Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Morality of Existence

Ray Pierrehumbert does a guest turn at Dot.Earth. Judging from the picture this is from his Chicago days.  Given that he is now at Oxford, perhaps a bit more in the Gloucester Fisherman line of apparel might be more appropriate.  Eli had pretty much given up on Dot Earth because Revkin is a balancer of the first water.  Interestingly the tide does appear to have changed and wmar and Adrian O are being challenged.

In talking about the ambition and results of LIGO  he notes that

This is just one of the most dramatic examples of what we are capable of, given the chance to be our best selves. In science, I’d rate the revolution in detecting and characterizing exoplanets way up there as well. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish as a species.
But, you knew there would be a but
But we have to make it through the next two hundred years first, and this will be a crucial time for humanity. This is where Destiny Studies and our paper on the Anthropocene come together. The question of why we should care about the way we set the climate of the Anthropocene is far better answered in terms of our vision for the destiny of our species than it is in terms of the broken calculus of economics and discounting.
and Ray points to an important responsibility that Earthlings have
For all we know, we may be the only sentience in the Galaxy, maybe even in the Universe. We may be the only ones able to bear witness to the beauty of our Universe, and it may be our destiny to explore the miracle of sentience down through billions of years of the future, whatever we may have turned into by that time. Even if we are not alone, it is virtually certain that every sentient species will bring its own unique and irreplaceable perspectives to creativity and the understanding of the Universe around us.
This is a powerful moral argument.


8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Er ... no. We might be the only conscious lifeforms (I don't restrict that definition to humans) in the galaxy RIGHT NOW in a coming of technological age type of existence, but we know 1) the universe self organizes, 2) the universe self assembles and 3) the universe self reproduces. What more do you need to know? And then there is beyond our local light cone and then there is ... well, let's just say lots of universes in lots of dimensions and leave it at that.

There are cracks beginning to show in the facade.

EliRabett said...

Bearing witness is a moral imperitive

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Well unfortunately I don't see a lot of morals in most of the villagers and the peasants. Certainly the bankers and the politicians lack them. And some of the animals want to eat me. I can't even repeat some of the things the birds say about me. So I am not optimistic based on what I know that happened to get us where we are today.

So I suggest the only moral imperative for a species in our situation is to get the hell out while the getting out is still possible. The Earth can take care of itself. We can always stop back in once and a while and probe the orifices of some of the worst case individuals. Maybe grab a quick skin sample to gauge the level of planetary toxins.

Tom said...

We have to get through the next 200 years. Is that starting in 2016? I'd appreciate a starting point for the discussion, because similar statements, albeit with different lengths, are common.

If we get through the next 200 years are we home free? Will everybody sit under a tree and thankfully watch the butterflies and rabbits wander around them? Or will Mr. Pierrehumbert's granddaughter be warning us of some new challenge that we have to get through in two centuries?

As I am a confirmed Cornucopian it should be apparent that I see no major obstacle to humans thriving over the next two centuries. I've made as good an argument as I can that human contributions to climate change do not constitute an existential threat, with the support of such organizations as the IPCC and their reports as a foundation.

I also do not 'view with alarm' the other potential threats brought forward--overpopulation, nuclear war, new dread diseases.

Things have been getting better on this planet for the past two centuries. I am confident that this will continue.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Sure it will Tom. Contrary to the observations of the entire scientific environmental biology community. Cuz you sez so. On the intertubz. Prepare for greatness, Tom, a blog awaits you.

David B. Benson said...

Eugene Koonin has a powerful argument as to why the only life in the universe is here on Terra: "The Logic of Chance".

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Eugene Koonin has apparently elevated scientific denial to level of insanity matched only by all of the religions of the planet Earth.

Dude, even geology and geophysics self organizes and self assembles.

Bryson said...

Cornucopialism is an interesting point of view, strongly correlated with being a privileged, white male-- a combination of 'I personally feel just fine about how things are' and the old joke about the guy falling off the top of the Empire State Building who shouts 'OK so far' when asked how he feels as he passes the tenth floor. The fact that we've successfully exploited low-hanging fruit (esp energy sources) to build a spectacular civilization (one in which they occupy a privileged place) does not guarantee that similar low-hanging fruit will emerge to solve all the problems we encounter along the way, allowing the economy to expand geometrically without limit. Geometrical growth is typical of organisms in a 'sweet spot'-- but nothing about the natural world guarantees sweet spots forevermore.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Certainly with advanced quantum physics, cheap digital supercomputers, flat panel displays, reusable rocketry and the understanding and implementation of closed ecological life support systems we can get past the carbon problem. Unfortunately that is not the only problem.

The problem as I see it, besides the primary problem of religions, is the relatively slowness of plant biology on a desertifying glaciated planet with a very active hydrogeological cycle, utterly dependent upon mass carbon based agriculture to feed an overpopulated dumbed down citizenry who don't have a freaking clue what is going on here.

Aunt Sally said...

You know, I spent a bit of time recently formulating a thought...

The joy that humans experience
Isn't worth the misery that humanity has wrought.

I'd be interested in thoughts.

Florifulgurator said...

We are not meaningless because of the universe. The universe has meaning because of us.

Mal Adapted said...

Ima support the thrust (heh) of LSoRC's comments here (but not his posture of contemptuous arrogance, even if it's appropriate in Tom's case). The mediocrity principle neatly punctures our inflated opinions of ourselves, our species, and our "destiny". If not, it should.

Bernard J. said...

"So I suggest the only moral imperative for a species in our situation is to get the hell out while the getting out is still possible."

To where? Using what technology consistent with the laws of physics? With what energy budget, and what non-energy-resource budget? And with what ecosystem structures? And where will these ecosystem structures be sourced if they are not protected on Earth?

ANd how is all of this easier than looking after the planet?

"Things have been getting better on this planet for the past two centuries."

By what objective metrics?

Cornucopians have to suspend the parsimony and disbelief (and indeed the laws of physics) in order to inhabit their Tom Swift universes. And the irony is that many of them claim to be climate change "sceptics"...

Tom said...

Y'all just keep huddling around your campfires dreading the future.

Brandon R. Gates said...


So I suggest the only moral imperative for a species in our situation is to get the hell out while the getting out is still possible.

Yes, because terraforming Mars or Venus and transporting 7.125 billion humans there is so much more technologically viable and economically feasible than replacing fossil fuels with nuclear fission, geothermal, wind, solar and biofuels.

Bernard J. beat me to it, but it bears repeating.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

When seven billion people die of natural causes, it's not genocide.

Are your critical thinking skills really that deficient?

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

To Earth you idiot. In a box. Or a sphere or a cylinder will work as well. I guess you're just too lazy and stupid to figure out how.

There is NOTHING in the laws of physics that prevent you from living in the universe. The laws of physics are very generous in that respect.

But I guess you'll just be happy living with seven billion armed religious nuts right down to the bitter end. I'll be sure to email.

Bernard J. said...

Y'all just keep huddling around your campfires dreading the future.

Two logical fallacies in one sentence. Misrepresentation and straw man.

You never change do you Tom Fuller?

"There is NOTHING in the laws of physics that prevent you from living in the universe. The laws of physics are very generous in that respect."

Fine. Then you'll be able to supply the energy budget, and the abiotic materials and biodiversity budgets for achieving it.

Sometimes the only difference between science fiction and science fact is the scalability of a process and of the magnitudes of its component parts. It's a fairly mundane aspect of systems thermodynamics. And when scaling limitations are contravened, it's still a breaking the laws of physics, even if the process is in theory possible, should there be no limitations on its component parts.

"But I guess you'll just be happy living with seven billion armed religious nuts right down to the bitter end."

Again, this is a logical fallacy, somehwat similar to Fuller's - false attribution and straw man.

The salient issue here is how to work with what's known to be possible, and how to determine what may be possible, rather than relying on what's not demonstrated to be possible.

This is why I want to see the location details, the energy and materials budgets, and the techology and ecology protocols for an extraterrestrial transition. And I hate to be pendantic, but referencing one of my favourite scifi books doesn't count.

David B. Benson said...

Read the book first. Then criticize. As it is, you appear the fool.

BBD said...

Poor Tom sez:

As I am a confirmed Cornucopian it should be apparent that I see no major obstacle to humans thriving over the next two centuries.

Confirming that he is sunk so deep in denial as to be effectively beyond the reach of reason.

Susan Anderson said...

Aunt Sally, thank you. That's neatly said and quite true. I don't have a solution, except to remind myself that apathy and despair are forms of laziness and try to keep on truckin' Meanwhile, here we all are, and what are we going to do about it? Not much choice, is there. I'm not one joining the parade of hero worship appointing Bernie to solve all our problems for us, though he is neatly frank about our problems. Labels are easy; solutions are work.

The more verbose forms of argument prompt me to remember that if I click on "said" it allows me to look at the rest.

Eli, not sure why you're wasting time over in the comments section at DotEarth but it was nice to see you there and prompted this visit. It's sadly amazing to see the effort that goes into preventing the population from noticing that we all are in real trouble and delay is dangerous.

luminous beauty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aunt Sally said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
EliRabett said...

Apologies, one of the blog administrators has fat fingers and a small cell phone screen that caused the deletion of a couple of words of wisdom

cRR Kampen said...

Was looking for 'Rabbet finger'... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbet

cRR Kampen said...

'Cornucopian' - disciple of the Ideology of Plunder.

Florifulgurator said...

Sadly amazing, as Susan said, the efforts of obscurantists. But they serve what a helluva lot folks want to hear. Slowly but surely methinks it's less the desire to evade unconvenient facts. It's the ethical dimension people want to evade. That's why the COSMIC NIHILISM exhibited by the first commenter gets more fashionable the more difficult it gets to evade the facts.

Aunt Sally said...

Right, let's try this again, shall we? : )

Agreed, Susan A. ... the sentiment I articulated isn't a position of nihilism... more a statement of worth. On balance, I'm coming to conclude life and sentience in this world would be better off without humans.

But since we are here, we must "keep on truckin" as you perfecly put it. We must seek to amplify human virtue to its fullest extent, to amplify human joy, and to diminish the misery caused by humanity to all creatures ― human and nonhuman (and bunnies) alike. I grant no license for despair to those of us with breath remaining.

Florifulgurator said...

H.P.Lovecraft will become the Ayn Rand for the puerile philosopher of our era:

Today we know that the cosmos is simply a flux of purposeless rearrangement amidst which man is a wholly negligible incident or accident. There is no reason why it should be otherwise, or why we should wish it otherwise. All the florid romancing about man's "dignity", "immortality", &c. &c. is simply egotistical delusions plus primitive ignorance. So, too, are the infantile concepts of "sin" or cosmic "right" & "wrong". Actually, organic life on our planet is simply a momentary spark of no importance or meaning whatsoever. -- H.P.Lovecraft, Letter to Natalie H. Wooley (2 May 1936)

EliRabett said...

Crap you can read on arXiv

cRR Kampen said...

Lovecraft is right. Though that quote literally means nothing,
But beware - if gravity is what sticks us to earth it just means: grow wings or build them. It does not mean: just give up and let it keep sticking us to earth.

The issue of Lovecraft is about responsibility. Not something to be put off on the shoulders of some ghost called God, but ours, totally, dismally totally. Ain't it a burden, this absolute freedom that is our hated existence?

Howard said...

The notion of CAGW is a ploy by deniers to discredit the moral superiority of the consensus. When did the Run become a spokeshole for WUWT?

cRR Kampen said...

CAGW is a perfect acronym. Annexed years ago from the climate revisionists.

snarkrates said...

Aunt Sally: "The joy that humans experience
Isn't worth the misery that humanity has wrought."

I don't think it's that simple. To paraphrase the old lawyer joke:
"It's the 99% of humans that give the other 1% a bad name." But there is still that 1%. Saw a video one time about a whale caught in a drag line and on the verge of dying of exhaustion. Now granted, it was a human that manufactured that dragline, and humans who deployed it and lost it. But it was also humans (divers) who cared enough to work for over 4 hours to free the whale, even endangering their own lives in the process. No other species would have done something like that.

Some of us give meaning to our lives by struggling to be decent. It is because of them that folks like Tom Fuller get to be cornucopians.

Susan Anderson said...

Aunt Sally, I am a big fan of neat aphorisms such as the one you created.

No criticism was meant, and I'll hope you didn't take it that way. Thanks!

(for anyone who collects insults, there's a lovely attack from Adrian O over there. Best ignored, but still ... wavers between "slime" and Hitler. Oddly, he's a math professor at Penn State (operator algebras ...), but in his opinion Mann and Alley don't know nuffin'.

Aunt Sally said...

Snarkrates... I certainly do not deny that humans do exhibit great empathy, kindness and moral achievement ― in other words, that there is good to be had. My sentiment is simply that, individual and even collective goodness notwithstanding, the misery that humanity as a whole rains down on living creatures of all stripes, ourselves included, is so great as to render (by a large margin, in my estimation) the good to be had by some... not worth the cost to the others. Mathematically speaking, the dominant term that has emerged in the human equation... is negative.

Objective quantification here is elusive, but it is a sentiment I think I've come to believe. And of course the sentiment is moot on a practical level ― there is no button to push that eradicates humanity; even if there were I certainly wouldn't feel justified in pushing it. That said, it does appear we may be pushing this button collectively. I am greatly grieved by the additional misery (again to the full spectrum of creatures) that will result. If we're speaking philosophically, there is a rather prominent silver lining, in my opinion, to the diminishment of humanity's hegemony.

Aunt Sally said...

Susan... no offense taken at all. Whatever criticism was perceived, was perceived constructive. Indeed, I asked... : )

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I don't have to read the book, David, I'm an astrobiologist. Your claim is nonsense.

I'm also a spectroscopist, and so I know the universe operates on the same laws of physics as far as I can see, and that's a very long ways. An acheabacteria knows more about molecular biology than Dr. What's His Name will ever know. You must be very easily persuaded if you believe that crap. Chance is a real phenomenon in the universe, but a whole lotta shit went down before gravity collected the dust into cute little spheres and started building higher nuclei, which then collected into cute little spheres of molecules so that molecular biology could proceed. The humans are the only intelligent species on the planet shit gets old pretty fast too.

What's his name should get a second opinion. From an astrobiologist. Who can add.

Brandon R. Gates said...

Aunt Sally,

"The joy that humans experience
Isn't worth the misery that humanity has wrought."

Mathematically speaking, the dominant term that has emerged in the human equation... is negative.

I have had thoughts similar to your original statement, just not so succinctly stated. Thank you for that contribution. Whenever I have attempted to quantify the unquantifiable, it's usually been in terms of how we hurt others of our same species. By that metric alone, it's easy to see that the powerful obtain their joy at the expense of the weak. If not directly, then by proxy, as those of us who live in more prosperous nations might cringe at the horrors done in our name in the pursuit of prosperity if we only knew their full extent.

I have also previously considered that such calculations are only possible because I have invented for myself a moral construct by which to evaluate such things. Without that, there would be no balance. Without sentient self-awareness (another self-defined construct) it wouldn't even occur to me to do the math. Were it not for humankind, how would the next most dominant species rank on the scale of net joy? Casting my eyes around the animal kingdom, not so well either I think. But would members of that species and/or any other actually care?

I used to think not. Then over three years ago, a dog came to live with me. I've never not liked dogs, and few have ever not liked me. But I've never really had a relationship with a dog prior to this one. She has a personality. Moods. She knows when I'm not paying attention to her and thus can sneak off to raid the kitchen wastebin when she knows I forgot to lock it -- or even nick a scrap of food off my dinner plate, unattended even though it lays cooling within reach of my arm. Some science would suggest that her ability to be adorable even as she's breaking the rules is her (largely human-guided) evolutionary advantage over her wolf ancestors for better dealings with the apex predator of this rock.

We don't have a dog. She has people.

Still, I like eating dead cow. More than is probably good for me, the environment, malnourished fellow humans in less fortunate circumstances than mine, and especially the ex-cow herself. I'm not sure that living with one for the better part of four years would help. It vexes me when I ponder it.

Then I get hungry for a thick juicy steak buried under sauteed onions and mushrooms. Damm you Gaia for this conflict-driven programming of yours. If I am Her terrible curse, She surely deserves it.

David B. Benson said...

Sorry but you don't even have a name. Koonin has a reputation.

As for his book, I question whether you are capable of understanding it.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I coined the term autobiogenesis so I don't need your help on modern theories of biogenesis. Thanks anyways. Good luck with your theory that humans are the only intelligent species in the ENTIRE FREAKING UNIVERSE when they aren't even the only intelligent species on the planet. Arrogance knows no bounds I guess. You are so special.

snarkrates said...

Aunt Sally,
I suppose every thinking person has entertained concerns such as you. We have whole religions predicated on them. The first Jain tirthankara set a goal to starve himself to death to free himself from the web of suffering inherent in existence. He finally succeeded. Even Buddhism is similar if less extreme bases. I often wonder what the first tirthankara would have thought if we'd told him that by dying he was destroying a whole biosphere of bacteria, etc.

The fact of the matter, though, is that we do exist, and the choice before us for the present is not "to be or not to be" but rather to struggle to make things better or allow them to get worse.

cRR Kampen said...

"... they aren't even the only intelligent species on the planet." - and, so, well, is 8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df proof of this??

Aunt Sally said...

The fact of the matter, though, is that we do exist, and the choice before us for the present is not "to be or not to be" but rather to struggle to make things better or allow them to get worse...

Unquestionably so. My comment is simply an assessment of our species' net value to the universe, not a call for human extermination. And I certainly lay no claim to original thinking, here. (I've always puzzled over the tirthinkara anecdote, by the way; he ends his own suffering, yes ― but does nothing for the suffering of others. Also paradoxically, he chooses a rather suffering-intense manner to do himself in. The whole thing is devoid of logic, top to bottom.)

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I can't help you if you can't recognize that the phrase 'The Logic of Chance' is straight out of the intelligent design debating handbook.

I also can't help you if you think some book trumps the peer reviewed and published literature. Even the grey literature is better than that.

The premise is laughable. In a couple of words - yellow stars.

Go talk to some non-NASA astrobiologists.

Florifulgurator said...

"autobiogenesis" - quite a word... Why is nobody using it (except a German philosopher in the 1920ies)? I understand autopoiesis. But how can something create itself while not yet existing?

Anyhow, for all practical purpose (incl. moral philosophy) the relevant universe consists of Sun, Moon and Earth. The rest is shiny frippery. (The relevance to discovery and validation of gravitational theory is an exception that proves the rule.) I grant you our Milky Way, but anything beyond is just ridiculously irrelevant for thinking about Life. Get the feet back on the Ground first, before thinking about leaving it behind, dear Homo Sapiens...

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

First of all, I find it amusing that the very first argument Mr. Benson presents for his persuasive argument that humans are special is an argument from authority. Now that's out of the way, I too decided to search 'autobiogenesis', as did about a dozen other people reading this blog. This term has been used before, present as a 'persuasive argument' that the abiogenetic origin of life is utterly impossible by 'random chance' or the 'logic of chance'. These are woefully obsolete arguments now only invoked by supporters of intelligent design and that is not the meaning I have assigned to the now resurrected scientific term. I just tossed it out there in reference to a scientific result in the blog post where I first used it. The more relevant blog post is -


where you can find a brief discussion of that result and a link to the published literature. That prompted me to do a very deep search and research of all of the published literature in the subject, an analysis of the various differing contrasting and complementary theories and hypotheses, etc. However even those results are not the basis of my use of the term under its now new definition. The use of the term 'autobiogenesis' refers to the fact that molecular biochemistry is utterly dependent upon the nuclear structures of the entire spectrum of radioactive and stable nuclides and their electronic structures at the valence electron level, and thus necessarily involves quantum mechanics for a proper description, and these structures were formed inside stars and their explosions. And going even further the internal constituents of atomic nuclei and fundamental particles came out of events that occurred very early in the evolution of the universe. The key term here is 'evolution' used far more broadly than merely biochemical and genetic evolution, something that Mr. Benson and others do not seem to understand.

So invoking the logic of random chance does not seem appropriate when discussing fundamental forces and particles and their mathematical descriptions since on the scale of biological evolution these forces and particles change very little. Particles and structures are built up and torn down, created and destroyed, turned to energy and back again all the time, but the fundamental forces remain totally unchanged. And thus we are left with a universe that looks remarkably consistent as far as we can see. These are concepts that should be self evident for any observant critical thinker, and thus I don't talk about these things or write about them much. So quite obviously any claim that life on this planet or that humanity is special are quite obviously nonsense. However, the planet Earth is pretty special.

So the fundamental contradiction that the universe presents to use as critical thinking beings with moderately advanced neural networks is that the everything in the universe is the same, but different. The wonderful thing about our planet is that it is remarkably small as far as terrestrial planets go. Large enough that a simple fall from 4 meters can kill you, or even a slip in the bathtub, but small enough where we can walk upright in a bipedal fashion and reach orbit with a single stage using hydrogen, methane or longer chain hydrocarbons.

Obviously Earth and humanity and our cohabitating species are unique. But looking at the spectra of stars guarantees that we are not alone. There may be something that can lay claim to be the first, but it isn't us. And when humans are gone, if we don't take the rest of our brothers and sisters and scorch the surface, somebody or something else will step in and take our place. And clearly climate is a major driver of biological evolution and its pace. So we either evolve, get smarter, figures some things out fast, or we perish here.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

As an addendum, I also find it interesting and remarkable that the reduction of carbon dioxide is postulated as the initial bioenergetic and biochemical pathway to life, since we now need to reduce carbon dioxide on a global scale to get through this minor planetary and biological crises and move on to the next big crisis of life.

Mal Adapted said...

Quoth Howard: "The notion of CAGW is a ploy by deniers to discredit the moral superiority of the consensus."

Oh, come now Howard, that's simplistic. AGW-deniers prepend a 'C' (which as we all know stands for 'catastrophic) to 'AGW' to belittle those of us who acknowledge that AGW poses significant risks to life, limb and/or property for some people if not for ourselves. It's intended, even by AGW-deniers who purchase health- or life-insurance policies as a matter of course, to mock anyone who takes seriously the risks of AGW to themselves as overly-anxious "chicken littles". And although one may recognize actuarial risks without attaching moral meaning to them, 'CAGW' is also intended to mock those who take note of AGW's impacts on other people as "bleeding hearts".

People who accept that AGW is happening, but don't expect themselves or anyone they care about to be much affected, are called lukewarmers. Regional or local AGW impacts on other people don't count as catastrophic to a lukewarmer, regardless of how much grief and/or expense they cause to the people who are affected. Whether or not lukewarmers are eventually shown to be overly-optimistic about their own prospects, they must be called CAGW-deniers.

BBD said...

God save us from human exceptionalism.

The moral issue isn't how many intelligent species may come and go in the Universe, it is how they conduct themselves while on stage.

The eternal Footman might boo and hiss at some performances.

David B. Benson said...

8c completely misunderstands. Through ignorance. It appears he cannot be bothered to find out who Eugene Koonin is much less tackle such a weighty tome.

Just uses snark.

Reads like a troll to me.

David B. Benson said...

Once again, Eugene Koonin's argument claims that there is no life, of any form, other than on Terra. I said nothing about intelligent life and so far 8c's comments suggest he isn't in that group.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I don't know or care who Mr. Koonin is, because, well, I don't subscribe to the notion that credentials mean anything in science. I'm looking at the statement of Mr. Koonin, second hand through a Mr. Benson, where Mr. Benson is persuaded by Mr. Koonin that that the now far more restrictive statement is 'credible' that there is NO OTHER life in the universe besides here on planet Earth. That is simply not a credible statement given what we are starting to know about stochasic mechanics, molecular machines, etc., and is direct conflict with what we now know about terrestrial planet formation and geophysics, alkaline smokers, metallic autocatalysis, polymerization theories etc., and completely ignores what we know about cosmology and the now emerging theories of quantum cosmology. If you do a survey of non-NASA astrobiologists alone, you would find that Mr. Koonin is in an extreme minority of 'one'. A claim like yours is simply not credible, and any credibility you had on this subject was thrown out the window when you invoked argument from authority. If you want to start the discussion over I would be more than happy to participate. All I can think is that he wrote a book because a claim like that is certainly not publishable in the peer reviewed literature. Maybe in the Journal of Jesus Lives! I'm sure his claim might be well received at JSC though.

Argue the hypothesis with the evidence, David. The universe is very generous in that respect. I'm a vertebrate, David. I'm intelligent enough to find and prepare my next meal and that's good enough for me. Other's here are not as fortunate as I.

I'm nobody, and nobody cares. Please vote for me. I care. Have fun at church tomorrow.

Mal Adapted said...

LSoRC: "I'm intelligent enough to find and prepare my next meal and that's good enough for me. Other's here are not as fortunate as I."

"The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe" - who said that, LSoRC? Hint: it was the same guy who said "It's not getting any smarter out there. You have to come to terms with stupidity, and make it work for you." He didn't have any scientific credentials either.

BBD said...

We can remain agnostic about any other life in the universe without getting off the moral hook about what we are doing now on the pale blue dot.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Agnosticism is intellectual laziness. It's called apathy.

I glanced at Koonin's open review paper. He's totally in over his head. It's one thing to invoke a quark gluon plasma, it's yet another thing to invoke the multiverse. I reiterate, molecular biochemistry is more or less fixed by the electronic structure of radioactive nuclei which come out of a wide variety of stars, and are more or less identical once they decay to stable atomic nuclei. How is that for randomness. The reviewer was correct to label most of his arguments metaphysical.

BBD said...


Agnosticism is intellectual laziness. It's called apathy.

Agnosticism is the logical response to insufficient evidence.

What alternative would you suggest?

David B. Benson said...

As I understand it, Koonin's argument is the extreme improbability of a certain part of the metabolism of all living organisms. That is, of forming in any abiogenisis setting.

The argument is in the appendix of his book. It depends solely upon organic chemistry.

Given the extreme probability and the fact that abiogenisis has occurred, Koonin uses a multiverse to have enough stuff. He could equally well have posited an infinite universe, in which case abiogenisis happens an infinite number of times. But under the reasonable cosmological assumption of a finite universe, abiogenisis is supremely unlikely.

To counter this line of reasoning requires demonstrating how this essential part of metabolism could have arisen other than all at once.

In the majority of his long and difficult book,Koonin shows that he has thoroughly mastered molecular biology. He can't find a way to have a step wise abiogenisis. So according to Koonin it happened by a supremely improbable event.

I find this a solid argument. Those claiming multiple occurances of abiogenisis have bopus.

David B. Benson said...

Metaphysics --- The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things,including abstract concepts such as ... time and space.

Yes,the study of abiogenisis includes aspects of metaphysics.

David B. Benson said...

First of several more comments defending Eugene Koonin's argument about the supreme unlikelyhood of abiogenisis.

Einstein's general relativity (GR) is incomplete in that there is no account of torsion. Stretch out a string with both hands and twist oppositely with your hands; that's torsion. Engineers don't leave out that term.

It took until 1923 for Elie Cartan to introduce it to GR. The result is usually called Einstein-Cartan theory. Einstein appreciated this but as the universe is nearly a vacuum, the torsion component made no difference; a good engineering approximation.

Except in so-called black holes.

David B. Benson said...

And the question of the beginning of the universe.

In both situations infinities arise in GR. But in Einstein-Cartan theory the infinities can be eliminated by coupling the torsion component to the spin 1/2 quantum field. Most particles are spin 1/2 and the torsion effect at ultra-high density leads to a Big Bounce.

So the Big Crunch of black holes causes a Big Bounce to a Big Bang. There is no need for an inflation quantum field to do the Big Banging.

I do not know who was the first to notice all this. However, N. Poplawski @ U. New Haven has a series of papers exploring this.

To be clear, this is metaphysics, not physics, as there are no observations which are applicable to distinguish this from other cosmologies. Sir Karl likely would not have been pleased.

Brandon R. Gates said...


What alternative would you suggest?

Malleable belief based on reasonable supposition pending further information. Might be even more difficult than wilful suspension of belief.

David B. Benson,

Play PowerBall 100 billion times. Odds are you'll hit the jackpot 340 times. Square that, and you'll win just over 117 thousand times.

Play PowerBall 500 billion times. Odds are you'll hit the jackpot 1,700 times. Square that, and you'll win just under 3 million times.

Or to put it another way, I'd be very surprised if the chance of life in any given solar system is anywhere near as small as 1:100 billion^2.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Insufficient evidence is still evidence. There is NEVER 'no evidence', the universe is very clear on that Nothing is impossible, apparently.

So as an alternative I would suggest you consider the available evidence. And quite honestly there is a lot of it, certainly enough to justify an informed opinion.

As for David's ramblings, I would suggest studying quantum critical points in condensed matter systems. And the BCS-BEC transition is a good place to start before you dive straight on into the new topological physics, Kitaev, Chern-Simons, etc. And then of course there is stochastic mechanics, which has come a long way in the 20 years or so of its existence. Evolution leaves a trail of evidence all the way down through time, deep time, not just biological time, and the evidence right now stops at the CMB and the event horizon. And then of course there is mathematics. Big numbers neither scare me nor impress me, and they often work for you and not against you.

More is different, Mr. Benson. And there is plenty of room at the bottom. Feel free to use the term 'autobiogenesis' as I have defined it as you enter into the big debate on quantum cosmology and gravity, string theory verses the standard model and the origin of life and the universe in the cosmos. And please be prepared to back up your arguments with mathematics, physics and cites. Again I reiterate, quantum mechanics is part of the correct approach to autobiogenesis, not just physical chemistry, because electrons respond to the ions and other electrons and composite quasiparticles both bosonic and fermionic also respond to geometry, topology and gravity.

Now tell me about dark matter. It seems to be entirely missing.

BBD said...


Insufficient evidence is still evidence.

It is still insufficient evidence. Insufficient evidence to make strong claims. Either we are agnostic or we are dogmatic without adequate supporting evidence.

This irrelevance has gone on unchecked for too long.

Why are you forcing this discussion away from the issue of morality? It isn't - and doesn't need to be - about the probability of life evolving more than once.

The issue is the moral dimension of knowingly drifting towards vast and dangerous environmental change while doing nothing of consequence to avert it. We judge ourselves (morality is a human construct) and it is not possible to acquit in this case.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Well if you want to be a scientist, then confessing agnosticism is not the way to go about it and I'm pretty sure it's not a widely valued scientific method among confessed practitioners of science and its methods, which are evolving all the time, lucky for you, the observer of practitioners of scientific methods. So you go ahead and create evidence, and call it the intelligent design of experiments. There will be entropy created as well, that's how science works.

So what was your specific question again? You know, the one where we already know the answer is 42. The one in which you confess agnosticism.

BBD said...


So what was your specific question again?

Why are you forcing this discussion away from the issue of morality and into irrelevance about the currently unresolvable question of whether life is an emergent property of matter.

* * *

Well if you want to be a scientist, then confessing agnosticism is not the way to go about it

Scientists do not make strong claims on the basis of inadequate data. When it comes to the irrelevance you have introduced to this thread, there is insufficient evidence to make a strong claim, so the logical and only defensible position one can adopt is to be agnostic. Remember that your belligerence is backed up by nothing more substantial than your opinion.

Now, why are you so keen to divert this conversation away from the issue of the morality of inflicting vast environmental damage on the planet?

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Are you saying the speculation and wild hypotheses are not viable scientific methods because I would have to disagree. For instance, Mr. Koonin's claim is pretty 'out there', so I just through out the diametrically opposite idea of autobiogenesis.

We are at a point in the evolution of our brains that we can explain anything we want with advanced mathematics, whether it has any experimental connection with reality or not. And most of the time these things end up having real physical implementations.

So physics and mathematics aren't even all that special. Will alien math be all that different? Somehow, I doubt it. I doubt everything. But not without at least some evidence. So this is tied right in with the morality problem as far as I am concerned, and Rabbit Run isn't all that well known for an on topic comments section. The moderation here is relatively liberal. Blogspot software you know.

What the small fraction of humans have with their large critically thinking brains have is a moral responsibility for the living, include and especially non-humans, since they are the most at risk. Humans, not so much. Easily reproduced by unkilled labor who enjoy their work. And easy to befuddle with doctrine and dogma at an early age. A generation of that, and you have both America and North Korea.

Good luck. It's my moral responsibility to get you idiots off of this planet. And that does require having a fairly good idea of how the universe came into being and how it operates, especially in normal science situations where there are large gaps in knowledge because of new experimental results. So I view living in space to be a mere extension of the evolution of a cell, where human brains represent the nucleus. And the precipitating crisis of that will inevitably be the carbon crisis.

Evolution has consequences.

BBD said...


Let me try and clarify where we are differing:

Are you saying the speculation and wild hypotheses are not viable scientific methods

No, I'm saying that scientists do not make strong claims based on inadequate evidence.

I doubt everything. But not without at least some evidence. So this is tied right in with the morality problem as far as I am concerned

I don't follow what you are saying. Apart from the confusion about what I said about science and evidence, I'm not sure what the 'this' actually refers to. The discussion about the improbability of autobiogenesis - though fascinating - is irrelevant to the discussion of the moral dimension of AGW.

What the small fraction of humans have with their large critically thinking brains have is a moral responsibility for the living, include and especially non-humans, since they are the most at risk. Humans, not so much.

While I agree with the first sentiment, the second is questionable. If our (in)actions bequeath immense suffering and mortality on future generations, we are morally culpable because we knew this could happen.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Well my observations differ from yours. Bicep2, etc. The Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis for instance, dramatically wrong but dramatically advancing the study and understanding of nanodiamonds, and just take a look at any condensed matter physics arguments. That puts 'Not Even Wrong' in perspective, they can't agree on anything. And I don't put a lot of weight on your claim because you are not the appointed spokesperson for scientists and there are no freaking rules in science.

You one rigid authoritarian in your thinking. And why should anyone care about future generations. It's the existing life that is at great risk here because financial collapse will mean World War Three and the Zombie Apocalypse. That's what I am trying to prevent by acting morally responsible by throwing this stuff into people's faces who CLAIM they are scientists, independent of credentials or publications. Like you, for instance. This post talks about the origin of life, and so now I have to incorporate all that into my metaphysical cosmic hypothesis that QCD axions couple to the Higgs will allow us to crank on gravitons, and that all can be simulated in a condensed matter physics experiment in a box on a tabletop now.

And why do I need to do that? Because I need to put a sphere in an upper stage of a reusable launch vehicle and simulate the biosphere inside of it. All in a days work. There are many other tangents to this that need to be resolved as well, if you are going to salvage anything of your morality. I just knock them off one by one as I can.

BBD said...


Well my observations differ from yours.

I understand that being wrong is usually the path to improved scientific understanding. If you revisit what I wrote, you will see that I'm not arguing against this point. I'm simply saying that there is a difference between a hypothesis based on limited data and an assertion based on limited data. Scientists are keenly aware of this.

You one rigid authoritarian in your thinking.

Given the context, this is amusing.

And why should anyone care about future generations.

This is distressing and good reason to why we should be discussing the self-evident moral dimension to AGW.

[Those] who CLAIM they are scientists, independent of credentials or publications. Like you, for instance.

This is a false claim. Please, quote me claiming to be a scientist anywhere, ever.

Because I need to put a sphere in an upper stage of a reusable launch vehicle and simulate the biosphere inside of it.

You should read Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora for a little light relief and food for thought.

Florifulgurator said...

8c, you seem to think Life and biospheres are sufficiently understood by science to warrant some big tech project without regard to the backup system Earth. You seem to even think the grand plan can be reduced to quantum theory. That's not what I heard of the state of current science.

E.g. can you predict the folding of proteins from first principles? Is there a consistent QFT that would satisfy theoretical mathematicians? And thats just examples for very basic open problems. Has anybody meanwhile managed to simulate one complete artificial life form in silico? Is it even possible to abstract the logical form of an organism from its biological wetware? What makes the difference between machine and organism? ... ...

Your carelessness and reductionist hybris is dangerous. Methinks this sort of careless thinking is at the core of much non-caring attitude towards our biosphere. In that sense you indirectly contributed on topic.

David B. Benson said...

Yesterday I introduced the Big Bounce via coupling the spin 1/2 quantum field to the torsion component of the Einstein-Cartan theory. This neatly explains the origin of the universe as the result of a Big Bounce. Indeed, it is simplest to assume no origin; the mass-energy has been there forever.

Further, each black hole is the Big Crunch end of another Big Bounce. This suggests a branching process as each Big Bang gives rise to more black holes,eventually.

So there are an infinitude of effectively isolated universes. While by Koonin's argument only an exceedingly small proportion contain a planet with life, there are still an infinitude of such.

I find this more coherent than the more usual notion of the multiverse in that fewer assumptions are required. But it saves Koonin's argument in the same way; lots of universes.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I know enough about biospheres to know that Biosphere 2 was a fake from one end to the other, and that clandestine operators are light years and decades ahead of NASA on the subject. And stochastic mechanics, quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics aren't exactly reductionist. The real front line action in my view is with kicked quantum rotors. At least that's a start. And proteins don't care too much for quantum field theory and what that might say about nature and reality. Those are human mathematical constructs if you haven't noticed. The point is ... oh forget it. This is like talking to a wall.

When I speak about autobiogenesis I generally refer to this:


Not only are you dealing with the electronic structure associated with that, there are innumerable much weaker composite forces other than Coulomb repulsion. Big integers can be built out of small integers as well. Quantum field theory does not quite provide us with the richness of design options that mathematics does. So in my view to claim that molecular biochemistry is a science of random chance is just ludicrous on the face of it. Just like to claim that quantum mechanics is reductionist and deterministic is utter bunk.

But just like general relativity it works after a fashion, Not as clean as GR, but as Mr. Benson points out there are new torsion theories that appear at least somewhat promising for progress if they can make some kind of experimental connection to observation.

The bid deal right now is dark matter, and so until that gets sorted out there isn't going to be much progress unless higher collider energies and fluxes reveal something new. Just superfically looking at condensed matter physics experiments and theories it seems to me that string theory is indeed pinned to the Planck scale and what we have to play with now are axions, which may be remnants from inflation, however that played out. I want to excite a field of them in my tabletop simulator, because there is a gravitoelectromagnetic coupling to dark matter, presumably and quite possibly a coupling of gravitation to electromagnetism. One has to start somewhere.

Autobiogenesis is a done deal however. Take a poll. Who is building ever better radio telescopes to listen for aliens? What a waste, no? Kind of like blowing through a billion dollars building a LIGO unit.

Florifulgurator said...

8c, you haven't digested my question.

Quantum field theory does not quite provide us with the richness of design options that mathematics does. -- So why is there no mathematically rigoros QFT? (Physicist path integrals are nice enough, but the prehistory of calculus teaches us than without mathematical rigor we are in danger of producing bunk. But luckily we have experiments to check the physicists intuitive calculation. And yeah it's amazing. But I wont bet the Planet on Feynman.)

Refering to a nuclide chart does not explain Life and Earth. You seem to suffer from wishful thinking.

I don't say QM is reductionistic. I say you seem to be overdoing reductionism. (Like S.Weinberg. I prefer the emergentist view on natural laws following P.W.Anderson. (Hi there, Susan :-))) There is no world formula. The meta-chemistry of proteins does not follow from the Standard Model, it's just consistent with it.

(Apropos, BTW, Schrödinger's equation is indeed deterministic, predicting exactly how the randomness evolves.)

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The metachemistry of biomolecules and the geophysics of white alkaline smokers are going to be more or less exactly the same as ours, on a terrestrial planet of our rough size and composition, roughly in the habitable zone of a stable yellow star in the distant universe, precisely because of that nuclide table. They'll just end up with different blobs of protoplasm, but blobs of protoplasm is what you'll get, precisely because of that table. Can you really not think this through? Admittedly the criteria of success whatever that is, survival of the next cosmic, geochemical or climatic crisis for instance, is admittedly highly constraining, but the phase space is enough to accommodate that, and the principles here are claiming no other life at all in the universe. How constraining is that? It is in conflict with the laws of physics and our knowledge of physical phenomena even in it's primitive and incomplete state and so I can easily reject it as the alternatives are much more viable theories. The universe is remarkably self dual, and in the case under discussion you have lots of random chance locally with shocking universality globally. The universe is not a Fermi gas and it is not a frozen Bose-Einstein condensed Wigner Crystal. It is a universe filled with lots of dead sterile inert stuff and also lots of weird and unique but remarkably consistent biological life, and then whatever else that evolves into beyond us. Whatever we might choose to become. And that's certainly on topic. And that biological life and the inert dead stuff that surrounds it is all made of the stuff on that chart. And of course the standard model chart such that it is, in a moderately expanding, globally almost flat differentiable four manifold, or so we think at this time. I choose to simulate that in a box on a table, because it's possible, just as I choose to simulate the biosphere in a sphere. I choose that because that will give me personally the insight I need on how to proceed with the immediate problems of the human condition and the state of morality. The immediate thing of course is the global commercialization of atomic monolayer heterostructures, the elemenes and the atomenes and such. Maybe you have some other ideas on how to fix these problems, I'd love to hear about them, but if you think it's going to be some kind of global morality epiphany short of an asteroid impact or supervolcano, I'm sorry to disillusion you, Nobody cares about future generations yet unborn. So vote for me, I'm nobody. I care.

I'm more worried about the misery now. Only science can fix that. We're in too deep into the carbon, by way of population and education. Way in over our heads.

David B. Benson said...

Brandon R. Gates --- First of all, it is a pleasure to respond to a comment signed with an actual name.

As for the improbability of abiogenisis, I don't remember the figure that Eugene Koonin estimated. However, it is about 1:koonin where a koonin is defined, by me, just now, as 10 to the 5000th power. That is per visible universe per ten billion years.

David B. Benson said...

Dark matter has nothing directly to do with abiogenisis but Poplawski has an interesting speculation on its origin, again depending upon torsion.

Ken Fabian said...

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df - do you have a name? -

Are you sure this urge to leave the difficulties of living sustainably and safely within a finite world behind isn't a manifestation of a primitive mammalian flight mechanism rather than a moral or even a well thought out act of an educated, intelligent and reasoning human?

Leaving aside the obvious lack of means for you leaving planet Earth and survive it looks like a urge better suited to an earlier world with a small population and resources that have yet to be exploited - one where flight involves loading a few precious possessions into a sack and walking, with all the required knowledge and skills for survival within the living memories of a few individuals and with the unexplored world itself as ideal as anything we could imagine for such a tactic. It is - was - a world where the air is breathable, potable water falls from the sky and collects in low places, where suitable food grows itself as part of existing ecosystems and, with very simple means, can be encouraged to greater abundance.

I think we need far more sophisticated - and morally compelling - means of dealing with our existential problems than running away and those require organisations, systems, institutions working with a body of knowledge that allows foresight and planning and we already have them.

Viable space habitation requires a minimum threshold of technology that even our wealthy global economy has so far been incapable of kick-starting; truly self sufficient and independent human colonies are figments of fertile imaginations and probably won't get any opportunity to exist unless that global economy is sustainable well past some of the emerging crises like overpopulation, climate change and other manifestations of poor governance.

David B. Benson said...

The Wikipedia article on abiogenisis quotes Eugene Koonin.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

The latest minor regional crisis is water riots in India, so I wish you well in impressing the value of morality on a dumbed down peasantry lacking basic physical needs in remote parts of the world, and hoards of well armed overzealous religious nut cases. Good luck!

As far as Mr. Benson's fetish is concerned, I too am intrigued by the theories of 'one', but until they make some experimental connection to consensus science they remain speculation and mathturbation, which I admit are highly effective scientific methods. But a universe without dark matter will look vastly different than our life generating universe, where I suspect there would be no table of nuclides for vesicles to contain and react. Although I enjoy perusing string theories that contain dark sectors, I remain firmly fixed in reality and so I prefer to refer to 'weakly coupled' sectors, where there is an experimental connection to reality, that those consensus theories contain 'axions'. And axions and axion fields are now easily simulated in axion electrodynamics.

In the last several months there has appeared several viable wedges where physics and physicists can now begin to break physics enough to repair the obvious gaps and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out, but unless it's got an eperimental wedge it's difficult to assign many speculations and mathturbations credibility.

At least for me. As far as small biospheres are concerned, the general idea is to escape the obvious fascism and ride out the storm until they kill themselves off. There is simply no other way to do it because short of an asteroid impact or a supervolcano, the other crises are just too slow moving to hold your average peasant and bandito attention for any length of time. And when that happens, it's just too late to create any viable refugia that won't be pillaged and plundered by the desperate survivors. These are scenarios that have played out many times in the past in regional situations, and when you extrapolate that to global financial and agricultural scenarios, the end result of the simulations is not pretty. All I can say is that you are over optimistic about the future. My plan is to provide distractions that lead to refugia widely spaced and so remote and protected they can be destroyed, while providing the scientific and technological breakthroughs that will equip those who have moral responsibility to solve the crises.

Brandon R. Gates said...

David B. Benson,

That sounds improbably low to me. How improbable I cannot say. However, I am 100% confident that the odds of abiogeneisis on this planet is 1:1. That's all I need to make the moral decision to protect it.

angech said...

David B. Benson said... "As for the improbability of abiogenisis, I don't remember the figure that Eugene Koonin estimated. However, it is about 1:koonin where a koonin is defined, by me, just now, as 10 to the 5000th power. That is per visible universe per ten billion years.
Hm seems like a koonin = 1 god as it would take a miracle to create something like that with such low odds.
Which equates with 8c's theory that you are discussing an intelligent creation theory.
Which is where the morality must come in , I guess.
Now I don't mind that but in a universe which has 1 god who can create like anything he might have created more gods who might have created more gods and now the miracle of life is like really devalued. Koonins everywhere.
8c, the question of wether if we are in a computer simulation could we be able to detect it is a fake? You know like events which are out of kilter with the supposed physics the universe operates on?
The one that springs to mind is the two particles going in opposite directions exhibiting identical change of spin to a force on one.
The other is if you have ever experienced an unreal [impossible] event that corrects itself, or not.
Eli, morality is a double edged sword, We can kill ourselves worrying about our actions or others actions and still kill mosquitoes and eat meat without any concern if we put our blinkers on. It is not and has never been a moral world and each of us knows no matter how moral we try to behave we still fail many times every day in many, many ways.
The idea of trying to be good and do good as much as we can is still very good for us but not for other people necessarily.
I believe in laissez faire and you believe in saving the world.
Basically you are still a good person even if your actions harm my views.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

As a thinking vertebrate mammal I understand that views are free and food to keep your muscles and brain operating to have those views takes effort and area on a light irradiated biological surface. And effort takes an energy gradient. So I really don't consider a bunch of offshore wind generators interrupting your panorama to be harmful. But building and having those engines does interrupt the food chain for other species than mine. So since I consider modern humanity and civilization as extremely disruptive of the biosphere's food chain, as a morally responsible lifeform with ethics I have simply made a conscious decision to pack up what I can in a smaller sphere and settle elsewhere, leaving nature to revert to it's normal evolutionary self under my watchful eye and direction, much as more advanced lifeforms have obviously done with us in our situation.

As far as the universe being a big simulation, since it appears that the laws of physics allows us to simulate a universe inside a box on a tabletop, I'm pretty sure some other lifeform whatever its basis can simulate some other universe inside of a black hole. Just like I know I can simulate a biosphere inside of a sphere and a spacecraft inside of a cylinder. So I consider the concept of 'permissibility'.

Solving physical and biochemical crises is permissible. Whether you personally choose to attempt to do so is entirely up to you. Personally, my brain is wired up in such a way where I have no choice. So I personally forge ahead on all fronts, and take the tangents as they arise. In my world science mimics evolution. The only thing I;m really sure of in this universe is autobiogenesis. That doesn't mean it happens every time here, but it seems to happen quite easily in submerged volcanic ridges on small terrestrial planets revolving around moderately stable yellow stars in galaxies. And taking a look at the periodic table and the table of nuclides and knowing roughly where they came from, I can easily see why.

BBD said...


as a morally responsible lifeform with ethics I have simply made a conscious decision to pack up what I can in a smaller sphere and settle elsewhere

But this is pure fantasy. Nobody has come anywhere close to producing a self-sustaining closed biosphere. There are indications that it may not even be possible because of differential rates of evolution hugely favour microorganisms within a closed environment and the whole thing comes unraveled from the bottom up. Every time.

Rather than pinning your hopes on a fantasy, you would do better to stifle your contempt for your fellow monkeys and pitch in with the communal effort to avoid disrupting the one ecosystem we already have and share.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Yes of course, just like the biosphere the surface of the sphere call Earth unraveled. I guess you missed the term 'simulation'. I dismiss everything you ever say here because your comments do not reflect critical thinking in the least, they are uniformed, unfounded and quite honestly idiotic. I'm surprised I even read them anymore.

And furthermore, you appear to be an authoritarian, and you certainly don't appear to have even attempted what I am discussing. Please keep in mind, I invented the clandestine high intensity grow room back in the mid 70's, and I did original work on hydroponic plant growing systems, solar panels and wind generators at the UW-Madison. I then commercialized the grow room technology and spread it far and wide. Good luck with your Biosphere 3 with its multimegawatt natural gas generator running right outside the door in the desert, covered with glass. And SLS and Orion will get you far when you toss billions of dollars of equipment away after almost but not quite reaching low Earth orbit. 'Insanity' is an understatement for the kind of thinking you post in these comments.

BBD said...


Yes of course, just like the biosphere the surface of the sphere call Earth unraveled. I guess you missed the term 'simulation'.

Earth's biosphere is big enough to self-regulate. Little toy ones in spheres atop booster stages are not. Differential evolution will destroy them.

Please keep in mind, I invented the clandestine high intensity grow room back in the mid 70's

Ahh... That explains much, even if it is almost certainly just more empty boasting on your part.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Small high intensity biospheres have intelligent minds to do the experiments necessary to understand them, design them, build them and then keep them regulated. I guess you just missed that because you've never attempted to actually do these kinds of experiments as I have.

And of course, what I did is propagate my prototypes into thousands of clandestine underground biosphere experiments and prototypes which crowd sourced the technology into a form you neither are aware of nor could you possibly understand. That's the power of science and technology. You have two choices, you can participate, or comment.

You chose to comment a long time ago, apparently. Ed Bass chose to be suckered by flim flam con artists just like yourself BBD. It cost them and Columbia University a bundle. I haven't lost a thing on it. I occasionally wonder how much it is costing the University of Arizona, but not for very long. I have more important things to do.

Right now I'm wondering why I even bother to respond to your comments anymore. Once an authoritarian, always an authoritarian. It's not your fault. Your brain just happens to be wired up that way.

BBD said...


And of course, what I did is propagate my prototypes into thousands of clandestine underground biosphere experiments and prototypes which crowd sourced the technology into a form you neither are aware of nor could you possibly understand.

Oh, I understand that growing skunk in the basement is a very, very far cry from creating a closed, self-sustaining, self-regulating biosphere. The former can be done. The latter remains a fantasy.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

You keep repeating the phrase 'self regulating'. Life doesn't even do that. It eventually dies, but before it does it replaces itself with something else. You are a scientific extremist. Mr. Koonin and Mr. Benson are scientific extremists. I prefer the middle ground, aka the muddle ground. That's how I learn new things. By trying. And failing. And then trying again. You aren't even willing to try, you just keep invoking statements and making comments that simply are not true, and then you call that science? Seriously authoritarian in your thinking.

You can't even grasp the basic concept that by playing around with small simulated high intensity biospheres we will learn what is required to continue the propagation of the one we have, even though it's not even closed and is utterly dependent on a lot of external influences. You absolutely do not understand how science works and what science must now do in order to keep science working in the future. I wish you well in your faith and belief that you can keep this thing working and still maintain the biological diversity you claim to enjoy, but observationally you just keep on destroying.

Nevertheless, I will keep harassing you for the entertainment value.

To me.

David B. Benson said...

Angech --- In earlier comments I laid out what I consider the more satisfying multiverse scenario so that there are an infinitude of universes. So no god is required.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

And unfortunately your hypothesis has no discernible physical connection to our observable universe. My hypothesis is that a far more fruitful line of research would be axion and axion field excitation coupled to gravitoelectromagnetism, which is realizable in condensed matter physics simulations at liquid helium temperatures along with topological superconductor hybrid magnetic heterostructures as well as with a very real coupling to gravitational field with observable effects. One does not want to be spending an exorbitant amount of time, energy and federal dollars chasing the proverbial wild goose, and my hypothesis is capable of producing a wealth of exploitable new physics and devices. Along with all the other cool new physics that ordinary topological physics is already producing, including something that already looks very much like string theory and the like. Maybe we can even discover the mythical 'moralon'.

BBD said...

Maybe we can even discover the mythical 'moralon'

Nutters never understand morality. Goes with the territory.

cRR Kampen said...

"God save us from human exceptionalism." said BBD, redefining 'the convoluted remark'.

cRR Kampen said...

"Agnosticism is the logical response to insufficient evidence." - wrt deity existence questions, agnosticism is not merely intellectual laziness, but actual fear of knowing what actually can be known.

Sometimes the logical response to agnosticism is to use logic and sapere ffing aude.
Objects or beings with contradictory attributes cannot exist, no evidence required. There is no god.
And more or less deep down, everbody knows this very well. I said: knows.

Florifulgurator said...

The debate got a bit ridiculous.
Hmm, or worse: paradigmatic. (No, we dont just want our heads stuck in the clouds. We even can transcend the known universe.) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_many_angels_can_dance_on_the_head_of_a_pin%3F

Q.: How many biospheres can dance on the head of a pin?
A. Scholar 1: None, and the answer is independent of whether we inhabit a multiverse or an Einstein-Cartan spacetime with budding black holes.
A. Scholar 2: At least one, independent of the total number over time. This follows obviously from axion electrogravitational chromodynamics in topological superinsulators. Corollary: Extinction is only a problem for theorists.

[1] A.Sandberg, Quantum Gravity Treatment of the Angel Density Problem. Ann. Improb. Res. 7(3) http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume7/v7i3/angels-7-3.htm
[2] D.Scotus, Th.Aquinas, M.Al-Ghazali, et al, Summae Summarum Mono-Theologiae. Int. J. Brain Masturb. (ohne Jahr) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_many_angels_can_dance_on_the_head_of_a_pin%3F

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

"The debate got a bit ridiculous."

Only from the perspective of one (for instance, you) who neither understands the subjects under discussion and is not participating in the discussion. And this is a discussion, not a debate. I actually have very few problems with Einstein–Cartan–Sciama–Kibble type cosmologies.


But unlike Mr. Benson, I prefer either some hint of observational evidence that the hypothesis might even be vaguely correct, or some reasonable path to such observational and/or experimental evidence.

Since I have already definitively produced that latter, I am now confident that the carbon crisis can be quickly solved by results obtained by immersing nanostructured two dimensional atomic multilayer heterostructures circuits into liquid helium and observing a wide variety of seemingly miraculous physical effects outlined clearly now by mathematical theory, and then using that information to move the produced devices out of the laboratory and into production. If you want to keep your empty head buried in the sand about the urgency of this one specific problem (there are many other related problems) then that is your immoral and irresponsible personal choice. I have no problem with you participating in self destruction. I myself have long ago made a rather different decision.

Florifulgurator said...

I am now confident that the carbon crisis can be quickly solved by results obtained by immersing nanostructured two dimensional atomic multilayer heterostructures circuits into liquid helium and observing a wide variety of seemingly miraculous physical effects outlined clearly now by mathematical theory, and then using that information to move the produced devices out of the laboratory and into production.

Hahaha... paradigmatic again.

We (Homo Sapiens Fatuus) either deny the crisis or call for miracle technology to save our sorry asses. You might want to team up with Bill Gates. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/02/23/3752421/bill-gates-wrong-energy-miracles/

I would prefer a solution which is 1) based on the fundamental engineering principle KISS and 2) robust to civilizational collapse

Such a solution exists. It is based on photosynthesis and pyrolysis and the fact that char coal has a long half life. And I've done the experiments with stone age tech (Hmmm, ecxept the plastic bucket to ferment urine, stinging nettle and cow dung). I still have a flower pot with my first terra preta soil made more than a decade ago.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

I suggest you do the arithmetic again and consider the area needed, the speed of plant biology, etc. That's called the reduction of carbon dioxide and involves the enthalpy of formation of carbon dioxide, essentially reversing the burning of coal. Somehow I don't think you've really done the arithmetic on this. To do this properly and to remove 500 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reverse the pH rise of the oceans and then deal with the 10 billion greedy gun happy sex happy religious nuts that still must be fed, houses and entertained.

What you propose will work well for some guy in a little back yard garden in Britain, but it simply does not scale up to global proportions. What does scale up is reusable rocketry, two dimensional inorganic atomic multilayers self assembling in cheap abundant and non toxic substrates, and bizarre quantum mechanical phenomena generally, along with the taxation of corporations and churches and the EXLCUSION of religious faith from government, including the military and education. This will involve the dedesertification of the planet where then your cute little back yard gardens can do a lot to keep it working. Along with drastic reductions in population and the complete evacuation of large fractions of them off the planet.

But of course, you are free to hold on to your delusions that we don't have a global airline system where we didn't just a hundred years ago, and that well protected off world habitats are impossible, just like it's impossible to cram 20 million people into a big city and to utterly bork the sustainable agricultural system we one had.

8c7793aa-15b2-11e5-898a-67ca934bd1df said...

Sorry, pH fall, pH change, acidification.