There was a programme the other night, I think on Channel 4 about possible alien creatures being found on Earth. I love this stuff so I watched the programme. Highly disappointing right from the off.
These “alien” creatures weren’t very alien at all. Bilateral symmetry, a skull, a pair of eyes, nasal cavity, pair of ears, four limbs – just as you would expect from any mammal on Earth. How could such an obviously DNA-based life form be an alien??
I remember as a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old having a fundamental disagreement with my parents. My parents were always going on about how diverse the life on Earth was and how different we were from everything else. I guess I looked at things on a different scale and they didn’t seem to understand my argument that far from being different – I was amazed at how very similar everything was. As I said above, horses, sheep, pigs, humans, cats and dogs, all have two eyes, two ears, four limbs and a nose and teeth and ……………. on a large scale, we’re near as dammit identical. Fifty years on of course I now know that this is because we all share the same building block of life. So don’t show me ANYTHING which has these basic features and say it’s an alien cos that simply ain’t gonna be true is it? Why not? Here things get a bit difficult and you can see where I first thought about this in a past post where I had my world view turned upside down after the Starmus (Tenerife 2011) Festival.
Until Starmus my belief had always been that the Universe was teeming with life – no question. I even stated this on Chris Packham’s “Inside Out” programme on BBC1. When he asked me about life “out there” I said “definitely, no question”. What changed at Starmus? Well there was a fair bit on Seti and the possibilities of alien life and I asked one of the experts about looking for non-DNA based life here on Earth. The consensus was that this was a pointless exercise as all life was DNA based right back to the very beginnings of life and the stromatolites in Shark Bay. This I didn’t like the sound of – at all. What about all the precursors to DNA? Where are they? Consensus opinion was there aren’t any precursors. Now things are looking really grim for alien life. If there are no precursors and the only basis of life here on Earth is the incredibly complex DNA molecule and that seems to have come along as a fait accompli – then in my opinion there’s no chance for any life “out there” at all 🙁 So from my original belief of the Universe teeming with life I now believe I know why we have the Fermi paradox. There is no paradox. There is no other life out there in the whole Universe. Better start looking after this planet a little better than you have done guys!!