Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by JT Perfecthair, Sep 18, 2013.
Possibly their would-have-been ancestors perished during an extinction event.
How do you know it's not the case that this form is necessary to evolve abstract reasoning?
To evolve abstract reasoning you need to be tool users, to use tools you need opposable thumbs. To successfully hunt you need depth perception, to have depth perception you need two eyes. Sexual reproduction is also likely in any developed culture, because without biodiversity you have no diversity of ideas and you're less likely to be able to adapt to changes in your habitat.
Bats and birds evolved wings from separate evolutionary paths, why can't aliens and humans?
I do agree it's probably rare to evolve abstract reasoning. I tend to think you need a series of near-extinction events that do not result in extinction in order to force animals to reason to survive. Most planets probably either have extinction events or they never have any near-extinction events.
Cetaceans are widely regarded as being quite intelligent.
An elephant's cerebral cortex has as many cortical neurons and cortical synapses as a Human. They are ranked with chimps and dolphins in terms of problem-solving abilities and general intelligence.
Cephalopods (especially Coleoideas) exhibit fairly high intelligence, it hard to qualify how high because they possess a nervous system that is fundamentally different from a vertebrates.
Why? Simply observing and reacting properly will do the trick.
Why? I'm certain there are other configuations. Just look at an octopus.
Why not 3 or 8?
You don't "need" opposable thumbs or binocular vision. To be a tool making and using animal certainly doesn't require thumbs. I can pick up a pen and hold it between my fingers without using my thumb (index and pinky under, middle and ring over), and I can use a finger on each hand to oppose one another as well. We have a bias towards what is natural for us, but it's not logical to assume such things are the natural order.
Perhaps you should have said "at least ..." Spiders have four pairs, a pair of primary eyes and three pairs of secondaries. They also have "setae" which detects movement around them.
There was a Arachnid Starfleet officer in the novel Wounded Sky.
There was also one in TNG, this excellent webpage has the illustration and evolutionary scematic.
You are certainly wrong about that. The opposable thumb and stereo vision are extremely important. You cannot make tools and use them without opposable thumbs. Yeah, you can pick up a pen with two fingers. What else can you do? Nothing of importance. Try removing the pen cap, and don't use your teeth (teeth are a opposable system as well). The idea of using the fingers of two hands to do the work of the opposable thumbs on each hand is laughable, seriously. A hand with only index finger and thumb is more useful than a hand without a thumb.
One of the first inventions (way before the wheel) was the knife. Try making and using a knife with hands without thumbs. It doesn't work. You cannot even pick up a piece of sharo stone and use it against another object to cut it without thumbs. Clothing cannot be made without thumbs. Spears cannot be held and thrown without thumbs.
It's not about the thumb perse, it's about the principle. You just need an opposable structure like that to be able to grasp things easily. And that opposable structure needs to be on a flexible armlike something that you can observe. So manipulating stuff with your opposable teeth is out of the question because your head movement is limited, and you cannot see what you do. If it's not opposable fingers, it's perhaps opposable tentacles. And there the human hand is again more efficient than that as well. Everything else is a waste of energy, which is why it is inferior and will over the course of time not result in advanced species.
Same goes for stereo vision. All superior animals have stereo vision. Without stereo vision and depth perception, there is no fine manipulation of things, and no successful hunting (the aforementioned spear throwing). It goes "hand in hand", so to speak.
Some things are certain. Advanced civilizations need to live in a "dry" environment, not in the water. Otherwise you can completely forget electronics. Upright walk, hands, visual and auditory depth perception, etc... are a given. Otherwise you might have simple life, even intelligent life, but not life that can build computers and space ships. A dolphin, no matter how intelligent it will become in the next couple of millions of years, will never, ever, build a house, a computer or a spaceship. NEVER.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing because he will also not invent weapons of mass destruction, pollute his environment and enslave others to work for him.
Which reminds me of the Gorn species. Unless they somehow utilize slave labor it must take them decades to even assemble a spaceship.
The Tholian as depicted in ST-E was one of my favorites- not only non-humanoid but based on crystal as well.
I think the basic human form is fairly functional but it is not the only solution. Tripodal biology would be another one, and not the Species 8472 cop out where you just add a third leg to a biped either.
Trek over used the bump forehead aliens to the point is not a standard joke, but when most of the series was filmed the CGI and options were to expensive. I love B-5 and Farscape's Aliens, but even those could not deliver the performance an actor can with the eyes exposed. Even today that is hard to do, most are background characters (NuTrek) or still come across as overly textured and 'not there' (JarJar, young Yoda)
If there is another Trek series I think they could do a lot more in making aliens have a non-human structure and still be dynamic characters which can deliver a good performance.
The Tholians (I think of "The Tholian Web") were a great example for a truly alien species, but presented here in a rather threatening context which equally applies for Babylon 5's Shadows and others.
However, I think that part of the threatening appearance is the lack of discernable body language. Body language is important on an unconscious level and human actors under heavy makeup can still communicate in this "language" which is far more difficult or impossible for a truly alien being.
...but not necessarily essential, and cannot be proven to be just on the basis of what we know from our very limited perspective based on life on one planet. Sure, a dog can't use a paw as I can use my hand, but that's not just a function of the lack of an opposable thumb but also that their toes are too short to be useful for that sort of thing. Intelligent creatures with suction-cup lined limbs certainly wouldn't require a "thumb" as such.
You're right about the fact that all our knowledge on life stems from our own planet. What you seem to forget however, is that we have extensively mapped the path of evolution that resulted in that life. Therefore, we can infer that it is certainly possible to create tools without opposable thumbs. However, it is far less effective than our current approach, hence providing a lower chance of being successful which, in turn, leads to a species 'favouring' (by evolution) the variant with opposable thumbs. Similar for our two legs and our way of walking. These features are not just random selections that our species tend to have, but are the work of many generations of optimization to adapt us to our place on this world. This does not imply that we are better than other forms of life (on Earth), but it does result in us being the most able to work with tools and to reason about them.
Given that the laws of physics in our visible universe are very similar, it is not unlikely that (intelligent, tool-using) aliens posses the same basic features. This does not have to mean that they look like us, but it might go a long way. For instance, a successful creature needs to have its sensors (eyes, ears, ...) close to its brain (due to smaller reaction time) which, for safety, should be shielded by a skull-like structure. In order to keep it save from attacks, it should also be kept away from the main body, on a location where the sensors work the most effective, i.e. high up, with sight at front. Consequently, our alien creature already has a typical head.
Again, the shape might differ, but that could be influenced more by the gravity and atmosphere of the aliens' planet.
So, the aliens in ST are probably the most realistic, ironically.
"We have extensively mapped the path of evolution that resulted in that life" just proves our sample set is statistically insignificant. One planet our of billions isn't proof of anything except what happened in our back yard. All life on this planet stems from the same root genome, and most vertebrates are tweaked variations on the same basic plan. The tiny bones in our ears are adapted from jawbones, for instance, and just because that happened here doesn't mean it's going to happen in the same way on a totally alien planet.
As to "So, the aliens in ST are probably the most realistic, ironically." Most realistic than what?
I was thinking of this, especially with my previous analogy of what if there was humanoid alien life on other planets that thought humanoid lifeon our planet was impossible, because they believed their evolution was unique.
The problem or key is, whether life on other planets could take a similar path to develop fingers that can manipulate or develop tools.
No tools, you can't experiment with space travel, let alone build spaces ships.
However, convergent evolution is still a good possibility.
All true, but do you also question whether distant planets are round, just like Earth? I presume the answer is no, because you know that the laws of physics dictate (hypothesize really) that gravity 'works' that way. So, you're probably right on the small chance of an alien having Earth-like ears, but there is a very good chance that they have (biological) sensors to maintain an awareness of their situation and their environment. Given than an atmosphere implies a gas, it might thus be the case that one of these sensors has specialized in detecting pressure differences in that gas, similar to our ears detecting these in our atmosphere. Placing these slightly apart will then provide an advantage, as you can measure distance and orientation of the source more accurately. Moreover, curving the outer part of this sensor might amplify the signal, thus once again improving survivability. Linking to my previous post, we might want these sensors close to the 'brain', and on an effective and safe location: a head.
I try to keep it as abstract as possible, as we can't say much about how they are formed and evolved. So no, I do not believe the bones in their ears evolved from their jawbones, but I do believe that an intelligent and tool using alien can only reach that place in its environment if it high up on the food chain, thus having a good situational awareness (due to its sensors), good reasoning abilities (= a central brain-like structure), and a body to match its tool-making skill.
Sure, aliens in ST look a little too much like us to be plausible, but I believe it is much more realistic than the aliens that look like they came from a horror movie. It might be cool and all, but you don't become an intelligent space-traveling alien if you can't even pick up a screwdriver.
Strickly speaking, the Earth isn't exactly "round."
Oblate spheroid FTW!
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