Re: flying saucer

From: Sheila Wilson <sheila-wilson@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Fri Sep 17 2004 - 09:03:04 EDT

You stated that believing in an "objective reality" defines whether we are sentient. Very curious. We live in a world where most people define themselves with subjective reality: our perception is our reality. Humanism thus means non-sentient but those of us who believe in an objective reality, a truth outside ourselves, are sentient. We clearly need a broader definition of sentience but that is one of the questions that still haunts mankind.
 
Sheila
 
 

Dawsonzhu@aol.com wrote:

Moorad posed the question:
>"Suppose a flying saucer arrives to earth with a living animal in it.
>The animal is quite distinct from anything we have ever seen on earth.
>How can we tell whether that animal was the result of natural selection
>that took place in a far away planet or that it was designed by the
>aliens in that planet?"

Shila wrote in response:
> Would one look at dna? - If it had dna, of course. With only
> one animal, would we even be able to detect anomalies in the dna?
> Very interesting. More importantly, how would we know if it was
> an animal or a sentient being? We sent monkeys and dogs into
> space, maybe this was the aliens' way of testing our atmosphere
> and biosphere for compatibility. Maybe I should stay within
> the constraints of the question and assume an animal.

That is probably roughly the right question to ask. The main
problem would be our own arrogance. For the most part, although
we call it "protein engineering", calling us "script kiddies"
or "hackers" would be too much of a compliment. I think we're
not even clear on the concept yet. Yet we love misleading
and sexy titles like that for funding.

So one problem is what we think we know, and what actually
is the truth. To give an example, we still have problems
understanding what non-coding DNA is doing. Does it have
any purpose? Is it just filler? What about pseudogenes?
What about transposons, SINES and LINES? Are they just out
and out "selfish elements" or do they help in the process
of forming new organisms? What of introns? Do they cause
exon shuffling? If not, what does? We discover all the
time new things like RNAi, microRNA etc. So, really, our
arrogance is dangerous in assessing anything. We called
all that "junk" not so long ago. There are lots of repeats
in DNA, is it pure "junk" or not?

At the same time, God has provided us with lots of examples,
and I expect there will come a day (in the far distant
future) where we will be able to design living organisms.
But I expect that when we can do these things, we may
__hopefully__ be at least a little more humbled that our
mouths will speak less and our ears listen more.

Maybe a better way to pose the question is "is it
possible to design something __better__ than nature:
more adaptive, more capable of competing for resources"?
My verdict is not in yet.

As to sentient: probably the best way to know that is
if this alien believes there is an objective reality.
Who decides that objective reality; God or a bunch of
chemicals in your brain?

by Grace alone we proceed,
Wayne

Sheila McGinty Wilson
sheila-wilson@sbcglobal.net
Received on Fri Sep 17 09:33:25 2004

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