The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space. —Carl Sagan
* * *
My friend believes extraterrestrial life is out there. I’m skeptical but I’m not a denier. I’m agnostic.
Probably is, given the population of our Milky Way—300 billion stars and at least that many planets—not to mention a trillion galaxies beyond this one, each with a trillion stars and a trillion planets. There are a zillion possibilities.
My friend believes extraterrestrial life is out there.
Avil Loeb does too. Loeb, the longest-serving chair of Harvard’s department of astronomy, thinks there’s hard evidence for his belief.
On October 19, 2017, astronomers at the University of Hawaii spotted a bright speck tumbling away from Earth and eerily veering away from the sun. The object was named ‘Oumuamua and classified as an interstellar asteroid.
Loeb disagreed with that classification. To him it did not look or act like an asteroid or a comet. He surmised it was a “light sail” launched by a technologically sophisticated civilization somewhere, somehow, some time ago. He makes his case in Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.
“It would be arrogant to think we are alone,” he told a reporter.
Loeb became a media sensation even though most in the scientific community consider his theory kooky. Still, he presses on because that’s what real scientists do, he says. (Think Galileo.)
Loeb grew up on a farm in Israel. He read Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. He dreamed of becoming a philosopher. He joined the army, enrolled in the advanced weapons program, and worked on laser technology. He became a physicist and wrote a doctoral dissertation entitled: “Particle Acceleration to High Energies and Amplification of Coherent Radiation by Electromagnet Interactions in Plasmas.” (I haven’t read it.)
Loeb discovered a lot. But one question keeps nagging him:
Are we alone?
If we discover other intelligent beings out there, we will be humbled, he thinks.
Which got me thinking.
Aren’t there plenty of other reasons to be humble?
Earth is a grain of sand in the cosmic sea. It took 4.5 billion years for humans to stand up on the planet. Millions of other animals arrived long before us. Without bees and trees we’d be dead.
We do not stand alone.
We cannot stand alone.
We are not alone.
See Paula’s photo “Lenten Rose” on the home page. Posted March 21
I agree. With all that we have around us how can we be alone, physically.
Superbly put! My friend says there’re many ways to tell the God/Love/I AM meta-story to humankind, and here’s one you nailed.
Avi Loeb is a brilliant and humble scientist who makes “The Case for Cosmic Modesty” in a TED Talk at Harvard. It is worth viewing. Among other things, he says: “Observing the sky makes us aware of the big picture and teaches us modesty. We now know we are not at the center of the physical universe.” To assume that we are alone may be the height of human arrogance. In his book Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, he calls this “an ossified way of thinking.” Let us be open and humble and look at the big picture!
Randy, beautiful “full circle” piece. The gift of the unknown–or unproven–is that we humans are always given choices. We can dismiss out of hand or we can keep digging away for factual evidence. In the meantime, my favorite choice is to act “as if.” Act as if we matter because we are here, now; act as if we are Love, because all great teachers of divine essence believed it; act as if we are wiser than those who sow division, rugged individualism, and the notion that we are not in this enormous but leaking boat called “Planet Earth” together. No one goes it alone, real or imagined, to full benefit. We need only gaze upward at night to be reminded–or to contemplate the honey bee on the wild hedge rose. Our choices; “many/and.”
“We are all connected. To each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the rest of the universe atomically. The cosmos is within us, we’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
~ The Symphony of Science
Wonderful idea and discussion to bring forth as Spring comes and Life reawakens. That we are not alone is built into our DNA and the fabric our body. We are not alone – Something our ancestors have known since the first time they glanced up at the night sky.
Oh, you’ll never enjoy the world aright
Till the sea itself floweth
in your veins, till you are clothed
with the heavens and crowned with the stars
– Thomas Traherne (1636 – 1674)
Don’t get me started! Human’s are so damn arrogant, they need to believe they are “it.” That’s the ego for you! Planet Earth is a speck of sand compared to the billions and billions of other celestial bodies floating around out there. I know many an airline pilot who has reported seeing “something” in the night sky as they travel across the big pond. They have the best window seats!! The Government has files filled with reports of UFO sightings. So, I’m ok with not having the “correct” answer to the question. If I was given a vote on the issue, I would say, YES.
Thank you Randy… we have minds to reason with, and hearts to understand.
My father was a navigator and celestial observer. He once said “it’s a mathematical impossibility that we are the only life in the universe”. It makes sense to me, and I think of his words as I gaze at the moon and stars. Time will tell… in the meantime isn’t it lovely!❤️🙏
If we on this fragile earth would stop acting like we have it all and are everything there is, we might actually open our hearts and our minds to caring about and caring for our earth and our fellow man before we destroy both! When we fail to see the beauty around us and in others, we miss so much of life and the joy of living 👏🤞
OK now hold on just a minute, you’re getting all physical and solids oriented. Would an advanced civilization be more sentient than us? That’s not hard. Really, I don’t think they would do interstellar in titanium tanks; I think they would do it in mind… like talking to Dog. No offense intended. Should an advanced being wish to speak with us, wouldn’t they communicate from the inside…. you know, as if we humans were speaking with the planet as a being; or a god, or gods? Me? I’m agnostic.
Thank you. So many threads connecting us all and I discover more threads and connections every day of my life with people, critters, birds, trees, flowers, caterpillars, stars…..Proof of beings on other planets is not necessary in order to be humbled and in awe when we have such concepts as eternity and the universe and such forces as mother earth and father sky to get us there.
My parents bought me my first telescope when I was 9, a 3.5 inch reflector with a cardboard tube. I’ve had others since, but it was gazing into the night sky with that one that relieved me at an early age of any doubt about God and our puny physical place in His/Her vast timeless creation. I loved Buck Rogers and later became a Trekkie, but that’s just entertainment. I’m as fascinated as anyone with the prospect of “Contact,” and the suggestion that Earth harbors the only “intelligent” life in the Universe is, to me, absurd. But never mind. EARTH is our gig, and our responsibility.
What a great post and what great comments. I’m a shameless believer in life before life and life after life, probably forever. That’s not to say all such life looks like anything we know. There are millions of neutrinos passing through us, I understand. Who’s to say they aren’t life right here and now but in another dimension?