Saturday, September 05, 2009

Statistical probability of the existence of aliens

Think on this for a minute: IF the universe suddenly and for no reason exploded into the Big Bang; and that bang produced a world at the perfect distance from the Sun to support organic life; and IF humans arose from inanimate matter due to an unprompted chemical reaction under unreproducible and perfect atmospheric conditions which resulted in organic amoebas that evolved into humans over eons; then that would mean an astounding series of probabilities had occurred to allow the conditions of advanced life forms living on a habitable planet.

In the mathematics text Statistical Data Analysis by Glen Cowan, from Oxford University Press, it is explained that probability as relative frequency is:

"In particle physics, repeated collisions of particles constitute repetitions of an experiment. The concept of relative frequency is more problematic for unique phenomena such as the Big Bang. Here, one can attempt to rescue the frequency interpretation by imagining a large number of similar universes, in some fraction of which, a certain event occurs. Since, however, this is not even in principle realizable, the frequency here must be considered as a mental construct to assist in expressing a degree of belief about the single universe in which we live. ... The frequency interpretation is the approach usually taken in standard texts on probability and statistics."

"rescue" ... "not realizable"... "mental construct" ... "degree of belief"...


Continuing, so IF there are aliens who have created civilizations advanced enough to build spacecraft, and IF they then had the inclination and science to find us, and then IF they actually make contact, then that also means that all of the above happened twice.

How much of a degree of belief in frequency probability do you have? For me, it is less of a leap of faith to believe in God. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." I look at the wonder of the world and its creations and I see that there is a God who made them. It is that simple.


Christie said...

What would you say to someone who has failed at believing?

Elizabeth Prata said...

I would say that there is no failure...only God's timing. As long as a person draws breath there is hope that the Holy Spirit will draw the person.

I would say that you and Darren are being prayed for each and every night by someone on the other side of the country...

I would say that God loves you and He knows your name, even the number of hairs on your head. God believes in YOU...

I would say that if you leap, the net will appear.

I love you Christie!

Andrew said...

Are the existence of aliens and the existence of God mutually exclusive? If aliens landed tomorrow, would you renounce your faith? It seems like the Big Bang/abiogenesis/evolution wouldn't have to be true for aliens to exist, if God decided to create aliens. No?

Elizabeth Prata said...

Those are some great questions Andrew. First, from a scientific point of view, men have sent spacecraft to nearly every planet in our solar system. After observing these planets, we have ruled out all but Mars and possibly a moon of Jupiter as being able to support life. Statistically, the likelihood of advanced life is extremely low.

From a biblical standpoint, no, God did not create other life forms apart from humans (and the animals) here on earth. God created all the heavens and He even created earth before He made the sun, moon, and stars. God loves us so much! When Adam sinned this world became cursed with sin so Christ came to die for mankind's sin and He died only once (Hebrews 7:27; 9:26-28; 10:10). Soon He will make the world new again, another Eden that has no sin in it.

Romans 8:19-22 states that all of creation eagerly waits for this time of renewal and removal of sin. If moral, thinking beings do exist on other planets, then they also suffer, being part of 'all of creation.' Since they also suffer under sin, then it would mean that Christ also died for them, which He didn't. If He didn't then that means they will still suffer under the curse of sin and that Jesus is unjust, which He isn't.

If aliens show up it does not mean there are aliens, but that you are being deluded with a lying sign or wonder. "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." II Thessalonians 2:9.

As for abiogenesis, no one has ever adequately explained (nor reproduced) how inanimate matter spontaneously formed into one cell organic matter, the initial formation of the proteins is not known. Neither has anyone explained how one cell organisms sparked into two celled organisms...

As for evolution, no one has ever adequately filled in the phylogenetic tree showing the complete human ancestry...and they won't, because we are not descended from apes. God made man distinctly, as He did all the life forms here on hearth, and only here on earth. Andrew, this is my position...I hope this answers your very good questions.

Andrew said...

I respect your opinion based on religion, but I don't agree with how you reached your scientific conclusions. We haven't found life on other planets in the Solar System (and probably won't), but we have only nine planets. There are 400 billion stars in our galaxy and probably trillions of planets. And there are 125 billion more galaxies beyond our own.

Given the unfathomable number of planets, we could look at a million planets and still have it be a statistically insignificant sample. Now...we probably never will see a million planets because they're all so darn far away. But I wouldn't say life in space is unlikely based on our finding it only on our own planet.

With regard to abiogenesis, it's true that nobody knows how it happened. There are some interesting theories and some experiments that have at least built some of the building blocks. But again, a handful of humans have spent a hundred years trying to figure it out. The universe had billions of years with infinitely more resources at its disposal. So the fact that we haven't figured it out doesn't necessarily mean it didn't happen. But I'll grant you that we just don't know at this point. I would guess that if life is fairly common in the universe, then there is a fairly simple pathway to create life. And if there is not, then maybe Earth was a one in a sextillion planet.

And on evolution, the only way to fill out an entire tree for human evolution would be to find all of the fossils that led to the first human. Since most fossils have been long destroyed, there will always be gaps in the tree. But the thing to remember about evolution is that it is a process, unlike abiogenesis or the big bang, which were presumably single events.

Natural selection, which drives evolution, is an observable process. It causes drug-resistant bacteria, for instance. It is predictable enough that computer scientists use it to solve problems (see genetic algorithms). So while you can argue with the larger theory of evolution, it seems to me that arguing about natural selection is like arguing about gravity--you can observe it happening.

Given that the driving process behind evolution is observable and that there is such a large amount of supporting historical evidence (vestigial structures, the fossil record, etc), one would have a hard time convincing me that evolution didn't happen on a scientific basis. On a religious basis, where one can claim that the universe was just created the way it is, sure. There's no arguing with a statement that could not possibly have any evidence. But on a scientific basis, looking at the universe the way it is and at the processes that are in play, evolution looks like a pretty good bet.

I don't mean to post all of this to say, "you're wrong". I could never prove that God didn't exist or that the universe wasn't created yesterday. I don't think you need to provide arguments that the science is wrong if your belief is that the universe was just created the way it is by an external force, because your arguments aren't based in science. But if you are going to argue it in terms of science, then I just want to add another perspective to what you're suggesting.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the aliens are the creators.

Elizabeth Prata said...

All great points, Andrew. You sound like you are really interested in the topic. I am as well. Are you familiar with Fiboncci numbers? Science is so interesting, isn't it! Thank you so kindly for offering your thoughts.

Andrew said...

What I like about science is the inherent honesty of it. Theories have to be both supported by known fact and predictive of behaviors not yet witnessed. If a theory fails these tests, it is discarded. Take evolution, for instance--if a human fossil was ever uncovered next to a T-Rex fossil and dated to the same time, the theory would be blown out of the water and a search for a new theory would begin that would attempt to describe what had been observed. I feel as though the principles are right. I can get behind the pursuit of truth.

I am familiar with Fibonacci numbers, yes.

Elizabeth Prata said...

Is believing in God inherently dishonest, then? No, let it not be so!

What I like about science are two things, one the same as you: the Theories have to be both supported by known fact and predictive of behaviors not yet witnessed. And second, that science reveals the God who made it.

Now, as to the pursuit of the truth, based on facts and predictive behaviors...there are many theories that do not adhere to that standard and yet are taken on faith and belief as true. The theory I quoted in the original post is one: probability as relative frequency to explain and predict behaviors. The issue in the post I made, that predictive science regarding statistical probability for confirming unique phenomena big bang is admittedly a "belief" that needs to be "rescued" because frequency probability does not explain unique phenomena. That casual statement is in the Oxford text used in schools. And yet frequency probability is still used to confirm the Big Bang.

Evolution, for another one. It has many flaws and yet scientists hold to it with more faith than is even required than to believe in God.

Or Fibonacci numbers, an occurrence that mathematicians cannot explain yet occurs so frequently it cannot be ignored. But they do ignore it.

Or using carbon dating to date fossils...inherent flaws in that process yet still it is used as gospel. And, there are plenty of "out of order" fossils but I don't see any scientist revamping his theories to include the Flood or a young earth...

The scientific process has flaws, because the process is driven by humans. And though science is supposed to, in theory, search for truth clear-eyed and supported by known facts, in reality that is not the case.

Too many scientists hold beliefs that are within a worldview counter to what God has obviously done and despite the facts. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." God is in His creation and it is evident, if one will just pursue the truth.

Science is a vehicle which reveals God's work. And the only inherent honesty is within God...

Andrew said...

I never said that believing in God is dishonest. I was commenting on what I liked about science. I never said anything about religion. There are aspects of it that I respect and fear at the same time. But I wouldn't ever say that faith is dishonest.

I think it goes without saying that you and I see things very differently. You see God everywhere. If there is a hole in a theory or a gap in knowledge, you see it as God's design, whereas I would argue that it's just something we haven't figured out yet.

I think most of your arguments regarding the scientific flaws and mysteries aren't necessarily good ones. The frequency of Fibonacci numbers in nature is actually more of a testament to the brutal efficiency required by natural selection than anything. It's a product of using the most efficient angle, spiral, etc, to maximize the number of seeds or leaves, for example.

I'm not sure which evolutionary flaws you're referring to, but I would be interested to hear them. As for carbon dating, I know it has flaws. It may not be totally reliable in all cases, but it is one of the tools in the toolbox and isn't usually the sole deciding factor in anything.

Why has no scientist revamped his theories to accommodate young Earth? There is no way to talk about it using scientific principles. Like the Big Bang, it is a one time event. Unlike the Big Bang, it has no measurable repercussions. The Big Bang threw space, energy and matter all across the universe. We can attempt to formulate a theory that explains how the Universe ended up in its current state based on the science of that initial event. Even if it could never be reproduced, the hope is to come up with one theory of physics that explains both how things got to their current state and how the Universe continues to behave.

How would a young Earth theory be predictive? Creation involves an event that occurred entirely outside the realm of anything that has occurred since. It is not an argument that can be discussed in the realm of science simply because there could not possibly be any way to prove or disprove it.

I don't mean to be argumentative here or make you angry. I just want you to understand the opposite perspective. From your perspective, God obviously exists and obviously created everything. But from mine, existence doesn't imply creation by God. Mystery or beauty doesn't imply God's interaction.

The facts don't support religion. They can't, because the existence of God is inherently unprovable. God can make anything behave however he wants at any time. Science is about finding the laws of nature that make everything behave in the predictable way that they do. The two don't mesh.

But certainly the facts don't support many Biblical stories. If I told you that my daughter just conceived a child immaculately, or that my wife turned into a pillar of salt, or that my brother rose from the dead, or that my dad is over 400 years old, you wouldn't believe me.

Stories like that go against uniformly accepted scientific principles, right? You accept them on faith, which is fine. You accept that they were miracles or acts of God, and I wouldn't argue with your right to that. But, like anything else God-related, they can't be proved or disproved in the realm of science because they are allowed to violate scientific principles.

If I went out tomorrow and came up with the Andrew Theory of Life, The Universe, and Everything, that was a complete theory supported by all known evidence and explained every observed behavior in the whole Universe without flaw, would you stop believing in God? No. You would say, "Wow, that's one ingenious plan God had."

By the same token, the fact that I can't explain everything doesn't shake my belief that there is an explanation based in science. It doesn't logically follow that because I don't know everything, God exists. God could or could not exist regardless of the nature of the Universe. The two have no bearing on one another in my mind.

E.M. said...

Delusion is deceptively simple. The only simpler thing is the truth. All Occam principles point to that. And if you THINK about it, a world with no God whatsoever IS simpler and raises LESS questions then any world with a relgious deity at its origin.

Elizabeth Prata said...

E.M., are you insinuating that the millions of Christians around the world, do not THINK?

E.M. said...

Elizabeth, of course they think, but also do millions of muslims, and even both being abraamic religions and basicaly professing monotheism, they're completely exclusive and incompatible. So, YES, millions of people THINK WRONG for sure. Those two groups of millions can not be both thinking well. Is there any good reason why we would accept science to give us the technology behind computers and mobiles, cars and tvs but not give us the method for finding out what's true in our universe? I THINK not :)