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Thread: Theory of Variance and the Existence of Life on Earth

  1. #1 Theory of Variance and the Existence of Life on Earth 
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    Theory of Variance and the Existence of Life on Earth

    By Shawn Michael Ahearn Copyright 08/18/2011

    The idea that life on Earth exists as a result of chance is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable.

    I will use a few analogies to further explain this statement. Take the game of Poker for example. Every good Poker player knows that you can’t win every game. Good Poker players are those who can minimize their losses in periods of downswing and maximize profit in periods of upswing. By downswing and upswing I mean periods in which a player can experience great losing or winning streaks. A good Poker player is defined as one who can average more wins than losses, thus creating a net gain. A card game like Poker is very chaotic and unpredictable. Some of the best players in the world will tell you that they have gone on losing streaks that can last a month or longer. Imagine that for a moment if you will. Imagine your one of the greatest Poker players in the world and you go on a losing streak that lasts for over a month. No matter how good the player may be scenarios keep falling on the table that simply make it impossible to win. In the poker world we call this “variance”, and the unwinnable hands “bad beats”. As painful as this sounds it happens a lot more than one would think.

    Now let’s relate the plight of our planet to a game of poker. Let us say that the Earth’s ability to support life is tantamount to winning in Poker. So basically the Earth has been on a winning streak for almost 4.5 billion years. In other words our Earth has never suffered a “bad beat”. That is absolutely ridiculous. If life is the result of chance then losing is inevitable. The odds do not support such a massive winning streak. Chance will always lean towards chaos and not towards order. I have heard a theory that basically states that the odds of life coming into existence by accident are not that unreasonable if you stretch the time line out far enough. It basically states that given a long enough time line it will eventually happen. This is wrong for three very basic reasons.

    • The aftermath of an explosion has never produced order, only chaos.
    • We have no knowledge of what transpired before the big bang. What we do know is that explosions do not occur randomly for no reason; something has to set them off.
    • The idea that the Earth can somehow maintain the conditions necessary to support life for 4.5 billion years as a result of “good luck” is completely unacceptable.

    We know the full time line of our universe is around 13 billion years because of Hubble’s red shift measurements. This means the time line can only be stretched so far, it is finite. Let’s just say for arguments sake that life did come into existence by chance (although cosmologically speaking this is impossible). We now have life on planet Earth and a time line of around 4.5 billion years. I would postulate that a time line of 4.5 billion years is more than adequate to support the odds of something happening that would ruin the Earths ability to support life permanently. The odds of any number of scenarios that would make life on Earth permanently unsustainable are great; far greater than life not only existing as a result of chance, but perpetuating itself completely unassisted. So far this has never happened. This Earth has never experienced a catastrophe so great that its ability to support life has been completely compromised. Even in the greatest cataclysms of our past some small vestiges of life survive. To say that our planets ability to continue to support life as a consequence of good luck just seems outlandish. The odds do not support such a notion. The time line is 4.5 billion years. Take the Time Line Theory and apply it in the inverse and you will see that the odds are much more likely that an event will transpire that will make life on planet Earth permanently unsustainable. Why has this not happened yet?

    Below I have listed a few guidelines that I feel help support this idea.

    • Our Universe is chaotic by nature and not orderly
    • Chance will always favor chaos over order
    • Order can only be created and exists as a result of its circumstances
    • When compared, the odds of any number of scenarios that could permanently destroy our planets ability to support life far exceed the odds of nothing happening

    If you look at the other systems in our universe what do you find? Complete chaos. You have entire galaxies that are spinning inevitably into super massive black holes or into each other. You will find planets whose elliptical orbits are so exaggerated they are literally scorched by their sun every time they pass. The set of conditions that must be met in order for a planet to support life are truly staggering. A planet must be a certain distance from its sun. It has to have water. It must have a moon type satellite to pull the tides. It has to be a certain size. It has to have the right atmosphere. The list goes on and on and on. But yet science would have us believe that we just got really lucky and that luck continues to provide us with the perfect conditions to support life to this very day. This explanation does not make sense when looked at through the lens of the very simple poker analogy I mentioned earlier. Nothing in our vast universe is that lucky. It just doesn’t work that way. Eventually something will happen to make conditions on Earth completely unsustainable. We still cannot even explain the existence of the moon. Without our moon life could not exist on earth. What are the odds a chunk of rock exactly the right size would come to orbit our Earth in just such an ideal way? The odds are solidly against it. Now compound that along with all of the other, “billion to one” type situations that had to take place in order for our ecosystem to exist as it has for 4.5 billion years. You will see that the idea of life existing on Earth as a result of chance just doesn’t hold water at all. If you have any further doubts a few rounds of poker will satisfy them very quickly.

    When I was in high school biology class we had a project where we were instructed to build an ecosystem with a variety of different species and plants. It was a pretty difficult project. We cut the glass ourselves and caulked the pieces together with silicone. We had running water and soil for the plants. We also had a light and would periodically feed the life inside the system. One thing we all realized very quickly is that if we did not maintain this system ourselves it would quickly fall apart. Has anyone ever built a completely self-sustaining ecosystem devoid of any maintenance? If they have then think about what an accomplishment that would be. Yet we are expected to believe that our perfect ecosystem, our perfect earth, has been providing us with an environment ideal for supporting life for at least 4.5 billion years as a result of a “cosmic roll of the dice”? This notion is simply preposterous and unacceptable. The planet has of course experienced events that make life difficult to be sure, but it always seems to bounce back. No matter how devastating the event our Earth somehow finds a way to not only recover, but continue maintaining conditions that are ideal for supporting life. In the terms of the Poker analogy, the Earth never goes bust.


    I would also postulate that if life is discovered in other systems on other planets this theory will only be exacerbated. If life could happen just as a sheer coincidence then what are the odds of it happening again? What are the odds of another planet just like our own sustaining life in similar fashion for 4.5 billion years? Many scientists now believe there has to be life elsewhere in the universe because of the sheer number of systems and galaxies. If that is true then the odds continue to increase exponentially. Other systems will be experiencing impossible “winning streaks” just like our own.


    Last edited by himoura; August 22nd, 2011 at 06:24 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    I am not saying what created it. It could be a force that we do not yet understand. Whatever set this universe into motion before the big bang exists outside the laws of physics, and therefore outside the scope of this discussion.
    Why did you post it on a science forum, then?


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    hmm... maybe you have a point. maybe i should further refine and simply delete the last part. That may better
    Last edited by himoura; August 22nd, 2011 at 06:23 PM.
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    Given the fact that life is made out of some of the most common substances (and the matrix for life out of element nr 1 and 8) and the enormous amount of stars there is, i'd say that the chances aren't too big, but big enough for it to happen once in a while.

    With that said, earth has undergone a number of "extinctions" which eradicated most of the planet's lifeforms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    The idea that life on Earth exists as a result of chance is absolutely ridiculous and unacceptable.
    Never open an article on a scientific matter with such emotive wording if you wish to have your idea given serious attention. Blatant, agressive posturing is likely to do one of several things: enrage the reader; encourage derision of the author; demonstrate that your are likely incapable of rational thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    Now let’s relate the plight of our planet to a game of poker. Let us say that the Earth’s ability to support life is tantamount to winning in Poker. So basically the Earth has been on a winning streak for almost 4.5 billion years. In other words our Earth has never suffered a “bad beat”. That is absolutely ridiculous. If life is the result of chance then losing is inevitable. The odds do not support such a massive winning streak.
    This is not a valid analogy. Yes, life is like a poker game, with winners and losers. In poker there is always a winner. In poker there is always someone walking away from the table with more than they came with. That's life too. One life form is competing with another life form. No life form on the planet that has enjoyed 3.5 billion years of continued success. Nearly every species that ever existed is now extinct - it has lost in the game of poker. There are always poker players ready to play another game;, there are always life forms and new species, to take up the challenge.

    Thus your argument fails at the first hurdle because you have failed to understand the nature of life. (As an aside, your arguments will be better received if you get your facts right. There is no evidence to suggest life has been present on the Earth for 4.5 billion years. Saying it is so just makes you look ill-informed.)

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    I have heard a theory that basically states that the odds of life coming into existence by accident are not that unreasonable if you stretch the time line out far enough. It basically states that given a long enough time line it will eventually happen. This is wrong for three very basic reasons.
    • The aftermath of an explosion has never produced order, only chaos.
    • We have no knowledge of what transpired before the big bang. What we do know is that explosions do not occur randomly for no reason; something has to set them off.
    • The idea that the Earth can somehow maintain the conditions necessary to support life for 4.5 billion years as a result of “good luck” is completely unacceptable.
    On the contrary, you are wrong for a single reason: you don't know what you are talking about.
    • No explosion! This is a metaphor to explain the concept of the big bang to the mathematically illiterate.
    • The laws that apply within the universe are not required to apply prior to its formation. The origin of life does not depend upon current theories on the origin of the universe. If you believe it does you have a great deal of work to do to demonstrate that.
    • No reputable scientist ascribes the 3.5 billion year window in which life has so far operated to luck. Two things have changed that could have had a fatal impact on life: the sun got hotter; the atmosphere was enriched with oxygen. All other factors have remained essentially unchanged. The higher proportion of greenhouse gases in the early atmosphere offset the first issue; life adapted to the gradual oxygenation. The latter was down to the guiding hand of evolution through natural selection and had bugger all to do with luck.
    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    Let’s just say for arguments sake that life did come into existence by chance (although cosmologically speaking this is impossible).
    Really! Your assertions should be arrested for vagrancy as they are without any visible means of support.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    This Earth has never experienced a catastrophe so great that its ability to support life has been completely compromised. Even in the greatest cataclysms of our past some small vestiges of life survive. To say that our planets ability to continue to support life as a consequence of good luck just seems outlandish. The odds do not support such a notion. .
    Here you are arguing from incredulity. It doesn't matter that you think the chances are outlandish. The universe, in general, cares not a jot for what you think.

    The odds support the notion? Excellent. Give us an itemised list of the probabilities of events occuring that would destroy life on Earth. These must be justified by solid science, not by your speculation, or feelings that something is outlandish. I look forward to seeing the list. If you cannot produce it you must modify your statement to read: "I do not understand how the odds could support such a notion". So furnish the list, or a retraction.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    • Our Universe is chaotic by nature and not orderly
    • Chance will always favor chaos over order
    • Order can only be created and exists as a result of its circumstances
    • When compared, the odds of any number of scenarios that could permanently destroy our planets ability to support life far exceed the odds of nothing happening
    If the universe is chaotic by nature how do you explain the progressive emnergence of order from the initial chaos? The formation of galaxies, the progressive complication of chemistry through the formation of metals (in the astronomical sense), the segragation of materials within planets. The list goes on.

    In a closed system chance does favour chaos, over time. The Earth is not a closed system. Your argument fails.

    Order does exist as a consequence of circumstances. On Earth these were right for the emergence of the complexity we call life.

    As for odds, give us the itemised list with probabilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    If you look at the other systems in our universe what do you find? Complete chaos. You have entire galaxies that are spinning inevitably into super massive black holes or into each other.
    Almost no galaxies are spinning into black holes .. It is probable that the galaxies exist because of those super black holes.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    The set of conditions that must be met in order for a planet to support life are truly staggering. A planet must be a certain distance from its sun. It has to have water. .... It has to be a certain size. It has to have the right atmosphere. The list goes on and on and on. But yet science would have us believe that we just got really lucky and that luck continues to provide us with the perfect conditions to support life to this very day.
    I do urge you to get an education in these matters. Ignorance is not compulsory.

    Do you accept that statistically many planets will lie within the Goldilocks zone? If not, why not? We do not know that life requires water. Even it it does, water is one of the commonest compounds in the universe.

    You misunderstand how science views this. Life has adpated to the changing conditions through the process of natural selection. If you transported life from the last two hundred million years back two billion years then nearly all the macro life forms, and many of the micro life forms would die. The same would be true in reverse. You think science relies on luck when that is not the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    Eventually something will happen to make conditions on Earth completely unsustainable. .
    No one is arguing with that. Researchers suggest we have at best 4 billion years and more likely 1 billion years before the conditions become untenable as the sun heats up. A massive global catastrophe could end it earlier. (Waiting to see your odds.)

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    Without our moon life could not exist on earth. What are the odds a chunk of rock exactly the right size would come to orbit our Earth in just such an ideal way? The odds are solidly against it. Now compound that along with all of the other, “billion to one” type situations that had to take place in order for our ecosystem to exist as it has for 4.5 billion years. You will see that the idea of life existing on Earth as a result of chance just doesn’t hold water at all. If you have any further doubts a few rounds of poker will satisfy them very quickly.
    .
    Some researchers have speculated that the presence of the moon influenced the origin or the subsequent evolution of life. This is purely speculative, so your absolute statement is simply wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    ....we had a project where we were instructed to build an ecosystem with a variety of different species and plants. It was a pretty difficult project. ...We had running water and soil for the plants. We also had a light and would periodically feed the life inside the system. One thing we all realized very quickly is that if we did not maintain this system ourselves it would quickly fall apart....Yet we are expected to believe that our perfect ecosystem, our perfect earth, has been providing us with an environment ideal for supporting life for at least 4.5 billion years as a result of a “cosmic roll of the dice”?
    Clearly the excellent science experiment failed utterly in teaching you what it was meant to teach you. You tried to create an artificial ecosystem, in which all the checks and balances of all the lifeforms were finely attuned to their environment over a period of weeks! It took billions of years for our ecosystem to evolve and along the way there were several occassions when disaster occured and huge swathes of it were devastated.


    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    In the terms of the Poker analogy, the Earth never goes bust.
    Remember - your analogy is wrong. Poker games end, but the game of poker goes on. Individual life and individual species end, but life goes on.
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    Wow. There is no such thing as chaos. There is order in all things. The term chaos is only appropriate for those that do not understand the overall complexity of the universe. The universe has chaotic pockets but even that on the grandest scale and down to the infinitly small carries itself within order and will eventually come orderly. The singularity was complete order, became chaotic and is righting itself. We have so much yet to learn. I loved the quote by Carl Sagan. It was something like---"The human race was invented bythe Universe to understand itself". So that is what we are doing and need to continue to do. That is why discovery, learning, and innovatioin is ingrained in our genes. We could very well be on a collision course with our own extinction as we reach our limits and fail become the end product. The universe may start all over again and build on what it has learned. Who knows how many interations of life have been started, evolved, and died off in the universes quest. What the universe has that we do not is--all the time in the universe--, heh. Mark L
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    your ignorance is really what is truly astounding here. book... rare earth.. check it out.

    and its painfully obvious you know nothing about poker. i sure would love to take your money though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schrodingersothercat View Post
    Wow. There is no such thing as chaos. There is order in all things. The term chaos is only appropriate for those that do not understand the overall complexity of the universe. The universe has chaotic pockets but even that on the grandest scale and down to the infinitly small carries itself within order and will eventually come orderly. The singularity was complete order, became chaotic and is righting itself. We have so much yet to learn. I loved the quote by Carl Sagan. It was something like---"The human race was invented bythe Universe to understand itself". So that is what we are doing and need to continue to do. That is why discovery, learning, and innovatioin is ingrained in our genes. We could very well be on a collision course with our own extinction as we reach our limits and fail become the end product. The universe may start all over again and build on what it has learned. Who knows how many interations of life have been started, evolved, and died off in the universes quest. What the universe has that we do not is--all the time in the universe--, heh. Mark L
    so you believe in a purely deterministic view of the universe? then you may as well throw quantum mechanics out the window. oh and go ahead and throw free will out the window too and ask yourself this. if everything is pre-determinied then who or what determined it? you may as well believe in god if your going to believe that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by himoura View Post
    your ignorance is really what is truly astounding here. book... rare earth.. check it out.

    and its painfully obvious you know nothing about poker. i sure would love to take your money though.
    Himoura, I have systematically debunked and dismantled your rather confused argument and that reply is the best you can do? I am pleased to accept such a weak response as full acknowledgement, by you, that you were talking bollocks. Thanks for the laugh.

    If you actually have the moral fibre to address my points honestly perhaps you can deal with these points first. I have no idea which part of Ward and Brownlee's work you find relevant. (I've quickly scanned my copy - a first edition, I'm pleased to say - and find nothing that supports your views.) Please feel free to enlighten me. I do hope you are aware that Ward and Brownlee represent only one view out of many on the origin and subsequent development of life. I would be fascinated to hear exactly how you have miscontrued their argument to make it appear to support your own. Along the way you can explain how a popular science book (no matter how well written) ranks more highly than peer reviewed original research papers. Then you can cite some such papers to support your thesis.

    Alternatively you can run away and pretend my arguments don't matter by sticking your fingers in your ears and repeating 'la, la, la, la, la' continuously. You may convince yourself. You won't fool anyone else (other than another fool).
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    Himoura, It seems that your poker analogy fails due to you not defining what constitutes a 'losing hand". It would seem to me that every death is a loss. Every extinction is a player going broke and dropping out of the game. Yes the game continues but that is why it is said that 'the house always wins". Life is like the casino not the poker player. The odds favor the casino. That's why people own casinos, they consistently make money.

    Also it seems you do not understand probablity. Life exists on one planet that we have examined fully. Which is the only one in this solar system placed were this particular type of life is possible. Suns like ours are very common. The sample we have data on however is only "one". Of the sun-like stars we have examined the presentage that have a life bearing world is 100%. If we project on the strength of what we know then we would expect every yellow sun like star to have a life bearing world orbiting it.

    No one really expects that many life bearing planets. However, that is just our pessimissim. The projection from our available data is 100%. Which is to say we don't have enough data to make realistic statements about probablity.
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