Chandler, Arizona, United States

There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .

Intelligent Life on Other Planets

Monday, June 18, 2012

this entry brought to you by jim guthrie, "lonestar"

You can tell he's an alien, because he's a black guy with somewhat exotic facial hair.

When we watch science fiction on television or movies, particularly Star Trek, the aliens are generally humanoid. This is because we humans all basically look the same, and in order to portray aliens without getting into expensive puppetry or CGI, we have to rely on make-up and our otherwise limited physique to portray alien creatures.

"That's unrealistic," say nerds and science types. "There's no reason why alien life forms would be humanoid at all. With the infinite ways a creature can evolve, there's no reason they would look human at all."

I'm not a biologist, but I disagree. In fact, I think there's a really good chance alien life forms would look much closer to human beings than not.

There are several facts that we know about life. For one thing, it can't grow on a planet too close to the sun; if it's too hot, organisms can't grow. The opposite happens if the planet is too far away. So we know that for a planet to sustain life, it needs to be roughly the distance from its sun as Earth is. We also know that a planet can't be too small or too dense, or that a planet can't be too big or lacking in mass, or else simple organisms won't grow past a certain size. So we know a planet needs to be roughly the size of Earth. We also know that a planet needs water for life, and without land, a planet couldn't sustain enough plants to create enough oxygen for life to grow past simple organisms. Besides, if there were underwater intelligent life, without land they'd never be able to create buildings and, therefore, space travel (you'll note that it's next to impossible to get to the "uses complex tools" stage of evolution underwater).

So we know a few things about life. We know that it needs a lot of water but can't be entirely water. We know that it has to be far enough from the sun to not burn everything to a crisp, we know it needs plant life to create oxygen, and that means, with plentiful plant life, if you're going to have an organic creature, it's probably going to eat said plant life. And if there's plenty of a creature that can do that, then there will be life that eats that creature. Meat eating creatures evolve in such a way as to become better and better at eating meat; plant eating creatures don't need to evolve to be better at eating plants, they need to evolve in such a way that makes them better at defending themselves.

Which means that intelligent life needs to be able to eat both meat and plants in order to be able to evolve instincts that allow it to do hunt and defend, which involves higher thought than the animals that can do only one. Since it eats plants it will need to stand up-right to eat low hanging fruit, but will also be able to climb to avoid getting eaten by predators. It will need to be able to move fast enough to hunt something; all of this means an upright animal with long legs and long arms.

Its predator abilities mean it will have forward set eyes like all predators, and it would need ears in a position to take advantage of both being a predator and being prey.

Intelligent life means a brain big enough to create cognitive thought, but if it's too large the animal would not be able to stand upright, which would negate all the things said previously. So the creature's skull would need to be, proportionately, roughly the same size as ours.

I'm not a biologist, but this is something I've long thought. If we run into intelligent life that has evolved to the point that it could run into us, why wouldn't it look roughly the same as us? Sure, its genitals may be completely different than ours and may work in a totally different way, and there's no reason it would even be mammalian (unless being warm blooded and, therefore, having body hair are necessary ingredients to intelligent life, but, not being a biologist, I don't know if that would be true), but I feel like there's no reason intelligent life would have to look drastically different than we do. I think if we ever went to their home planet, the flaura and fauna would look absolutely different, unimaginably so, because those animals could evolve in a million different ways and did not have to worry about evolving into something recognizably intelligent; they would evolve into being really good at whatever the creature is good at, the same way creatures here have.

So yeah. An entire species that is basically black guys with surly beards. Why not?

with love from CRS @ 5:30 PM 


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