Evolution, Science, and Extraterrestrial Life
The search for extraterrestrial life was featured in a NOVA, or some other, television program I happened across yesterday. Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are people on countless other planets in the universe, but that documenting or proving it is impossible. Still, it is worth considering the arguments and evidence that might convince us of the existence of someone with a potential to communicate with us from some far galaxy.
The most hopeful search described on television was an attempt to detect radio-wave transmissions from outer space via a reception on a radio-telescope array. Radio-waves are presumably subject to no, or less, distortion as they travel through space and matter intervening in space. The opportunity for success is infinitesimal, or so close to zero, that I doubt it is worth the effort for the following reasons.
1. Pinpointing a source would be more difficult than spotting an ant on earth from a telescope on the moon.
2. A potential source would likely be of short duration relative to the long time the signal would take to reach the earth. Possible reception from pointing the radio-telescope at the right planet or star might also precede or follow the time a signal is generated.
3. The algorithms and signals that brilliant minds are expected to develop and send my never be sent because they are even more intelligent and understand its impossibilities or lack of potential use for communication requiring many years between sending and receiving.
4. The formation of galaxies, stars, planets, and the elements likely to produce a potential life inhabited planet happened many millions of time during the development of the universe. But those millions are too isolated by time and space for even a slight chance of discovery.
Of the many billions of planets produced, millions have likely gone through an evolution of carbon-based life that could well have produced conditions needed for the evolution of life during some period in the past ten billion years. It would have required several things.
1. The right blend of chemistry, temperature, radiation, gravity, and relative stability of conditions.
2. Sufficient time with those conditions.
The natural selection outcomes would result in evolution likely including some outcomes with
1. Biochemical features much as organisms on earth have.
2. A lot of systems similarity to earthly organisms.
3. Similar ecological roles for different groups of organisms.
4. Social structure, and greatest technological advance with an organism about the size of humans, probably bipedal; but perhaps with different numbers of digits and vertebrae. They would probably dream about being able to fly like the little fliers and the big fliers of their worlds.
A big question, would the dominant organisms have pigment variations like us or would they all be green?
Silicon based versus carbon based life systems seem an interesting possibility in science fiction.
Some find the interacting whole of the biosphere is some type of organism; there are interesting parallels between biosphere and organism that are better explained by ecological principles.
God is probably amused by those people on planets to whom he* was willing to reveal himself* for their belief that they are the only ones of importance to him*.
* I don't think God has a struggle with our inability to come up with an agreed upon, non-gender based way of describing I AM. I AM, the creator of the universe and all that is in it as well as the underlying or embedded principles leading to the world and its ways.
Conclusion: extraterrestrial life probably exits in the present, probably existed in the past, and will probably exist in new places in the future. We are unlikely to ever know for certain from physical evidence in our present state.
Joseph G. Engemann Kalamazoo, Michigan October 4, 2014