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The big question

14 July 2012, 13:49

 THE BIG QUESTION

One of the biggest of the big questions of existence is, Are we alone in the universe. Science has provided no convincing evidence one way or the other. It is certainly possible that life began with a bizarre quirk of chemistry, an accident so improbable that it happened only once in the entire observable universe, and we are it. on the other hand maybe life gets going wherever there are Earth like planets. We just don’t know because we have a sample of only one. However, no known scientific principle suggests an inbuilt drive from matter to life.   

 No known law of physics or chemistry favours the emergence of the living state over other states. Physics and chemistry are, as far ,as we can tell, “life blind”.

     Yet I don’t believe that life is a freak event. I think the universe is teeming with it. I can’t prove it;  indeed, It could be that humankind will never know the answer for sure.  If we find life in our solar system, it most likely got there from earth (or vice versa)in rocks kicked off planets by comet impacts.  And to go beyond the solar system is the stuff of dreams.  The best hope is we develop instruments sensitive enough to detect life on extra solar planets from earth orbit. But, While not impossible, this is a formidable technical challenge.

     So why do we think we are not alone, when we have evidence of life beyond earth?Not for the fallacious popular reason:  “The universe is so big there must be life out there somewhere”. Simple statistics show this argument to be bogus. If life is in fact a freak chemical event, it would be so unlikely to occur that it wouldn’t happen twice among a trillion trillion trillion planetsRather, I believe we are not alone because life seems to be a fundamental, and not merely a property of nature. It is built into the great cosmic scheme at the deepest level and therefore is likely to be pervasive.

     I make this sweeping claim (author) because life has produced mind, and through mind, beings who do not merely observe the universe but have  come to understand it through science, mathematics and reasoning. This is hardly an significant embellishment of the cosmic drama, but a stunning unexpected bonus. Somehow life is able to link up with the basic workings of the cosmos, resonating with the hidden mathematical order that makes it tick. And that is a quirk too far for me.
Acknowledgements:  PAUL C.W. DAVIESProfessor of natural philosophy  University Sydney
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