E.T. not likely to have human-like intelligence: Astronomer

Mar 12, 2008

Extraterrestrials will probably never ‘phone’ Earth in a way we’d understand as they’re unlikely to have evolved human-like intelligence – but that doesn’t mean we should give up the search for life beyond our planet, an ANU expert will argue today.

In an address at The Australian National University, planetary astronomer Dr Charley Lineweaver will review the major patterns of the evolution of life on Earth. He’ll make the case that as no other organism on the planet has evolved intelligence closely matching that of humans, it’s highly improbable that an extraterrestrial life form would think like we do or have developed technologies similar to ours.

“If human-like intelligence were so useful, we should see many independent examples of it in biology, and we could cite many creatures who had involved on independent continents to inhabit the ‘intelligence niche'. But we can’t. Human-like intelligence seems to be what its name implies – species specific,” says Dr Lineweaver, who works at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at ANU.

Dr Lineweaver will dispute the argument that a general trend towards larger brains in some animals is evidence that there is a natural evolutionary tendency towards being smart, as we human understand the concept.

“The fossil record on Earth strongly suggests that human-like intelligence is not a convergent feature of evolution – something that all forms of life would attain given enough time. Instead humans are unique, just like every other species. .”

Despite doubting that human-like intelligence could evolve on other planets, Dr Lineweaver believes that humans should continue the search for extraterrestrial life. “I am a strong supporter of SETI [search for extraterrestrial intelligence] – because I may be wrong about how the evidence is best interpreted, and because SETI is relatively cheap science. SETI is the exploration of new parameter space with new instruments – a proven recipe for scientific discovery. However, we do not need to misinterpret the fossil record to justify this inspiring research.”

Source: Australian National University

Explore further: NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Maybe not sci-fi, but robots readied for big tests

Dec 15, 2013

The real world has not caught up yet with "Star Wars" and its talking, thinking robots, but some of the most sophisticated units that exist are heading to Florida this week for a Defense Department-sponsored ...

Robots rule in engineering lab

Sep 28, 2010

"If I did not have a handsome face and two arms ... you would probably not be as inclined to interact with me," Brian the robot tells visitors to Professor Goldie Nejat's autonomous systems and biomechatronics lab.

Recommended for you

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

European space plane set for February launch

Nov 21, 2014

Europe's first-ever "space plane" will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace said Friday after a three-month delay to fine-tune the mission flight plan.

Space station rarity: Two women on long-term crew

Nov 21, 2014

For the 21st-century spacewoman, gender is a subject often best ignored. After years of training for their first space mission, the last thing Samantha Cristoforetti and Elana Serova want to dwell on is the ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

out7x
1.5 / 5 (4) Mar 13, 2008
Yes, Dr. Charley, you are wrong.
Teonanacatl
not rated yet Mar 13, 2008
LoL... Well, then who are flying those spaceships all around our solar system, which our astronauts see all the time? Who built those structures on the moon we never hear about? NASA lying son's of bitches... Humans are unique because our genetics was augmented by ET's tens of thousands of years ago, and they're observing us still:)
deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2008
The reason they'll not "phone home" is that they most likely DO NOT use electromagnetism for communications like we do, NOT because their intelligence is un-human like. But, just like the "ANU expert", I've pulled that info out of my ass too.

HMMM could this
DarthDad
5 / 5 (1) Mar 13, 2008
Intelligence is a convergent evolutionary trait. It first requires the development of empathy which is a hallmark of mammalian, avian and possibly certain now extinct dinosaur lines.

Proof? Dolphin. Highly intelligent, though non technological creature. It does not share a common ancestor with our species closer than 40 million years or so, yet despite a completely different ecological niche, seems able to communicate with both humans and other species.

I guess it all depends on how "human" human intelligence is defined.
DogMaEye
not rated yet Mar 13, 2008
If one considers all of the Earth's history, the length of time when a human created any artifact that could indicate any level of intelligence is extremely small. The oldest known tools of man are shaped stones going back a few tens of thousands of years. This is less than 10% of the proposed time that man has been intelligent.

The question that comes to mind is what other intelligences evolved here and were wiped out before reaching a level where they left some artifact that could be found today.

For some reason these academic geniuses (geniae?) want to assume that any intelligence out there would be human like and then, in contradictory fashion, dismiss the concept that intelligence could not arise because it would not be human like.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.