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Life on exoplanets’ moons?

In “Hunting Moons Outside the Solar System?”(Discover July 31, 2012), Adam Hadhazy explains it’s “Because planets aren’t the only places we might find alien life…”:

Detecting small objects that orbit other small objects trillions of miles away is an ambitious undertaking, but our solar system offers many reasons to try. Jupiter and Saturn together host more than 100 moons, and a few of those frigid worlds—Europa, Enceladus, and Titan—are among the most intriguing hunting grounds for alien life in the solar system. If conditions are similar around other stars and planets, there should be trillions of moons in our galaxy, with a small but significant percentage of them suitable for life.

Yes, that numbers fallacy again. We know of one planet and no moon that has life. You can’t do odds that way and make any sense.

One wonders whether, in the end, if we found such a venue, we would end up seeding it with life – that being the only way to get life started, as Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle both considered had happened here.

Thus we would ourselves be the advanced space aliens they believed in.

We still wouldn’t understand the origin of life, but we would have changed the subject pretty successfully.

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2 Responses to Life on exoplanets’ moons?

  1. Not only do they want to count every single extra-Solar planet, now they want to couunt every moon when they use the Drake Equation.

    A moon the size of Earth, and therefore capable of holding an atmosphere and all of the other things needed to support complex life (i.e., something better than pond scum) would orbit a gas giant. And the gas giant would of course generate immense quantities of radiation that would CONTINUOUSLY (from Day 1 of the moon) sterilize the moon/planet. So even if Life were planted on such a body by Pan-Spermia, it would be quickly killed.

    It also occurs to me that a “large moon” (like our Luna) is also necessary not only as a “last resort” meteor shield but to generate Tides. So the exo-moon would also have to have its own exo-moon. Midgets like Phobos and Deimos need not apply.

    Everything we know (rather than speculate) about Space indicates that Earth is unique. And everything we know about Earth indicates that its features are wildly improbable as random events.

    Since this invalidates the fundamental beliefs of the Saganites, they demand that society spend ever larger piles of money to find SOMETHING that supports their beliefs. One can only wonder why there is not more Scientific discussion of the implications of a “Rare Earth”.

  2. “Yes, that numbers fallacy again. We know of one planet and no moon that has life. You can’t do odds that way and make any sense.”

    Hmmm . . . I’ve heard anti-ID folks make similar arguments about the probability calculations underlying ID. Essentially: we only know of one sample, therefore can’t make any calculations about what might or might not exist.

    This is a fallacy. And, frankly, it is getting a bit old for UD to keep harping on the search for earth-like planets as though the whole enterprise is nothing but a materialist, philosophical waste of money. To be sure, there may be a small number of folks who are hoping to find life elsewhere so that they can validate some philosophical position. But the vast majority of people involved — designers, engineers, astronomers — are just interested in doing great science and in the thrill of discovery and space exploration itself. There is a lot of good science being done on a very valid and scientific question: Are we alone?

    It is OK to calculate the numbers. That is not a problem. The problem comes in when the calculations don’t take into account the best information that we currently have available, namely the massive improbabilities around abiogenesis, even if we did find multiple exoplanets with conditions “suitable for life,” which is what the article was talking about.

    Finally, even if we do find life elsewhere it will *not* mean that life can arise through purely material processes. We will still need to go through the probability calculations that we do for life here on earth.

    So let’s focus on the real issue: the improbabilities surrounding a naturalistic abiogenesis. And tone down the anti-space, anti-planetary search rhetoric. That is not the right place to hang ID’s hat, and it is growing pretty thin.

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