Is the Milky Way harboring dozens of intelligent civilizations?

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Mar 19, 2020
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What constitutes intelligence is a major issue in responding to aspects about "intelligent life" anywhere, including earth. However, for humans, the absence of intelligence may provide a basis for this debate:

There are medical definitions from the past, since discarded as they tend to stigmatize, which were used to define various levels of intelligence, and mostly low levels at that. They have since been used by just about everyone to denigrate another's mental capacity without medical issues being involved.

The most popular medical diagnoses were the big three, arranged below by increasing "mental capacity" (from Wiki):

1) Idiot - People with profound intellectual disability, and a mental age of two years or less (IQ of 0–25)

2) Imbecile - People with moderate to severe intellectual disability. (IQ of 26–50)

3) Moron - People with the intellectual capacity of an "average" 10-12 year old child. (IQ of 51–70)

Everyone else is either "normal" (I.Q. ca. 100, and average "behavior"), or are smarter than average (usually less than "normal" behavior). All of these definitions can be boiled down to some measure of intelligence, or its complete absence (i.e. idiot).

Dispersed within the big three of zero-to-limited intelligence are people known variously as idiot savants, etc. Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man played the role of an "idiot savant" (aka savant syndrome) - capable of amazing feats of mathematical calculations and probabilities, etc.

While I am not an expert in any of this, the appearance of idiot savants presents something of a quandary for establishing an intelligent life form on any planet. Imagine a whole planet of them. Separately they cannot survive, combined they could blow away banks of supercomputers, and all of humanities accomplishments could look like children in a sandbox. Who can tell the nature of any civilization's true level of "intelligence".......
 
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Mar 27, 2020
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What constitutes intelligence is a major issue in responding to aspects about "intelligent life" anywhere, including earth. However, for humans, the absence of intelligence may provide a basis for this debate:

There are medical definitions from the past, since discarded as they tend to stigmatize, which were used to define various levels of intelligence, and mostly low levels at that. They have since been used by just about everyone to denigrate another's mental capacity without medical issues being involved.

The most popular medical diagnoses were the big three, arranged below by increasing "mental capacity" (from Wiki):

1) Idiot - People with profound intellectual disability, and a mental age of two years or less (IQ of 0–25)

2) Imbecile - People with moderate to severe intellectual disability. (IQ of 26–50)

3) Moron - People with the intellectual capacity of an "average" 10-12 year old child. (IQ of 51–70)

Everyone else is either "normal" (I.Q. ca. 100, and average "behavior"), or are smarter than average (usually less than "normal" behavior). All of these definitions can be boiled down to some measure of intelligence, or its complete absence (i.e. idiot).

Dispersed within the big three of zero-to-limited intelligence are people known variously as idiot savants, etc. Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man played the role of an "idiot savant" (aka savant syndrome) - capable of amazing feats of mathematical calculations and probabilities, etc.

While I am not an expert in any of this, the appearance of idiot savants presents something of a quandary for establishing an intelligent life form on any planet. Imagine a whole planet of them. Separately they cannot survive, combined they could blow away banks of supercomputers, and all of humanities accomplishments could look like children in a sandbox. Who can tell the nature of any civilization's true level of "intelligence".......
Good points. We think of ourselves as intelligent beings. What if we really aren't? I just hope I live long enough to actually witness extraterrestrials making contact with us. Should be very exciting!
 
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If you are implying that intelligent life will appear every where that it can survive (presumably through abiogenisis or panspermia and then evolution), then you are making some really big assumptions. Having a very big brain is metabolically quite expensive, and there are lots of difficult filter we had to survive in order to get to where we are now (and there are probably a number of huge ones ahead of us too!).

For example, what is necessary for tide pools and deep sea vents--places biologists usually mention as being necessary for providing the metabolic energy and the evolutionary pump for multicellularism?...
What you are doing here is accidentally falling into a trap of bad logic. When you start naming these specifics (of which you named several), you are describing the path to exactly what we have here, now. You are falling into Hoyle's fallacy, or Zeno's fallacies, by which reasoning one can arbitrarily reason the probability of any event to approach zero. Knowing one way of achieving multicellularism is not to know all ways -- or even possibly not to know a tiny fraction of the ways -- that it arises.

If you point at any typical star, you can arbitrarily reason the odds of it being as it is, where it is, to approach zero. Yet you can look up and see thousands of them just with the naked eye.

This intelligence that we can't even define comes in degrees. There is a better than fair chance that our minds and consciousness have advanced staggeringly in the last 100,000 years. That is a blip of time, on astronomical scales. Were we an "intelligent" species, before our first radio signals just 100 years ago?
 
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Wouldn't intelligent life also seed other planets with intelligent life? Say intelligent life that is millions of years ahead of us, why wouldn't they seed other planets?
 
Mar 27, 2020
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What you are doing here is accidentally falling into a trap of bad logic. When you start naming these specifics (of which you named several), you are describing the path to exactly what we have here, now. You are falling into Hoyle's fallacy, or Zeno's fallacies, by which reasoning one can arbitrarily reason the probability of any event to approach zero. Knowing one way of achieving multicellularism is not to know all ways -- or even possibly not to know a tiny fraction of the ways -- that it arises.

If you point at any typical star, you can arbitrarily reason the odds of it being as it is, where it is, to approach zero. Yet you can look up and see thousands of them just with the naked eye.

This intelligence that we can't even define comes in degrees. There is a better than fair chance that our minds and consciousness have advanced staggeringly in the last 100,000 years. That is a blip of time, on astronomical scales. Were we an "intelligent" species, before our first radio signals just 100 years ago?
I think too many of us simply don't want to admit the scope of what we consider knowledge is much larger than what we actually know and understand. I'm willing to maintain an open mind to every conceivable possibility, even those that seemingly belie what we call science. There is much to learn, and some of that learning will undoubtedly come at the expense of what we think we know now. I'm sorry, but the arrogance that implies certain aspects of our knowledge are etched in stone is just that, arrogance. Most of us don't even grasp the magic, that is of an infinite order of magnitude, of which we are a part. Too many think inside boxes and not outside of them. Those boxes limit us.
 
Feb 3, 2020
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Now for something completely different:

I suspect (not an original concept I'm sure) that consciousness is a prerequisite to intelligence. Both abiogenisis and panspermia provide understandable explanations for how life came to be in a given location, but not why consciousness and intelligence are part of the process. I have begun to convince myself that consciousness and intelligence are on a continuum. If that is true, I can see how evolutionary processes could move life along from basic consciousness to technologically advanced behaviors. But why is there consciousness to begin with? Is it necessary? Which processes require it?

I've read a theory that perhaps consciousness, at some level, is inherent in all matter and "just comes along for the ride." Why might that be?

Now for the punch line.

I'm starting to believe that the universe gave us consciousness because the universe needs us to know the universe exists. Otherwise, what's the point of all the work that got us here from the BB?

More philosophy than science, I know. Just had to get it off my chest.
 
Mar 19, 2020
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Good points. We think of ourselves as intelligent beings. What if we really aren't? I just hope I live long enough to actually witness extraterrestrials making contact with us. Should be very exciting!
The issue was to suggest that "intelligence" cannot be easily defined as we know it. A culture of Idiot savants may be more highly advanced than our own, but simply not curious about the universe. They just don't wonder about all those lights in the sky because their focus is on the collective intellect. No one would ever make ER contact with them as they would not be looking for coms from other worlds. There could be more of them than any other form, for all we know.

As such, certain behaviors of "intelligent" life forms might also put constraints on contacting them, and thereby underestimae their numbers in the galaxy, assuming contact(s) ever occur at all. Just probing the definition of intelligence and how ours has "evolved" compared to any intellects on other worlds.
 
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COLGeek

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As a reminder folks, civility is a must for all members. Resorting to name calling and insults will result in warnings and eventual sanctions. Treat each other with respect.

Attack ideas, with facts, sources, and debate. Don't attack each other. Thank you.
 
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I'm sorry, but the arrogance that implies certain aspects of our knowledge are etched in stone is just that, arrogance.
But it isn't, it's just a safe bet. You are free to try to knock any of it down. everyone is, at all times. It is safe bet to accept the Theory of Evolution as true, for example. Very safe, indeed.
 
Mar 27, 2020
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But it isn't, it's just a safe bet. You are free to try to knock any of it down. everyone is, at all times. It is safe bet to accept the Theory of Evolution as true, for example. Very safe, indeed.
Well, your point is accepted. My experience with scientists over the years has led me to question how open minded they are.
 
Jan 31, 2020
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I heard that report yesterday and was just about to ask about it.. Apparently it takes 5billion years for intelligent life to form? How do they come to that metric?
They pulled it out of their....well, you know where. :) You see, we only have a sample of one case where intelligent life has come to be so we really cannot know the odds. You never know how many invisible and totally unknown terms there should be in the COMPLETE Drake equation....and that stands on the assumption that it all came about by "chance" which doesn't really make sense considering both matter and its form have to have an original cause that is external to the universe if we want to continue to believe in cause and effect within it, a vital pillar of science.
 
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But it isn't, it's just a safe bet. You are free to try to knock any of it down. everyone is, at all times. It is safe bet to accept the Theory of Evolution as true, for example. Very safe, indeed.
Evolution is a very valid concept within it's scope. Just talk to any experienced virologist. That said, we don't really know what is the appropriate scope in total. Obviousely most "random" mutations are going to be "bad ideas" with the very rare "good idea" that propogates throughout the living population of a given type of organism. That's all well and fine too, but since we live in a universe ruled by cause and effect and the universe has both form and substance, then we also know that there is original form and substance that has (will be) been injected into it from OUTSIDE which could mean there is also a PURPOSE to the forms we are witnesing, causing us to throw statistics out the window for predicting what has happened historically on the large scale.
 
Mar 27, 2020
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Once science admits it has no clue as to some of the big questions, they might have a better chance of understanding our universe. I feel that our species knows literally next to nothing about the universe, and that any conclusions are completely irrelevant at this point. Scientists have big egos, and they are very reluctant to admit they don't know something. Just observe for now, and conclusions will come when they are apparent.
 
Jan 31, 2020
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Once science admits it has no clue as to some of the big questions, they might have a better chance of understanding our universe. I feel that our species knows literally next to nothing about the universe, and that any conclusions are completely irrelevant at this point. Scientists have big egos, and they are very reluctant to admit they don't know something. Just observe for now, and conclusions will come when they are apparent.
I'm not inclined to disagree with anything you have just said here, but it should be noted that academics are being paid to be a repository of knowledge. Looking like you don't know things threatens that function. It's not a nefarious behavior on their part, its sort of an occupational annoyance. Sewer line workers are often smelly, cops often are intimidating, tv weathermen are often way to excited about storms that could hurt people. It's just the lay of the land and people adapting to it. :) Still, like both of us seem to be doing, its good to take that into account. :)
 
Mar 27, 2020
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I'm not inclined to disagree with anything you have just said here, but it should be noted that academics are being paid to be a repository of knowledge. Looking like you don't know things threatens that function. It's not a nefarious behavior on their part, its sort of an occupational annoyance. Sewer line workers are often smelly, cops often are intimidating, tv weathermen are often way to excited about storms that could hurt people. It's just the lay of the land and people adapting to it. :) Still, like both of us seem to be doing, its good to take that into account. :)
What I have found to be what I consider as an axiom, is one universal truth that is really probably the only thing for which we (most likely) should be concerned. It is this: You are here, and it is now. Once that is understood clearly, the possibilities become limitless. I "started over" some years ago with that in mind. Since then I found many things to be factual that I had believed weren't actually true, and other things I had discounted were in fact real. It is hard to open the mind and simply observe what is in front of me without preconceptions, but once I've learned to do that I realized how incredibly stupid I really am. I don't know squat, but I'm willing to learn!
 
Jan 31, 2020
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What I have found to be what I consider as an axiom, is one universal truth that is really probably the only thing for which we (most likely) should be concerned. It is this: You are here, and it is now. Once that is understood clearly, the possibilities become limitless. I "started over" some years ago with that in mind. Since then I found many things to be factual that I had believed weren't actually true, and other things I had discounted were in fact real. It is hard to open the mind and simply observe what is in front of me without preconceptions, but once I've learned to do that I realized how incredibly stupid I really am. I don't know squat, but I'm willing to learn!
You don't sound stupid to me. Those are some of the sanest things I've read for some time. When the world doesn't make any sense anymore and you have to do a knowledge-reset, its just your mind doing a purge and then you start picking up the pieces again in hopes of putting things together in a better way. It is amazing how little we actually do know and how much we are actually assuming, but assume we must so we can actually make a decision or two. It's intellectually reckless, but a practical need. Speaking about both of us, we are not stupid, but we have very little real, high grade, knowledge and a whole lot of general impressions. Keep observing and thinking and caring about and listening to the people around you and wisdom (and hopefully joy) will accumulate.

Incidentally when I was reading your description of "starting over" I imagined a land surveyor with maps, transit, and measuring rods realizing his maps are all wrong and having to start again, making new measurements from where he was there and then and building knowledge out from there once again. :)
 
Jan 31, 2020
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What I have found to be what I consider as an axiom, is one universal truth that is really probably the only thing for which we (most likely) should be concerned. It is this: You are here, and it is now. Once that is understood clearly, the possibilities become limitless. I "started over" some years ago with that in mind. Since then I found many things to be factual that I had believed weren't actually true, and other things I had discounted were in fact real. It is hard to open the mind and simply observe what is in front of me without preconceptions, but once I've learned to do that I realized how incredibly stupid I really am. I don't know squat, but I'm willing to learn!
Incidentally one popular belief that I never picked up after the belief-reset I initiated is that the universe is statistical. Sure we use statistics to describe physical systems with great success but the actual statistics are not part of reality. I even have gone to the point of rejecting randomness because it smacks causation, a pillar of science, across the face. It does cause me to accept the conclusion of the Kallam ontelogical argument, but I'm good with that. Thing that seem random are merely being caused by a source that we can neither control nor measure, but that's OK for now. We cannot know everything and shouldn't act or be expected like we do. A confusion to avoid after expressing this is that I do NOT except a Newtonian fully mechanical clockwork universe. A lot of things really are fuzzy or even totally undefined. How do I account for that? Here's where I make an assumption, but its the best one I now. This universe may very well be a "book" with many details defined while others are not. We will never know the color of Bilbo Baggin's mom's favorite pair of socks. It simply isn't defined because it doesn't need to be because it doesn't causally link with anything else in the Middle Earth universe and certainly not the plot. I get a distinct impression that reality works like that. Whether schrodinger's fictitious cat is alive or not depends on people actually observing it. In other words, the cat's final state must be observed or rather allowed to affect things that happen later and become part of the nexus of causation throughout the universe from then on. Before the box was opened the state of the cat was as obscure as the socks I was talking about, but if the box is opened form must be injected into the universe to decide whether the cat is alive or not. In a book we leave that up to the Author so causation continues but not 100% naturally. A certain amount of it has an external source. This may be the domain of souls. Just a thought I like kicking around, trying to break it and refining it. So far it has held up pretty well, but many people sneer at the idea of merely being a character in a book. I say, why not?.. if it helps make sense of things. The whole matter sure puts a different perspective of that old round of a song "Row Row Row your boat...gently down the stream...merrily merrily merrily merrily...life is but a BOOK!!! :) "
 
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Evolution is a very valid concept within it's scope. Just talk to any experienced virologist. That said, we don't really know what is the appropriate scope in total. Obviousely most "random" mutations are going to be "bad ideas" with the very rare "good idea" that propogates throughout the living population of a given type of organism. That's all well and fine too, but since we live in a universe ruled by cause and effect and the universe has both form and substance, then we also know that there is original form and substance that has (will be) been injected into it from OUTSIDE which could mean there is also a PURPOSE to the forms we are witnesing, causing us to throw statistics out the window for predicting what has happened historically on the large scale.
Okay, but I think you are approaching evolution from a slightly wrong angle. The Theory of Evolution has to explain, basically, two things:

1) Why are there so many species?
2) Why are they all so well-suited to their environments?

The answer to 1) is that evolution happens. It just does. You could not stop it if you tried. The accumulated genetic changes in populations (due not just to mutations, but also gene flow, genetic drift, and natural selection) will change them, over time (and create multiple branches, when you separate populations from one another). The species on this planet 50 million years from now are going to be a lot different than what we see today.

And 2) is completely explained by natural selection.

You are not getting around the truth of the answer to 1). Evolution happens. You cannot stop it. So, what would the world be like, if the answer to 2) were not also true? Somehow the species changed over time (evolution happens) and, by sheer luck, all ended up well-suited to their environments? And the same for all the fossil species we find? No... obviously, with these changes occurring, and so many species coming and going that were well-suited, there is more than coincidence at work. Purpose? Why is a purpose needed? It isn't. Natural selection is real and does happen, and it is the reason sharks and dolphins are both fusiform in shape, despite such different lineages. Why do we need to invent another idea to explain something that is already explained? We don't.
 
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Once science admits it has no clue as to some of the big questions, they might have a better chance of understanding our universe. I feel that our species knows literally next to nothing about the universe, and that any conclusions are completely irrelevant at this point. Scientists have big egos, and they are very reluctant to admit they don't know something. Just observe for now, and conclusions will come when they are apparent.
I am wondering which scientists you are talking about. The ones I see and hear freely admit they, for example, have no idea what happened before the big bang, and possibly may never know. They also admit they have no idea how the universe will end.

So, they admit they don't know how it began and don't know how it will end. What more are you asking?
 
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I am wondering which scientists you are talking about. The ones I see and hear freely admit they, for example, have no idea what happened before the big bang, and possibly may never know. They also admit they have no idea how the universe will end.

So, they admit they don't know how it began and don't know how it will end. What more are you asking?
Let me see . . . James Hansen . . . Michael Mann . . . Bill Nye . . . Neil DeGrasse Tyson . . . are a few of the scientists I believe won't admit they could be wrong about anything. However, I too could be wrong. Nevertheless, I want to hear some outside the box thinking from the scientific community about the universe. I think the place to start is with TIME. That is really where we have to look, and it certainly isn't an easy puzzle. All of this is my opinion. Not fact.
 
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Let me see . . . James Hansen . . . Michael Mann . . . Bill Nye . . . Neil DeGrasse Tyson . . . are a few of the scientists I believe won't admit they could be wrong about anything. However, I too could be wrong. Nevertheless, I want to hear some outside the box thinking from the scientific community about the universe. I think the place to start is with TIME. That is really where we have to look, and it certainly isn't an easy puzzle. All of this is my opinion. Not fact.
Every single one of those people would admit they don't know how the universe began or how it will end. I promise you.

Agreed on outside the box... that's how scientists get famous, after all.
 
Dec 29, 2020
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From the looks of it, there are a LOT more than "dozens" of intelligent civilizations, in our galaxy.

It still blows my mind that no one else has ever even bothered to just simply LOOK, with their eyes, for signs of the extraterrestrials!

The evidence that the extraterrestrials purposely put out there, for everyone to see, is so obvious and easily found, in both telescope images and camera images taken from the ground. The ETs / aliens have made thousands or millions of huge artworks of faces, literally almost everyplace where there is dust in space.

You can see many sample images of their face artworks and possible self-portraits, if you look at https://forums.space.com/threads/im-an-astronomer-and-i-think-aliens-may-be-out-there-—-but-ufo-sightings-arent-persuasive.36651/post-530495 , so I don't repeat myself.

Cheers,

Tom Gootee
 
Dec 2, 2019
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Rod, I don't have access to the full article, but from the abstract, it appears the authors acknowledge that most of these potential civilizations would be found around class M red dwarf stars: "Furthermore, the likelihood that the host stars for this life are solar-type stars is extremely small and most would have to be M dwarfs, which may not be stable enough to host life over long timescales."

While I love the authors' optimism for intelligence in the universe, the article surely can only be another attempt to quantify the Drake equation. And the problem here is that there are massive unknowns in the terms of the Drake equation, mostly in what events in Earth's history represent major or minor filters on the biological progression that eventually allowed for the emergence of sentience. For instance, we know our large moon was certainly a factor in that it stabilizes our axial tilt over cosmological spans of time.... but is this a major filter that is crucial for long-term biological stability and diversification that only a very small percentage of potential habitable planets are likely possess, or a more minor filter? We don't know, because our current exemplar sample size is one. Another potential major filter is the presence of a large gas giant to keep debris strikes to habitable-zone planets relatively low enough to not completely disrupt biological evolution every few million years. Is Jupiter a major filter for the development of intelligence on Earth, or is it a more minor factor? Again, exemplar sample of one, so we don't know.

In the end, each attempt to quantify the Drake equation ends up showing the researchers' particular biases in regards to what they see as a significant versus a minor hurdles in the evolutionary chain. And to make matters worse, we cannot quantify those biases, because our only sample for intelligent life is one. In effect, we know that there is much that we don't know, but we don't know how lacking our knowledge might be, or how accurate or erroneous our assumptions really are. In short, the numerical solution to the Drake equation can be as low as one (us), or as high as several thousand, depending on the assumptions made about what constitutes major versus minor filters in the terms of the equation.

Still, it's always a fascinating thought experiment. And as I said, I applaud the authors' optimism in their assumptions which led to their answer of 36 civilizations. I personally am not as optimistic, but do believe the number to be greater than one ... although I'd be extraordinarily surprised if there were ever more than one active at the same time in our galaxy.

-Jason
You have asked some very appropriate questions. Those who rely on the Drake Equation to determine the potential of intelligent civilizations must complete disregard the comments of its author, Dr. Frank Drake.
Dr. Drake came up with the equation in 1961. Dr. Drake stated of his own theory that it was never meant to provide an adequate estimate of potential intelligent species, but was instead meant to spark a discussion among the members of the SETI community prior to a meeting of those individuals to discuss the potential of extraterrestrial life that had reached sufficient intelligence to communicate with other worlds.
 
Dec 21, 2019
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You have asked some very appropriate questions. Those who rely on the Drake Equation to determine the potential of intelligent civilizations must complete disregard the comments of its author, Dr. Frank Drake.
Dr. Drake came up with the equation in 1961. Dr. Drake stated of his own theory that it was never meant to provide an adequate estimate of potential intelligent species, but was instead meant to spark a discussion among the members of the SETI community prior to a meeting of those individuals to discuss the potential of extraterrestrial life that had reached sufficient intelligence to communicate with other worlds.
The short answer is, the statistically impossible chain of events that would be required to form life, even if you used every atom in the universe and had them recombine a trillion times a second, would require trillions of years to accidentally come up with the right combination for life. Using only those elements and atoms available on a planet, would require infinitely longer. It is an impossibility. The fact there is life on earth is the result of intelligent design, not random recombinations of atoms. The bottom line is, there is no life, much less intelligent life, anywhere in the entire universe, other than earth. Sometimes I wonder if there is actually intelligent life on Earth.
 
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