The end of 2011 saw the discovery of what is being touted in some quarters as the first earth-like planet to have been discovered, Kepler 22-b. Its similarity to earth is based on just a few features: It orbits a sun similar to our own, it is in the temperature zone which allows water to be present and it has a year which is around 290 days in length. There the similarities end, its not even certain that it is a solid planet and may be similar to the gas and liquid Neptune with perhaps a rocky core. However, we now have published a report which claims our galaxy alone has 100 billion planets which are suitable for life.
The internet is awash with the UFO crowd and exopolitical theorists discussing why we should be worrying about intergalactic diplomacy. Others are playing the numbers game, explaining how in all probability the universe is teeming with life. But what kind of life are they talking of and just how realistic is it that we find any or even make contact?
On the question of life in the universe I would be very optimistic in us finding life all over the universe, but only of a most basic kind. Complex molecules which can replicate themselves and probably the odd single cell or maybe even bacteria but if that is all the life there is out there then its not going to get me too excited as I have enough problems keeping that sort of life out of my kitchen and bathroom without looking for more around the universe. The real question of interest is not ‘Is there life?’ But, ‘Is there intelligent life?’ And without getting into a discussion of defining what intelligent life may consist of I will use the rough guide of being similar to us in terms of intelligence.
As it is postulated that intelligent life abounds a plenty throughout the universe we get increased UFO sightings and advice of how we should deal with being in contact and what to worry about should they attack etc. This is all nonsense unless scientists have everything terribly wrong. The distances involved prohibit any kind of physical contact. We will not be travelling to any distance planets and there will be no aliens travelling from afar to meet us here on earth. And if we assume the physicists have it wrong – what would be the benefit of travelling such large distances? Any culture attempting such a humongous project would go bankrupt and destroy itself before the first spaceship left. Should they get a ship into space it would be generations before arriving here. Indeed, if the distance of Kepler 22-b is typical then it will take 600 years to send a message to them and 600 years to get a reply.
However, there is one other possibility which no one ever seems to want to confront and that is that we are alone in this universe. OK, so we share the universe with intergalactic bacteria but in terms of what passes for intelligent life we are alone and what is more there is a theory which fits perfectly all of the scientific facts and which concludes exactly this.
Based on the anthropic interpretation of quantum mechanics the idea of ‘The Rational God’ acts on the premise of intelligent life being a necessary component of a universe in much the same way that space or time are necessary components. A universe can only exist if it has the attributes of space and of time, The Rational God also adds ‘intelligent life’ to the list of necessary attributes. This is not as contentious as it might appear given what we know about the quantum realm.
In quantum mechanics the observer of a physical system plays a role in the collapsing of that system from a quantum state into a single real state. At a universal level, the universe from the moment of Big Bang would exist as an infinite quantum system until a time one of those infinite quantum universes evolved intelligent life. At that Adam and Eve moment the quantum system would collapse into a single real state which is the universe we now find ourselves in.
Given this interpretation of quantum mechanics there are a number of consequences to such a view. First of all it is inevitable that universes evolve intelligent life. That is, the probability that intelligent life exists within a universe is 1: Intelligent life is a necessary condition for universes.
Following from this are a number of extraordinary conclusions that seriously challenge our current view of who we are and how we arrived here. For example, the process of evolution is no longer one of pure chance, though we do need to qualify what we mean when we use this phrase. Each individual circumstance of genetic adaptability does occur by chance – nothing new there – but the process of intelligent life arising from a Big Bang leaves nothing to chance. In fact there is a case for claiming the universe which will become real from a quantum system containing infinite possibilities will be the universe which takes the shortest possible route from Big Bang to intelligent lifeforms. Therefore not only is the universe necessarily dependent on intelligent life existing, that intelligent life will arise in the shortest time it could possibly take.
This places the mathematical arguments for the existence of extraterrestrial life in to a completely different context.
Consider for example, the case of the possible universe which is the second fastest at evolving intelligent life. It no longer exists, instead it was collapsed out of existence when the quantum realm collapsed the fastest intelligent life evolving universe into reality. And whereas the intelligent life which has evolved by necessity arrived by the shortest evolutionary route in time that is possible, any further independent intelligent life to evolve on other planets within this actual universe has to evolve by pure chance alone. The history of evolution on this planet may not be a truly representative guide to the speed of evolutionary processes in other parts of the universe. Given that it isn’t, it is highly unlikely there is intelligent life anywhere else.