Are We Alone?

Sunday, December 6, 2020
First Aired: 
Sunday, April 29, 2018

What Is It

News that life might exist or have existed on Mars or somewhere else in our universe excites many. But should we really be happy to hear that news? What are the philosophical implications of the possibility of extraterrestrial life? If life can blossom in our own cosmic backyard, then that means that the universe is most likely saturated with life forms. And if that’s the case, why haven’t we found any evidence of other civilizations? Is it because all civilizations are prone to suicidal destruction at a certain point in their development? If so, how might we avoid this fate? The Philosophers search for life with Paul Davies from Arizona State University, author of The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence.


Comments (8)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 -- 3:08 PM

Are we alone? It depends on

Are we alone? It depends on how we define alone. We are alone, inasmuch as any intelligence we may ultimately have contact with is probably eons ahead of us, and not truly interested in contact with primitive civilizations. I am sure Davies and others have turned this over in their minds a few dozen times. We are not alone in the human sense---we ARE alone in the non-human, super intelligence sense. I have read Davies and found him lucid. Enjoyable. To assume that we are the epitome of intelligence in the known universe is absurdly anthropocentric. But , hey, that is what we do, right?

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 -- 10:03 AM

I have written a short essay

I have written a short essay in which I considered this topic in greater detail. The central feature of the piece examines the long-debated question of whether there is, or ever has been life on Mars. The treatment is both serious and humorous and I raise the obvious (to me) questions regarding how life on Mars might look, considering the relatively cold climate it must have; the absence of an oxygen-rich atmosphere; and the likelihood that its water is bound up as ice, and not much of that. I even go so far as to speculate a different level of heat from the Sun, in some distant past, and whether a Martian civilization once arose, developed and prospered. My conclusions, in short, are not favorable towards Martian life, even if such once existed on the Red Planet. My short hypothesis: Maybe we ought not spend money, or, potentially, sacrifice lives, in pursuit of colonization. A famous line from one of the dinosaur movies (uttered, I believe, by Jeff Goldblum) was: life will find a way. Maybe so. Sure, heat tolerant tube worms and other aquatic life live and thrive near black smokers and undersea vents. We know this and it drives our imagination. Perhaps too much. Mars is not a Goldilocks planet. In only the most remote science fiction would it have ever been. We need to look elsewhere---seems to me...

William Pennat's picture

William Pennat

Saturday, May 19, 2018 -- 6:35 PM

Life on Mars

My favorite fantasy in this regard is this. Billions of years ago, colonists from another star system arrived at ours. At the time (this is a known fact), Mars was actually more habitable than Earth, with a much thicker atmosphere than today's, surface water, temperate climate, etc., etc., and so they settled there instead of here. They even tried their equivalent of terraforming though ultimately it didn't work and, after thousands of years, they gave up and left for parts unknown. (If they were still around, we would know it!) But they might well have left behind artifacts which are still standing. No, not the famous "Face" (which likely is a natural formation) but things like an entire field of perfect tetrahedra. (This has actually been photographed from orbit and, of course, explained away as a "natural formation" by NASA, though how that could be is a mystery to me.) So anyway. Food for the time-travel novel I'll probably never write -- "The Martian Spring of Mrs. Stone".....

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, March 8, 2021 -- 6:12 AM

We are sending a lot of money

We are sending a lot of money into space---trying to get hold of answers to questions. Extraterrestrial life---life of any sort,really. We could spend more of it here;might have more to show for that effort. But. that's not how we roll. Too many of us are worried over socialistic encroachment. It is not truly socialism that is the worry, of course. No one wants to utter the 'C' word, even though it is what generates the worries. An average American knows little of political science;cares to know much less.
But, anyway, .. We could try harder; think better and cut the crap. We could do the best we can with what we have and what we know. However, that is not the way we roll...
IS political science. any sort of science at all? I think I know the answer. But, I won't say. Are we alone in the Universe? I do not think so. All else equal, it likely does not matter.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, June 13, 2021 -- 1:37 PM

The UFO issue is again

The UFO issue is again emergent. Seems cyclical, somehow. Inasmuch as we continue to spend large sums on spacey explorations, one might almost think the cyclicle resurgence is calculated to mislead the public eye just long enough to throw away another few billions of dollars. Or rubles. Or, pick your currency. This is not some conspiracy theory. More like nationalism, gone rogue. I don't care if we are alone or the universe is packed with intelligent life. If it has not mattered by now, it seems unlikely to matter tomorrow, or a million tomorrows hence. Do something useful with resources. That is what pragmatists advocate: put your money where the problems are, not where it will make you look good on the world stage. That is only hubris. Seems...

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, January 15, 2022 -- 5:22 AM

This is in response to the

This is in response to the page dealing with timeless philosophical questions, particularly that one that asks: what is the essential nature of the universe? It seems more a conundrum to me. Timeless?
If we choose to treat it as such; as contextual reality. Timeworn? Certainly that. We have effectively dismissed many chicken-and-egg questions, so, why not this one? The fact that something is old and unanswerable does not confer validity upon the question. Dogs chase their own tails, as play or out of boredom. Is this where we are? I do not think so. It is more out of respect for our 'giants'. How much of that do THEY need?

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Saturday, November 25, 2023 -- 6:08 PM

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 -- 9:57 PM

This is in reference to the

This is in reference to the page that discusses eternal philosophical concerns, namely the one that poses the question: what is the fundamental character of the cosmos? I find it more puzzling. Timeless? geometry dash breeze
We can call it contextual reality if we want to. Old news? Without a doubt. There are a lot other chicken-and-egg problems that we have already solved, so why not this one? Just because a question has been asked before and has no clear solution does not mean it is valid. When bored or playing, dogs will chase after their own tails. Are we still in this area? No, I don't believe so. Honoring our "giants" is the primary motivation. What amount will THEY require of that?

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