Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Science Fiction, Space, and Phenomenology

I have always enjoyed science fiction. Although, as the years have gone by, I am less and less convinced that life exists on other planets. At least complex life (see Ward and Brownlee, Rare Earth, Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (New York: Copernicus iiBooks) 2000, 2004.

The main premise of most works of science fiction concerns life on other planets, and I simply don't find much credibility with this premise. Science, if anything, has disproven the possibility of life existing on other worlds. Science fiction, good science fiction, can certainly be done apart from the notion that life exists on other worlds (see the works of Philip K. Dick), but most sci-fi stories have to do with life on other planets.

Considering the vastness of the universe, it seems reasonable to us that some other intelligent life forms must exist somewhere out there, but there is no scientific evidence of this. Many sci-fi stories also deal with similarly unbelieveable notions, such as life existing on planets that have two suns, or two moons. Can you imagine the gravitational influence of two moons? or of two suns? (Not to mention, the heat coming from two suns?)

I say this in order to bring up a point: Why do people continue to believe that space is a sort of final frontier, in which other worlds, like our own, will be discovered? It is very unlikely that any such worlds will ever be found (the distances between the stars and their planets alone make such discoveries virtually impossible).

Television shows like Star Trek, The Next Generation, are certainly entertaining, but are hardly believeable. Yet people persist in their belief that they are not alone in the universe. Maybe the vastness of space is what provides the hope that somewhere out there exist beings like us.

If complex life does exist somewhere in the universe, besides earth, it must look a lot like us, and that would make for rather boring science fiction. Strange beings and strange creatures are very entertaining, and yet their existences are very unlikely, due to the fact that, for complex life to exist at all, a very select combination of chemical events must occurr and must arrange themselves in a very precise order. In other words, any other worlds with complex life would be virtually identical to the earth.

But the fantastic belief in life on other worlds persists. Perhaps what drives this hope is simply the hope that there is no Creator-God, that the world is a random occurrence, in a random universe, where random things just happen.
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