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← The beauty of creation: an interview with Richard Dawkins

The beauty of creation: an interview with Richard Dawkins - Comments

tom campbell-ricketts's Avatar Comment 1 by tom campbell-ricketts

Disturbingly, the quotation appearing under Professor Dawkin's picture over on the COSMOS magazine site,

"The origin of life on this planet ... was quite a stupefyingly rare event."

Is one that in the actual interview is followed by the phrase

"I don't believe that for a moment"

Thu, 24 May 2012 14:34:54 UTC | #943289

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 2 by Jos Gibbons

Never trust an ellipsis. Here's what was actually said:

HC: Out of this, or the astronomy studies or further understanding of biology, which would you place your bets on if you’re looking for an answer to the question ‘Is there life on other planets?’
RD: It’s a very interesting question, I think that statistically when you consider the number of available planets…when people first started thinking about the question we had no idea whether other stars than our sun had planets, we only knew that our sun had planets…and we knew that some of those planets, and most of those planets, have their own orbiting satellites - Jupiter and Saturn have rather a lot - Jupiter and Saturn constitute miniature solar systems which gave confidence to the idea that other stars probably have their own planets.
That’s now been confirmed, pretty dramatically really, by astronomers, who are discovering by more than one method that other stars do have planets. It now looks as though most stars have planets, and with a pretty good estimate of the number of stars it looks as though it’s something like 10 to the 22…that’s a colossal number. If anybody wanted to believe that we are literally alone in the universe, they can still do so – one can’t disprove that idea – but they’re facing up to massive odds.
They’ve got to say that if only one in 10 to the 22 planets has life, that must mean that the origin of life on this planet – as obviously it’s happened on this planet – was a quite stupefyingly rare event…an improbable event. So improbable that we’d be wasting our time even trying to speculate about it, and I don’t think that for a moment – I think it probably was a stroke of luck, but not that lucky.

Here's the summary under the article's picture:

Richard Dawkins discusses the origin of life: "The origin of life on this planet ... was quite a stupefyingly rare event."

Talk about taken out of context.

Edit: tom campbell-ricketts beat me to it. Sorry.

Thu, 24 May 2012 14:43:57 UTC | #943291

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 3 by Anaximander

They’ve got to say that if only one in 10 to the 22 planets has life, that must mean that the origin of life on this planet – as obviously it’s happened on this planet – was a quite stupefyingly rare event…an improbable event.

And if I have correctly understood the measurements, the volume of the universe is at least millions of times larger than we can see. So there would be at least 10 to the 28 planets.

And infinitely many, if the universe really is infinite. But then there would be infinitely many men called Richard Dawkins. Should they then say that the probability of the origin of life on Earth is 1?

Thu, 24 May 2012 17:47:10 UTC | #943321

PERSON's Avatar Comment 4 by PERSON

the volume of the universe is at least millions of times larger than we can see.

I don't see how that can be established. Or can we measure outside the areas we can see somehow?

Thu, 24 May 2012 18:06:51 UTC | #943325

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 5 by Jos Gibbons

Anaximander, putting aside for the moment the question of whether or not the universe is infinite, the 1E+22 figure is indeed based on the Hubble zone, whose diameter is about 93 billion light years. How this compares with the full size of the universe, if it's finite, depends on just how many Hubble zones inflation isolated. However, "millions" is putting it quite low; the volume factor should be more like 1E+78, giving googol stars. Shocking, huh?

Thu, 24 May 2012 18:06:58 UTC | #943326

zengardener's Avatar Comment 6 by zengardener

Where is the video from the event in thy Sidney Opera House that Dr. Dawkins mentioned?

Thu, 24 May 2012 18:42:55 UTC | #943330

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 7 by Anaximander

I don't see how that can be established. Or can we measure outside the areas we can see somehow?

I mean it is not possible to measure that the space is exactly flat. But it has (if I have correctly understood) been measured to be at least so nearly flat, that the radius is hundreds of times bigger than what we see. So the volume would be millions of times larger. It could be much bigger.

The 1E+22 figure is indeed based on the Hubble zone, whose diameter is about 93 billion light years.

93.00001621 billion, according to my calculations. Or that was yesterday, now it must be, wait...

Thu, 24 May 2012 19:12:10 UTC | #943334

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 8 by Alan4discussion

It now looks as though most stars have planets, and with a pretty good estimate of the number of stars it looks as though it’s something like 10 to the 22…that’s a colossal number. If anybody wanted to believe that we are literally alone in the universe, they can still do so – one can’t disprove that idea – but they’re facing up to massive odds.

10²² is indeed a high number, but we still don't know the probability of the right conditions arising, and life forming on Earth. We have ONE LUCA which may have arisen from a system with several precursors, but we really don't know the odds of this happening. It is fair to say, there are probably examples of other life on the planets/moons of the universe, despite the rather rare nature of Earth, - but we really don't know yet.

What we do know is the Earth-life is now very tenacious and invasive into many environments, regenerating and re-evolving after numerous cataclysms and extinctions.

Thu, 24 May 2012 22:10:52 UTC | #943364

jbkaffe's Avatar Comment 9 by jbkaffe

93.00001621 billion, according to my calculations. Or that was yesterday, now it must be, wait...

It's much higher today. Tomorrow it was lower. Yesterday it's gonna be rounder and thicker and higher and lower. Right now it's exactly where it is, or used to be, or will b....hang on....I think there's something wrong with my word calcusoonerorlater. I'll have to get back to you later...or sooner....dammit, now it's doing it again.

OT.

Love this interview. The honesty and curiosity of a true scientist never gets old. When I get my molecular biology/physicist degree, I'm gonna get my Dawkins on and tear me open some black holes.

And a can of whoopass to those who dare not see truth for what truth is.

Thu, 24 May 2012 22:18:39 UTC | #943365

Anvil's Avatar Comment 10 by Anvil

Comment 9 by jbkaffe :

Love this interview. The honesty and curiosity of a true scientist never gets old.

Yeah, I thought that, too. It really is refreshing, isn't it. Say what you mean - mean what you say. Be clear. Be concise.

Reading it reminded me of how much I enjoyed Peter Boghossian and his recent (for myself at least) easter bunny talk: 'Be honest, direct, and blunt'. Don't pretend to know anything that you don't.

It's not that I don't do this anyway - I do (or at least I try to) - it's just that seeing so many examples of it recently is both affirming and inspiring.

Heh, maybe I've just been in need of a bit of affirmation and inspiration? Either way, been getting it in spades just recently. Nice interview.

Anvil.

Thu, 24 May 2012 23:27:52 UTC | #943381

jbkaffe's Avatar Comment 11 by jbkaffe

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/645967-losing-faith-an-interview-with-peter-boghossian-and-matt-thornton

I'm gonna be listening to this with a cup of coffee before late-night-bedtime arrives. With a bit of luck, I'll fall asleep half way through, and the rest will be waiting for me and the morning cup of joe...

Thanks a bunch Anvil. :-)

Fri, 25 May 2012 00:15:51 UTC | #943392

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 12 by Premiseless

Comment 1 by tom campbell-ricketts :

Disturbingly, the quotation appearing under Professor Dawkin's picture over on the COSMOS magazine site,

"The origin of life on this planet ... was quite a stupefyingly rare event."

Is one that in the actual interview is followed by the phrase

"I don't believe that for a moment"

I don't think many people will appreciate the position from which Richard makes these statements.

  1. He is saying that because life on Earth exists and we know at least 10 to the 22 stars (and likely planets) also exist this would propose 1 in 10 to the 22, if a single (Earth only) event, as stupefyingly rare.

  2. However, since it is far more highly likely that there be many more than such a single occurrence , 1 billion is more likely a real number of life on planet events than the single one we know to exist on Earth.

  3. For those who do lottery tickets, this is a bit like saying that when many billions of people buy them, there is highly likely to be many more winners than 1.

Fri, 25 May 2012 09:52:07 UTC | #943448

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 13 by Anaximander

Richard Dawkins talking about the possibility of different life-forms on Earth. On background we can hear the sounds of very strange iron-based life-forms.

Fri, 25 May 2012 10:25:44 UTC | #943453

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 14 by Schrodinger's Cat

For a moment I thought it said Cosmo magazine......but I guess its highly unlikely they'd do a centrefold on evolution.

Mon, 28 May 2012 00:30:45 UTC | #943884