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NORMAN LAMM
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
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to leap obediently from fantasy to fantasy, and little sermons are preached to the skeptics reminding them that Columbus' contemporaries did not believe him either. Exercising the same benefit of clergy which the scientists today enjoy, they admonish philosophers and theologians to discard, revise, and adjust their own thinking to fit into the patterns formed by scientists from as yet unproven hypotheses. There is a serious miscon­ception, Dr. Bush writes in the Fortune article mentioned above, "that scientists can establish a complete set of facts and relations about the universe, all neatly proved, and that on this firm basis men can securely establish their personal philosophy, their personal religion, free from doubt or error." He then cautions against the exuberance that properly accompanies the great achievements of science, but that makes rash people come to conclusions, usually atheistic and materialistic, which they believe to be the inevitable and logical results of following the dictates of science. ". . . There is much concern over those who follow science blindly, or relapse into a hopeless pessimism. It is earlier than they think."
Not all of the theoretical substructure necessary for asserting with certainty the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life has been proven conclusively. Much of it may well be proven in the near future—possibly between the time this is written and the time it is published—but, by the same token, much of it may very well remain hypothetical, and some of it shown to be wrong. Thus, for instance, the question of planets in other solar systems depends largely upon the manner in which the planets around the sun were formed. There are essentially two rival theories to explain this origin, both from the middle of the eighteenth century. George-Louis Leclerc proposed the col­lision hypothesis: a very large comet struck the sun and knocked off the chunks that became the planets. A decade later, Immanuel Kant envisaged the primordial universe con­sisting of gases that condensed into blobs of higher density; each mighty blob became a solar system, spinning about till the inner core became a star and the outer cores formed planets. This, of course, is stating the theories very simply and crudely; they have undergone many sophisticated modifications. Now
the difference between the collision and nebular theories is this, that, according to the former, solar systems are very rare, for a hit or even near miss of the sun by a large star is a freak acci­dent in the vastness of space; whereas, according to the nebular theory, solar systems are common throughout the universe. Hence, since extraterrestrial life requires the existence of planets, such life can be postulated only if the nebular rather than the collision theory is accepted. Cameron, in his anthology, re­views the situation and concludes that most contemporary theories envisage a nebular rather than a collision origin—most, but not all. The question has not been finally settled. At a conference in January, 1962, of the Institute for Space Studies of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, ob­jections were raised to each hypothesis by leading protagonists of the several different views. There may, then, be a majority view and even a developing consensus, but there is not yet an established fact about a fundamental prerequisite for extrater­restrial life.
The Biological Premise
One may question further the biological presuppositions upon which is built the whole idea of life elsewhere in the universe. The naturalistic view has living matter evolving spon­taneously from large, inert molecules. The first self-duplicating molecule begins its work of reproduction, its food supply is the almost limitless "soup" of the primitive oceans and, in the absence of voracious organisms, it grows rapidly until chance mutations give rise to new variations, and so on up the scale of evolution. There are several assumptions that underlie this picture of natural biogenesis. The leap from the simplest forms of self-replicating macromolecules to single cells and from single cells to more advanced organisms supposedly took millions of years. The existence and the flourishing of this "chemical delicacy" called life is assumed to have taken place because of an adequate food supply and the absence of organisms to prey on it. But is this all that must be taken into account? What of the normal decomposition process that runs counter to life's synthetic necessities? Does living matter,, given
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