Do we earthlings take ourselves too seriously when we theorize that we are probably the highest form of life in the vastness of space? Where do we fit into the broader scheme of things in the Universe? If, indeed, there is a broader scheme of things out there.
And are we human beings insignificant, sitting here on this small planet in a solar system within the outside corner of a medium-sized galaxy adrift in the immense universe?
The questions are easy. The answers are the hard part.
Our neighbourhood and beyond
If you have trouble grasping the “food for thought” concept of a larger world possibly existing outside our world, look at it this way: Think first on the small scale of your home and your neighbourhood. Then expand your horizon to include Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, North America, the Western Hemisphere, the Earth, our Solar System, the Milky Way galaxy, and then the Universe. When you compare your home to the Universe, doesn't it make you feel somewhat insignificant?
The ant parallel
Whenever my mind roams into this concept of where we fit into what may or may not be the astronomical “big picture,” I always think of ants.
Ants? Sure. Think about it. Does an ant know or even think about what’s beyond his ant hill? Does he care? Do ants think at all? It makes you wonder, because when you watch them work, they seem really clever and organized. (Must be some sort of union thing.)
Besides, when it’s TV “Ant Week” on one of the learning networks, the ants appear to be really bright and have a nifty little community system developed in the old ant hill. In fact, Ant Week was so fascinating that I can hardly wait for Caterpillar Week.
But do ants know that just outside their important little lives in the colony lies a big grassy field? And beyond that a big city? And beyond that, the rest of our world? Does an ant sense that there’s another world beyond, or does it assume that the all-important ant hill is the end-all and be-all of its universe?
Maybe Albert Ant and all the other ants think that they are the most important creatures in their Universe, and maybe they don’t realize that we are just outside their colony in our own little ant-hill, wondering if there’s anything beyond that.
Well, the esoterics of this topic don’t offer up much in the way of “yes and no.” But just for the sake of discussion, let’s consider a couple of areas. Our importance, for example.
How can we be insignificant? Everything around us in our lives is so meaningful. At least to us it is. Judging by the self-important way we sometimes conduct ourselves, you’d think the Universe revolved around us and our daily problems.
But then, it’s not unreasonable for us to act that way, is it? What do we know of a greater, more important world out there? If indeed there is one. We have to live our lives and make our way in the vastness of the Universe, so why shouldn’t we be self-centred until a greater “being” lands in the back yard, slaps us in the collective face and says, “Hey. Like, chill.”
There’s more out there than meets the eye and I’m here to fill you in.” For clarification, watch the 1950s movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Cosmic neighbours just like us?
When life on other planets is discussed, it’s often under the premise that the life will be like us. Maybe not. They could be far more advanced and could be entirely different physically. For clarification, watch the 1950s movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Or the “life” could be tiny organisms which harken back to a similar lifeforms on Earth from a much earlier stage in our development.
However, such evidence does get you thinking about the possibility of life-forms more advanced than us existing on some other planet, somewhere. Maybe intelligent life evolved out there at a higher and faster pace than here on Earth, producing a civilization far beyond anything we can imagine. Who knows what advances they may have made by now:
• Peaceful co-existence among people?
• Elimination of poverty and disease?
• Unlimited lifespan?
• Solving of the garbage problem?
• Elimination of potholes, mosquitoes and TV Infomercials?
We can only wish.
In such a world, interplanetary travel might be commonplace.
A great many Earths?
Scientists often avoid this kind of philosophical speculation and just stick to the facts. So far, the facts themselves only suggest a mathematical likelihood of planets like ours do exist. For example, scientific study indicates that:
• Out there in our galaxy and others, there may be other solar systems like ours — a medium-sized sun with one or more planets orbiting around it.
• There are billions — that’s right, billions — of galaxies like our Milky Way in the Universe. One of the closest examples is Andromeda, which in astronomical terms is in the neighbourhood.
And all this thinking is often restricted to only the idea of life developing just like ours. But who says it has to be life as we know it. It might be bigger, smaller, smarter, or dumber. It might be creepy, crawly or slimy, just like in the movies. For clarification, watch the Alien movie series.
After you consider the vastness of the Universe, I think it's reasonable to assume that there’s a good probability of some sort of life existing out there. Maybe it’s presumptuous to conclude that we are the ultimate lifeform in space.
In fact, ET and his friends might be out there right now laughing their heads off — both of them.