But the skeptics say....
Well yeah, the skeptics will say anything if they can't see everything with their own eyes. It is a natural response given that we, as humans, tend to rely on our eyes to observe, make decisions, and ultimately form certain beliefs about whatever we think we are seeing. It is a skill considered highly-prized among scientists. Yet despite the strong love affair we have for our eyes and our ability to show good rational thinking, it is no proof that there are no ETs in the universe. In fact, saying, "I don't see any ETs. Therefore, they don't exist," proves nothing to anyone. It is just an observation. The reality is, skeptics do not have the conclusive evidence to prove ETs do not exist (i.e., they have not physically gone out there to see with their own eyes other different places in the universe). Seriously, does everything have to be determined entirely by what we see with our eyes? For example, we have the creativity together with reasonable rational skills to see how probable something is through a carefully balanced approach when studying a topic. Or are we afraid to face the likely truth even if it suddenly crept up on them and punched them in the face? Fortunately, and despite the need to look at things on the basis of probability, we can still understand and appreciate their views.
So let us look at the main arguments against the likelihood of finding ETs in the universe, and let us temper all of this with a bit of reality.
The mathematical probability of life arising in the Universe
One of the arguments put forward by the skeptics is the question of whether life, given its tremendous complexity, can arise at all given the incredible odds of the raw materials coming together on their own to create a self-replicating DNA-like molecule.
In the 1970's, British astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle (b. 1915) calculated the probability of the simplest free-living lifeform on Earth – a bacterium – spontaneously appearing from a primordial soup containing only left-hand amino acids. Since the lifeform needs about 2,000 independent and fully functional proteins in order to perform the task of cellular metabolism and reproduction, Hoyle determined the probability of such an event from occurring is one chance in one followed by 40,000 zeros (i.e. 1 in 1040,000). Given that an event having a probability of one chance in 1050 is considered by mathematicians as virtually impossible, Hoyle stated that the probability of spontaneously generating a bacteria "is about the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a 747 from the contents therein." (1)
Such a low probability for life to arise according to Hoyle assumes the universe is not infinite in size and hence old enough to provide enough time for these raw materials to combine in a totally random way, and there is absolutely nothing directing (or guiding) these raw materials under the right conditions to the formation of life. The probabilities he is talking about are based on a set of purely random combination of encounters with molecules carried out over any reasonable time frame and nothing else.
Yet here we are. Somehow the Earth provides indisputable evidence of this seemingly unlikely event. How can this be?
One possible explanation suggested by some people is how the only thing that can direct these raw materials to produce life has to be a mysterious organizer called God. This is known as the intelligent design theory. Take, for instance, Ray Baker of Penshurst in Sydney, Australia, and his view for why he attributes the creation of life to God:
"David Nicholls of the Atheist Foundation (Letters, April 14) states that there is no credible evidence in support of anything supernatural. However, consider the origin of the amazing biological complexity of the life forms on the planet. In a representative cell, for example, there are between 300 and 500 protein molecules and the cell's DNA had to hold information consisting of 1,200 to 2,000 "code letters" in correct sequence in order to build each one of those protein molecules.
In view of this complexity, one has to take a great leap of faith to attribute the origin of life to random chance aggregation of chemicals existing in a "prebiotic soup". Much more credible is the hypothesis that a super-intelligent designer and implementer (that is, God) was responsible." (2)
"God? How preposterous!" as the scientists would say. "Are we going back to the long defunct creationist theory?"
Not necessarily so. It depends on how you define God in a scientific sense. But if we are to use the word God in scientific discussions, it might be prudent to give another quote from a scientists who claims to support a God.
Sir Francis Crick, the co-discoverer (with his close friend and colleague James Watson) of DNA who later won a Nobel Prize for this discovery, could not imagine DNA ever being created out of purely random events. Something else had to influence and guide the molecules in the universe to create this remarkably complex macromolecule capable of holding our entire genetic information. As Crick said:
"Life did not evolve first on Earth; a highly advanced civilization became threatened so they devised a way to pass on their existence. They genetically-modified their DNA and sent it out from their planet on bacteria or meteorites with the hope that it would collide with another planet. It did, and that’s why we’re here. The DNA molecule is the most efficient information storage system in the entire universe. The immensity of complex, coded and precisely sequenced information is absolutely staggering. The DNA evidence speaks of intelligent, information-bearing design.
Complex DNA coding would have been necessary for even the hypothetical first so-called’ simple cell(s). Our DNA was encoded with messages from that other civilization. They programmed the molecules so that when we reached a certain level of intelligence, we would be able to access their information, and they could therefore — teach” us about ourselves, and how to progress. For life to form by chance is mathematically virtually impossible."
Does this mean we are now entering the lunatic fringe with these outrageous claims of God?
Not necessarily. We just have to understand that God may need to be defined in a more scientific sense. God could be DNA, or an intelligent and technologically-advanced ET going around seeding planets with new life. Or could God be light and hence the events are already conspired to naturally direct themselves under the right conditions and through the control of light to push matter in the right direction leading to the formation of life?
It is a bit like the game of Chess. We have at least 10 to the power of 100,000 combinations of unique board setups based on the number of positions on the board and the type of pieces themselves that can be in those positions on the board. If you are trying to win a game of Chess based on a purely random set of moves, you would give up pretty quickly. It will take millions of years to get through all the combinations. And yet despite the impossible odds. Chess players who know the rules and can strategically think through several moves ahead of what might happen can get to a winning position in under an hour. Does this mean the players are God? Of course not. They are "gods" of chess, but not God. It just means they know the boundary conditions to play within and how certain pieces on the board behave and move about on the board. Once the players are directed by the rules and behaviours of the pieces, an outcome will be reached sooner than expected.
In the world of electromagnetism, the Chess board and how pieces should move is directed by electromagnetic radiation. The pieces themselves are the chemical molecules formed, charged or not. Molecules can affect how radiation moves, and radiation affects how the molecules move. Give it time and we should see an outcome reached no matter how impossible it might seem.
But does this mean light is God?
In our SUNRISE book titled Albert Einstein's Unified Field TheoryA New Interpretation, there is a link between light and God. Let's assume for now that God is really light, or radiation, in science. What then? Well, for a start, we know that light has the ability to guide matter along certain paths in space as occurs with quantum particles passing through the double slit of the modified Thomas Young's experiment. Since radiation can penetrate the slits as well and form constructive and destructive interference patterns on a screen in front of the slits, there is no reason why light cannot manipulate matter to follow specific paths created by the radiation. Funny how we hear religious people say God helps to guide matter and life to create everything of what we see in the universe. We also know that light exists everywhere and makes up the very molecules and atoms of ordinary matter. Yet it also has the ability to guide matter along certain paths. How odd? Religious people often say that God promotes life in all its complexity. In science, we know, in the case of the molecules, how they can become electrically charged after, say, a chemical bond is broken through the application of heat or an electrical spark. In the presence of other similar molecules, radiation will eventually push these electrically-charged molecules (called free radicals) together according to the Unified Field Theory in what scientists call electrical attraction to form larger and more complex molecules. Evidence for this electromagnetic interaction between molecules leading to greater complexity can be seen in the Stanley Miller's experiment. Add some clays containing zinc or nickel and the electromagnetic world of the molecules see themselves get attracted to this surface where they form highly complex structures.
So it doesn't mean that God can't create life (or say that God does not exist). Scientists should define God in a more scientific sense and everything will make sense again once we know the way light interacts with matter.
But even so, despite the increasing complexity of the molecules, scientists have not yet seen the creation of life before their very eyes. Why? Maybe this is more a question of time. Or do we have all the right raw materials?
For example, scientists do know the Earth has all the raw materials needed to build the very stuff of life thanks to the gravitational field (or should we say, the electromagnetic field under Albert Einstein's Unified Field Theory) for concentrating these materials in one region of space. Whether the gravitational effect of attracting matter in order to increase its complexity is more an electromagnetic effect of pushing matter together through radiation shielding as well as opposite charges that help to amplify this "pushing" effect and hence the possibility that we are looking at the religious concept of God from a more scientific point-of-view through the concept of light, it really doesn't matter. What we do know is that planets will concentrate certain types of atoms and molecules to their surfaces. It is natural. And should the planets be of sufficient size, all the raw materials needed to build life will be available.
Since we know planets exist beyond our solar system and are more than capable of concentrating these raw materials, not to mention the fact that a number of planets are situated at the right distance from their parent-star to achieve a consistent minimum and maximum temperature as required to keep water in the three physical phases (i.e., solid, liquid and water), this leaves us with the question of time. How much time do we need to create life?
Analysis of rocks and fossil evidence suggests the Earth formed nearly 6 billion years ago and a minimum of 1.4 billion years of time had to pass before life suddenly appeared. Since then, a further 4.6 billion years has seen the evolution of humans capable of building a seemingly impossible to build jumbo jet known as a 747. But even if there wasn't enough time, all it would take is for an Earth-like planet to be shattered by a supernova explosion or for for a big enough asteroid or other body to collide with it and eject material into space and the molecular remnants of the natural Stanley Miller experiment can be sent flying into space in all directions. Any of these chemicals can reach another planet in the universe given enough time where the experiment can continue again and again.
As evidence to support this claim, there are those rare meteorites found on Earth that have originated from the planet Mars. As of 3 March 2014, of the 61,000 meteorites that have been found on Earth, 132 of them (3) were Martian rock. While the ejection of these rocks from violent events (most likely from the collisions of asteroids) has been occurring over the history of Mars, one particular Martian rock known as NWA 7034 (nicknamed "Black Beauty") found in the Sahara desert in 2011 contained enough water inside to allow scientists to be certain the water came from Mars. More importantly, scientists could give an estimate on the age of the rock when it got ejected into space, which was put at 2.1 billion years ago. It means Mars definitely had a lot more water on its surface than it does today. Furthermore, it also carried a number of others chemicals that could have assisted in the formation of life, even if life had already took hold on Earth at the time this rock had arrived.
Then, at some point in the history of the universe, one of the planets must have developed the first alien bacteria. Of course, further asteroid collisions or exploding stars can send countless numbers of these bacteria out into space where it has the potential to seed other planets with life. We know this is more than possible after scientists have realised that alien bacteria can be locked up inside an icy comet or piece of rock for an indefinite amount of time, in suspended animation within its icy, but well protected from the ravages of radiation, prison. Knowing that bacteria can remain frozen for as long as you like according to most recent studies conducted by NASA, there is absolutely no reason why bacteria couldn't travel from one planet to another across the tyranny of distance and time to start new life. All the bacteria needs is protection from re-entry into a feeble early atmosphere. A large enough comet or asteroid would be sufficient. Once a single bacteria emerges unscathed into an Earth-like world and make use of the available organic soup on the Earth's surface, anything can happen.
If not, give this alien bacteria roughly 4.6 billion years (just like us) and an alien civilization would surely have emerged. Now just imagine what one alien civilisation could do to start life on another Earth-like planet. Who knows? If ETs do exist and can solve the problem of interstellar travel in a technological sense, all it would take is for one alien creature sitting inside, say, a spacecraft to find itself in desperate need for a dump and it may have found the nearest planet to do it over 4 billion years ago: the Earth. Is this how life began on Earth?
As religious people say, God created the Earth and life. Or it may be more accurate to say, "We came from God's ass!" quite literally and no one would ever know. It is perfectly reasonable to consider the possibility that an alien could have inadvertently seeded the Earth with new life from whatever it was doing.
Seriously, it is not as silly as it sounds. As we speak, astronauts are already dumping their poop and urine in space in the frozen state and ejected in various directions. There's even poop on the Moon left behind by the first men to have landed there. Should an asteroid collide or the Sun explode and shatter the Moon and send the rocks flying through space, who knows where this poop will end up.
But even if there is no God, alien, or something in the molecules and radiation to direct things to increasing order and complexity to eventually form life, something must have began life here on Earth. Earth is our clearest example yet. It has happened at least once in the universe. Whatever made it possible on this planet, from now on the creation of life on other planets must surely be quicker to achieve once bacteria starts flying around in space from our activities. And certainly by the time we discover how to travel to the stars using electromagnetic concepts, we can safely say that when given enough time, not only is life in the universe possible, but highly probable no matter how small the probability might seem. The mathematics may try to make the chances of life look pessimistic in its probability, but if enough time is given and we have the technological means and power to influence other Earth-like worlds with our own bacteria (even if no life on those planets exist), such an unlikely event will eventually happen. Even more so now considering the Earth exists and there is life already emerging on it. So we don't need to be so pessimistic from a purely mathematical perspective.
Actually, if you look at the mathematics by Hoyle more closely, we discover how it is designed not to show the event of life occurring in the universe as impossible, This is an important point. A mathematician may have no hesitation to use the number 0 (impossible) or 1 (a certainty) in any mathematical discussion. However, when mathematicians become physicists and need to apply their mathematics to the real world, they don't like to use 0 or 1 as if they need to temper their answer by expressing a certain sense of doubt. They do this by saying an event is either unlikely or likely to occur by calculating a number between 0 and 1. Never do they say it is absolutely impossible when it comes to whether life can spontaneously arise on a planet like our own. Well, clearly they can see the Earth is an example. So naturally no scientist would be prepared to stick their head out by saying it is impossible for life to arise anywhere in the universe. At the same time, a scientist will avoid saying it is an absolute certainly that life will occur (even though the Earth is an example). This is natural for scientists mainly because they have not seen alien life directly with their eyes to help them adjust the probability figure. They are just being safe. So you will always find the mathematical physicist giving a probability figure that is not quite zero.
Yet by choosing not to give a zero probability, no matter how small, it still opens the door to improbable events probably occurring in reality if enough time passes by. How much time is needed? It all depends on how big and hence how old the universe is.
At present, a number of scientists are hedging their bets for the universe to be finite and no older than 20 billion years. It is a figure based on an interpretation for the red-shifting effect of light emitted by distant galaxies suggesting all matter is moving away from a central point presumably because of a Big Bang. If this is true, then Hoyle's argument would suggest the probability should be effectively zero in a finite universe given how small the odds are and the limited time. Yet somehow the Earth defies these odds. Why the Earth? Does this mean the universe is much older and bigger than we think? Yet the fossil records suggest it took 4 to 6 billion years since the formation of the Earth to create life. In that case, given the suggested age of the finite universe is only 20 billion years old, then surely we cannot be alone. there must be at least another 2 civilisations in the universe to have evolved from a purely mathematical perspective. And if the same raw materials and time frame is already available on many other planets situated at the right distance from their parent-star, why not many more civilisations in the universe? Surely we cannot be the only ones. Or does it take more than 20 billion years and we are a mathematical anomaly in becoming the first in this universe (a purely lucky event)?
However, if the universe is found to be a much bigger and older place than we can dare imagine (why not consider it infinite for all intensive purposes if we cannot prove exactly how big?) thanks to a new interpretation of the redshifting effect that scientists may discover and find support through an experiment, then the universe must have ample time for life to arise on an Earth-like world somewhere in the universe no matter how improbable it might seem. And once one life-bearing planet exists (whether it is us or another civilisation), surely the probability of life on other planets existing would increase dramatically now that we are doing our bit to seed other planets with out excrement (or perhaps deliberately once we reach the stars in a technological sense).
Is the universe finite or infinite?
According to Albert Einstein's Unified Field Theory, we may actually live in a much bigger place and could well be infinite.
Whether this is true or not, an infinite universe does reveal another interesting thing: such a universe would allow even the most improbable mathematical events to occur in reality no matter how low the probability might be. If the probability is not zero, it will happen. Just give it enough time. So who knows? A 747 may have been built many times before we came to exist in this universe. Seriously, that is the meaning of infinite when it comes to time itself.
And now we have Earth as evidence that the universe has managed to create life no matter how improbable. Why the Earth? A good question. Given how great the effort has been by scientists to avoid making the Earth significant by ensuring it is not at the centre of the universe, surely life in the universe could not have begun here on Earth for the first time. It must have occurred somewhere else in the universe. The implications of this thought means ETs would likely have to exist whether or not we believe in them or have not seen them directly.
Already this is suggesting we are not alone.
Even so, once life begins on another planet, it should be clear by now that the infinite amount of time in an infinite universe would eventually see an incredible number of planets in the universe harbouring life. Because all it takes is one bacteria ejected into space to reach another planet for the process to repeat itself. Remember all the crap we are flinging out into space? We are doing a very good job of it at the moment. Eventually all this matter will help to continue the experiment on as many planets as required until eventually life is created. And if not, what would stop one civilisation from seeding other planets with life? Nothing. Assuming interstellar travel is a practical reality, a civilisation could carefully target many planets in a vary short period of time and each one could be harbouring life.
If all this is true, it is unlikely our planet is the only life-bearing world in the universe.
But even if the universe is finite and relatively young so to speak, we know the Earth has somehow been created or been seeded with life. Either on Earth or elsewhere life has definitely begun. In which case, this is telling us that the chemistry of the early Earth and the amount of time needed for life to arise still remains the biggest unknown for the scientists. The major problem is not knowing precisely how much time is needed and whether all the right molecules and conditions have been taken into account when performing the Stanley Miller experiment. We know all the raw materials are there and can be concentrated in a region of space by planets, clays and other factors. And there is certainly a lot of time available to combine these raw materials during the history of the Earth. But we don't know what type of molecule or molecules are likely to be produced given enough time. Of particular interest to scientists in this regard are the various types of inorganic and organic catalysts (4) that may be created or be already present on the surface of the Earth in its early history. And if we had a few hundred million years to throw at the Stanley Miller experiment then maybe we will know the answer.
From a non-mathematical point-of-view, the answer suggests we have not given enough time in our Stanley Miller experiment for things to happen, let alone know enough about the chemistry of the early Earth and how radiation and different types of molecules and compounds can form, interact and direct other molecules in a certain way before we can give a firm probability figure.
In essence, we simply cannot be sure exactly what is probable in this universe given enough time and concentrations of the right types of materials.
There is no hard and verifiable evidence for ETs
About the only other opposing argument against ETs is the lack of hard and verifiable evidence to support their existence, whether it be a shred of alien DNA, or a piece of technological hardware produced by an alien civilization. It is the old 'seeing is believing", and while we can't see them, there must be no evidence for their existence.
But as the late Dr Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996), distinguished astrophysicist and professor of astronomy at Cornell University, USA, said:
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
So either it is too difficult for them to appear in the Universe, or they are hiding from us. Well, maybe not deliberately. For example, if you were a primitive creature on another planet, scientists on Earth can understand why you're too busy escaping predators on a world that's just too far away. It doesn't mean ETs don't exist. Clearly they do (and here you are too). It is just that the scientists don't know it yet. Unless scientists have a technology to go visiting planets around other star systems to watch a primitive alien lifeform, these "experts" would have no idea if ETs exist. They can argue all they like about how no ETs would exist because they can't see them, but you know very well what the truth is. On the other hand, as with all primitive lifeforms that eventually become complex enough to build a technology, if you were a technically advanced alien civilization, you could choose to make yourself known to the scientists. The technology is there. Even sending radio signals is not exactly hard to do for any technically-advanced alien civilisation. Yet we have heard nothing. Why haven't the scientists picked up the evidence by now? Perhaps scientists are simply out of the communication loop? Either we don't know, or the alien civilisation is not making it easy for the scientists to find them because it does not want to be found? If so, what then? We simply can't assume ETs don't exist in the universe. There is so much of the universe we have not yet explored to make any rash judgements about whether or not they exist.
Until we do the work of finding out what is possible in this universe and we go out there to see it, we simply don't know the answer. We are just making educated guesses, or assumptions.
And now that the work has been done into studying UFO reports and looking at the probability of life in the universe based on the laws of physics (as it should have been done in the first place), we can see more things of what is possible. For instance, we now have the concept and technical means of developing a new electromagnetic technology to take us to the stars. Of course, skeptics will argue it can't be true. Fine. Then it is time to put their money where their mouth is. Let's test the electromagnetic concept and see whether such a machine can be built. If it doesn't work, fine. At least other people don't have to follow in our footsteps and we can all move on. But if it turns out we are right, it would be a shame to not implement the technology because of what a number of skeptics wish to believe. We just don't have the time to waste. Our future on this planet may be short, and here is humankind still focussed on making money, using up the natural resources, and still fighting one another because people in power want to remain rich and powerful and don't like change to a more balanced way of life. If, by some miraculous chance, we should survive all of this and make the effort to find out what is out there, then we will know whether other lifeforms have visited us or not. And, who knows? Maybe the world will be a better place because of it.
All this is irrelevant since we already know the answer
So let us not muck around and debate this issue any further. The skeptics can argue until the cows come home, but we already know the answer. Therefore, it is time to see if the electromagnetic technology is for real and build it ourselves. Then we will know what else is possible in the universe, and how common life really is.