Some of my readers embrace my pessimism. Some hate it!
Finding life on other planets is the Holy Grail of science. The final punch in the age-old fight between scientists and creationists. It runs deep.
It would finally prove life can exist elsewhere. To date no proof exists.
There are candidates right here in our own solar system with some moons in orbit around Saturn and Jupiter. They are going to spend a lot of money to look. They had hope for Mars. That hope faded quickly when we realized Mars is dead.
My gut feeling is on the side of pessimism, though.
If the planet is the right size, at the right place from it’s star, is it inevitable that life will evolve? The evidence suggests no.
A fly flew over a stream of water.
A fish saw the fly and jumped out of the water to catch it.
A bear in the bushes saw the fish and jumped in the water to eat the fish.
A hunter saw the bear jump out and raised his rifle to shoot the bear. In so doing he dropped his sandwich to the ground.
A mouse saw the sandwich drop and jumped out to grab a piece of the cheese.
A cat saw the mouse and jumped out to catch the mouse.
The cat fell in the water and got wet.
The story highlights a chain reaction of events. Life is full of chain reactions. One thing causes another. Life is like dominos falling into each other and knocking the next one down. The question becomes whether it is inevitable that the first action leads to the final outcome. Given that the fly goes over the water, will the cat get wet? It is something to ponder.
If the planet is the right size, at the right place from it’s star, is it inevitable that life will evolve? The evidence suggests no. There were too many “lucky breaks” in the form of mega disasters for the earth that brought us to where we are now on a life sustaining planet. A mars size planet collided with Earth. It was a terrible collision. It spewed all kinds of rocks into space that coalesced into the moon. Without the moon, the earth would have wobbled and not have been stable to support life. The creation of Earth did not necessitate that there was a colossal disaster that resulted in the moon. Call it bad luck. Really good luck.
The Earth is lucky. Luck is luck. It’s a chance. In our case maybe one in a million. Maybe, perhaps, the only time. Maybe there’s somebody else out there, maybe there isn’t. So far, we haven’t seen evidence of anything out there other than what came from here.
So which is it? Adam and Eve or the Big Bang? It’s a dark mystery.
We all know how an atheist would answer, and we all know how a fundamentalist Christian, Jew or Muslim would answer. Trying to argue either side would therefore be fruitless, like expecting to convince a pro-lifer or pro-choicer to accept the opposing view.
Simple acknowledgment will suffice. Both communities are replete with ambiguities. For example:
- Do we really understand how chemical evolution morphed into biological evolution? Just how did amino acids become DNA anyway?
- What’s causing the galaxies to accelerate apart rather than slow down and collapse in on themselves? Dark energy? What’s that? Obviously, astrophysicists don’t know. That’s why they call it dark. Not as in evil, but as in “I have no clue.” All they know is gravity should be slowing it down and it’s not. What’s really happening is a dark mystery.
It goes on and on.
- There’s too much mass in the galaxy. They call that one dark matter. Instead of flying apart, the outer stars, like ours, remain orbiting the galactic center and we don’t understand why.
- What is gravity anyway?
I’m sure you realize I don’t have the answers either, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
The whole quandary is a dark perplexity.