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Maandag, 07 November 2011 20:54

'Alien life' may be found on Earth

2011-11-01 12:40

Duncan Alfreds, News24

Cape Town - Finding life beyond Earth may be related to clues about whether life has more than origin here on Earth, an expert has said.

Professor Paul Davies said that during his long career, scientists have gradually come to accept that life may exist elsewhere in the universe.

In 2005, he took up the chair of the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence): Post-Detection Science and Technology Taskgroup of the International Academy of Astronautics.

He said speculation that finding many planets means that life is abundant in the universe is flawed.

"Maybe we like the idea of the universe teaming with life, I do. How can we test it? If we don't know what the mechanism of life's origin was, is there any other way we can test short of finding ET?"

Evidence

According to Davies, the way to test whether life could originate in the universe was to test to see whether different forms of life originated on Earth.

"If life pops up readily in Earth-like conditions, surely it should have started many times right here on Earth. Because after all, no planet is more Earth-like than Earth," he said.

Recently, the journal Cosmology published findings from Nasa scientist Richard Hoover that evidence for microbes was found in a meteorite.

Nasa distanced itself from the findings and they remain contentious in the scientific community.

"All known life on Earth is descended from a common ancestor. We're all on the same tree. But we don't know all life on Earth.

"Almost all life on Earth is microbial... and in the microbial realm only a tiny tiny fraction of these organisms have been characterised, let alone cultured or sequenced," Davies said.

He added that current technology allowed for screening of life as we know it, but would have difficulty when presented with life as we don't know it.

'Shadow biosphere'

"When you talk to molecular biologists, they decide on identification procedures that are customised to life as we know it.

"If we're talking about a different form of life, with a different biochemistry and a different biology - a different tree of life altogether with a separate origin, starting from scratch independently, we don't know what to look for; the customised tests won't work."

Davies, who is a proponent of panspermia - the theory that life is distributed widely in the universe and via impacts with comets or meteors - said that alien life forms may possibly be found on Earth.

"There could be some shadow biosphere on Earth - I say aliens under our noses. The term 'alien' has been subtly redefined because of this.

"You may not think of alien as necessarily being from space, though it may be. Our life may have come from space. There's a case that life may well have started on Mars and come here with material ejected from Mars via comet impact.

"The question is: Are there any aliens under our noses or even in our noses? How would we know? The truth is that we don't know."

Alien life

Many scientists are searching for alternative life forms on Earth and despite finding a variety of organisms that defy convention, experts have yet to find a life form that can truly be described as "alien".

If researchers were able to find a unique form of life, it would lend credibility to the idea that the universe is teaming with life, said Davies, who has an asteroid, 6870 Pauldavies, named after him.

"If we just found one microbe, one single representative sample... that was so different from known life, it could not possibly have had a common origin, that would establish that life does arise readily and therefore will surely arise on Earth-like planets all around the universe.

"Because it would be remarkable if among all the Earth-like planets in the universe, life would have started twice on one, and not on all the others."

Davies, a professor at Arizona State University, has had a career in theoretical physics, cosmology and astrobiology, and has authored several books, from The Physics of Time Asymmetry in 1974 to, most recently, The Eerie Silence.

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Comments

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Hennie - November 1, 2011 at 16:22 

Okay, so Paul Davies would love to find a second form of life on earth (even if not alien) because that would improve the chances of alien life somewhere else in the universe. His wish sounds reasonable seeing that he accepts evolution by natural means only. But since a second form of life has not been found, the origin of life issue still points overwhelmingly to a Creator God -- One with infinite intelligence. Thanks Paul.

 

John - November 1, 2011 at 17:15 

Timmah!

 

Clive.D.Buckley - November 1, 2011 at 18:58 

hmmm... not a very logical argument really... just because you cannot prove one thing true, doesn't mean that it proves an alternative... i.e. it's like saying, this piece of fruit is not an apple, therefor it must be a banana... besides from this, even if their is a creator god, it's not very likely it is the god described by ANY of the abrahamic religions... it is just as likely that the Hindu or Roman are the real god/s (which is not very likely at all)

 

bryanmpeters - November 1, 2011 at 19:44 

Well, Hennie, Paul Davies would probably agree with you somewhat since he is, in fact, a proponent of Intelligent Design. I, on the other hand...

 

[I've added this afterwards:

Paul Davies is no proponent of Intelligent Design.  The following quotes from his writings show this:

"The universe might indeed be a fix, but if so, it has fixed itself."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/

2007/jun/26/spaceexploration.comment

"What I'm trying to do is to go beyond this rather sterile back-and-forth between religion and science on these ultimate questions. We're trying to come up with a new set of ideas, in which we try to let the universe engineer its own bio-friendliness. So we try to find the explanation from within the universe. Now, that's perfectly consistent with having a universe that has some sort of deeper meaning or purpose, but that meaning or purpose is intrinsic to it. It's not imposed upon it by an external deity. So these ideas obviously have theological implications."

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/

2007/04/19/4350284-the-self-made-universe ]

 

Phoenix - November 1, 2011 at 22:06 

For a moment considering that you are correct about your God: Surely if God is that amazing He could have made MANY life forms all over the universe. Why on earth do you think that only one lifeform relates to an intelligent God and many doesn't??? And Clive you are 100% spot-on with your analogy. Wow the arrogance of comments like Hennies always astounds me.

 

JMan - November 2, 2011 at 14:27 

"Overwhelmingly"? Sorry to burst your bubble there Hennie, but the facts pointing towards the god theory is anything BUT overwhelming to say the least.

 

Hennie - November 2, 2011 at 15:36 

The overwhelming argument for a Creator God regarding the origin of life comes for example from the extreme complexity of the very first (according to the evolution hypothesis) living cell, including its very complex DNA code. Such code cannot originate from matter -- it required a very intelligent mind.

 

AntiThesis - November 3, 2011 at 09:33 

Hennie, the irreducable complexity and the overwhelming complexity arguments made by creationist, ID proponents and religious folk is extremely weak and requires an massive leap of faith to get to a intelligent designer. You also then find yourself on the slippery slope and infinite regress of "who-created-the-creator"

The chemical building blocks of life and syntetic life has already been recreated by science.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/05/ribonucleotides/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/20/

craig-venter-synthetic-life-form

You give me the distinct impression of someone who's complete scientific field of reference comes from creationist and intelligent design forums and websites, and who has not familiarized himself with the arguments againts his position.

 

Hennie - November 3, 2011 at 10:29 

Craig Venter's work is only confirming the fact that high intelligence is needed to create first life. How many years have he and his team been working on this, requiring lots of their own intelligence? And they are still basically just doing copying of existing life with certain modifications. No natural process could have produced the first life. The basic law that life comes only from life is still as valid as ever.

 

JMan - November 3, 2011 at 10:32 

Ja nee Hennie sorry, but that "Such code cannot originate from matter -- it required a very intelligent mind." statement is just not true.

 

AntiThesis - November 3, 2011 at 10:32 

Hennie did you also read the article about RNA, or did you conveniently choose to ignore it?

 

Erich - November 3, 2011 at 12:53 

@ hennie

Please go read "the grand design" by prof stephen hawkins hennie, where he proves that a supernatural being was not responsible for life or the universe

 

Hennie - November 3, 2011 at 15:00 

Erich is actually referring to Stephen Hawking, not Hawkins.
Hawking proposes a theory of multiverses, but this is not scientific since they can’t be observed.
His M-theory isn’t supported by a shred of experimental evidence.
So Hawking definitely does not prove the non-existence of a supernatural Creator at all.
[ I've added this reference afterwards: 

 

Hennie - November 3, 2011 at 15:58 

JMan, that DNA code needed an originator to exist, Paul Davies admitted as follows:
‘We now know that the secret of life lies not with the chemical ingredients as such, but with the logical structure and organisational arrangement of the molecules. … Like a supercomputer, life is an information processing system. … It is the software of the living cell that is the real mystery, not the hardware.’
But where did it come from? Davies framed the question and the answer this way:
‘How did stupid atoms spontaneously write their own software? … Nobody knows …’.
[ I've added this reference afterwards: 

 

AntiThesis - November 4, 2011 at 09:57 

Argg, my comments keep disappearing!!