• Moderator
    March 20, 2020, 10:42 a.m.

    Introduction:
    (NOTE: I am not the poll's author. I am forwarding this poll to the forum with the author's permission).

    This is a small survey with the aim of establishing what people think about the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. I know that the true scientific answer many would like to write is that "we don't know", and that's certainly what my colleagues and I say to other people. Data so far is incomplete and there is no compelling evidence to assert anything grounded in science, beyond educated guesses grounded in logic and statistics. In light of this, I am not allowing any agnostic answers in this poll. I want to know what people choose if they are forced to evaluate the odds.

    Questions:
    The poll consists of 14 questions/statements. You have to rate each of these with a score from 0 to 20 (0 meaning "I absolutely don't believe so", 10 meaning "I think it is possible", and 20 meaning "I'm certain about it").

    A1) There is or has been extraterrestrial life in the Universe.
    B1) There is or has been extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way galaxy.
    C1) There is or has been extraterrestrial life in the Solar System.
    
    A2) There is or has been extraterrestrial complex life in the Universe.
    B2) There is or has been extraterrestrial complex life in the Milky Way galaxy.
    C2) There is or has been extraterrestrial complex life in the Solar System.
    
    A3) There is or has been extraterrestrial intelligent life in the Universe.
    B3) There is or has been extraterrestrial intelligent life in the Milky Way galaxy.
    C3) There is or has been extraterrestrial intelligent life in the Solar System.
    
    A4) There are different extraterrestrial intelligences communicating with each other in the Milky Way galaxy.
    B4) Extraterrestrial intelligence has attempted communication with us.
    
    A5) There are different extraterrestrial intelligences in contact (physically interacting) with each other in the Milky Way galaxy.
    B5) Extraterrestrial intelligence has visited Earth sometime in its past (since the origin of our planet).
    C5) Extraterrestrial intelligence is currently present in our planet or visits frequently (either with us realizing or not).
    

    Procedure and important notes:
    The score is not a measurement of how frequently you think something happens, but rather a measurement of how convinced you are something happened at all. For example a score of 18 for A1): "There is or has been extraterrestrial life in the Universe" or one with a similar set-up doesn't need to mean that the Universe is currently full of ET life now, but rather that you are a strong believer that at least once there was ET life in the Universe.

    Some questions are logically related to others. For example, if you believe that "there is extraterrestrial life in the Solar System" with a score of 15, it is not very coherent to state that you believe "there is extraterrestrial life in the Universe" by scoring it with a 3. So to guide your final answer, bear in mind these constraints are imposed by the fact the Solar System is a subset of components in the Milky Way galaxy, a galaxy that itself is a subset of the elements in the Universe. This works out to:

    A1≥B1≥C1, A2≥B2≥C2, A3≥B3≥C3

    Keeping the above principles in mind, notions like considering a high score for "there is complex extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way", while simultaneously considering a low score for "there is simple extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way" are logically consistent and perfectly acceptable answers (that would mean that you think that complexity might not only evolve from simple life forms for appear all by itself and even be something more probable). But having a high score for "there is complex extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way" while maintaining a low score for "there is extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way" is not logically consistent since complex life is a subset of life (even if it is not a subset of simple life).

    Having trouble with the ambiguities? Here are some definitions:
    Extraterrestrial life is not only meant to be life outside Earth (since that would make ISS astronauts fit the description) but also another life form independent of any evolutionary branch of Earth's biosphere. This would include a so-called "Shadow Biosphere" on Earth.

    Life is loosely defined. We are going to consider life any mechanism that can sustainably produce large amounts of entropy autonomously, that is capable of homeostasis and can grow, thrive, reproduce and die by its own means. In that sense a virus will not be considered life. The debate over this can be included in another poll.

    Complex life is life that is built by the cooperation of small living units (like cells) and the distribution of functions between its members to the point that no unit can live long independently. Animals, Fungi and Plants on Earth are considered complex life forms while Bacteria and Archea are not. Understandably this definition could be argued, and as such will be explored in another poll.

    Question C3): "There is or has been extraterrestrial intelligent life in the Solar System" in this context strictly references the possibility of intelligent life evolving independent of Earth's biosphere on some other solar-system body. Thus the idea of Earth-panspermia, or in other words microbes from Earth somehow traveling to other worlds and seeding life there, is not considered.

    Intelligence, while generally referencing species with sophisticated mental abilities, in this context can also have it's ontology extended to describe the capacity for civilization too. That is, the specie's ability to alter it's surroundings by will and planning and form societies. This definition not only fits our species, but also any sort of non-primate intelligence, or even some manner of artificial intelligence.

    Communication attempts in question B4) qualify regardless of whether we haven't realized, or have realized but not answered, or have answered but secretly. In question A4) it is meant to be about bilateral communication.

    Results:
    I'm going to do the exact same pool on Imgur and other social media just to gather as many opinions I can and will show the results next year (probably) in a graphical form here in the forum. If you have any recommendations I welcome any ideas.

    Take your time to answer, and enjoy the process! Hopefully it will intrigue you and make you wonder if we are alone....

  • bookmark

    Thread has been pinned globally.

  • July 13, 2020, 8:33 a.m.

    A1) 19
    B1) 19
    C1) 2

    A2) 19
    B2) 17
    C2) 0

    A3) 16
    B3) 8 ("intelligence" being defined by mastering technology, beginning with the use of fire.)
    C3) 0

    A4) 1 (more like 0.000001, but non-zero)
    B4) 1

    A5) 1
    B5) 1
    C5) 1

  • panorama_fish_eye

    Thread has been unpinned.

  • Sept. 19, 2020, 1:45 p.m.

    A1) 20
    B1) 20
    C1) 1

    A2) 20
    B2) 20
    C2) 0

    A3) 20
    B3) 20
    C3) 20

    A4) 20
    B4) 0

    A5) 20
    B5) 0
    C5) 0

    In summary: I believe the scale of the universe is such that it is simply impossible to fathom life, intelligent or otherwise, does not exist elsewhere. However, we see absolutely no evidence of that on Earth, nor in our solar system (except a tantalising glint of a possibility in Venus, hence the 1).

    It's the kind of thing where there can be no 'middle ground'.