Seeker of Truth

Ruminations of One Suspended between Catholic Christianity and Scientific Utopianism

Location: Washington, United States

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Are we alone?

In the universe that is top-down, made by God, it is entirely possible that we are the only inhabited planet in a multi-billion lightyear edifice, or an even bigger one, for that matter. Why that should be so, I cannot begin to imagine. Maybe at some point, we are meant to inhabit it all :)What about a bottom-up universe? How unlikely would life have to be for us to be alone? Limitations have been postulated, about the lack of technologically advanced civilizations, about their propensity to die out, by their own hand or through whatever catastrophe might befall them. Then there is the speed of light limitation, and cosmic radiation, all of which make interstellar propagation near impossible.Are those realistic barriers, though? Our own lack of technological know-how makes every generation of scientists believe that they have almost discovered all there is to discover, with just a few points to clear up. Nobody, of course, can fathom things that lie completely out of one’s frame of reference, such as relativity and quantum mechanics were a good hundred years ago for the scientists of the day.Which brings us to the sociological arguments: Advanced intelligences do not contact us, because a) they do not want to interfere in our development, b) they are so far ahead of us that we do not even recognize them as lifeforms, c) the universe is so big that nobody has happened upon us, or d) some combination/variation of the above.Part of why these arguments are so hard to meet is the fact that they are essentially faith, of a non-religious type. We are asked to accept their underlying premises, not in so many words, but still. There is a good deal of anthropomorphization going on, the attribution of human characteristics to non-human entities. For instance, the non-interference theory stems largely from the currently trendy belief that european imperialists destroyed all these thriving indigenous cultures world-wide by their arrogant meddling, and by extension, that any truly advanced race would never commit such a faux-pas. One might of course quite equally argue that any truly advanced civilization would meddle exactly this way in any primitive civilization it encounters, and thereby raise it up, or destroy it, or whatever. In short, we are bringing our (or rather, some people’s) current world-view, whose validity is unknown, to bear on a situation equally unknown.Fact is, there is a very large universe with probably lots of planets, at least some of which ought to sustain life, or maybe even places we don’t consider habitable might give rise to life, to consciousness and to technology. Nobody has made contact with our planet, and our search for extraterrestrial life, or rather technology, has yielded nothing to date. Maybe it’s too early to tell yet, but then, what if there is nothing anywhere, except for us? SIgn of divine plan or freak accident of nature?


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