Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby Zep Tepi » Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:38 am

I'd just like to say that while I haven't had the time to post lately - work commitments are getting in the way - I have found this thread extremely fascinating, so thanks for that :)
What little time I have spare has been spent reading through the links provided here. There's some really thought provoking information, both in the links and in this thread.

When I was young and naive, I couldn't get my head around how humans actually evolved to the position we find ourselves in today. Look at babies. At birth, humans are pretty much useless in comparison to most other lifeforms on this planet. We need years of nurturing before we are in a position to fend for ourselves, yet some animals are ready to go, from the get go. That must have been different in the distant past, otherwise we would never have evolved in the first place. One thing I have often wondered is who or what was the first "mother"? Who nurtured and looked after her? When did we stop being independent to become what we are today? I think the complexities involved in human evolution are what lead many people to believe that aliens must have been involved at some point along the way...

Great thread!
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby lost_shaman » Thu Sep 11, 2008 11:11 pm

Zep,

I completely agree. These discussions of early life on Earth, and Hominid evolution leading up to H. Sapiens s.s. in particular, are fascinating. Even more so when discussing this in the context of what early life on Earth, natural selection, and Hominid evolution can potentially tell us about other life that might possibly exist in the Milky Way.

My generic view is that what we see on Earth, in this context a living laboratory, can tell us a lot about other potential life that possibly exists in the Galaxy. The way that early life transformed Earth from a poisonous planet into what we know it as today is particularly interesting. Or the fact that many hominids once inhabited the planet eventually leading to the rise of several toolmaking species is also very fascinating. Life on Earth and it's story can potentially tell us quite a bit about what we can expect of any other life that potentially exists in our Galaxy.
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby lost_shaman » Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:54 am

Access Denied wrote:Straw man
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B ignores X and instead presents position Y.


AD,

Stop right there. I'm NOT going to sit here and allow you to question my logic with the suggestion that I employ bogus logical fallacies!

The REALITY is Person A (You) copy/pasted from a "Wikipedia Article" that presented BOTH position X and position Y! And that Person A (You) "Underlined, emphasized, and Bolded" position X.

Person B never ignored position X as you claim, but simply favors position Y which was presented by Person A in the "copy/paste" of the "Wiki Article".

At which point instead of discussing the two positions 'copy/pasted' on this thread I felt that you purposefully took a Digg at my intellect. And I admit that at that point I did respond with a small degree of restrained sarcasm.

So What?

Last I checked sarcasm is an abstract thought process that you (AD) claim via position X that no-one anatomically Modern and Human could have understood 60 thousand years ago, but would have understood 40 thousand years ago!

I simply maintain position Y, there is no genetic/intellectual difference between Us and the survivors of the Toba eruption 74,000 ya that we are all genetically related to.
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby Access Denied » Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:37 am

LS I’m sorry if there’s something about my approach that’s causing you to feel the need to defend yourself… you don’t have to nor do I and I won’t.

Perhaps the question I asked wasn’t clear?

“If the second theory [the continuity hypothesis] is the case, why haven’t any other species crossed this threshold?”

[that threshold being “behavioral modernity”]

You said [in effect] the second theory is the consensus view and “tech-savvy Neanderthals couldn't blame their tools” [for their demise] and I said “my point exactly”.

If Neanderthals [your chosen example] had the same cognitive abilities we do why did they become extinct even though they survived at least another 10,000 years after the proposed “Upper Paleolithic Revolution” occurred?

Restating my original question another way… what differentiates us from all other species on Earth even though many are older?

[thus potentially ruling out the continuity hypothesis]

Many point to our development of language which is thought to have occurred then [40-50 kya] but it has also been shown Neanderthals [who actually had bigger brains than us] were equipped with the same “hardware” and may have developed language too.

Lots of theories… no firm answers.

Steve touched on probably the most accepted theory, the development of a more successful reproduction strategy… the extended nurturing of our young.

That said, my fascination with this debate has less to do with exactly what change effectively gave us the ability to “defy” Mother Nature and more to do with whether or not it’s sustainable… this has direct implications on the likelihood of discovering ETI.

The Great Filter
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Filter

[emphasis mine]

The Great Filter is an implication of the failure to observe any extraterrestial life, despite considerable effort (the Fermi paradox). One possible explanation is that there is something, the Great Filter, which acts to reduce the great number of potential sites to the tiny number of intelligent species actually observed (currently just one: ours). It might work either by one or more barriers to the evolution of intelligent life, or a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is The easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

The main argument is based on the observation that we have not yet observed extraterrestial intelligent life, even though we have observed a great number of stars. Therefore, the whole process of starting with a star, and ending with communicating intelligent life, must be unlikely (the Great Filter). This implies that at least one step in this process must be improbable. Hanson listed the likely steps as:

1. The right star system (including organics)
2. Reproductive something (e.g. RNA)
3. Simple (prokaryotic) single-cell life
4. Complex (archaeatic & eukaryotic) single-cell life
5. Sexual reproduction
6. Multi-cell life
7. Tool-using animals with big brains
8. Colonization explosion

At least one of these steps must be improbable. If it's not 1-7, then the implication is that our future is bleak. If 1-7 are likely, then many civilizations would have developed to the current level of the human race. However, none have made it to step 8, or the galaxy would be full of colonies. So it must be that step 8 is the unlikely one, and the only thing that appears likely to keep us from step 8 is some sort of catastrophe. So by this argument, finding multi-cellular life on Mars (provided it evolved independently) would be very bad news, since it would imply steps 1-6 are easy, and hence only 7 or 8 could be the big problem. (Note that although step 7 has occurred on Earth, it still might be the unlikely step. We cannot judge using ourselves as an example, since if step 7 had not occurred, there would be no-one to ask the question. This is an excellent example of anthropic bias.)

[see the referenced articles for a more detailed explanation]

Thoughts anyone?
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby lost_shaman » Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:57 am

Access Denied wrote:LS I’m sorry if there’s something about my approach that’s causing you to feel the need to defend yourself… you don’t have to nor do I and I won’t.


AD, when your approach involves insulting my intelligence then yes I am going to defend myself every time.


Access Denied wrote:Perhaps the question I asked wasn’t clear?

“If the second theory [the continuity hypothesis] is the case, why haven’t any other species crossed this threshold?”

[that threshold being “behavioral modernity”]

You said [in effect] the second theory is the consensus view and “tech-savvy Neanderthals couldn't blame their tools” [for their demise] and I said “my point exactly”.


And you accuse me of making Strawman arguments! :roll: The way you just re-stated and distorted my position is the exact definition of a Strawman argument.

The "Tech-savvy Neanderthals" thing was simply the flashy headline for the article I quoted. I certainly didn't quote the article because of the flashy Headline! The point was that you had emphasised that the major change in Human behavior was the "result of a major genetic mutation or as a result of a biological reorganization of the brain" where I quoted the article in my post that said, "A slew of recent studies have argued that the not-quite modern humans hunted, painted and communicated like their Homo sapiens cousins." and "This was a very strong indication that Neanderthals did not go extinct because of any cognitive inferiority."

My position being that "the current view would tend to characterize the Upper Paleolithic revolution as being a cultural trend H. Sapiens followed rather than a biological or cognitive evolutionary change." Which of course is exactly what I posted and you ignored in favor of the flashy Headline.

This brings us to the point I feel you seem to want to make in this 'ETI' context, that we H. Sapiens are somehow a "Cognitive" accident, dispite my example of the Neanderthals, and thus other 'ETI' in our galaxy is either extremely rare if not non-existent. I don't have any such agenda, I simply maintain the the existence of the Neanderthals shows that we are NOT a "Cognitive" accident.

Access Denied wrote:If Neanderthals [your chosen example] had the same cognitive abilities we do why did they become extinct even though they survived at least another 10,000 years after the proposed “Upper Paleolithic Revolution” occurred?

Restating my original question another way… what differentiates us from all other species on Earth even though many are older?

[thus potentially ruling out the continuity hypothesis]


Well, more than likely the change in H. Sapiens had nothing to do with "our" survival nor the Neanderthals extinction. A more likely culprit would be the Neanderthal Diet, unlike cognitive traits shared with H. Sapiens the Neanderthal Diet was drastically different from that of H. Sapiens. The Neanderthal diet was composed of 85% + Meat @ 5,000 calories per day, whereas the H. Sapien diet was/is only around 20% Meat @ 2,500 calories per day.

Considering that the Neanderthal extinction basically coincides with the extinction of many Mega-fauna species its likely that Neanderthals simply could no-longer make enough small game kills day in and day out to feed themselves, whereas before large game kills would have provided enough Meat to last days and even weeks before another kill needed to be made. This of course would have severely pressured the Neanderthals, while H. Sapiens may have barely noticed the disappearance of the Mega-fauna.

Access Denied wrote:Steve touched on probably the most accepted theory, the development of a more successful reproduction strategy… the extended nurturing of our young.


I don't agree. It seems to me that H. Sapiens and Neanderthals both nurtured 'our' young into adulthood, and we both took care of 'our' disabled, sick, and elderly as well. Steve was saying how amazing it was to him the 'Human' infants are so helpless and vulnerable compared to the infants of other animal species. I agree with Steve, but there is no difference here between H. Sapiens and Neanderthals AD.
Last edited by lost_shaman on Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby torbjon » Thu Sep 18, 2008 5:09 am

Lost Shaman:
Considering that the Neanderthal extinction basically coincides with the extinction of many Mega-fauna species its likely that Neanderthals simply could no-longer make enough small game kills day in and day out to feed themselves, whereas before large game kills would have provided enough Meat to last days and even weeks before another kill needed to be made. This of course would have severely pressured the Neanderthals, while H. Sapiens may have barely noticed the disappearance of the Mega-fauna.


I've heard this before... That N-man was primarily a Hunter of large game, whereas H.S.-man was a hunter/gatherer/forager. No smarts involved, simply a Cultural thing. As such N-man didn't have the Lore (knowledge passed down from previous generations) about what other food stuffs they could eat when their primary food stuffs started to disappear...

So when the big game started to fade out N-man basically had to start from Scratch, trying to figure out what food stuffs they could eat that wouldn't poison them, and figure out how to build the tools and devise the tactics needed to hunt smaller game... H.S.-man had a head start due to Lore and Culture, not because of more smarts.
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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby Access Denied » Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:42 am

lost_shaman wrote:This brings us to the point I feel you seem to want to make in this 'ETI' context, that we H. Sapiens are somehow a "Cognitive" accident, dispite my example of the Neanderthals, and thus other 'ETI' in our galaxy is either extremely rare if not non-existent. I don't have any such agenda, I simply maintain the the existence of the Neanderthals shows that we are NOT a "Cognitive" accident.

I’m glad you edited your post to add this.

Agenda?

Anyway, there’s only one “problem” I see with your position… we don’t know for sure if there’s nothing fundamentally different about us biologically from H. Sapiens circa 40-50 kya and furthermore, only time will tell if H. Sapiens will stand the test of time and solve the very REAL obstacles we face.

Obviously, or perhaps not, I hope we do… but at this point the available evidence suggests it’s not looking good.

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Re: Seth Shostak Bites Back! (a SETI discussion)

Postby lost_shaman » Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:56 am

Access Denied wrote:Anyway, there’s only one “problem” I see with your position… we don’t know for sure if there’s nothing fundamentally different about us biologically from H. Sapiens circa 40-50 kya and furthermore, only time will tell if H. Sapiens will stand the test of time and solve the very REAL obstacles we face.


So we should be in agreement in principle right?

That being the case... my point in the context of "a SETI discussion" is that it is very interesting that the Earth produced TWO intelligent hominids rather than simply one as many people often wrongly imagine. In the context of a SETI discussion this is very relevant in that it not only shows 'Us' that the Hominid physiology was evolutionally sound, but also that 'Intelligence' is also an invaluable evolutionary trait in and of itself! Are 'we' ourselves, even Neanderthals, NOT shining examples of this being true?
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