Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Futuristic Mars Space Scene with Large Moon

The Aurora Hypothesis: ET Could Risk Only Rare Contact With Us

Given the difficulties and risks of space travel, extraterrestrials with advanced technology may have visited Earth only one in a million years, researchers say

In recent months we’ve been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s coverage of the many reasons (links below) that have been advanced as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last Saturday, we considered the Percolation Hypothesis, whose beauty is its common-sense simplicity: The aliens can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can. In the real world, barriers like years between communications even at the speed of light would take a toll on adventurousness. Another hypothesis that Williams has examined is our focus today, the Aurora Hypothesis, “just because planets are habitable doesn’t mean that intelligent life can colonize there.” (Williams) The thesis has had a busy life in science media. Its earliest…

Intestinal villi, mucosa intestinal. Bacteria and microbes in intestines. Microscopic villi and capillary. Human intestine, chronic disease. Hepatitis viruses, influenza, cell infections, 3D Rendering

Surprisingly, Many “Alien” Cells Live Inside Us

One zoologist thinks that they create our sense of self

At New Scientist, Graham Lawton asks us to think about them: For starters, we are chimeras: some parts of us are human, but genetically not “us”. Most, if not all, of us contain a few cells from our mother, our grandmothers and even elder siblings that infiltrated our bodies in the uterus. Women who have carried children host such cells too. “Something like 65 per cent of women, even in their 70s, when autopsies were performed, had cells in their brains that were not theirs,” says David Linden at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Chimeric cells have been found to contribute to both good and bad health, for example promoting wound healing but also triggering autoimmune disease. Graham Lawton, “Why…

Slime molds

Slime Mold: An Earthbound “Alien” That Thinks Without a Brain

Researchers are beginning to learn just how giant molds can remember things without a nervous system. What, exactly, is doing the computations?

Turns out, it’s all in the tubes. The slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a single cell, often very large. The way Physarum gets to be so large is that when it divides, the many single cells merge into one giant cell — with no nervous system: “Its body is a giant single cell made up of interconnected tubes that form intricate networks. This single amoeba-like cell may stretch several centimeters or even meters, featuring as the largest cell on earth in the Guinness Book of World Records. Technical University of Munich (TUM), “A memory without a brain” at ScienceDaily (February 23, 2021) The paper is closed access. But how does the giant Physarum cell, with no brain, mouth, limbs, or…

Asian woman is wearing facial mask during virus epidemic

Was the WHO Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin Thwarted by China?

The World Health Organization team was not really allowed to conduct a proper investigation in China

On January 14, 2021, an international team from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan in Hubei province in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. From the outset, the investigation was plagued with three issues: 1) It ‘s been a year since the outbreak in Wuhan, which makes an investigation into the origins of the outbreak difficult. 2) WHO has catered to the Chinese government since the beginning of the pandemic, and 3) the scientists involved in the investigation had to be approved by Beijing. Two of them had conflicts of interest. When the WHO team arrived, they faced additional barriers to a thorough investigation. They were quarantined for two weeks so they…

Program development concept. Young man working with computer

Why Software Cannot Just Evolve — a Demonstration

The claims for Avida — a software program that is supposed to “evolve” solutions via neo-Darwinian evolution — fail the most basic test

A Michigan State University publication headlined a media release declaring: “Evolution of learning is key to better artificial intelligence” (September 19, 2019). Reportedly, researchers used the computer simulation software, Avida, to show the “evolution of learning.” On that view, artificial intelligence arises via neo-Darwinian evolution. Really? The “Sound Bites” Were Exciting… The university’s team “composed of biologists and computer scientists used a digital evolution program that allowed them to observe tens of thousands of generations of evolution in just a few hours, a feat unachievable with living systems.” According to the release: • “The results are the first demonstration that shows the evolution of associative learning in an artificial organism without a brain.” • “While the environment was simulated, the…

Blue glowing multiverse in space

We Don’t Live in a Multiverse Because the Concept Makes No Sense

Neurologist Steven Novella and philosopher Philip Goff, both atheists, agree that there are many universes besides the one we live in

Cosmic fine-tuning is the observation that many of the values of the variables in the fundamental laws of physics specifically permit the existence of sentient life (life like us) within a very narrow margin of error. The likelihood of this happening by chance seems vanishingly small. It seems as if Someone expected us. How can we explain this? The fact that God created the universe explains fine-tuning. But for atheists, it’s a real conundrum. As a result, at Neurologica blog, neurologist Steven Novella (pictured) and philosopher Philip Goff have been discussing the most popular atheist explanation for fine-tuning, the “multiverse.” That is, there are countless universes out there, each with its own parameters, and ours just happens to be one…

Jupiter's moon Europa in front of the planet Jupiter

Is Intelligent Life Found in Oceans Inside Planets and Moons?

The Ocean Planets Hypothesis is that intelligent beings may flourish in the interior oceans of the moons of gas giant planets — or within exoplanets — but they are trapped there

Readers will recall that last year, we were looking at science writer Matt Williams’s analysis of the various reasons that we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. (See the links below.) Last time out in November, we looked at the Transcension Hypothesis: The extraterrestrial intelligences exist—but after a Singularity, they became virtual intelligences, exploring inner space at an undetectably small scale. Williams has reported since then on some additional hypotheses so this week we look at a more conventional approach — the “Ocean Worlds” Hypothesis, that icy planets may have interior oceans that harbor life: To illustrate, there’s the search for life that is going on right now in the Solar System, which is almost entirely focused on…

Oumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.

Astrobiologist Cautions Against Jumping the Gun in Spotting ET

Scientists he says, are cautious with good reason. There are many weird natural phenomena like Oumuamua out there.

At Nautilus, astrophysicist (and astrobiologist) Caleb A. Scharf offers some sobering reflections on the diligent search for extraterrestrial intelligences (ET) in recent decades: Despite this effort, there has been no evidence to date of extraterrestrial life. But that lack of evidence is not because the scientific enterprise is uniformly conservative, rigid, and close-minded, as implied by [astronomer Avi] Loeb and uncritically echoed by some columnists. It’s because no discovery or event has risen to the level where it is inexplicable in any other way. Could greater funding and support change that story? Perhaps, but the same could be said for almost any other ambitious scientific enterprise, and the answer cannot be known beforehand. Caleb Scharf, “The Alien-Haunted World” at Nautilus…

A Group Of Large Radio Telescopes

Astrophysicist Warns: Aliens May Be Boring or Unreachable

Researchers are taking the emissions from the vicinity of exoplanet Proxima B seriously. But if it is truly a technological signal, what would follow?

Boring? How very un-Star Trek of them! But it’s possible, says Caleb A. Scharf, director of astrobiology at Columbia University (pictured). He worries that, “Perhaps other life in the universe is, in the end, utterly dull.” Why might he think so? He is reflecting on the recent report of what may be a technological signal at roughly 982.002 MHz, coinciding with the direction of Proxima Centauri. If it is, what might the aliens turn out to be like? There’ll be some initial oddities, some curiosities that aren’t quite the things we planned for. A dull carrier wave signal for instance. Over time more evidence will show up, until eventually it’s clear that there are lots of species out there, puttering…

Silvery marmoset (Mico argentatus).

Why Do Researchers Wonder Whether Animals Have Personalities?

Every friend of dogs, cats, or birds knows what some researchers struggle to prove. Let’s take a look at what they found

Recently, a research team announced that marmosets — small highly social New World monkeys — display personality traits, whether they are wild or captive: Some individuals were fast to approach any novelty, while others were more careful; hereby showing a similar pattern to humans: for instance, some humans enjoy trying out new restaurants, whereas others prefer to eat in their favorite restaurant. What is more interesting, when comparing personality traits of monkeys in Austria across four years, the authors found that these monkeys are quite consistent in their personality traits (e.g., those that are explorative when they are younger, stay similarly explorative four years afterwards). University of Vienna, “Marmoset Monkeys Have Personalities Too” at Neuroscience News The paper is open…


How Walter Bradley Broke Down Campus Anti-Christian Prejudice

Bradley has been a very successful mechanical engineering researcher but he has never lost sight of larger goals, such as religious freedom at universities

In Thursday’s podcast, “The Life of Walter Bradley With William Dembski (Part II),” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and design theorist William Dembski reflect on the biography they have written about a remarkable engineer, Walter Bradley, For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter Bradley. In Part I, they discussed Bradley’s work in helping develop appropriate industries using sustainable technologies in the developing world. Here in Part II, they look at the way Bradley politely but effectively insisted on respect for the rights of religious students and faculty, as well as others. And got it. Robert J. Marks: When Walter Bradley was a professor, one of the things that he wanted to do was to talk…

new technologies, a child uses a futuristic processor for augmented reality. high technology and communication concept. TV

Theoretical Physicist Argues, the Sim Universe Is Pseudoscience

It’s a lot of fun in science fiction and some scitech celebs buy in. But Sabine Hossenfelder and others explain why it’s fiction

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder does not like the notion that we are living in a giant computer sim. Elon Musk likes it (“Elon Musk says there’s a ‘one in billions’ chance reality is not a simulation”) and so does Neil deGrasse Tyson (“Neil deGrasse Tyson says it’s ‘very likely’ the universe is a simulation”). Philosopher of science Nick Bostrom advanced that view in a seminal 2003 paper in Philosophical Quarterly. Former Astronomer Royal Martin Rees is sympathetic to it. Some call it the Planetarium hypothesis, when it is cited as a reason we do not see intelligent extraterrestrials. One source offers “15 irrefutable reasons” why, like Neo in The Matrix (1999), we might be living in a universe that is…

Distant planet system in space with exoplanets 3D rendering elements of this image furnished by NASA

We Are Warned: Don’t Try To Colonize Super-Earths

Theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel tells us why he thinks it would end in disaster

According to NASA, super-Earth planets are “a class of planets unlike any in our solar system – are more massive than Earth yet lighter than ice giants like Neptune and Uranus, and can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both. They are between twice the size of Earth and up to 10 times its mass.” Such plants are common in our galaxy and so far we have discovered 1,342 of them. Some are hot enough to vaporize metal; some are dim and frozen. An infographic from NASA of the TOI 270 system provides examples of super-Earths in relation to Earth: From NASA: “This infographic illustrates key features of the TOI 270 system, located about 73 light-years away…

Flying cranes

Random Evolution Doesn’t Produce Algorithmic Functions in Animals

A bird does not fly just because it has wings; it needs a “flight” program in its brain. Explanations of the evolution of flight do not account for that.

In a recent article “Evolution and artificial intelligence face the same basic problem,” Eric Holloway addressed the conundrum faced by artificial intelligence theorists: How can “a random process with no insight into the environment… increase information about that environment within evolving DNA sequences and/or artificial intelligence programs. By what mechanism can randomness ‘know’ anything?” Dr. Holloway’s challenge goes to the heart of the problem with the materialist worldview regarding origins, evolution, and ultimately intelligence. Software vs. hardware in your body Imagine you knew absolutely nothing about roller skates. Then you awoke this morning to find your ankles and feet permanently installed into roller skates. Instantly, everything you understood about walking and running is worthless. Getting onto your feet at all…

All seeing eye

The Illuminati and How Science Now Fuels Anti-Science

Like Frankenstein's monster, technology aided by science has become a monster fueling anti-scientific theories

The advice column in the April 1969 issue of Playboy included the usual questions about broads, beers, and baldness, followed by an unusually long (300-word) letter that began: I recently heard an old man of right-wing views—a friend of my grandparents—assert that the current wave of assassinations in America is the work of a secret society called the Illuminati. He said that the Illuminati have existed throughout history, own the international banking cartels, have all been 32nd-degree Masons and were known to Ian Fleming, who portrayed them as SPECTRE in his James Bond books—for which the Illuminati did away with Mr. Fleming. The letter ended with two questions: Do they really own all the banks and TV stations? And who have they killed lately? Playboy gave…

hedef başarısı ve birlik beraberlik ruhu

Walter Bradley: Finding a Life of Greater Purpose

Bradley has been a pioneer in the development of appropriate technologies for developing regions of the world

In last week’s podcast, “The Life of Walter Bradley With William Dembski (Part I),” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and design theorist William Dembski discuss the biography they have written about a remarkable engineer, Walter Bradley, For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter Bradley. It also helps explain why we call ourselves the Walter Bradley Center, as we seek to extend Dr. Bradley’s work. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-121-William-Dembski.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This transcript begins at 02:55. Show notes and links follow. Before getting down to the main business, design theorist William Dembski, possibly the best known theorist of design in nature, told Robert Marks that he plans a second edition of his Cambridge University Press book, The…

Concentrated scientist

Five Surprising Facts Re Famous Scientists We Bet You Never Knew

How about juggling, riding a unicycle, and playing bongo? Or catching criminals or cracking safes?

We know what famous scientists like Einstein are famous for but we don’t know much about who they are. Here are five personal life facts about scientists who made a big difference to our understanding of the world that you probably didn’t know. The most interesting one is saved for last. 1.Isaac Newton dressed as a bum to mingle with the unwashed and catch criminals. Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) was the father of classical physics and an inventor of calculus. When students take their first college classes in calculus and physics today, they study the concepts Newton developed in the 17th century. But Newton also wrote over a million words on Biblical prophecy. He was also the Warden and…

open eye in space

A Physicist Asks, Was the Universe Made For Us? She Says No

But the question is more complicated than it appears at first

Sabine Hossenfelder thinks there is no way to determine an answer to the question of whether the universe was made for us because we have access to only one universe for data: There is no way to ever quantify this probability because we will never measure a constant of nature that has a value other than the one it does have. If you want to quantify a probability you have to collect a sample of data. You could do that, for example, if you were throwing dice.Throw them often enough, and you get an empirically supported probability distribution. But we do not have an empirically supported probability distribution for the constants of nature. And why is that. It’s because… they…

UFO, alien spaceship in orbit of planet Earth, extraterrestrials from outer space in flying saucer

Will China Find Alien Life First? A Chinese Astronomer Says Yes

Whether either American or Chinese astronomers find anything, it will certainly be an interesting race

One Chinese astronomer, Tong-Jie Zhang, is working on it: In China, Zhang was tirelessly lobbying Chinese authorities to access FAST for his own research. Only recently was he granted the ability to use the telescope through the National Astronomical Observatories’ association. Initially, Zhang and his students had to conduct their observations at FAST while the telescope observed other targets, not allowing him to choose the areas he wanted. But after collaborating with Werthimer and students from the SETI Research Center on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal, Chinese officials eventually allowed Zhang a window of time with the telescope to shortlist specific solar systems that he and his collaborators believe can most likely harbor intelligent life. Over the next…

Global virus and disease spread, coronavirus

How China Has Tried To Suppress Coronavirus Science

So far as investigative journalists have been able to determine, the suppression came directly from the top

An investigation by the Associated Press reveals what everyone has suspected since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been keeping a tight rein on the publication or distribution of any scientific research on the coronavirus conducted within the country. AP recently found out just how extensive the muzzling of scientific findings has been. Its report also confirms that the orders came from the top: The AP investigation was based on dozens of interviews with Chinese and foreign scientists and officials, along with public notices, leaked emails, internal data and the documents from China’s cabinet and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It reveals a pattern of government secrecy and top-down control…