Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
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30-03-2016, 05:10 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(30-03-2016 02:34 AM)BlackEyedGhost Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 06:39 PM)Chas Wrote:  "God of the gaps" is an argument from ignorance.

It is a sign of a lazy mind.
Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant to say that the "God of the gaps" fallacy seems to be present in most arguments of this sort, not that "God of the gaps" is a valid argument.

OK, then. Yes

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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30-03-2016, 05:38 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 09:13 PM)WhiskeyDebates Wrote:  Uh...no. I'm ignorant of the traffic laws in Belgium. I don't understand the traffic laws in Belgium. At all. I'll likely never understand the traffic laws in Belgium as I'll likely never have use of them.

I'm not convinced the people in Belgium know their own traffic laws.
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30-03-2016, 06:36 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
We don't know how "probable" existence is. We only know that it has happened.

Creationists are trying to do the math without all the figures and telling us they have the right answer using their feels.
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30-03-2016, 08:02 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 01:33 PM)BlackEyedGhost Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 01:04 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  In my opinion, the biggest shortcoming is that you can't apply probability arguments to something that has already happened. Improbable things happen all the time. Once it has happened, the probability is 1, or 100%.

In short, it doesn't matter how improbable it was. It happened, and here we are to prove it.

Other shortcomings -- the universe is a really really big place, and almost all of it is beyond our ability to observe. So we have no way of knowing whether or not there is life elsewhere, or if so, how common it is. There's just not enough data to draw any sort of conclusions about how often life occurs in the universe. For all we know, it might be quite common. It might even be inevitable.

I don't think I really agree with your first argument. Just because you got heads on a coin doesn't mean the coin was predetermined to land on heads. The probability was still 50% and that information could be pertinent even though the outcome was already determined.

The second argument you shared is much better though. It's true that we don't have enough data yet. We only recently got any idea of what Pluto looks like up close. We have no idea what we'll find on planets outside of our solar system, so we have hardly any basis to even say that life is rare.

Determining the odds of a simple system (a coin flip) is different than describing an observation of what occurred.

Given that there are two sides to a coin, the proportion of flips that will be heads is ~50% and the proportion of tails will be ~50%.

But when looking at the actual data and observing it, it won't be 50/50 after one flip. It is either heads or tails and after one flip, the odds one would calculate from this observation is 100% and 0%.

So, let's say that someone has figured out how to actually attach probabilities to the origin of life in the universe (definitely not a simple system) and found it to be somewhere between 100% and 0%. We then look at the universe and see life on Earth, meaning that the observable odds of life in the universe are 100%.

What are the odds of life on any other individual planet? That will differ from the probabilities for Earth because the systems won't all be identical. But the odds of life existing in the universe remain at 100%. It happened. Life is here. Life can exist in the universe. Given that odds must be >0% for any other individual planet, because of the existence of life on Earth, and that there are literally billions of stars will planets orbiting them, it seems to be a mathematical certainty that we are not the only planet that has (or had) life on it.


If we calculate the odds to be a dismal 0.000000000000001% for life existing elsewhere on another planet in the universe (I just picked a really low number), and knowing that there is something like 10^24 planets in the observable universe (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), that means that life exists or has existed on 1,000,000,000 planets in the universe. We may simply never be able to find it given the size and scale of the universe.


As for a "driving force" for life, ID proponents simply don't understand what is necessary for life to arise naturally so they invoke some sort of supernatural cause (including the invention of New Age whooo, like invoking quantum mechanics).

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30-03-2016, 11:21 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 04:20 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 03:20 PM)BlackEyedGhost Wrote:  I understand what you're getting at, but this is a question of how the odds were beaten. Was it luck or was it design? The fact that it's improbable is still pertinent even if it did happen. People try to fake lottery tickets sometimes (design), but people also win normally (luck). Your point is perfectly valid, but it doesn't refute any part of the argument. It's a red herring.

Here's another way to look at it: When somebody argues how improbable our particular universe is, they are "assuming the result". This is invalid. Let's try another example. You get in your car and start driving. Every time you get to an intersection, you randomly decide which way to go. At a dead end, you turn around. You keep doing this for a year (ignore the need to stop for gas, sleep, etc.). At the end of that year, you will be somewhere. If you calculate the odds of arriving at that exact place from the beginning, they would be extremely small. Yet it's 100% certain that you will arrive at some place.

I'd want to know what the comparison in your analogy would be. Imagine a similar scenario you painted, that the man could arrive in endless variety of places, but he ends up at home, as opposed to just some general place.

Clearly we would recognize the event as an improbable outcome correct? A bit more astonishing than him arriving just at any other irrelevant place.

And wouldn't we say that existence of creatures like ourself, the cosmos giving rise to a means of knowing itself. That this is also an improbable outcome?

Now I would see our existence more so as the man ending up at home, even if we imagine he just beat some astronomical odds to do so, out of blind luck. Would you agree with this, or would you see it more or less like the idea of arriving at some generic place?

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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30-03-2016, 11:26 AM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(30-03-2016 11:21 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 04:20 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  Here's another way to look at it: When somebody argues how improbable our particular universe is, they are "assuming the result". This is invalid. Let's try another example. You get in your car and start driving. Every time you get to an intersection, you randomly decide which way to go. At a dead end, you turn around. You keep doing this for a year (ignore the need to stop for gas, sleep, etc.). At the end of that year, you will be somewhere. If you calculate the odds of arriving at that exact place from the beginning, they would be extremely small. Yet it's 100% certain that you will arrive at some place.

I'd want to know what the comparison in your analogy would be. Imagine a similar scenario you painted, that the man could arrive in endless variety of places, but he ends up at home, as opposed to just some general place.

Clearly we would recognize the event as an improbable outcome correct? A bit more astonishing than him arriving just at any other irrelevant place.

And wouldn't we say that existence of creatures like ourself, the cosmos giving rise to a means of knowing itself. That this is also an improbable outcome?

Now I would see our existence more so as the man ending up at home, even if we imagine he just beat some astronomical odds to do so, out of blind luck. Would you agree with this, or would you see it more or less like the idea of arriving at some generic place?

No. Humans have evolved to recognize patterns (sometimes even when they're not there), so we like to attach significance to them. But arriving at home after the one-year journey is no more special or improbable than arriving anywhere else. Just like rolling all sixes with dice is no more improbable than rolling any other combination.
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30-03-2016, 12:15 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(29-03-2016 08:22 PM)Paleophyte Wrote:  
(29-03-2016 06:53 PM)Full Circle Wrote:  Odds and probabilities can only calculated when all possible outcomes are known.

And more imporantly, when the probability space is fully understood. It is common for the probability of events to change by very large amounts based on some quite common and simple changes to the conditions.

Without that knowledge it's just a bunch of meaningless hand waving.

It's an interesting example of dishonesty that the exact same people who will say that evolution can't possibly be true because we have no idea how life began will confidently state that they know what the odds of life beginning are.

So I'm having lunch and I start thinking of a way to explain the concept of estimating the probability of an event happening to the uninitiated and I've come up with the following:

Ask The question,
"What are your odds of pulling out a red marble from a container?"

Obviously without additional information the question is unanswerable, there is insufficient data. You would need to know

"How big a container?"
"Are there any red marbles in the container to begin with?"
"What else is in the container?"
"How many total red marbles are there in the container?"
"Am I blindfolded?"
"You don't have a venomous snake in there do you?"


So if you were blindfolded and reached into a container and pulled out a red marble all you know is that there was at least one red marble in the container, that's it, you cannot make any further observations.

This is analogous to knowing there is life on planet earth. You have one data point without knowing what else is in the universe/container, how big the container really is, what else is in the container, how many life forms/red marbles in total exist (maybe there is only one). One data point does not allow us to extrapolate with any certainty any other information about the data set.

Anyway, this kept me entertained during my lunchtime. Smile

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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30-03-2016, 12:20 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(30-03-2016 11:26 AM)Grasshopper Wrote:  No. Humans have evolved to recognize patterns (sometimes even when they're not there), so we like to attach significance to them. But arriving at home after the one-year journey is no more special or improbable than arriving anywhere else. Just like rolling all sixes with dice is no more improbable than rolling any other combination.

This is one thing I never really understood, and not that it requires anyone to believe it was intentional, but failing to acknowledge it as astonishing thing. If a man arrived at home, beating astronomical odds, even if we believed that this was blind luck, we'd still be like wow that's pretty fucking amazing. Perhaps your wouldn't?

I would think matter being able to organize itself to produce self-aware creatures, is a profoundly astonishing thing, that it even has such capacities, to produce a means of knowing itself? (This in fact has little do with patterns, or the outcome of roles of dice, but the dice itself. )

But you personally don't though?

Why do we not share the same level of astonishment, even if we don't agree on the bigger question here?

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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30-03-2016, 12:38 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(30-03-2016 12:20 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(30-03-2016 11:26 AM)Grasshopper Wrote:  No. Humans have evolved to recognize patterns (sometimes even when they're not there), so we like to attach significance to them. But arriving at home after the one-year journey is no more special or improbable than arriving anywhere else. Just like rolling all sixes with dice is no more improbable than rolling any other combination.

This is one thing I never really understood, and not that it requires anyone to believe it was intentional, but failing to acknowledge it as astonishing thing. If a man arrived at home, beating astronomical odds, even if we believed that this was blind luck, we'd still be like wow that's pretty fucking amazing. Perhaps your wouldn't?

I would think matter being able to organize itself to produce self-aware creatures, is a profoundly astonishing thing, that it even has such capacities, to produce a means of knowing itself? (This in fact has little do with patterns, or the outcome of roles of dice, but the dice itself. )

But you personally don't though?

Why do we not share the same level of astonishment, even if we don't agree on the bigger question here?

Hard to be astonished when you don't know what the data set consists of.

“I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.”~Mark Twain
“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”~ Ambrose Bierce
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30-03-2016, 12:49 PM
RE: Shortcomings of the "probability of life" argument
(30-03-2016 12:20 PM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(30-03-2016 11:26 AM)Grasshopper Wrote:  No. Humans have evolved to recognize patterns (sometimes even when they're not there), so we like to attach significance to them. But arriving at home after the one-year journey is no more special or improbable than arriving anywhere else. Just like rolling all sixes with dice is no more improbable than rolling any other combination.

This is one thing I never really understood, and not that it requires anyone to believe it was intentional, but failing to acknowledge it as astonishing thing. If a man arrived at home, beating astronomical odds, even if we believed that this was blind luck, we'd still be like wow that's pretty fucking amazing. Perhaps your wouldn't?

I would think matter being able to organize itself to produce self-aware creatures, is a profoundly astonishing thing, that it even has such capacities, to produce a means of knowing itself? (This in fact has little do with patterns, or the outcome of roles of dice, but the dice itself. )

But you personally don't though?

Why do we not share the same level of astonishment, even if we don't agree on the bigger question here?

Being "astonished" by something with "astronomical odds" means what exactly?

The odds are "astronomical" that a bolide will slam into the Earth today and wipe out most of the living organisms on this planet, but it has happened before (killed the dinosaurs and the ammonites at the end of the Cretaceous) and will likely happen again before the end of our planet as the Sun expands into a Red Giant in ~4 billion years.

Life can arise from non-life. Why does it matter that the odds are "astronomical?" It happened. Life is chemistry. Yes, it is astonishing and profoundly interesting that the universe can generate such incredible feats of life and death. And that means...what exactly outside the context of how the natural world works?

Being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets
-Rick
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