THE NATURE OF LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE
A Contemporary Essay
By Rick Doble
Several things about life seem obvious to me
All life forms will have an intense drive to survive. This drive comes with life. If a life form did evolve without this, I cannot believe it would live very long. In short to be alive is to want your own existence and those of your children to be as long as possible and the life of your species to continue forever. This is a drive for immortality of the species, if you will. Virtually all life much be hardwired with this kind of desire.
We now know that there are very roughly 100 billion stars in a galaxy and 100 billion galaxies. Recent findings make it appear likely that there are numerous planets around a number of stars. So do the math! It seems likely that life does exist or has the potential to exist in many other places in the Universe.
From our experience on the Earth we now know that life can exist in places we never thought possible such as deep in the ocean, at extreme temperatures, in toxic chemicals, in dry desserts etc. Bacteria can lie dormant for 90 million years then spring back to life when conditions are right. It can even survive the vacuum of space and intense radiation. So in short life is quite resilient.
One of the prime axioms of any boy scout is this: if there's one there's more. It is very rare to find only one turtle in a pond. That one turtle means that there are lots more that we cannot see. Since life clearly does exist on Earth, exists in abundance, has existed for billions of years and exists in extreme conditions, it is quite likely that it exists in other parts of the Universe as well.
From the above the following seems true:
==Life is an inevitable result of the evolution of the universe.
==Intelligent life seems to be a probable result of the evolution of life given enough time.
==Life requires a will to live and survive not just for an individual but for an entire species.
==Therefore, intelligent life will learn to do all that is necessary to insure the survival of its species, even if this involves massive engineering.
Intelligent life will learn to engineer its environment so that its chances of survival are greater. This will begin with things like agriculture and the use of fire and expand to an understanding of the forces of the Universe that will allow intelligent life to shape and forge the planet it is on, the solar system it is part of and beyond.
We are have already started on this journey. Today, for example, in order to survive the US congress has funded the NASA Near-Earth Object Program Office to identify and track objects such as a comet or asteroid that could hit the Earth. Already hundreds of fairly large asteroids that cross our path (near-Earth objects - NEOs) have been mapped and scientists have begun to think of scenarios in which we could divert these from hitting our planet. We do this because we have no choice if we are to survive as a species.
From all of the above comes my final point:
Because intelligent life is an inevitable part of the development of the Universe and because it will become increasingly powerful over time, intelligent life is a basic force, perhaps a fundamental force, that is a part of the Universe. It will shape and mold the Universe itself.
Some have said that we are the Universe trying to understand itself, the consciousness of the Universe, you could say. I would go much further. I believe we have been created by the Universe to eventually forge the Universe.
However, success is far from guaranteed. Let us say we have been given the opportunity. It is up to us to follow through. If we succeed, we may become masters of our planet, our solar system, our galaxy and even more. If we fail, our race of homo sapiens may become extinct.
The point of all this is quite simple, quite human, quite heroic and goes back to ancient thought, such as that of the Greeks: If we have the will, if we, struggle we might survive. It is not guaranteed; it is not certain, but without the struggle we are surely doomed.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Now, you might ask, why does this matter to us today? Cosmic questions really don't have that much to do with everyday life.
The simple answer is that the morale of the human race will be quite different, if a large number of people feel that we can survive no matter what.
More than one person has looked up at the stars and said "What is the point? Why bother to struggle when we are so tiny compared to all that exists."
Embracing a point of view in which humans are central to the development of the Universe gives us a very different position than the opposite point of view: that we are merely a biological accident on some outpost in space.
WHAT IF THE HUMAN RACE DIES OUT?
There are many scenarios in which humans destroy each other or are destroyed the impact of an asteroid hitting the Earth. So we must ask the question, what if we don't make it?
As we know from studies of nature, nature deals in big numbers. Nature does not put all its chips on just one horse or one species. When a human male ejaculates, he expels millions of sperm just to fertilize one egg. When a fish lays eggs, it often lays millions of them at one time even though only a few will survive.
If the human race dies out, there will be other intelligent species that will evolve either here on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe. With such large numbers as 10,000 billion, billion stars and possibly as many planets, I have to believe there is a lot of life evolving.
If the particular makeup of the human race, does not have what it takes to master the planet and so on, well so be it. We gave it our best shot. Maybe the next intelligent life form will do better. Life has billions of years to try.
Prof. Kardeshev has proposed the following method of characterizing civilizations within the Universe.
Type I - control and engineering of the worlds resources and environment
Type II - engineering of the solar system and the sun
Type II - engineering of the galaxy
Since visionary and practical thinkers are serious proposing that the human race can evolve in increasingly more sophisticated ways to achieve almost unimaginable power, theorists should consider the idea that intelligent life is one of the fundamental forces in the Universe along with gravity and so on. I would love to see this idea explored and used in computer simulations dealing with cosmology.