humans that will ever exist, or is it a clue that it's more likely that civilisations like humans generally just don't last very long (which means L will be small).
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Floid
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4/10/2014 12:02:54 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 9:49:29 AM, Sswdwm wrote:
Let me give a cleaner analogy.

You have been given the nummber 5, and you know the number 5 was randomly drawn out of a hat. You also know this hat's lower bound is 1, but you don't know what the upper bound is.

Is it more likely that:
1. The 'hat' you got your number 5 from is a small hat, with only a dozen or so numbers in it
or
2. From a massive hat, with thousands of numbers in it
?

There is no basis for determining which is more or less likely. All you can say from that situation is you know there was at least one number in that hat.
Sswdwm
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4/10/2014 5:35:28 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/10/2014 12:02:54 PM, Floid wrote:
At 4/10/2014 9:49:29 AM, Sswdwm wrote:
Let me give a cleaner analogy.

You have been given the nummber 5, and you know the number 5 was randomly drawn out of a hat. You also know this hat's lower bound is 1, but you don't know what the upper bound is.

Is it more likely that:
1. The 'hat' you got your number 5 from is a small hat, with only a dozen or so numbers in it
or
2. From a massive hat, with thousands of numbers in it
?

There is no basis for determining which is more or less likely. All you can say from that situation is you know there was at least one number in that hat.

Hm, I'll try and do a mathematical formulation on paper and see if it makes sense to me... I'm pretty sure you are right but it's counter intuitive to me right now.
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