M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Looking for aliens in all the wrong places?

August 12, 2022
MThomas

Our search for alien life is getting serious. With better telescopes and a growing scientific consensus that we’re probably not alone in the universe, we’re beginning to look farther and wider across the vastness of space for evidence of extraterrestrials.

But it’s possible we’re looking for too few signs in too few places. Having evolved on Earth, surrounded by Earth life, we assume alien life would look and behave like terrestrial life.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/alien-hunters-need-to-start-rethinking-the-definition-of-life?

I agree that we are biased, simply based on the basics of what we understand as (carbon-based) life (i.e., ourselves).

And I agree — in principle — that scientists need to keep an open mind when looking for other life forms on exoplanets.

However, they also need to retain a sense of skepticism.

That’s what science is about. Not blindly following whims and flights of fancy like those of Ari Loeb — quoted extensively near the end of the linked article.

Someone who continues to argue that the extrasolar asteroid fragment called ‘Oumuamua that came flying at breakneck speeds through our solar system in 2017 was a “spaceship.”

(99.9% of astronomers are pretty sure it was a rock, and while they can’t say with 100% certainty that it wasn’t a spaceship, that’s not the same thing as arguing that it could have been one. That’s not how science works.)

It’s true that non-Earth life forms might be wildly different than what we expect. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s just not there — and while scientists tend to be conservative when they explore, invent, and investigate, it’s also true that they are terrible at keeping secrets.

If they discover life, we’ll know. But only once they have independent observed proof from multiple sources.

In the meantime, science writers and show producers should keep on speculating…

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