Micro Life Zone
Asked by jaycee248 to Steven, Dustin on 16 May 2012. This question was also asked by basalt.
Keywords: alien, evolution, intelligent, life
I’d be disappointed if there was not. Intelligence is a funny thing to try and define. I’d prefer to say more advanced life, such that they understand more about the Universe and the laws that govern it. I find myself thinking about this quite a lot, trying to decide if humans are intelligent or not. We certainly rush around doing a lot of stuff, have learned quite a lot about the Universe, and appear to be pretty good at solving problems and inventing things. When I’m walking along the street, I find my self thinking, “if an alien saw a car driving on a road, would they laugh at the ridiculously primitive nature of the machine, or would they be speechless with amazement?”. It is impossible to tell, of course, since we have no extraterrestrial civilisations to benchmark ourselves against. But I do wonder where we sit in the continuum of life forms in the Universe. I am assuming here that we are the most “intelligent” life on this planet. Douglas Adams would say that we are not – “so long and thanks for all the fish”.
Hi Jaycee and basalt,
It is a very interesting question.
Depending on what you mean by intelligent the answer could change, but let’s just say you are referring to technologically advanced civilisations in the universe somewhere.
Part of the problem in attempting to answer the question is that we are still not sure of what drove human intelligence. What happened since splitting away from the common ancestor with chimps 6 million years ago that drove evolution allowing us to become a technological civilisation?
On earth, over a few billion years of evolution has taken place, but it appears only one species have become technologically advanced, us. Many other species could have become intelligent, if it was just a matter of time, but that doesn’t seem to be the answer. For example, if becoming an intelligent species was just a matter of time, then crocodiles should be on the moon as they have been in their current form for about 60 million years now.
So it seems that there are other factors that lead to intelligence. Whether life on other planets stumbles on this same plan or not is difficult to guess at until we have a full answer of what drove our evolution. Also keep in mind it could have been very different, it is thought that the human species was down to about 1000-2000 individuals, so nearly extinct.
Having said all that, the sheer numbers of stars in the universe will hopefully compensate for the rarity of intelligent life. So a part of me thinks that there is going to be intelligent life out in the universe somewhere, even though we never may end up meeting it.
Here is a link to an interview I did with Dr Charlie Lineweaver, he is an Astrobiologist, and he doubts that there is intelligent life.
That’s a sticky question well answered!
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