Jack Szostak presented a talk titled “The origin of life on Earth” which I personally found one of the best of the whole conference. It was a bit unsettling for me though as for the first time I actually felt that life might not be that common throughout the Universe and that it might just be possible that we are the only life around. I had not thought or considered this possibility before as I always thought that life is teeming throughout the Universe. But when you consider that all life on this planet is based on just one immensely complex molecule, and that there must have been literally billions and billions of different precursor molecules that did not lead to life – then you start to view things in a totally different way. Richard Dawkins too felt (like I used to) that unless the occurence of life was an incredibly low probability event, then there should be plenty of life elsewhere in the Universe. I am now starting to think that life is not only a low probability event but that it is close to a zero probability event.
As Arthur C Clarke said, we may be the only intelligent life form in the Universe, or there may be others out there somewhere – whichever case is true, both have incredible repercussions.