Planet of the Apes Theory (Revised): “Is Intelligence Inevitable in the Universe?”


If we should discover an alien civilization that was based on science, it would be strong evidence that there are universal laws of social and intellectual organization just as there are universal laws of physics. That given a race with the biological trait of curiosity, that science is inevitable.  Or is it?

Lineweaver, a cosmologist with The Australian National University,
believes the science behind the movie "Planet of the Apes" is based on
a flawed notion of evolution, a notion that could have serious
implications for our search for intelligent life elsewhere in the Milky
Way Galaxy.

Lineweaver calls this notion the "Planet of the
Apes Hypothesis" -a theory subscribed to by Carl Sagan and the
astronomers involved with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
(SETI), that human-like intelligence is a convergent feature of
evolution  -that there is an intelligence niche, into which other
species (apes in the movie) will evolve if the human species goes

Let's take a quick look at the plot of the 1968 movie, "Planet of
the Apes," with Charlton Heston playing the role of Taylor, an
astronaut on an interstellar journey. After traveling for over two
thousand years at nearly the speed of light (during which the astronaut
crew ages only 18 months due to time dilation), the spacecraft crash
lands on a planet that has oxygen comprising 20 percent of the
atmosphere, and a 23 hour 56 minute sidereal period.

Unsure of
where in the galaxy they are, they soon discover that on this strange
new world, chimpanzees and other primates have evolved to become
human-like both physically and in the development of their society.
Human beings, mute beasts that are captured and used for scientific
experimentation, occupy a lower rung in this intelligence hierarchy.

planet has corn, horses, and gorillas who use rifles and chimpanzees
who use photographic equipment. It never occurs to them that this is,
in fact, the Earth. Charlton Heston falls in love with a mute Homo
sapien, and they ride away and discover the remnants of the Statue of
Liberty. Only then do they realize this is planet Earth, there's no
going home. They're there; as a subordinate species.

In an interview with Astrobiology,
Lineweaver emphasizes that the "Planet of the Apes" hypothesis is that
"such a niche exists – that human beings developed a big brain because
there was selection pressure to move into this evolutionary niche.
Another way of saying it is that smart organisms are better off and
more fit than stupider organisms in all kinds of environments, and
therefore we should expect any type of critters anywhere in the
universe to get smarter like we consider ourselves to be.

Sagan called them "functionally equivalent humans." That's what the
SETI program has been based on. There is a big polarization in science
between physical scientists like Paul Davies and Carl Sagan and Frank
Drake on the one hand, and biologists like Ernst Mayr and George
Gaylord Simpson who say that life is so quirky that human beings would
never evolve again. If a species goes extinct, it doesn't come back.
There may be a niche that opens when a species goes extinct, but the
same species or even anything similar to it does not re-evolve into
that niche.

"If intelligence is good for every environment, we
would see a trend in the encephalization quotient among all organisms
as a function of time. The data does not show that. The evidence on
Earth points to exactly the opposite conclusion. Earth had independent
experiments in evolution thanks to continental drift. New Zealand,
Madagascar, India, South America… half a dozen experiments over 10,
20, 50, even 100 million years of independent evolution did not produce
anything that was more human-like than when it started. So it's a silly
idea to think that species will evolve toward us.

"If you go to
these other continents and ask zoologists, Lineweaver continues, "What
do you think is the smartest thing there? Is it trying to become human?
Is it any closer today than it was 50 million years ago to building a
radio telescope? I think the answer would be no. If that's the answer,
then there is no trend toward human-like intelligence, and this whole
idea of intelligence being convergent is just an empty claim based on
what we want to believe about ourselves." Only one species of the
billions of species that have existed on Earth has shown an aptitude
for radios and even we failed to build one during the first 99% of our
7 million year history.

Current estimates say that are some 100
billion stars just in our Milky Way galaxy and 10 billion trillion
stars in the observable universe.There are more stars in existence than
days since the universe was formed.Yet, the deafening silence from
space is not surprising. There must be other radio transmitters out
there, but perhaps none in our galaxy. If homo sapiens survive long
enough, time will tell.

We should not expect to see any other
forms of life that are genetically, functionally and intellectually
similar to us." Lineweaver emphasizes. "I strongly suspect that our
closest relatives in the universe are here on Earth, and they're not
likely to be elsewhere."

But NASA was listening and our future
searches have been reconfigured to explore for non-carbon forms of life
and the totally unknown.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

image: Discovered by William Herschel in 1788, NGC 1569 is home to
three of the most massive star clusters ever discovered in the local
universe. Each cluster contains more than a million stars


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