114
NORMAN LAMM
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
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in our own solar system or in remote galaxies are inhabited by anything more than a few boneless, gelatinous creatures. Our planet is unique, and only a "supernatural interposition" has introduced man, who is the universe's superior being. In the controversy that ensued, Sir David Brewster countered with the argument, in his More Worlds Than One, that "the function of Earth, to support inhabitants, must be the function of all other planets." William Williams, in his The Universe No Desert, the Earth No Monopoly, maintained that if man is to be considered a noble creature, then he must be found in end­less duplication throughout the worlds.14 However, never before has this speculation so gripped the entire scientific community and, indeed, all of mankind. Contemporary dis­cussions of this matter are conducted not in idle terms or the language of imaginative science fiction, but in highly sophisti­cated scientific jargon, published in the most respected journals, and advanced by some of the most distinguished men of science of our times.
And What of Man?
The consequences of the possibility—according to so many scientists, probability—of extraterrestrial intelligent life are pressed upon us by most of those who have written about the subject. Astrophysicist Cameron, in the introduction to his anthology mentioned earlier, refers to the problem as "cur­rently the greatest question in scientific philosophy." Otto Struve, reviewing the theories and probabilities, including "the occurrence of water not only on the earth but on Mars and Venus" (this was before the Mariner 4 flight which found no water on Mars, and confirmed for Venus by the Russian Venera 7 flight in December 1970), concludes that we must review our thinking about mankind, and face the philosophical consequences of the statement: "We are not alone in the Uni­verse."
Most other scientists, departing from their chosen disciplines and donning the robes of the philosopher, are far less humble. Some, as has been mentioned, have enthusiastically adopted what Bush has called the "new materialism." Harlow Shapley, eminent in his own domain, has gone further than most others. Suffering from what has been called "the fallacy of
transferred authority," Shapley has declared that "we are periph­eral," has found "intimations of man's inconsequentiality," and has proceeded to recommend a philosophy which will attempt to guide man in a universe in which he is, essentially, a no­body. Drinking deeply from the heady wines of amazing hypotheses and fascinating theories, most of them not proven, a number of scientists have become intoxicated with the sense of their own unimportance. Never before have so many been so enthusiastic about being so trivial.
For the purpose of keeping a proper perspective on what is heralded as the newness of the philosophic revisions and religious reconsiderations necessitated by these new conceptions, it should be recalled that even before the Space Age, and in­dependent of the speculations about extraterrestrial intelligent beings, the modern world has largely dispensed with man's significance. Jacques Barzun has traced to Frances Bacon the root idea which colors all modern thought and feeling, both scientific and unscientific: the idea of the irrelevance of man. Purpose, according to Bacon, is a human invention and does not correspond to any aspect of the nature of the universe. Objectivity is obtained in science by recognizing that phe­nomena are without purpose.15 Modern thought, from scientism to existentialism, has banished teleology and reduced man to a purposeless and insignificant blob of protoplasm. But whether all that is modern is necessarily true is, of course, an entirely different question.
It Is Earlier Than They Think
The enthusiasm of space scientists for their craft is of course admirable and even enviable. That is as it should be. How­ever, this very excitement should by and of itself recommend caution both to the specialists and to the general public. A Nobel prize is no guarantee that the awardee is henceforth free from human error. More than once in the past have the wisest men of a generation been caught up in ardor and passion for certain ideas which seemed most plausible and which later, upon further reflection and examination, turned out to be follies. In our present situation, similarly, we must
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