May 7, 2017

Imagine by B Lewis

Imagine a future planetary exploration team is surveying the surface of Mars. During an excavation, they are astonished to discover what appears to be a computer chip embedded in the rock. Further investigation reveals the object to be a functional integrated circuit device.

"This is the most momentous discovery in the history of science, " says the team leader. "Finally, proof positive that an intelligent creature has existed on Mars at some point in the past. We are not alone!"

"Not so fast," says the chief scientist. "Just because we found a piece of silica that happens to be in the form of a computer chip doesn't necessarily imply that any extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"It certainly does," says the team leader. "Micrographs show definitively that this is an integrated circuit chip. Since no human beings have ever been to Mars, and none of our probes have penetrated to this area, logic dictates that an extraterrestrial intelligence exists."

"Nope," says the scientist. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What evidence have you that this 'chip' was made my an intelligent being?"

The Team Leader is nonplussed. "I -- it's a circuit, Chief. A functional electronic circuit! The computer says it could be made to run like any IC chip. Integrated circuits don't just create themselves. Someone designed this!"

"That's an interesting statement of belief," replies the Chief Scientist, "But not a demonstrable fact." He examines his nails nonchalantly. "I can't accept your faith in some invisible sky person as a scientific theory, Team Leader. All I can know from what we have here is that we have found a functional circuit chip. Where it comes from, how it came to be -- all of this remains unknown."

"But somebody had to make it!" The Team Leader is incredulous. "It's obviously an artifact. Complex structures like computer chips don't just appear out of thin air!"

"Sure they do, Team Leader," says the Chief Scientist. "Biological cells. A single living cell is billions of times more complex than this chip we've found, and yet cells just 'appeared', without the aid of some fantastic 'designer' in the sky." He looks up from his nails. "Like a living cell, this chip merely appears to be the product of an intelligent designer. In fact, it's complexity is probably just the result of the random actions of wind, water, and radiation upon local geology over eons of time."

Something Wonderful: Molecular Visualizations of DNA @ AMERICAN DIGEST

He stands, looks the Team Leader in the eye. "Just as we have learned that we need not invoke the supernatural to explain life, we need not posit a race of chip-designing Martians to explain this object. Like us, this chip was produced by the action of natural forces upon natural materials over billions of years of time. It, for lack of a better word, evolved into its present state." He points toward the airlock. "In fact, there are probably ancestors of this chip -- transitional forms -- buried in the rock beneath us right now."

"Sir!" cries a nearby technician. "We've finished the circuit analysis. The computer says this is a data storage chip -- and the data is readable!"

"What's it contain?" the Team Leader asks.

"A raster image sir," says the tech. "I'm calling it up now."

On a nearby screen, an image appears: a creature utterly inhuman in form, but wearing what can only be the Martian equivalent of a clean-room suit. In one hand -- tentacle -- the creature holds a small box containing a duplicate of the found IC chip.

"Holy cow," says the Team Leader. "It's a photo. A photo of a Martian -- and he's holding the chip. I just won a freaking Nobel Prize!"

"Coincidence," scoffs the Chief Scientist. "Over billions of years, local radiation probably flipped the bits on that chip randomly into this configuration. It only appears to our pattern-sensitive brains to be a clear, color image of a blue-eyed extraterrestrial creature in a clean room suit holding in its appendage a copy of the so-called 'chip' we've found."

The tech and the Team Leader stare at the Chief Scientist open-mouthed.

"What?" asks the Chief Scientist. "It's Science 101: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I see no reason to believe in any Martians."

No one speaks for a handful of moments. "What," asks the Team Leader quietly, "would it take to make you believe?"

"Proof," responds the Chief Scientist primly. "I'm a scientist, Team Leader. If I can't poke it with a stick, it ain't real." The Chief Scientist grins ironically. "Call me Doubting Thomas. 'Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.'"

Posted by: B Lewis at August 27, 2012 8:31 AM

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 7, 2017 9:49 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Just think, if they'd used a microscope they might have seen: "Intel(C)" writ in silicone.
But, that might have happened over billions of years, by chance, a coincidental arrangement of SiOx.
Just like all the universe's 'dust bunnies' gathered together to form planets, suns, galaxies, turned the suns onto fusion, filled the planets with molten iron, and got them(at least one) spinning at 1,000 mph at the equator.


Posted by: tomw at May 7, 2017 10:52 AM

How bout this, everytime you don't understand something just attribute it to an imaginary super hero!


Next thing you know they'll be saying they saved the earth by driving a Prius.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 7, 2017 1:24 PM

Hey gnost -

Arrogance is someone who imagines he is his own super hero.

Posted by: Denny at May 7, 2017 3:16 PM

It's just like proving the existence of Sasquatch's.

Posted by: Donald Pritchard at May 7, 2017 4:37 PM

If you believe out of faith and not fact then you cannot be dissuaded by fact. The problem with the concept of a god or super power "thing" is who created it? And subsequently who created the creator of it? Ad infinitum. There is no possible answer for the existence such a increasingly complex being. Well, except that it all happened naturally as chemicals and conditions came together.

Posted by: GoneWithTheWind at May 7, 2017 8:28 PM

@GWTW it's turtles all the way down.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 8, 2017 4:14 AM

Don't get me wrong, I like religion. I was raised in the church and enjoyed church as a kid. But my earliest memories of understanding religion and god was that I truly did not believe that even the priests and church goers actually believed. It was a very comforting and comfortable myth that made us feel good one day a week. It was valuable in that it taught us good things and brought us together to discuss them or at least hear our religious leaders discuss them. But I never believed that anyone really thought that real and actual god looked down and saw our every mistake and our every good deed. Or that Christ was real and the son of a real god. It was all symbolism and surely these smart people knew this just as I did from age 5. It is a happy symbolism (at least Christianity is) that pushes us to be better people. But it was and still is used to control the masses too and at it's worse religion(s) can be the worst force in the world (take Islam for example). I liked church, I'm very comfortable around religious people but in my heart I know that most of them just like me are merely keeping the myth alive and it serves it's purpose.

Posted by: GoneWithTheWind at May 8, 2017 8:49 AM

I spent the first 14 years of my life heavily involved in all things church. My best friend was the pastors son and they lived across the street from us and their church was 2 blocks away. The pastor urged the son and I to play guitar and taught us our first licks - Frankie and Johnny. In my early teens it all started wearing thin. I started to question my faith. I questioned what faith was. I asked the pastor why religion was based on faith and not belief. I asked him how does he know the bible is right? He told me that if the bible is wrong then everything he has lived his whole life for was in vane. It wasn't the answer I was looking for. I was looking for some truth. Some validation. I no longer believed and became angry that people I trusted had scammed me. They had no proof of what they claimed to believe and all the while they hid their *belief* under the guise of *faith*. Word scammers. Liars. A lie of omission is still a lie. Over the decades I have delved into this thing many times. One of my side interests is working on complex college level books for Zondervan, maybe 50+ so far, and in none of them has tangible proof been presented. Just that ominous word *faith*.

I'm a realist, how could any sane human be otherwise?, and I am highly skeptical of everything. Unfortunately religion in all of it's forms fails the test miserably and prompts me to say that, "In many ways man is still a very primitive animal." I'll even go one step further in saying that I question the mentality of adults that claim to have religious *faith*. People that cling to make-believe things are not to be trusted.

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 8, 2017 9:25 AM

Ho Ghost, I'm a little more gentle on those of faith. I'm an engineer, and like you at about mid-teens I made my decision. The whole life, the universe, everything ... unknowable, too vast, too big, too eternal, too weird. I concluded that nobody has or had the first clue about the Truth of it all.

Since that time, I have come to a working hypothesis, as in it works for me and keeps me focused. The Universe was created when I was born, just for me, and will disappear when I die. I didn't get to choose the time and place. I didn't get to choose the bag of shit that I was given. Everybody gets one: some at the beginning, some later on, some all the time. None of that matters a whit. Our bags of crap are all equal. The only gift we're given is some time, and it's our decision as to what do to with it. That's it: what am I going to do with the time I've been given?

Ok, yah yah, it's a silly working hypothesis. I haven't got a freaking clue what the cosmos is really all about. Nobody does.

The organized religious people, they've done the same thing, started with a hypothesis or two, and over time and lots of thinking and experimentation created a shared, stable, long-lived theory of Life, the Universe, Everything. A robust theory that gives people a solid framework to help answer that question above: What are you gonna do? That's ok. They've got articles of faith, and so do I (equal bags of crap, gift of time, liberty to decide).

There is a memetic illness of our age. A bunch of people have decided that what they are going to do is try and control the rest of us by slinging guilt and criticism and shame. I shake my head in pity and say "That's it? That's what you've decided you're going to do with the Gift? You're not going to do anything useful or productive or create Beauty [which imo just might be the one nearly eternal thing we can create and pass on to those who come after], you're going to spend your time messing with other peoples' Gift? What a pitiful waste. Fine. Stay away from me, I'm busy doing stuff, and if you do try and mess with me ... be prepared for swift pushback."

I guess it's a ... religion for them. Every self-sustaining system attracts co-evolving parasites. I guess they are part of what's included in varying amounts in the Bag we all get.

Most religions I got no beef with. Just the two submission ones: the old one (~1500 yrs), and the new one (~150 yrs).

Posted by: John A. Fleming at May 9, 2017 12:02 AM

Very well said John.

My ideals are similar, especially this part: "create Beauty [which imo just might be the one nearly eternal thing we can create and pass on to those who come after"

I have come to realize, fairly late in my life, that most of what I have created specifically for others, will not last very long. Exactly, buildings designed on commission. Most of them will be gone less than 100 years after being built. That disappoints me for 2 reasons. 1) That they will be gone. 2) That it took me so long to realize it.

I find my satisfaction though in the things I have created that are timeless (not buildings) that I have created with my own hands and conceived with my own mind, and will outlast me and live as long as others appreciate the beauty in them.

I have heard the best artists are not fully appreciated until long after their death, maybe I will be one of them. But really, I don't care. I do what I do because it pleases me.

"The world began the day I was born."
--gs, 2099

Posted by: ghostsniper at May 9, 2017 4:35 AM

A wise woman once said nothing, but I never claimed to be wise. John and Ghost, you know full well the world did not begin the day you were born and it will not end with your demise. And although you may be the captain of your soul, neither are you self-created. As if. Therein lies a (fairy) tale and delusion. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Bunny at May 9, 2017 9:38 AM