In between aspirations and empirical evidence


By Herman M. Lagon

HUMANITY has always been fascinated and in awe of the vastness of the universe. It addresses some of our deepest existential concerns and is the area where philosophy, science, and spirituality frequently meet. The age-old query at the center of all of this is: Are we alone in the universe? When young Ellie Arroway asks her father a similar question in the classic movie “Contact,” he responds with grace, “If it is just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.” This sentiment, which encapsulates the infinite size of the universe, provides a somber context for our ceaseless quest for extraterrestrial life.
Illustrations of life beyond Earth have captivated generations, frequently capturing our curiosity, anxieties, and hopes in stories about both friendly and malevolent extraterrestrials. Amidst the thick web of made-up stories, it is important to keep in mind that there is still no solid proof of extraterrestrial life. But this does not rule out the possibility. Many sages have taught us that the pursuit of knowledge, motivated by faith and curiosity, forces us to see our place in the vast scheme of things.
The multidisciplinary scientific study of life in the universe known as astrobiology has provided intriguing hints about the possibility of life existing outside of our blue planet. The distinction between what was formerly thought to be fact and fiction is becoming increasingly hazy, as evidenced by the discovery of extremophiles in some of the most hostile areas of Earth as well as fascinating discoveries about planets and moons in our solar system. Consider Mars as an example. The theory of alien presence is propelled from mere conjecture to a serious scientific endeavor by the revelation that prehistoric Mars supported conditions favorable to microbial life. If life—even microbiological life—did emerge on Mars, it would force us to face a sobering truth: the occurrence of life may not be as uncommon as we previously believed.
Furthermore, the progress we have made in finding exoplanets has been nothing short of revolutionary. There are already over 5,000 exoplanets known to exist, some of which are located in what is known as the “Goldilocks zone,” which is an area orbiting stars where conditions may be favorable for life as we know it. It is clear from NASA’s efforts with the James Webb Space Telescope that this never-ending search is about more than just finding new celestial bodies. It is an investigation entwined with the more fundamental and in-depth search to comprehend life’s diverse expressions.
However, what exactly is life? Replication and metabolism might be the subject of a straightforward definition, but when we explore new areas, the conventional benchmarks might need to change. If extraterrestrial life exists, it may function according to concepts or ingredients that are very dissimilar from what we understand from comprehending carbon-based life on Earth. Thus, the hunt for extraterrestrial life involves more than just discovering life in other planets’ soils. It is about stretching the limits of our expectations and definitions and deepening our grasp of life itself.
Life is not merely possible but likely in a vast and enigmatic world. This investigation is still driven by the complex dance between science and spirituality, which is supported by the search for knowledge and discernment. The infinite universe, with all of its stars and planets, is calling. It is worthwhile to consider the immense interconnection of all creation and the amazing possibilities that lie ahead as we gaze farther into space. The question now is not whether life exists elsewhere on Earth, but rather when and how this finding will alter our conception of existence altogether.

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