Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life

By Paul Davies | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
EXTRATERRESTRIAL MICROBES

At the present state of our knowledge, the origin of life remains a deep mystery. That is not to say, of course, that it will always be so. Undoubtedly the physical and chemical processes that led to the emergence of life from nonlife were immensely complicated, and it is no surprise that we find such processes hard to model mathematically or to duplicate in the laboratory. In the face of this basic obstacle, one can distinguish between three philosophical positions concerning the origin of life: (i) it was a miracle; (ii) it was a stupendously improbable accident; and (iii) it was an inevitable consequence of the outworking of the laws of physics and chemistry, given the right conditions.

I wish to state at the outset that I shall argue strongly for (iii), which seems to be the position adopted by most of the SETI scientists. It is based on the adoption of three philosophical principles which, as I pointed out in the last

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Are We Alone?: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • There Are Many Worlds vii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 - A Brief History of Seti 1
  • Chapter 2 - Extraterrestrial Microbes 21
  • Chapter 3 - Alien Message 39
  • Chapter 4 - Against Aliens 61
  • Chapter 5 - The Nature of Consciousness 89
  • Chapter 6 - Alien Contact and Religious Experience 131
  • Appendix 1 - Project Phoenix 139
  • Appendix 2 - The Argument for Duplicate Beings 145
  • Bibliography 151
  • Index 153
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