The recent report on the findings of climatic research into the causes and probable evolution of climate change – a more accurate term than “global warming” – prompted me to consider a possible answer to Enrico Fermi’s classic question “Where is everybody?” Multiple generations of science fiction writers have projected a future in which the Milky Way Galaxy fairly teems with life, rather like Times Square on New Year’s Eve or the tavern in the first Star Wars movie – so much so that the late Prof. Stephen Hawking has publicly counseled SETI investigators to – not literally STFU – but certainly to exercise due caution in broadcasting the existence of intelligent life on earth to every corner of the Galaxy. (Not that we have a choice by now: earth’s electromagnetic emissions by now com
My thanks to Rev. John Heagle for pointing out to me a New York Times link to cosmology, superstring theory, and "relative state" cosmology that led to this column. Fr. Heagle is a one-man instantiation of what the Catholic Church should be, in terms of integrity, spirituality, justice, inquisitiveness ... and just plain indomitable good humor. Being friends with him is like being friends with the late Thomas Merton.
I have been thinking a lot lately about landscapes. Now, by “landscapes” in this context, I do not mean physical landscapes like the ones painted by, e.g., Albert Bierstadt, members of the Hudson River School, or Monet’s haystacks, etc. I mean landscapes that result from the possibility that other Universes, other Kosmoi, may exist other than the one we see around us.
I have written before about the likelihood of intelligent life in our Galaxy, and how the existence or non-existence of life in the Milky Way relates to human religious sensibilities. Now I want to take a more “global” perspective and approach that same question, not from the relatively parochial standpoint of intelligent life “merely” in our Galaxy, but from the standpoint of intelligent life in the entire Universe. But the questions I pose here are essentially the same in all respects as the questions I posed in the original “Skeptic’s Collection” column. Given some realistic-seeming, in fact, most likely optimistic, assumptions about the probability that intelligent life will evolve on any given planet orbiting any given star, how widely separated – across the entire Universe – mu