Life In Darwin’s Universe

In order to kick off a year of celebration to commemorate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12th February, 1809 and the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” on 24th November, 1859 today on Discovery Enterprise we are going to explore the possibility of life elsewhere in the Cosmos.

Whatever form life takes on elsewhere in the cosmos we can be reasonably certain that the same inexorable laws of evolution through natural selection that shaped life on Earth will shape it elsewhere. Natural selection has given rise to an incredible diversity of life on this planet. Over the past four billion years, this has resulted in a plethora of living organisms each adapted and specialize to occupy a particular ecological niche and eventually the emergence of new species. If life exists elsewhere we can very well expect it to reflect and perhaps surpass the almost inconceivable variety of life on our world.

Yet when studying the wonderful history of life on our planet we are faced with a spectacular conundrum. Natural selection has shaped and sculpted an incredible life form that appears to be able to adapt to life in every conceivable ecological niche. A life form that is on the verge in directing the course of its own evolutionary future and also of creating life forms that will transcend biology in silico. And, that life form is us – Homo sapiens. We are the pioneers of a whole new form of evolution which is distinctly non-biological. This new realm of evolution is Cultural Evolution. It is this new dominion of evolution that has made us the most dominant life form on this planet and has set us on a trajectory that will one day take us out amongst the stars. Will we one day encounter other such life forms or their living machines out amongst the starry ferment?

It is indeed very conceivable that the first intelligent life forms that we will encounter will be living machines capable of self replication and also transcending Darwinian evolution. These living machines may very well continue to evolve in the most non-Darwinian of ways via Lamarckian evolution.

“…Self-reproducing probes or robots, free from such restraints [Darwinian evolution], could advance by Lamarckian evolution. That is, they could pass on directly any acquired abilities and desired improvements to the next generation, and evolve rapidly capabilities beyond the reach of biological beings.”
– Edward Ashpole, The Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence

Then the future struggle for existence may indeed be between the biological and non-biological entities played out on a galactic scale. We will explore these questions in a later series of articles. In the meantime enjoy today’s video offering as we explore the possibility of life in Darwin’s Universe.

The Universe – Alien Faces

They roam the planetary surface, fly underwater and soar through the heavens. But this is no wildlife safari on planet Earth; this is an expedition of astronomical proportions. When the human race discovers it is not alone, what will our cosmic brothers and sisters look like? To answer this question leading astronomers and Astrobiologists have applied the principals of evolution and physics to five types of alien worlds likely to be found in the cosmos. These are the creatures that could be out there. Prepare to take an intergalactic safari and peer directly into the eyes of alien faces.

Exploring Space – The Quest for Life

This film takes a great comprehensive look at space travel, life on other planets, and the origins of life on Earth. It does a great job of exploring such topics as Pasteur’s experiments with wine barrels, the origins of life on earth, recent discoveries of life in expected places on earth, dust from comets, Jupiter’s moon Europa, human’s endurance in space, terraforming prospects on Mars, the requirements of a mission to Mars. It’s strength is the effective way it illustrates very complicated concepts using great interviews, interesting comparisons, and good visual effects. Unlike other documentaries of this type, this one goes into greater depth with various concepts and ideas.

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