Could there be life on other planets? I imagine that somewhere in the universe a sentient being is asking that same question, perhaps even writing about it in some manner. It is almost impossible to think about life on another planet without the bias we all seem to have about what such life would look like. Surely they must appear humanoid in some fashion because after all, without an opposing thumb and fingers how could they manipulate objects with any precision? Without a mouth, ear or eyes how could they speak, hear or see? Does any of that really matter or do we need to somehow find a way not to be alone in a universe where every other life form is different from us? How lonely it would be to discover that the only life forms remotely close in appearance to us are apes living on the same planet. These questions torment our intelligence.
Let our imagination take flight and say we found life of a humanoid form on another planet and also discovered they were far less advanced than us? That possibility is just as likely and even more likely than finding they are more advanced. After all, on what basis would we, the lesser advanced beings become the initiators of contact? We already have stealth technology so even a few decades of advancement over our own technological capabilities would render our search for other life fruitless, unless they were less capable than us. A quick look at our own development shows that once we acquired the means, we went about hiding our resources and means of offense and defense from other countries. Assuming that any beings more advanced would welcome intrusion and contact at will seems a bit preposterous doesn’t it? A lot of questions I know but thinking or even considering we have even the basic answers will limit our ability to search for much less locate life on other planets.
As we search the universe for life our best minds have already forumulated the basis for the search. We have the Goldilocks theory, the life based on carbon theory among many limiting factors. Ask a child to draw what they think life on another planet would look like and suddenly everything you’ve read or heard about goes out the window. That is because children in their early stages of development aren’t limited by knowledge aquired from others who have preconcieved ideas about a specific topic. If we are ever to be successful in finding life elsewhere, casting off the conventional wisdom and learned theorists is almost mandatory. Do we really think other beings want to be found? Why would we think that we can be the initiators of contact or discovery when we try so hard to secret our own technologies and information? The space exploration we have so far achieved would only serve to display our inward perspective of the universe; we look down at ourselves far more than we look out to find others.
All of this leaves us where? Hoping we discover a planet where life could possible exist, not probably, just possibly. This would be a sound way of going about discovering life elsewhere except for one small detail, to us the probable and possible types of planets where other life exists is the same. Thus we are almost certainly doomed to search for generations to come with little hope of finding what we seek.
At some point in time, if we evolve to think beyond our self limiting experiences and knowledge, to imagine the impossible, then we might have a chance. Until then, we’ll hope to find a planet where an outstretched hand awaits us in the universal gesture of good will. I can’t imagine such a scenario but maybe, just maybe, that is the impossible.