Intelligent Life, Terrestrial & Extra-Terrestrial
Intelligent Life, Terrestrial and Extra-Terrestrial
The search for life on other planets is intensifying. A field that was dismissed as fringe science only a decade ago is now closing in from many angles on the question of extraterrestrial life.
If past or present microbial life is discovered in our solar system, it will mean life is the rule, not the exception in the universe. And if it is the rule, then extra-terrestrial Œintelligent life¹ undoubtedly exists. But what is intelligent life?
Clearly intelligent beings could only communicate with other intelligent beings. Therefore, as long as humankind is heading in the direction of stupidity, we¹ll continue to be cut off from the universe.
There are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way. Astronomers have found about 100 planets circling other stars in our neighborhood. Most of them are gas giants like Jupiter in strange elliptical or tight orbits, which harass or hog the Œhabitable zones¹ where water worlds like earth might otherwise exist.
However, astronomers are sure that earth-like planets do exist, and in 2012 a fantastic array of telescopes called the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) is due to be launched. As Dr. Lawrence Doyle of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) says, ³within the next ten years we will know whether there are potentially habitable planets around hundreds of thousands of stars.²
So it is not a case of if but when an earth-like planet will be discovered. Of course that doesn¹t mean we¹ll have a long distance chat with another species. Many scientists believe technological civilizations are like ³fireflies blinking on and off in the night,² since, given the unimaginable distances and time involved, civilizations would have to last for tens of millions of years to overlap. If so, discovery, much less communication, would be moot.
Let¹s define intelligent life as self-knowing and harmonious, as well as scientific and technological. Let¹s also agree that truly intelligent life is more important in the universe than fireflies blinking on and off.
In that case, certainly no communication could occur until humans stop causing the mass extinction of animals and plants on earth. Given that premise, we are rapidly approaching a point of no return. Obviously it can become too late for a species, as for a person.
Perhaps technology, time, and space are not the prime factors in the equation anyway. Perhaps, when a potentially intelligent species makes the transition from increasingly destructive to increasingly harmonious, instantaneous communication with like-minded beings is then not only possible, but automatic.
Is there a universal set of laws that govern the evolution, crisis, and transition of creatures like us, capable of manipulating life on their planets, for good or ill?
It is probable that given the right conditions and enough time, thought-bearing creatures evolve on water worlds like earth. It is also likely, given the separative nature of thought, that they then develop technology and science outwardly, in inverse proportion to division and fragmentation inwardly. Therefore, without a revolution in consciousness, their psychological fragmentation results in the destruction of their planets, and themselves.
However if they successfully make the transition, they continue to develop scientifically and technologically, but now in harmony with the natural world and the universe. In other words, intelligence keeps thought in its rightful place. In that case, contact and communion is established with other beings that have also met their crisis of Œhigher thought,¹ and thereby changed course.
There is no perfection or utopia anywhere in the universe. But instead of thought-bearing creatures devolving into cyborgs heading ever more rapidly in the direction of self-made destructiveness and darkness, they can grow into beings with the insight and understanding to use science and technology wisely.
Then their consciousness, freed from the constraints of thought, time, and space, is shared with like-minded beings.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.