Methane on Mars - my understanding is that, in humanity's experience, methane is produced either by volcanoes, or a by product of life. Its half life is only about 300 years so that the presence of it in mars atmosphere is intriguing, especially taken with the evidence for water, both past and present, however Mars has been a very volcanically active planet and possibly is today.
could it be volcanism creating the methane plumes on Mars? sure. but it could also be life. there are plenty of other indicators of the potential for life there to go and find out!
What Paul Wally said, is how I see it also...
A possibly relevant quote from the biologist Lynn Margulis (one of the originators of the Gaia Hypothesis) back before the methane was found. She was being interviewed by Stewart Brand of the CoEvolution Quarterly, and she explained why she thought there was no life on Mars:
Source: Steward Brand (ed); Space Colonies; Penguin 1977; page 124.Margulis:You see, there are no reduced compounds in the presence of the oxidized ones. Which is our clue. Everything's essentially oxidized.
SB: If there were life you'd look for what gases?
Margulis:You'd look for ammonia, methane, hydrogen, or hydrogen sulfide or any of these things that are flagrant contradictions in the presence of oxygen and CO2...
I would question that.
About 100 years, Alfred Russel Wallace (one of the pioneers of the theory of evolution) wrote a book called Man's Place in the Universe, where he said that the idea of many inhabited worlds "would imply that man is... of no importance".
Conversely, if Earth is the only world with life, and we humans are the dominant life form on it, that makes the human race a big frog in a small pond.
Maybe this is why many humans are reluctant to take seriously the idea of life beyond Earth?
Emotions are what they are---electrochemical impulses from certain parts of the brain to whatever response that may be eliciting them--and for the most part (from what I understand) impulsive.
Individuals for the most part (IMO) may come in two (?) flavors: those who will do the fight/flight response (since our ancestors had to learn to fend for themselves from large predators). . . . and those who have learned to become more cerebral (and thus mindful of their surroundings) . . . thus think before acting on impulse (as cited above).
Because of that notion (cited above) those individuals may not completely understand the implications of their own place in the cosmos.
In regards to A. R. Wallace's work --I had heard of him but have yet to read his work and do know that he was a contemporary of Darwin's. His opinion, conclusions and data cited in his book are probably (?) far-reaching and (?) correct . . .
My observations of humanity (although I am not a behavioral biologist--nor psychologist) tell me that we (humanity) as a species will still evolve as long as we do not wipe ourselves off the planet . . . and the reason for many individuals ambivalence for ET or ETI is because we (?) are much too wrapped up with our own lives (and believe we are the center of the Universe . . . still).
We are currently hard-wired to respond emotionally. . . first . . . and if a wiser head prevails . . . stop, think, weigh the options (?) and respond.
Those more enlightened few do this everyday and probably on the drop of dime (if you can pardon the expression?).
All the best
Regarding the emotional aspect, I think a lot of people share my stance: I really, really want there to be life out there, and I really want to know for certain that there is life out there. However, above all else I want the truth, even if it isn't the truth I hoped for. I don't want to pretend that something is evidence when it is not. I will not grasp at straws!
I actually feel hatred for the sort of UFO proponent who deliberately mischaracterises skeptics such as myself as being closed-minded and opposed to the idea of there being life. We are not in denial; when real evidence is found, it will be impossible to deny.
Here's an image I've made of an imaginary 'animal' that shows plant-like characteristics, including an alternating morphological pattern
there aren't any extant animals I can think of with this sort of morphology, but they may emerge on other worlds.
Regarding his book Man's Place in the Universe, some of the ideas in it are still widely accepted (though not beyond all debate), e.g. the idea that the Solar System has a "temperate zone", basically meaning the same as "habitable zone" or "Goldilocks zone".
On the other hand, Wallace argued (or should I say speculated) that life may not be possible in the Milky Way Galaxy anywhere except at or near its center.
At the time, many good astronomers thought that's where our Solar System was. And Wallace thought it unlikely to be a coincidence that the only known inhabited world was in such a special cosmic location…
there is no acceptance, presumption, belief etc. I think, this has been the problem all along; hypothesis is being equated with belief.
My error for not making myself clear. 1st off, I knew the answer to the question before I asked it. I wanted to see what reaction It would illicit. I was not disappointed.
2nd, when you have 2 completely different explanations for the same phenomena, it isn't very forthcoming to not mention both when discussing the phenomena.
3rd, there was no mention of a geological explanation until I "asked" if there were any other explanations besides life that would explanation the phenomena.
..and with that, I'm out of this thread...it ain't worth arguing about.
(or at the least clarify this statement so that it is "consistent with" standard understandings. - to my reading, "consistent with" states or implies nothing about alternate possibities or potentialities.)
Last edited by Paul Wally; 2011-Oct-07 at 09:10 AM.
I'd suggest, though, that its discovery may involve several steps, like the discovery of the element helium in the 19th century -- first a bright yellow line in the solar spectrum, which some thought indicated a new element, but was hardly undeniable proof of one; then a few years later someone found the same bright line in a lava spectrum on Earth; and then finally the undeniable stage, when helium was successfully isolated in a laboratory...
I was intending to contrast "consistent with" and a word like "confirms" (for example). If someone said that something (e.g. methane) "confirmed" the existence of life then they would be effectively ruling out other explanations (and, one would hope, relying on a lot of other evidence beside that). Saying that it is "consistent with" life says nothing about other possible explanations; it doesn't rule them out and doesn't guarantee there are others. But it certainly allows others.
I don't see why someone discussing one possibility has to, every time, list every other possibility as well. Especially in an informal context and especially when they are using cautious language such as "consistent with", "may" and "possible". I was just (over?) reacting to the way such statements are often met with "prove it" or "what about X as a possibility". I agree such a response is appropriate if someone were to say "there is life on planet xxx" but not just because they are discussing possibilities.
I don't understand that idea at all. My feeling about the discovery of any sort of life (simple or intelligent) elsewhere, is one of great excitement about the new areas of understanding it would open up. I don't see how it would change us; we would still be exactly who we are now.About 100 years, Alfred Russel Wallace (one of the pioneers of the theory of evolution) wrote a book called Man's Place in the Universe, where he said that the idea of many inhabited worlds "would imply that man is... of no importance".
I don't know. Doesn't leave us exactly the same but in a much, much bigger pond?Conversely, if Earth is the only world with life, and we humans are the dominant life form on it, that makes the human race a big frog in a small pond.
It may account for some. Who knows whether it is a few, many, or most.Maybe this is why many humans are reluctant to take seriously the idea of life beyond Earth?
Chill with the attitude. People are having a friendly discussion about possibilities and speculations. No one seems to be advocating any particular non-mainstream ideas. Don't 'test' people as to whether they are matching some expectation you have of their behavior. If you want to participate in the discussion, then actually participate. If that's not to your liking, then maybe you should stay out of thread.
Last edited by Swift; 2011-Oct-07 at 04:47 PM. Reason: 'Snip' quote for emphasis
At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)
All moderation in purple - The rules
I just want to add this, then I think I'm more or less done with this topic again.
Observation: Methane on Mars...
a) Hypothesis: ...indicates life.
b) Hypothesis: ...indicates volcanic activity.
c) Hypothesis: ...indicates "recently" exposed methane ice.
d) Hypothesis: ...indicates some other phenomenon we haven't observed yet.
While the highly improbable but highly desirable Hypothesis A would be the ultimate in discoveries, it in no way diminishes the importance and "Wanna know right now; when does the probe get there? Get it there faster, NASA!" factor of all three other possibilities.
Actually, I take that back, slightly. I do have one more thing to say for the moment.
Think back... The (widespread) knowledge that the sky isn't an overturned bowl changed us forever. The repeated discoveries that we're not really the center of anything in time and space, except our own ignorance, helped bring about radical and progressive changes in how we think about ourselves and how we interact with the world. Changes that were invariably met with a great deal of kicking, screaming, upheaval and death (both real and threatened). A very large fraction of the world's population is wailing incessantly over the notion that we've distant common ancestry with every other critter on the planet. We're still choking on the notion that we've common ancestry with ourselves.
If scientific discoveries have not changed us, why all the fuss?
No, our science is dragging us into the future by the scruffs of our necks, sweeping along the unwilling with each next discovery that reveal how we're a much smaller player in a much _much_ larger universe than we've ever imagined possible. This is necessary, if uncomfortable and humbling, and ultimately the very best thing for us.
... I just think it's important to let the science educate us in its time, and not anticipate its revelations.
Last edited by Moose; 2011-Oct-07 at 05:22 PM. Reason: Grammar. Grampar, too.
(I am slightly surprised that, in a scientific discussion, anyone would use it to mean anything but "not contradictory". In other words, that anyone would use it differently from me. But, hey ho.)