So I came across this article a few days ago and thought it was pretty interesting. The funny thing is is that this article was the first time I had encountered that idea. The odd thing is that the idea popped up last night in the book I am reading called The Meaning of Human Existence. It is an interesting book but so far not exactly what I expected.
The article and book both seem to think that aliens, if we ever encounter them would be big, like really big. The article suggest that an average alien would be around 300 lbs. That is a pretty big alien. While the book did not necessarily give a weight range. The really interesting thing is how the scientists in the article and the book came about the is idea. Honestly I think their logic is very sound, however I am not totally sold on the idea.
Both individuals who talk about the theory say that being big is better mainly because it enables the creature to have a larger brain. I would agree with this and this mostly makes sense, you don’t see very small animals with large brains and they assume that similar evolution woukd happen on another planet. I think that is a fairly straight forward assumption. The being would need to be of ample size to even have a shot at being intelligent at least to our standards.
My question is at what point does evolution create a point of diminishing returns, I know that is an economics term but I think it applies here. Is there a point where a brain or some sort of processing organ is too big and eventually inhibits the being from surviving and or thriving? I think that is the real question.
Here on earth there is a similar example of what I am talking about. Way back when our early ancestors were competing with neanderthals. Now this may not have been direct competition but you get the idea. Both species were very similar both used and made tools, wielded fire, communicated, and most importantly both had relatively large brains and we’re relatively intelligent. The real difference was the body frame. Netherlands were built like Mack trucks with layers and layers of muscle. They were quite a bit heavier that early humans as you can imagine. This could have been an advantage but because we are here and not them I would argue that it was in fact a hindrance. Their large frames required them to eat about 4,000 to 5,000 calories daily to maintain a healthy body. Just so you know that is more than double, about 2,000 calories, than that of a human. While I know that may not mater as much now, I think it was a big deal back during a the time where you could not walk down the street to your local grocery store and grab a bite to eat.
My point here is that neanderthals were not all that dissimilar from us, but the fact that they required double the food than that of a competing species did not bode well for them.
So now back to this idea about aliens being very big, I am not 100% on board with that idea. I think in theory it makes sense but when you factor in ideas like the one I mentioned above being large is not that much of an advantage, so why would evolution journey down that path. I will say I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere. I think the individuals who came up with this idea have very sound logic arriving at their theory but seem to throw out some simple common sense and evolution in the end.
I don’t buy it because evolution I believe would not follow that path. An intelligent being of that size I don’t think would just evolve under normal circumstances. The gravity on the planet could have some effect on that but that is a whole other discussion, or for whatever reason all things on this planet could be large by our standards. Other than these scenario this theory seems counter intuitive to evolution in my opinion. I would think a being as they claim would require a massive amount of resources just so keep itself alive much else do anything constructive.
I also wanted to say that perhaps after this alien species has won the battle of evolution on their planet, as we have, in case you don’t know wet are the top predator and nothing hunts us, did they do something to increase their brain size? I am talking about messing with their DNA or genome to get a larger brain. That is a very plausible idea, and if this were the case they could potential need larger bodies for support and to be proportional. That seems like a more likely theory in my opinion. I just have a hard time saying that without factoring in some sort of extreme evolutionary flaw I don’t see the large alien theory as all that plausible.
What also needs to be kept in mind, pun intended, is that if the beings are organic and do have a brain somewhat similar to ours, at what point does the size no longer matter, as I mentioned above when does the diminishing returns kick in and that next size is actually worse off for the individual or provides no advantage for the excess calories and whatever other maintenance comes with a larger brain.
While I think this is a very interesting idea I think it has quite a few flaws, but as always what do I know, I’m no scientist.