Archive for January 25th, 2010

Like the conundrum “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, the following quote from the president of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal in this article about “discovering” life on other planets serves to underline the arrogance of humans:

It would change our view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos, he said.

It is too true that many people assume our puny species holds primo place in the universe, that we are either an end result of evolution that worked beautifully or were designed in an image of a god who intentionally set out to put us in charge of everything.

Back in the days before ships began sailing the globe, it was well accepted that each little pocket of humanity was a stand-alone example of perfection, and when other little pockets were “discovered”, they were considered less by the “discoverers” who were simultaneously deemed weird by the newly “discovered”.

Even with the widely accepted knowledge that our universe is huge and filled with billions upon billions of stars, billions and billions of which have planets going around them, our little brains don’t quite have the oomph to project far enough to grasp with certainty the fact that we are not alone.

Nope. We won’t change our view of ourselves and our place in the cosmos until we sit down over a turkey dinner and compare notes.

Earthnocentricity has us looking for the familiar, because that’s what we can deal with.

“Technology has advanced so that for the very first time we can actually have the realistic hope of detecting planets no bigger than the earth orbiting other stars.

“(We’ll be able to learn) whether they have continents and oceans, learning what type of atmosphere they have.

“Although it is a long shot to be able to learn more about any life of them, then it’s tremendous progress to be able to get some sort of image of another planet, rather like the earth orbiting another star.”

Because we need continents and oceans, others must, too? That strikes me as more than a bit limited in imagination. Who’s to say that gaseous balls don’t support intelligent beings comprised of light or heat equipped with gaseous balls for reproduction?

Lord Rees touches on this a bit, but drops the ball …

“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms that we can’t conceive.

“And there could, of course, be forms of intelligence beyond human capacity, beyond as much as we are beyond a chimpanzee,” he added.

Considering how much DNA we share with chimps, those from other worlds would very likely consider us one species while we’re busy thinking that bright flicker in the corner was nothing but a power surge.

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