Sunday, 22 May 2011

Is there life on X? It doesn't matter!

Once again, after several weeks of drought, the New Scientist once again reports on mankind’s latest bold attempts to find life on other worlds. It amazes me that anyone can claim this wild goose chase is somehow a scientific endeavour; typically throughout history discoveries have been made by scientists as a prelude to the formulation of a final theory. Deciding that extra terrestrial life might exist and then launching effecting an effort to find it would be akin to Einstein thinking “You know, I don’t have any proof yet but I bet E=mc2.” and then proceeding to discover his theory of special relativity. Of course scientists often make predictions based on strong circumstantial evidence and established mathematical principles but I’m afraid that the Drake equation does not constitute either of these, it is a meaningless hypothetical thought exercise with no supporting evidence.
 I fully support exploration for exploration’s sake and am ever excited about space travel’s discoveries and the new technology it makes necessary. I marvel at the great achievements of science, at the awe-inspiring vastness of the cosmos and at the boundless possibilities that this presents. I do not support singling out one of these possibilities and making that the focus of research, astrobiologists are more like the Spaniards, searching tirelessly for gold with nothing else in mind, than a noble explorer discovering new lands simply for the sake of discovery and a respectful appreciation of nature’s infinite variety.
Let us boldly go where we haven’t before but not because we are looking for something specific but because we want to explore, discover and understand the Universe in all it’s splendour.

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