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Aliens Are Likely To Look and Behave Like Us

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the same-stuff-different-planet dept.

Sci-Fi 5

It's the tripnaut! writes "The Daily Telegraph has posted an article stating that 'Professor Simon Conway Morris at Cambridge University will tell a conference on alien life that extraterrestrials will most likely have evolved just like earthlings and so resemble us to a degree with heads, limbs and bodies. They also add a cautionary note that 'Unfortunately they will have also evolved our foibles and faults which could make them dangerous if they ever did visit us on Earth."

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Sort of makes sense (2, Funny)

mackinaw_apx (1444371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30918040)

I'll tell you what. If I was part of an advanced alien culture/race, (more evolved than us, etc), and looked carefully at our Earth, and what is going on these days and how things are ran.... I'd pass up this crazy-house without any hesitation.

Hard to beleive. (2, Insightful)

jte (707188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30919530)

That's hard to believe, given the diversity just on this planet.

Conway-Morris' arguments are more subtle ... (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30930918)

... than either the summary or the original article presents them. To be fair, they're not ideas that boil down easily into a soundbite suitable for a fast-working journalist.
Brief background : Conway-Morris was one of the PhD students who worked on the famous re-examination and re-interpretation of the Burgess Shale fauna. It seems that he took some umbrage at being attributed (obliquely) the line "Oh fuck, another new phylum!" by Steven Jay Gould in his "Wonderful Life" book of 1987 (IIRC). He also has more substantive grounds for disagreement with Gould, as where Gould sees a metaphor of "replaying the tape of evolution" not necessarily leading to anything noticeably like our present selection of fauna, Conway-Morris sees "convergent evolution" as highly prevalent and likely to bring about broadly similar structures over time, even if they're implemented by different methods.
Where Gould asks "what is it about Pikaia [wikipedia.org] that would cause us to mark it as a early member of a phylum that would become dominant on the planet?", Conway-Morris is more likely to assert that an organism that is capable of developing an internal skeleton is more likely to develop large size than one that has to go through periodic ecdycis, and that such organisms are likely to achieve similar external forms by convergent evolution, regardless of the details of their internal structure.
One of the classic examples of convergent evolution would be the similarity of form of dolphins, sharks and ichthyosaurs, all of whose external forms are very similar, but whose internal structures differ greatly as a result of their differing evolutionary histories.

Conway-Morris does have a genuine point to make, and despite the attentions of the God-squaddies who try to portray his views as showing some sort of fundamental dispute at the heart of evolutionary theories (and practice - remember that SCM is a working palaeontologist ; he's been a significant force in the discovery and study of other Early Cambrian faunas of excellent preservation, including the Sirius Passet and Chenjiang faunas), he is an important voice in the field, and is likely to remain so for decades if not centuries.
Personally, I'd stand him a pint if I bumped into him in a pub in Cambridge, because he's got a lot to say that's worth listening to, even if I'm by no means sure that I agree with him.
I wonder how he'd deal with the arrival of a spaceship full of centaurs with a biochemistry based on PNA? Would he consider himself supported by that evidence or refuted? (SCM, if you're reading - you name the pub and I'll get them in.)

Behave like us? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30940832)

So what he's saying is that aliens will be complete flipping assholes too? I sincerely hope any species sophisticated enough to cross the vast reaches of space and visit us would be several orders of magnitude more enlightened then the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, and virtually every commentator on Fox News!

He Obviously Hasn't Watched Star Trek or Cosmos (1)

LuckySweetheart (1515653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30941780)

In TNG, there was that one episode (1st Season) where life had evolved between two layers of soil (obviously not space travelers). Plus other random non-humanoid life forms that were scattered throughout the series (the insect race comes to mind, the Changelings in DS9).

In Cosmos, the great late Carl Sagan mentions extra-terrestrial life, and the many, many possibilities of intelligent life. I think to say "the most likely way that intelligent life capable of interstellar travel will evolve will be bipedal with eyes and aggressive tendencies" is a bit short-sighted.

In one of James Tiptree's short stories, she (James Tiptree was a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon) explores the concept of humans' innate desire to mate with aliens. But in the universe of the short story, our biology is incompatible with the various aliens we encounter. The human race is dying out because of this, even though many of those aliens are bipedal with eyes. It's an interesting concept.

I don't think the way we were designed is necessarily the most efficient possible, as many of the changes came about as a result of some sort of outside pressure. It's not as if our biology was designed first and then implemented; our DNA has been patched/amended numerous times over many generations. Who knows; maybe there is some other, more elegant and efficient way to transmit genetic data besides using DNA. We just don't know because we haven't encountered it yet.

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