Fuelled by fantasies of discovering Earth-like planets, NASA recently launched the Kepler Space probe to search the depths of the Universe for planets that may possibly support life. However, this obsession of humanity with the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the question “Are we alone?” is not new. From ancient times when some people actually thought there were people who lived on the moon, to the 21st century, it seems that even the most brilliant intellects and the most pragmatic politicians do not hesitate to send rockets and probes out into the endless void of space powered on billions of dollars of funding. So as people in the developed world muse over the possibility of aliens, millions go to bed without having two square meals daily. Despite the scepticism, one must not forget the repercussions a discovery will have. Another form of life on a planet thousands of miles away will change our world forever. And this makes one realise that this fascination may very well be justified.
Origin and Evolution of Life
With a number of contesting theories on this subject, some raising more controversies than praise, there is little doubt that if we can discover life on another planet, we will be able to have another case study to look at. Questions on abiogenesis, the theory that proposes origin of life from inanimate substances and the contrasting theory of biogenesis that says that life can only be produced from previously existing life. Some wild theories also claim that life did not start out on Earth at all, it came to Earth on a meteor from outer space. Although some theories seem probable while others seem far-fetched and outrageous, we cannot deny the fact that no one knows how exactly life originated. Moreover, even the evolution of life is still not very clear. Darwin proposed his theories of natural selection centuries ago but there are still people who believe in alternate theories. Discovery of life on a different planet may put some of these burning questions to rest.
Religion and Philosophy
Humans have taken great pride in the fact that our specie is the most advanced and superior life form in, possibly, the Universe. For religion and philosophy, humans have taken centre-stage. God is believed to have made humans His finest creation. All this could change if our scientists tell us that there is life on another planet. The central position of man in our view of the Universe and our existence will be overthrown. We will no longer be the unique ones and philosophies will be thrown out of gear.
The most intelligent beings?
Despite the odds, the possibility of a more advanced race than humans cannot be totally denied. This does bring to mind numerous science-fiction works but the possibility is real. It is possible, although improbable, that humans could learn about curing cancer and tapping inexhaustible energy from a race that is more intelligent and technologically advanced.
Today as our world stands fragmented and divided with conflicts everywhere, there will be a sense of belongingness and bonds of humanity will strengthen once we get to know that there is another planet out there with life on it. Then there is the likelihood that in the future, our planet will be so degraded that it may no longer be inhabitable. And then, like in the series Battlestar Galactica, humans might someday need to migrate from the Earth to ensure the survival of their race.
Undoubtedly, investment in the search for extraterrestrial life is not totally unjustified and merely a whim. It is a need for humans to know more about their position in the Universe and understand their existence better. So, as we hear of more probes and satellites being launched, one sincerely hopes that among all the fuss, world leaders do not forget about the people at home. measurements