Whilst camping recently I was staring up at the night sky and asked this: Are we alone? Fuelled partly by alcohol and due to the beauty and fascination of the universe of stars I could see. The question seemed to unravel for me in it’s complexity.
I came across a strain of thought that seemed to offer a faint hope of understanding.
Why do we ask, are we alone?
Why is it that so many minds have been dedicated to this idea of finding other life in the universe. The question itself seems a ‘Normative’ way to consider this problem. We are making a statement on how the universe ought to be. It is a consideration of one species without enough information.
What is it about the universe that we think it unfathomable that we might actually be alone? What is the thing that motivates us to WANT to have other life out there on other planets.
In the morning I observed a very small finch bouncing around exploring for food. The birds precise mathematical dance filled me with fascination. The bird took a second to stop very close to where I was sitting, for a long time it considered me and then darted off far into the distance looking for food in the bark of a tree. It was part of that creatures biology to search for food in new areas, to seek new foraging grounds to be curious, to look for mates to expand it’s world and survive and to be curious.
Humans are like this, we left Africa for new fertile lands in exploration to colonise every continent on this planet. It is built within our psychology to ask “Are we alone” to explore the next valley, next river, next continent and eventually the next planet and again to be curious.
Humans have developed to be hugely social beings our co-dependency and collaboration is one stratagem for survival. It is most likely why the idea of being alone in the universe terrifies us. Simply because it threatens our views so ingrained to how we survived and survive as a species. Just think as a species one of our worst punishments is solitary confinement, essentially for one human to feel totally alone is a punishment close to death.
We seek to not be alone, however not being alone in the universe would imply that we are in reality looking for species very much like ourselves. What happens if we find sentient life and they are not like us? (A possibility). Or finding that the only life out there are just micro-organisms? Micro-organisms will only temporarily give us the impression we are less alone, after all we cannot communicate with a lump of goo. We may continue the search for sentient life regardless of results forever searching for it.
It is interesting to me this question ‘why do we ask, why are we alone’? It supplied me with hours of contemplation while I sat around the campfire.