Looking Through the Telescope Backwards

Rated G

Let me give a quick preface and warning. This post is purely scientific in nature and was written because I enjoy talking science, but don’t get to very often – so this is playtime for me.

If your belief system makes you uncomfortable with scientific views of creation or life, I suggest you roll past this post. If you are looking for something sexy, sensual, flirty or fun to read, you might also roll on by, unless science is fun for you. You have been warned.

So let’s get our nerd on.

Do you believe there are alien life forms out there?

I believe to even ask the question, suggesting that there might not be, is a bit absurd. I am not saying that there are necessarily intelligent, space-fairing beings, but there has to be life else where in the universe.

For the largest part of human history this was a concept that could not even be thought. It was almost like trying to not think. You just can’t do it. Our forbears equally could not have conceived of life as we know it beyond the Earth.

The last, relatively small bit of human history has allowed at least the thought, and the question. In our time there is a large scientific effort to answer that question. I’m not going to poo-poo that attempt. I believe it is extremely important. But I do believe the answer is really obvious, if we reexamine how we ask the question.

It goes like this. There is life here. From what we observe of the life that exists on this little blue ball we believe that there are certain elements that are required for the establishment of life. We look out in space and see those elements elsewhere in the universe. So we wonder, is life out there?

Given how we came to be it is a logical question, and honestly the only possible point of view until now. But since Einstein and Hubble the question itself is questionable.

Let’s twist the previous postulation around. Of course those life-required elements that we find on Earth are out in the rest of the universe. Earth is part of the universe. We could not have anything on this planet that did not exist elsewhere. The Big Bang or whatever moment of creation you accept (Rebounding Universe, Multi-Verse, et al.) created the universe and all things in it, including Earth.

We may not be able to point to specific places where the combinations are favorable, but we know the elements exist. We didn’t even have to look, really.

However, in looking we have counted the stars in galaxies, and the galaxies in space. We know the numbers are so large that it is impossible for those common universal elements to not have combined into favorable locations. We, in fact, know it has as life is here. We know the numbers say it should have happened more than once. The numbers are just that great.

Only in the last 50 years have we learned that life thrives at the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest, darkest, highest pressures of our planet. We have learned that life exists in the Arctic, and even in caves where the sun never shines. We have learned that life does not require oxygen. The variations are greater than we previously imagined. Life is tenacious.

So we know that all required elements and compounds that make up life here must exist elsewhere. We know that life has the capacity to develop in what we would consider to be extreme environments. We know that our solar system alone, with all its planets and moons, has developed hundreds of varying environs. Moreover, we know that the processes that created our solar system and its hundreds of environments have gone on (to borrow from Dr. Sagan) billions and billions of times.

The way the human race grew into the question is natural, and could not be otherwise. But in that, we approached the question backwards. We looked from our own spot and asked if there can be similar spots out there. But our spot was created from the “out there” inward. The required conditions exist all around us. It has happened and is still happening.

So the question of whether or not there is alien or extraterrestrial life is really meaningless. The only question we really need to ask is, where is it?

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