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SETI in the light of cosmic convergent evolution



Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founding fathers of the modern evolutionary synthesis, once famously stated that “nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution”. Here it will be argued that nothing in astrobiology makes sense except in the light of “Cosmic Convergent Evolution” (CCE). This view of life contends that natural selection is a universal force of nature that leads to the emergence of similarly adapted life forms in analogous planetary biospheres. Although SETI historically preceded the rise of astrobiology that we have witnessed in the recent decade, one of its main tenets from the beginning was the convergence of life on a cosmic scale toward intelligent behavior and subsequent communication via technological means. The question of cultural convergence in terms of symbolic exchange, language and scientific capabilities between advanced interstellar civilizations has been the subject of ongoing debate. However, at the core of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence lies in essence a biological problem since even post-biological extraterrestrial intelligences must have had an origin based on self-replicating biopolymers. Thus, SETI assumes a propensity of the Universe towards biogenesis in accordance with CCE, a new evolutionary concept which posits the multiple emergence of life across the Cosmos. Consequently, we have to wonder about the biophilic properties the Universe apparently exhibits, as well as to try to find an encompassing theory that is able to explain this “fine-tuning” in naturalistic terms. The aims of this paper are as follows: 1) to emphasize the importance of convergent evolution in astrobiology and ongoing SETI research; 2) to introduce novel and biology-centered cosmological ideas such as the “Selfish Biocosm Hypothesis” and the “Evo Devo Universe” as valuable arguments in theorizing about the origin and nature of extraterrestrial intelligence and 3) to synthesize these findings within an emerging post-biological paradigm on which future SETI efforts may be founded.
SETI in the light of cosmic convergent evolution
Claudio L. Flores Martinez
University of Heidelberg, Centre for Organismal Studies, Im Neuenheimer Feld 234, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany
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Article history:
Received 20 March 2014
Received in revised form
13 July 2014
Accepted 18 August 2014
Available online 27 August 2014
Cosmic convergent evolution
Evo devo universe
Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founding fathers of the modern evolutionary
synthesis, once famously stated that nothing makes sense in biology except in the light
of evolution. Here it will be argued that nothing in astrobiology makes sense except in
the light of Cosmic Convergent Evolution(CCE). This view of life contends that natural
selection is a universal force of nature that leads to the emergence of similarly adapted life
forms in analogous planetary biospheres. Although SETI historically preceded the rise of
astrobiology that we have witnessed in the recent decade, one of its main tenets from the
beginning was the convergence of life on a cosmic scale toward intelligent behavior and
subsequent communication via technological means. The question of cultural convergence
in terms of symbolic exchange, language and scientific capabilities between advanced
interstellar civilizations has been the subject of ongoing debate. However, at the core of
the search for extraterrestrial intelligence lies in essence a biological problem since even
post-biological extraterrestrial intelligences must have had an origin based on self-
replicating biopolymers. Thus, SETI assumes a propensity of the Universe towards
biogenesis in accordance with CCE, a new evolutionary concept which posits the multiple
emergence of life across the Cosmos. Consequently, we have to wonder about the biophilic
properties the Universe apparently exhibits, as well as to try to find an encompassing
theory that is able to explain this fine-tuningin naturalistic terms. The aims of this
paper are as follows: 1) to emphasize the importance of convergent evolution in
astrobiology and ongoing SETI research; 2) to introduce novel and biology-centered
cosmological ideas such as the Selfish Biocosm Hypothesisand the Evo Devo Universe
as valuable arguments in theorizing about the origin and nature of extraterrestrial
intelligence and 3) to synthesize these findings within an emerging post-biological
paradigm on which future SETI efforts may be founded.
&2014 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Can science pin down universal attractors on the level of
biochemistry, function and morphology or even on ecological
and cultural scales within the unknown hyperspace or
astrobiological landscape of biological potential [1,2]?This
fundamental question transcends the boundaries of any
particular biological discipline and takes the issue of extra-
terrestrial evolution into the realms of philosophy, complexity
theory and cosmology, opening up the way for an emerging
scientific view of the Universe in which life is a natural and
repeated cosmic phenomenon [35].Thedetectionofa
genuine second origin of life within our Solar System,
imaginably on Jupiter's icy moon Europa, or through a future
success of the SETI enterprise could pave humanity's way into
a new era of universal scientific insight and recast its lone-
some role within the cosmic scenery. Far from being a
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
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Acta Astronautica
0094-5765/&2014 IAA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This paper was presented during the 64th IAC in Beijing.
Correspondence address: Klingenteichstrasse 6, 69117 Heidelberg,
Germany. Tel.: þ49 1711903202.
E-mail address:
Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349
contingent cosmic accident, as has been influentially sug-
gested previously (for example by pioneer of molecular
biology Jacques Monod and paleontologist Stephen J. Gould)
[68], life on Earth in general and Homo sapiens in particular
can be reconceived of as natural outcomes of cosmic evolu-
tion, a process that is spanning almost infinite expanses of
inherent function, an adaptation of the living Universe, the
Biocosm [9,10].
A new expanded theory of evolution appears to be a
prerequisite for the successful development of astrobiol-
ogy and the complementary SETI studies. Here it will be
outlined under the term Cosmic Convergent Evolution
(CCE). The latter proposition, which is based on a growing
volume of related literature, is a powerful updated view of
life and a synthesis of evolutionary theorizing within the
disciplines of astrobiology and cosmology, which contends
that natural selection and evolutionary development in
unison are a universal force of nature that might poten-
tially lead to the emergence of similarly adapted life forms
in analogous planetary biospheres.
First, the Universe may be envisioned as an evolving
and, consequently, developing system. It might even com-
prise a replication cycle in which adaptive processes of its
biological components occur to facilitate the generation and
increase proliferation of these respective elements of the
system and, eventually, enable replication of the Universe
as a whole. During this process of cosmic ontogenesis the
complexity of the system's constituents increases naturally,
and life and intelligence might be of paramount importance
in catalyzing and structuring the emergence of a cosmolo-
gically extended biosphere [10]. Redundancy of core reg-
ulatory and functional elements is a hallmark of any
information-based replication system. Therefore, the uni-
versal replicator, or Biocosm, organizes itself in a way as to
give rise to the repeated emergence of life and very likely,
although less frequently, also to the evolution of highly
advanced intelligence.
Second, in the continuing process of emerging biologi-
cal complexity interplanetary and -stellar convergence
could lead to predictable configurations in the fundamen-
tal organization of living matter [11,12]. Just as there
are attractors in physical phase space, biological systems
might be biased towards a set of definable regions within
the theoretical hyperspace of complexity.
In conclusion, cosmic convergent evolution seems to be
consistent with recent advances in the fields of evolutionary
and astrobiology, complexity theory, planetary science and
cosmology. Taking cognizance of the need for a truly bio-
cosmological perspective in all of the mentioned fields of
research, CCE offers an integrative new vision of evolution,
life and intelligence. In a Cosmos where universal convergent
evolution occurs, the existence of extraterrestrial life that is
a mere metaphor anymore, but rather a falsifiable hypothesis
that is highly consistent with the adaptive versatility of life
on Earth that so many scientists marvel at.
This paper will, first, emphasize the importance of
evolutionary convergence to astrobiology and, second,
extend the relevance of the concept to the related SETI
enterprise. It will then be argued that the possibility of a
repeated and independent origin of life can be adequately
described as a systemic property of a universal replicator
that possesses a developmental cycle. Biological life pro-
liferates at the onset of this sequence but might not prevail
during later stages, which would be driven by a dramatic
increase in cultural and technological complexity. Artificial
forms of life and intelligence could be more apt in
completing the cycle. Lastly, various general implications
of this new (post)biological paradigm relevant for SETI are
sketched out.
2. Convergent evolution in astrobiology
The driving force behind interplanetary convergence is
an assumed natural propensity of our Universe towa-
rds biogenesis. In such a scenario life should be emerg-
ing naturally as a complex non-equilibrium phenomenon
within aqueous environments that sustain geochemical
energy gradients and offer the chemical building blocks for
life as we know it. Further, recent theoretical (and some
empirical) studies are starting to go beyond the life is
chemistryparadigm by exploring how basic properties
of biological systems, such as self-assembly, -organization,
and replication, could be derived and quantitatively des-
cribed by using fundamental physical laws, governing the
state of any thermodynamic disequilibrium present in the
physical world [1316].
Two distinct origins of life on Earth and, for example,
Europa (resulting from a very similar prebiotic context) are
by definition not identical in their genetic origin, but both
are necessarily products of the same universal process
cosmic evolution. In this sense, separate events of biogen-
esis constitute convergent adaptations of a cosmologically
extended biosphere, guided by an as of yet undiscovered
natural principle of biogenicity. Just as the evolution of
different species on Earth in environments which expose
organisms to selective pressures of the same kind leads to
the emergence of similarly adapted life forms, convergence
across analogous planetary niches might result in predict-
able patterns of biological complexity. Adaptations of
terrestrial organisms which repeatedly have been found
to be convergent in nature, ranging from multicellularity
to non-human intelligence, might be indicative of the
robust evolution of comparable features in extraterrestrial
life as well.
Founded on the notion of convergence between biolo-
gical systems across interplanetary distances, reasonable
conclusions about the characteristics of extraterrestrial
organisms can be drawn. This intuitive approach is uncon-
sciously pursued in almost all of the scientific hypothesizing
concerned with astrobiology and its desired scientific rigor
in predicting the nature of extraterrestrial life and its
relation to the terrestrial ecosphere. On planet Earth con-
vergent evolution, the repeated and independent emer-
gence of functional analogous but distinctly evolved
structures in distantly related groups or organisms,
occurred frequently among and between all domains that
make up the tree of life (eubacteria, archaea and eukarya).
Examples for convergent evolution across different domains
of life include bioluminescence and the wide range of
antennae complexes found in photosynthetic organisms
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349342
(in both cases between eubacteria and eukarya) or adapta-
tions that allow microorganisms to survive in extreme
environments (between eubacteria and archaea). Despite
the tree's many recent branches its root must have been
made up by some first primordial organismic system, the
last universal common ancestor (LUCA) shared by all extant
life. Bacteria, animals and Homo sapiens can be traced back
to a singular genetic origin. Instances of convergent evolu-
tion on Earth can be found at all stages of this genetic
continuum. In the history of life, macroevolutionary transi-
tions such as the emergence of multicellularity, multiple
instantiations of endosymbiosis or the generation of stem
cell systems have, in fact, been convergent. Nonetheless, all
novelty that emerged during terrestrial evolution, conver-
gent (in two groups that share a distant common origin but
have greatly diverged from then) or derived from some
ancestral form, is connected through a universally applied
genetic system.
A second independent origin of life could have com-
menced on Europa without being genetically linked to any
terrestrial biology. Yet, we would certainly expect extra-
terrestrial life to possess a molecular inheritance system,
cellular organization and a general metabolic network
based on biochemistry which works according to the same
principles known from the diverse physiology of terrestrial
organisms. With no certainty, however, can we assume that
organisms in the subsurface ocean of Europa, for example,
are using a molecular inheritance apparatus based on DNA.
It would, to the contrary, be a dazzling result to find DNA-
based molecular replication in extraterrestrial life. Ulti-
mately, the exact type of biopolymers involved in extra-
terrestrial replication systems can only be determined
through in situ experimentation or returned samples.
Research on the origin of life on Earth can give valuable
insights into the principle mechanisms that these molecule
assemblies have to be able to carry out, such as autocatalytic
processes of self-replication. It is easier to reasonably predict
complex or systemic properties of extraterrestrial life, like
the previously mentioned characteristics of molecular repli-
cation, cellular organization and metabolic networks, than to
anticipate the exact types of molecules involved in these
functions. It is at the level of sufficiently advanced complex-
ity of living systems at which the hypothesis of CCE proposes
an evolutionary robustness of certain basic traits, like cellu-
larization, and even higher evolved adaptations, for instance
bioluminescence, among earthly and alien life. Generally, a
universal mechanism which allows, first, the emergence of
life on a given world and then, second, shapes its evolution
according to commonly shared evolutionary trajectories
toward increased biological complexity could be termed
substrate-independent convergent evolution.
Such a definition does not imply that alien life can
emerge from a more or less random variety of chemical
elements. Almost certainly it would be based on carbon and
organic molecules known from terrestrial biology. However,
the specific substrates of the cellular replication and mem-
brane components could be constituted by different biopo-
lymers than those present in terrestrial organisms. One
example for such a kind of convergence on Earth is the
repeated emergence of cell membranes in archaea based on
glycerol-ether lipids with isoprenoid sidechains rather than
glycerol-ester lipids composed of fatty acid tails as found in
bacteria and eukarya.
Nevertheless, already on the level of proteins and their
enzymatic functions it is difficult to imagine equally
effective bio-catalytic molecular complexes. Whether
molecular evolution on another world necessarily encom-
passes a hierarchical flow of genetic information starting
from a replicating information-saving molecule (DNA) that
gets transcribed into a messenger molecule (RNA) which
in turn forms the basis for the eventual translation of the
required cellular constituents, corresponding to terrestrial
proteins, cannot be known with absolute certainty. For any
biologist, on the other hand, it is hard to envision a
similarly ingenious form of regulatory organization of
genetic information, allowing multi-level tweaking of
cellular processes. Given the integration of multiple mole-
cule assemblies into functional networks in extraterrest-
rial cells, convergence of biological organization on a very
profound level would become apparent.
At the heart of the origin of life problem lies the spatio-
temporal integration of autocatalytic sets of proto-
biopolymers capable of self-replicating into a coherent
biological entity undergoing vertical i.e. Darwinian evolu-
tion [17,18] . This hypothetical last universal common
ancestor to all life as we know it is sometimes called a
protocell or progenote. It is most likely that life originated
not from a single individual but rather out of a vast cohort
of progenotes which were collectively evolving towards a
Darwinian bottleneck that marked the origin of cellular
organization we are familiar with [19,20]. Indeed, multiple
independent origins of cellular organization are possible,
implicating convergent processes already at the very onset
of life. This notion becomes increasingly important in the
context of early evolution which could have been driven by
a mechanism which is not active in subsequent slower
phases of speciation [21,22].
3. The possibility of a universal biology
Recent contributions have stressed the potential role of
self-organization and emergence as causative agents in the
formation of biological complexity [2327].Theagencyof
these forces assumed to be involved in the auto-assembly of
complex systems, should by definition not be restricted to
Earth, but rather be considered universal across the known
Universe, just like gravity and electromagnetism. The trans-
formation and auto-organization of matter into biological
form is thus not necessarily restricted to Earth, but could
occur on a cosmic scale given the presence of the
conditions that have been identified for the origin of life as
we know it. Life is thus an emergent phenomenon [11].The
indicating the possibility of a universal biology [12].Lifeis
not simply emerging from and evolving within a given
environment, life is also actively changing and adjusting
the environment for its own ends. In short, life can be
understood as a prevalent occurrence in a cosmologically
extended biosphere, one which accommodates earthly
evolution as a miniscule subroutine in an inconceivably vast
process of cosmic ontogenesis. A falsifiable implication of the
hypothesis is that the emergence of increasingly intelligent life is
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349 343
a robust phenomenon, strongly favored by the natural processes
of biological evolution and emergence.[10].
Here we have a succinct phrasing of the implicit assump-
tion which has been guiding the only well-established
research program aimed at the detection of alien life so
far. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligenceprogram
was established in the early 1960s and, although up to now
unsuccessful in discerning a radio or optical signal from a
civilization beyond our own Solar System, promoted public
awareness of the possibility of life beyond Earth more than
any other research effort. Historically, SETI, unlike astrobiol-
ogy, did not so much focus on planetary, geophysical and
biochemical conditions necessary for life as we know it, but
rather relied on a supposed statistical prevalence, derived
from the famous Drake equation, of advanced extraterres-
trial intelligences spread across the galaxy. Over the last
decade, a merger between these two closely related fields of
study has been taking place which recently led to the
(failed) directed search for 12Ghz signals possibly stem-
ming from exoplanets that had been previously identified by
the Kepler space telescope [28]. Although these searches
have not yielded any results so far, they do exemplify how
practical cooperation between the two disciplines has been
initiated. Both the SETI program and astrobiology are based
on the same underlying notion of evolutionary convergence,
i.e. the independent emergence of similar adaptive traits in
distantly related branches of life. This often tacit premise
of the SETI approach becomes abundantly clear when its
most general prediction, namely the wide-spread existence
of intelligent civilizations engaged in interplanetary and
-stellar communication is reviewed through the lens of
CCE. Clearly, the search for signals from intelli-
gent civilizations is based on a paradigm that incorporates
projections of multiple evolutionary trends: an inclination of
alien life towards intelligence, the emergence of complex
culture and technology, as well as the formation of an
intentionalityconcerned with the exploration of outer space.
It is reasonable to conclude that all these developments
must have been preceded by as many events of abiogenesis
as the proposed number of existing extraterrestrial civiliza-
tions demand since extant alien life can indeed be envi-
sioned to have reached a post-biological state [29] but its
origin must lie in the realm of self-organizing and self-
replicating biopolymers. Therefore, a genuinely biological
problem lies at the core of the search for extraterrestrial
intelligence. Alien intelligences, if they exist, should be
shaped by uniform principles governing a universal biology.
The exact kind of mechanism, however, underlying this
universal biology, which got life started on Earth and
possibly elsewhere, remains shrouded in uncertainty.
Astrobiology and SETI, like any other fields of science,
have to be predictive rather than solely descriptive [30].
On Earth it is difficult if not impossible to exactly forecast
the future evolution of individual species, groups and
domains of life. By reflecting upon long-term evolutionary
developments of Homo sapiens whose adaptive regime is
rather determined by cultural than biological evolution,
general predictions could be deduced from what has been
termed the intelligence principle, which refers to the fact
that: the maintenance, improvement and perpetuation of
knowledge and intelligence is the central driving force of
cultural evolution, and that to the extent intelligence can be
improved, it will be improved[29]. For the purposes of
astrobiology, explaining major evolutionary transitions
and thresholds of terrestrial organisms [31,32] within the
evolutionary pathway towards complex and intelligent life
(photosynthesis, endosymbiosis, chromosomal organiza-
tion, multicellularity and major branching points in the
phylogenetic tree of animals among other events) is of
greater interest than measuring the change of allele
frequency in extant populations of any given terrestrial
species (the classical view of evolution derived from the
modern synthesis). In the first case, although most of the
events were not singular in nature, they were separated by
million or even billions of years; the second process
occurred constantly and still takes place all the time but
it is still not clear if the accumulation of microevolutionary
changes can lead to macroevolutionary transitions.
Consequently, on Earth, it is possible to give qualitative
and quantitative predictions related to allele frequencies of
reproductively separated populations of a given species but
identifying targets in the evolutionary trajectory in terms of
future major transitions seems to be a poorly constrained
and often overlooked problem (except the hypothesized
trend towards increased intelligence). Nevertheless, survey-
ing evolutionary developmental processes in retrospective a
robustness of certain adaptations becomes visible. Ancient
unicellular prokaryotes have repeatedly swallowed microbes
from other lineages that were not their own, producing
eukaryotic cells with a higher genomic complexity [33].
These in turn evolved the feature of multicellular organiza-
tion more than once [34,35], which then formed the basis for
the emergence of the first metazoans, displaying morpholo-
gical symmetries and a diverse variety of cell types, that
were subsequently organized into different tissues. Even-
tually, the integration of sensory neural nets led to the
evolution of the central nervous system. The question
whether the formation of a primitive nervous system
occurred in more than one lineage or emerged singularly
in one last common ancestor, the urbilaterian,issubjectto
continuing debate [36]. However, recent genome-wide stu-
dies involving comb-jellies have not only based this phylum
of non-bilaterian animals at the very base of the tree of life,
but are also suggestive of an independent emergence of a
nervous system in this ancient clade [3739].Althougha
multiple origin of nervous systems (the prerequisite for any
sort of intelligent behavior) now appears possible on Earth,
this does not imply the random emergence of such a
complex adaptation in separate evolutionary lineages.
Rather, it means that life is converging toward analogous
solutions (as a response to environmental pressures) in
terms of function, morphology and tissue organization
whereas the molecular agents involved might differ. For this
reason the SETI community might be especially interested in
future results of evolutionary neurobiology, which could
further constrain the likelihood of the emergence of intelli-
gence in extrasolar habitats.
The evolution of eyes in general and, more particularly, of
the camera eyes found in both vertebrates and cephalopods,
can serve as an example for the variance of opinion pertain-
ing to the question whether certain common traits among
species evolved from converging evolutionary trajectories or
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349344
resulted from ancestral deep homology [4042].Isthe
camera eye that is common, for example, to humans
(vertebrates) and squid (cephalopods) (with some taxon-
specific modifications) derived from a more primitive ances-
tor shared with the phylum of cnidarians (generally recog-
nized as the simplest among all metazoans)? In this clade the
group of cubozoans has been identified to possess functional
camera eyes. Since more primitive cnidarians like sea ane-
mones and corals, the anthozoans, do not display eye-like
adaptations at all, while cubozoans and other animals
possessing camera eyes, like squid, share a number of
ecological and behavioral traits, among which a predatory
mode of living is the most striking, convergent de novo
acquisition in cephalopods of relatively complex visual
systems (next to similarly convergent traits) seems more
likely [43]. Another instance of high-level convergence in
vertebrates, on the level of intelligent behavior, involves the
emergence of social structures in primates and cetaceans
[44], especially well studied in spotted dolphins [45],aswell
as complex tool-making capabilities in Caledonian crows
[46]. In cetaceans even self-awareness could reliably be
shown to exist thereby proving the convergent evolution
toward sentience in non-primate species [47]. Astonishingly,
sequence convergence in more than 200 genes related to
echolocation of bats and dolphins has been recently revealed
by employing genome-wide techniques [48].Anotherwell
documented case of convergence is the independent evolu-
tion of bioluminescence in more than forty instances across
mainly marine but also a few terrestrial lineages [49].
Although this list of impressive examples of convergent
evolution is far from complete, some recent results are
objecting the decisive influence of convergence in shaping
apparently similar forms of extant biological complexity.
Especially on the level of protein sequence and folding it
becomes exceedingly difficult to differentiate between con-
verging solutionsand rare, chance-mediated events that
allowed for the emergence of a given structure [50,51].In
addition, biologists and philosophers of science alike are still
in need of a coherent terminology, capable of unambiguously
distinguishing between related concepts such as parallel and
convergent evolution and rendering scientifically useful
terms like chance, contingency and necessity.
Nonetheless, some of the examples of convergent evol-
ution just mentioned demonstrate the ability of biological
systems to iteratively generate certain adaptive structures
under selective pressures that rule in comparable environ-
ments. Thus it appears plausible to extend to extraterrestrial
environments the influence of natural selection in driving
adaptation. Assuming the conservation of stable develop-
mental programs of evolving alien entities (progenotes,
cellular and macroscopic biological structures), i.e. popula-
tions of variable and replicating specimens incorporating an
information-conserving mechanism, we can expect the
robust emergence of analogous macroevolutionary traits
enabling these organisms to originate, adapt and proliferate
in their respective planetary habitat.
4. Towards an expanded representation of evolution
In the same way that Darwin synthesized various obser-
vations from different scientific disciplines to forge his
iconoclastic new outlook on organic evolution, modern
science should operate in a similar fashion: Indeed, the
situation that confronts cosmologists today is reminiscent of
that which faced biologists before Darwin propounded his
revolutionary theory of evolution through natural selection.
Darwin confronted the seemingly miraculous phenomenon of a
fine-tuned natural order in which every creature and plant
appeared to occupya unique and well-designed niche. Refusing
to surrender to the brute mystery posed by the appearance of
nature's design, Darwin masterfully deployed the art of meta-
phor to elucidate a radical hypothesis the origin of species
through natural selection that explained the apparent miracle
as a natural phenomenon.[9].
Reflecting upon the emergence of terrestrial and pos-
sibly alien biological complexity, we have to include the
path of cosmic evolution leading towards the formation of
stable galactic, stellar and planetary habitats in which life
could emerge. In fact, cosmic evolution is one of the main
conceptual pillars on which astrobiology and SETI are
resting. It has been poignantly described as the study of
the sum total of the many varied developmental and gen-
erative changes in the assembly and composition of radiation,
matter and life throughout all space across all time. These are
the physical, biological and cultural changes that have
produced, in turn and among many other systems, our
Galaxy, our Sun, our Earth and ourselves[52]. The history
of the Universe, the Milky Way and the formation of a
particular type of solar system, then, are tightly woven
into the saga of life's emergence on Earth and possibly in
other cosmic niches too.
There seems to be an evolutionary continuity, meaning
constant change that creates increased complexity, reach-
ing from the early expansion of the Cosmos to the
transformation of the terrestrial biosphere by living organ-
isms. Although biological complexity, as far as we know,
arose about 3800 Mya ago, its terrestrial origin would have
been impossible without the prior existence of differen-
tiated astrophysical structures such as galaxies and rela-
tively stable and long-lived suns orbited by a number of
planets with varying size, composition and distance to its
star. Life from this perspective is envisioned as an essential
process in the naturally proceeding auto-complexification
of the Cosmos. In accordance with the laws of the Universe
life is persistently and effectively creating forms of com-
plex organization that are unknown to be generated by
merely physical or chemical processes.
Further, it is exactly the masterfully deployed art of
metaphor, widely acknowledged in Darwin's genius,
which has led some modern cosmologists and theorists
to formulate tentative accounts of the Universe as a
replicator system capable of evolution and development
[53,54]. A preliminary synthesis of this radically new
paradigm which in essence presents a fusion of cosmology
with biology into a future science of universal complexity
has been advanced by the Evo Devo Universeresearch
community [25,55]. During a 2008 conference at the Ecole
Normale Supérieure in Paris the basic idea guiding the
Evo Devo Universeresearch was laid out as follows: We
noticed that scholars studying the cosmos were mainly into
theoretical physics. It is of course an important approach, but
it does not connect with life, intelligence and technology. Yet,
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349 345
we were also aware of dispersed insights in cosmology,
theoretical and evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biol-
ogy and the complexity sciences, which are providing ways to
understand our universe within a broader framework.[25].
Such an interdisciplinary research program could even-
tually yield a better understanding relating to the apparent
bio-friendliness of the Cosmos and fine-tuning of physical
constants allowing for the emergence of complex systems
on various scales and levels [5658]. The trivial form of the
issue suggests that if the value of certain physical con-
stants, such as the density parameter Ωof the early
Universe, would have been slightly higher or lower even-
tually no structures such as galaxies, stars and planets
would have formed. Therefore, the emergence of life
presumably depends on the exact calibration of physical
constants right at the onset of the expanding Universe.
Cosmological natural selection [54] could account for the
apparent fine-tuning of our Universe, just as evolutionary
processes shaped seemingly end-directed structures in the
world of terrestrial biology, by exerting a global influence
on the previously mentioned cosmologically extended
biosphere. A critical and more detailed discussion of the
fine-tuning issue can be found elsewhere [59,60].
Gardner's previously mentioned Selfish Biocosm Hypoth-
esis, a groundbreaking theoretical contribution emerging
from the sphere of Evo Devo Universe ideas, might present
a conceptual unification of astrobiology and SETI by, first,
assigning a generally biological organization to a Universe
that is allowing repeated events of abiogenesis via an
unknown natural mechanism and, secondly, by rendering
the emergence of intelligence very likely throughout the
process of (convergent) cosmic evolution: The Selfish Bio-
cosm Hypothesis asserts that the anthropic qualities that our
universe exhibits can be explained as incidental consequences of
a cosmological replication cycle in which a cosmologically
extended biosphere supplies two of the essential elements of
self-replication, as identified by mathematician and computer
pioneer John von Neumann. Further, the hypothesis asserts
that the emergence of life and intelligence are key epigenetic
thresholds in the cosmological replication cycle, strongly favored
by the physical laws and constants of inanimate nature. Under
the hypothesis, those laws and constants function precisely as
the functional counterpart to DNA: They furnish the recipe by
which the evolving cosmos acquires the capacity to generate life
and ever more capable intelligence.[10].
Although a comprehensive account of the novel hypoth-
eses mentioned here is beyond the scope of this paper, it can
be found in the referenced literature. One caveat against the
evolutionary model sketched out in the course of the
present discussion could arguably be its inherent lack of
falsifiability, since it is based, in one form or the other, on
the disputed notion of multiple universes. Still, while it
certainly remains the work of cosmologists to elucidate the
origin and physical evolution of theUniverse, much could be
achieved in astrobiologyand SETI, initially from a conceptual
perspective but also in more practical terms in the future, by
appreciating the possibility of a fundamentally biological
organization present within our own observable Universe.
Physical processes are governing biology, but properties of
biological systems such as self-organization, -assembly and
replication could have played an as of yet undiscovered role
in the evolutionof the Universe. The anticipated discovery
of a second and independent genesis within the Solar
System, or the scenario of establishing contact with extra-
terrestrial civilization, can be seen as corollaries of the
Biocosmand EvoDevoUniversehypotheses. Such events
would not necessarily prove the correctness of either
hypothesis once and for all (as any scientific theory eludes
final verification), but these new cosmological concepts
seem to provide the proper intellectual environment in
which novel hypotheses pertaining to the origin and evolu-
tion of life beyond Earth can be formulated, experimental
methods can be devised and continued space exploration
efforts can be justified to the general public. Convergence is
a prominent theme in all of the hypotheses presented, and it
should be understood not only as a feature of terrestrial but
also of putative alien life. It might be potentially resulting
from connected emergent phenomena in physics, chemistry
and biology that are not interacting in a unilateral manner
exclusively. Or to put it in the words of Carl Woese, one of
the founding fathers of astrobiology: Science is an endless
search for truth. Any representation of reality we develop can
be only partial. There is no finality, sometimes no single best
representation. There is only deeper understanding, more
revealing and enveloping representations. Scientific advance,
then, is a succession of newer representations superseding
older ones, either because an older one has run its course and is
no longer a reliable guide for a field or because the newer one
is more powerful, encompassing, and productive than its
5. The transition from Bio- to Silicosm in deep time
While the origin of extraterrestrial civilizations must lie
within the realm of biological complexity, their event-
ual destiny could certainly be a post-biological one. The
enabling factor on Earth that might cause the redirection
of biological towards increasingly technology-mediated
evolution is human culture [29,61]. In regard to putative
alien cultures the only plausible approximation of its
nature can be drawn from humanity's current develop-
ment towards overall increased knowledge or collective
intelligence (since an inheritable increase of intelligence in
individual species members is not well established). It is
notoriously difficult to apply evolutionary principles to the
explanation of cultural phenomena. However, from the
conceptual amalgamation of astrobiology, SETI and the
Biocosm hypothesis, the proposition of an evolutionary
convergence of cosmic cultures in the direction of a state
of maximized computational power, and thereby max-
imized collective intelligence, arises as a first reasonable
Quite ironically, the assumed biogenicity of the Universe
would eventually lead towards global adaptive processes in
which the cosmologically extended biosphere is favoring the
emergence of artificial or post-biological forms of intelli-
gence from organic substrates. Given the vastness of cosmo-
logical timescales, past and future, a universal replication
cycle can be envisioned in which biological complexity is
rather an embryonic stage of later technology-dominated
developmental fates. In such a scenario the Biocosm trans-
forms itself naturally into a Silico- or Technocosm during a
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349346
final epoch of one developmental cycle. However, it is still
useful to call the Universe a Biocosm in its native state
because the emergence of biological complexity is a sup-
posed decisive step in the cosmological replication cycle
since all subsequent development (from multicellular life
and organisms possessing a central nervous systems to
cultural and technological evolution) is depended on systems
which are essentially of organic origin.
In addition, some civilizations may remain in a purely
biological state while others would have superseded this
level of complexity all together. Analogously, from a given
population of, say, fertilized frog eggs only a selection will
complete the entire developmental cycle and continue to
propagate. Along the same lines writes John Smart, found-
ing member of the Evo Devo research community: If
universal change is analogous to the evolutionary develop-
ment of two genetically identical twins, two parametrically
identical universes (possessing identical fundamental physi-
cal parameters at the Big Bang) would exhibit unpredictably
separate and unique internal evolutionary variation over
their lifespan (unpredictable differences in specific types of
species, technologies, and knowledge among civilizations),
and at the same time, a broad set of predictable and
irreversible developmental milestones and shared structure
and function between them (broad and deep commonalities
in the developmental processes, body plans, and archetypes
of life, culture and technology among all intelligent civiliza-
tions). This question is thus relevant to astrophysics, astro-
biology and astrosociology.[62].
In conclusion, one hypothesized convergent trend among
a possible multitude of initially organic life forms that are
originating and evolving within the Biocosm, is the develop-
ment of technological capabilities leading towards an increas-
ing computational potential or the transition of intelligence
(or computing) from biological to solely artificial media. Of
course, many critics question whether such a transition will
occur on Earth in the foreseeable future, or for that matter,
could have plausibly happened already among an advanced
extraterrestrial civilization in the past. If it had, more problems
are posed by potential signals sent by this kind of machine
aliens, as their messages would have to be decoded by human
brains which might not be bolstered by sufficiently advanced
computational power yet [6367].
6. SETI implications resulting from biological and
technological convergence
For the development of advanced extraterrestrial intelli-
gence, biological or artificial, the Universe must allow for the
repeated onset of organic evolution through multiple origins
of life. The question whether other worlds within our Solar
System or beyond might be potentially habitable or are
actually hosting endogenous extraterrestrial life could be
answered by astrobiology. In-depth robotic probing of lik-
ely habitable planetary bodies such as Europa, Enceladus,
and Mars may provide conclusive experimental data about
putative extant or past life in these alien environments.
Positive results pertaining to the detection of extraterrestrial
life on any of the previously mentioned bodies could, to a
certain degree, resolve the problem of contingent versus
convergent processes implicated in the debate on the origin
and evolution of life. In the event that convergence (for
example the independent emergence of bioluminescence)
between organisms from Earth and Europa could be proven
by future robotic exploration efforts, the emergence of
intelligent alien life on worlds resembling our own seems
not entire unlikely. Therefore, SETI should be concerned with
the degree of convergence, between terrestrial and alien life,
which might be assessed by advanced robotic exploration of
the Solar System and astronomical exoplanet characteriza-
tion. Within the emerging new view of our Universe as a
Biocosm, an evolving and developing system, multiple ori-
gins of life seem to be rather expectable and scientifically
predictable, as compared to aparadigminwhichlifeis
essentially understood as the highly improbable by-product
of cosmic processing of otherwise dead matter.
Moreover, various falsifiable experimental designs have
already been derived from the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis
[68]: 1) success or continued failure of SETI; 2) convergent
animal evolution toward sentience in non-primate species
(for example cetaceans); 3) artificial life evolution and
4) emergence of transhuman intelligence. Thus, evidence
for the correctness of the Biocosm hypothesis does not
necessarily have to be derived from a direct contact
scenario, although the occurrence of such an event would
certainly present the most unambiguous evidence for a
biofriendly Universe. On Earth, pervasive biological con-
vergence in animals toward advanced forms of intelligence
(sentience) may be a good indicator for the robust
emergence of similar complex adaptations in extraterres-
trial life as well. In order to broaden an anthropomorphic
notion of intelligent behavior, a recent study has provided
a first, basic tool that allowed the profiling of different
types of intelligences among vertebrates and non-
vertebrates. The approach named COMPLEX (COmplexity
of Markers for Profling Life in Exobiology) measures and
compares five dimensions of intelligent behavior ranging
from physical to social and ecological parameters: (1) EQ
Encephalization Quotient (neural complexity), (2) CS
Communication Signals (sensory modalities), (3) IC
Individual Complexity (personalities), (4) SC Social
Complexity (group/solitary living) and (5) II Interspecies
Interaction (external relationships) [69]. Although the
results of this pioneering study remain preliminary and
more taxon sampling is needed, it certainly provides a
novel methodology for future research that will explore to
what extent convergent evolution might lead to the
emergence of universals in the development of intelligent
behavior. Alternatively, it might be able to shed light on
underappreciated expressions of intelligent behavior pre-
sent in terrestrial and potentially alien life forms with
unknown sensory adaptations.
Furthermore, computer-based research on the possibi-
lity of evolving software agents as well as the development
of technology aimed at the generation of an interface
between human and machine intelligence can both poten-
tially illustrate the emergence of putative conscious beha-
vior that might be exhibited by post-biologicalentities.
Founded on the hypothesized robust emergence, thro-
ughout the galaxy, of post-biological intelligence from
biological substrates, the entering of a black-hole-like state
(transcension) for maximizing computational power has
C.L. Flores Martinez / Acta Astronautica 104 (2014) 341349 347
been proposed as a likely developmental fate of highly
advanced civilizations [62]. The study, which is explicitly
based on the emerging Evo Devo Universeparadigm,
concludes that future and more powerful SETI (radio and
especially optical) might be able to survey the galactic
habitable zone and detect the ceasing of broadcasts
originating from transcendingcivilizations.
Another theoretical approach to potentially test for the
robustness of various forms of emerging complexity asso-
ciated with phenomena observed in our Universe has been
advanced with the proposal of artificial cosmogenesis [70].
Harnessing the ever-increasing computational power our
technology has to offer, a future branch of science might
employ highly elaborated computer simulations to trace
the evolution of entirely alien universes and explore how
fundamental physical parameters are shaping the respec-
tive complexity found in the Cosmos known to us. In
analogy to SETI's Drake equation, artificial cosmogenesis
proposes a generalized formula (the Cosmic Evolution
Equation (CEE)) that would be able to approximate the
robustness of intelligent life across the Universe, given
sufficient knowledge about its core variables.
7. Conclusions
In this paper it was argued that the process of cosmic
evolution might enable the repeated and independent
emergence of life and intelligence across the Universe.
Even more, the Cosmos can be reconceived of, mainly on
the basis of a novel biological paradigm, as a replicator
system in which globally and naturally occurring mechan-
isms are shaping living matter in a convergent manner. A
key developmental stage of life throughout the entire
Universe should be the emergence of highly advanced
intelligence, which, in turn, can in some cases enable the
evolution of post-biological life forms. In fact, these might
be more widespread than their organic predecessors. Just
as different organisms on Earth show strikingly convergent
features due to the force of natural selection, extraterres-
trial life could adapt in predictable ways to its native
habitat and the ruling selective pressures. This assumption
might help in the eventual detection of moderately com-
plex life within the Solar System due to intensified robotic
exploration that is increasingly guided by astrobiology.
Advanced intelligent life beyond the perimeter of the Sun,
again, might be influenced by convergent processes which
are potentially not restricted to its own biological history
(that, to a certain degree, should be similar to the terres-
trial) but could extend to the techno-cultural realm of
extraterrestrial complexity. Namely the maximizing of
computational power might be a shared technological trait
of advanced civilizations. Thus, if convergence between
simple life forms across interplanetary distances turns out
to be an evolutionary truth, the emergence of intelligence,
initially based on analogous biological systems known
from Earth which at later evolutionary stages become
supplanted by artificially created substrates, will also be
regarded as a probable and eventually detectable cosmic
phenomenon. Consequently, the nature of extraterrestrial
intelligence depends on the constraints that the evolution
and development of the Universe sets on its biological
components. These constraints are most likely universal,
acting upon biological forms with the same necessity that
allows gravity to orchestrate the harmony of the spheres. It
would be no surprise if the symphony of life were likewise
to resound in closely related keys.
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... It is not limited to sensory organs, receptive to electromagnetic waves of 400-700 nm, but rather to any kind of perception of other celestial bodies. One step further, one could argue that, given the concept of convergent evolution, and universal laws of evolution [57,[119][120][121][122][123], the development of a functionally equivalent structure of the eye becomes probable. As we continue to improve our understanding of the universe and life in general, we may be able to regain some of the definitory sharpness we sacrificed for admissibility. ...
Despite lacking scientific proof, thinking about extraterrestrials and extraterrestrial intelligence is part of our psychological reality. It is often stated that cultural and scientific reception and representation of these strange entities suffer from anthropocentric bias. To profoundly investigate such bias and the minds of extraterrestrials, we propose a revised definition for the psychological discipline called “exopsychology.” We define exopsychology as a sub-discipline of psychology, which investigates the cognition, behavior, affects, and motives of extraterrestrial agents and their human-specific representation. It is argued that the concept of intelligence is not suited for application in SETI. Thus, inherent in exopsychology is the conception of extraterrestrials as higherorder cognitive agents and as strangest strangers. We discuss the possibilities and limitations of conclusions about extraterrestrials, which leads us to hypothesize that limited statements about them might be possible, even though still influenced by anthropocentrism. We argue that it is possible to utilize anthropocentric knowledge and distinguish between admissible and inadmissible anthropocentrism. Although the first contact between extraterrestrials and humanity might never occur, scientific thinking about extraterrestrials will improve our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe.
... If we live in a noetic (information accumulating and intelligence-centric) universe, nervous systems would surely qualify as OC. Based on neurotransmitter and genomic differences, Flores-Martinez (2017) argues that nervous systems were convergently invented three different times, by comb jellies, jellyfish, and bilaterians. But only in a small subset of prosocial, tool-using, land-based vertebrate bilaterians do we see a strong trend toward runaway brain size. ...
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This paper offers a general systems definition of the phrase “evolutionary development” and an introduction to its application to autopoetic (self-reproducing) complex systems, including the universe as a system. Evolutionary development, evo devo or ED, is a term that can be used by philosophers, scientists, historians, and others as a replacement for the more general term “evolution,” whenever a scholar thinks experimental, selectionist, stochastic, and contingent or “evolutionary” processes, and also convergent, statistically deterministic (probabilistically predictable), or “developmental” processes, including replication, may be simultaneously contributing to selection and adaptation in any complex system, including the universe as a system. Like living systems, our universe broadly exhibits both contingent and deterministic components, in all historical epochs and at all levels of scale. It has a definite birth and it is inevitably senescing toward heat death. The idea that we live in an “evo devo universe,” one that has self-organized over past replications both to generate multilocal evolutionary variation (experimental diversity) and to convergently develop and pass to future generations selected aspects of its accumulated complexity (“intelligence”), is an obvious hypothesis. Yet today, few cosmologists or physicists, even among theorists of universal replication and the multiverse, have entertained the hypothesis that our universe may be both evolving and developing (engaging in both unpredictable experimentation and goal-driven, teleological, directional change and a replicative life cycle), as in living systems. Our models of universal replication, like Lee Smolin’s cosmological natural selection (CNS), do not yet use the concept of universal development, or refer to development literature. I will argue that some variety of evo devo universe models must emerge in coming years, including models of CNS with Intelligence (CNSI), which explore the ways emergent intelligence can be expected to constrain and direct “natural” selection, as it does in living systems. Evo devo models are one of several early approaches to an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), one that explores adaptation in both living and nonliving replicators. They have much to offer as a general approach to adaptive complexity, and may be required to understand several important phenomena under current research, including galaxy formation, the origin of life, the fine-tuned universe hypothesis, possible Earthlike and life fecundity in astrobiology, convergent evolution, the future of artificial intelligence, and our own apparent history of unreasonably smooth and resilient acceleration of both total and “leading edge” adapted complexity and intelligence growth, even under frequent and occasionally extreme past catastrophic selection events. If they are to become better validated in living systems and in nonliving adaptive replicators, including stars, prebiotic chemistry, and the universe as a system, they will require both better simulation capacity and advances in a variety of theories, which I shall briefly review.
The technological singularity is a hypothesized future event typically understood under the guiding framework of metaphors derived from physics and mathematics. Although there may be utility in approaching the technological singularity within this framework it often leaves us with analytical questions about the role of human beings in the process. Thus in this work I attempt to explore the possibility of situating the human being as a transitory evolutionary phenomenon connecting biological evolution to biocultural evolution to technocultural evolution. In this model inspired from big history we think about the way in which basic evolutionary mechanisms related to survival and reproduction are operating via the human phenomenon to generate the next level of cosmic evolution.
There exist two dominant scientific thought traditions about the deep future. We will organize the first thought tradition under the banner of the ‘Expansion Hypothesis’ (EH) to describe theorists who posit the deep future of intelligence is destined to find itself among the stars and galaxies. We will organize the second thought tradition under the banner of the ‘Compression Hypothesis’ (CH) to describe theorists who posit that the deep future of intelligence is destined to remain in the local region. Therefore, these two deep future thought traditions propose radically different deep futures, one in ‘deep’ space the other focused on continued local ‘inner’ development. Thus, these hypotheses must be fundamentally separated because they make radically different predictions about the potential nature of the intelligent universe beyond our local region.
We argue that it is highly doubtful that humans, especially given their current limitations, could devise an artificial selection regime able to promote the subtle and complex array of desirable traits most auspicious for traditional civilization, and so critique eugenics. We further argue that transhumanism presents grave dangers, in that it could deface all of humankind in an irrevocable way insofar as it may amplify the effects of pathological human qualities that modernity has engendered. Absent the guidance of what has typically been called virtue (i.e. group-selected moral values and behavioral dispositions), the outcomes of transhuman “augmentation” could be highly undesirable. We then conclude the book on a pessimistic note regarding the prospects of human life in particular and, more generally, intelligent life in the universe.
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uistinu neophodna za potpuno epistemološko i metodološko opravdanje teorije biološke evolucije. U tu svrhu koristimo tri primera velikih problema iz filozofije biologije, naime pitanje univerzalnosti evolucionih meha-nizama, problem porekla biološke hijerarhije i problem evolucije evolvabilnosti, na koje je teško u potpunosti odgovoriti bez značajnog upliva astrobioloških rezultata. Takođe ćemo razmotriti neke od posledica koje ovo ima po samu filozofiju biologije, tradicionalno shvaćenu. KLJUČNE REČI: filozofija biologije-naturalizam-abiogeneza-astrobiologija-evolvabilnost-potraga za vanzemaljskom inteligencijom (SETI) 1. Uvod: astrobiologija i evolucija Herbert Džordž Vels-svojevremeno student "Darvinovog buldoga" Tomasa Henrija Hakslija-bio je prvi moderni mislilac koji je uočio povratnu spregu između tehnološke i biološke evolucije. U epohalnom romanu Vremenska mašina (1895), Vels opisuje Eloe i Morloke, dve "postljudske" vrste na koje Vremenski putnik nailazi u godini 802701. Ove dve vrste predstavljaju biološke ishode procesa uzrokovanih kulturnim silama. U biološ-kom morfološkom prostoru (prostoru svih mogućih živih formi) došlo je do bifurkacije iz koje su proistekle dve vrste adaptirane na svoje fizičko i kulturno okruženje. Ova bifur-kacija bila je potpuno konzistentna sa celokupnom prethodnom biološkom, hemijskom, fizičkom, kosmološkom istorijom sve do 1895. (ili 2017!) godine. Kvalifikujući nama odbojno ponašanje Morloka kao posledicu njihove evolucione istorije Vels se nije samo borio protiv antropocentrizma, snažnog u njegovo doba kao i danas, već bi se mogao sma-trati i jednim od "otaca osnivača" bioetike. Dve godine kasnije, Vels je sugerisao da, sa stanovišta hipotetičkih Marsovaca kojima preti ekološka katastrofa i izumiranje, može biti evoluciono opravdana njihova strategija da se prošire u novu ekološku nišu kolonizacijom drugih planeta, konkretno Zemlje (Rat svetova; Wells 1897).
Hier erläutern wir ausführlich, warum in näherer oder zumindest fernerer Zukunft mit dem ‚Erstkontakt‘ zu rechnen ist. Anhand der sogenannten Drake-Formel wird detailliert erklärt, wie wahrscheinlich es ist, außerhalb der Erde auf Leben und eben möglicherweise auch auf – sicherlich höchst fremdartige – Intelligenzen zu stoßen. Das Kapitel liefert, durchaus untypisch für eine soziologische Monografie, einen Überblick über den aktuellen naturwissenschaftlichen Kenntnisstand zum Themenkomplex ‚außerirdisches Leben und extraterrestrische Intelligenz’.
Die methodischen Überlegungen des Vorkapitels werden hier in die Praxis umgesetzt: Wir untersuchen die möglichen irdischen Folgen des Erstkontakts in Form einer multiplen Szenarioanalyse. Zunächst jeweils abstrakt und dann exemplarisch-konkret prognostizieren wir die Folgen unterschiedlicher Möglichkeiten des Erstkontaktes zwischen der Menschheit und einer außerirdischen Zivilisation. Untersucht werden das Signalszenario (wir empfangen ein technisch erzeugtes außerirdisches Radiosignal), das Artefaktszenario (wir finden im Asteroidengürtel ein zweifelsfrei außerirdisches Artefakt) sowie das Begegnungsszenario (ein fremder Raumflugkörper tritt gesteuert in die Erdumlaufbahn ein).
Ein weiteres Herzstück des Bandes ist dieses Kapitel zur Proto-Soziologie außerirdischer Zivilisationen. Hier wird gefragt, was auf Basis irdischen Wissens überhaupt über außerirdische Zivilisationen ausgesagt werden kann. Das Kapitel geht von der analytisch zentralen Differenz zwischen biologischen und postbiologischen Gesellschaften aus. Während über den letzteren Typus heute nur wenig ausgesagt werden kann, ermöglicht die Evolutionstheorie eine Reihe von Annahmen hinsichtlich der Entwicklung, Struktur und Funktionsweisen der von biologischen Spezies dominierten fremden Zivilisationen.
Eine andere Konsequenz aus dem bisherigen Versagen der klassischen SETI-Forschung ziehen jene Wissenschaftler, die vom reinen Horch- in einen aktiven Sendemodus zu wechseln versuchen. In diesem Kapitel stellen wir die Grundideen solcher aktiven Suchprojekte vor, die in jüngster Zeit auch öffentlich für Furore gesorgt haben. Die mediale Aufmerksamkeit resultiert dabei nicht zuletzt daraus, dass diese Experimente höchst umstritten sind und viele Experten (wie etwa der jüngst verstorbene Astrophysiker Stephen Hawking) nachdrücklich vor ihren unkalkulierbaren Folgen gewarnt haben. Aus soziologischer Warte stellen derartige Projekte politisch wie wissenschaftsethisch fragwürdige High-Risk-Forschung in einem ganz existenziellen Sinne dar.
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In this fascinating journey to the edge of science, Vidal takes on big philosophical questions: Does our universe have a beginning and an end or is it cyclic? Are we alone in the universe? What is the role of intelligent life, if any, in cosmic evolution? Grounded in science and committed to philosophical rigor, this book presents an evolutionary worldview where the rise of intelligent life is not an accident, but may well be the key to unlocking the universe's deepest mysteries. Vidal shows how the fine-tuning controversy can be advanced with computer simulations. He also explores whether natural or artificial selection could hold on a cosmic scale. In perhaps his boldest hypothesis, he argues that signs of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are already present in our astrophysical data. His conclusions invite us to see the meaning of life, evolution and intelligence from a novel cosmological framework that should stir debate for years to come.
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The problem of the origin of metazoa is becoming more urgent in the context of astrobiology. By now it is clear that clues to the understanding of this crucial transition in the evolution of life can arise in a fourth pathway besides the three possibilities in the quest for simplicity outlined by Bonner in his classical book. In other words, solar system exploration seems to be one way in the long-term to elucidate the simplicity of evolutionary development. We place these ideas in the context of different inheritance systems, namely the genotypic and phenotypic replicators with limited or unlimited heredity, and ask which of these can support multicellular development, and to which degree of complexity. However, the quest for evidence on the evolution of biotas from planets around other stars does not seem to be feasible with present technology with direct visualization of living organisms on exoplanets. But this may be attempted on the Galilean moons of Jupiter where there is a possibility of detecting reliable biomarkers in the next decade with the Europa Jupiter System Mission, in view of recent progress by landing micropenetrators on planetary, or satellite surfaces. Mars is a second possibility in the inner Solar System, in spite of the multiple difficulties faced by the fleet of past, present and future missions. We discuss a series of preliminary ideas for elucidating the origin of metazoan analogues with available instrumentation in potential payloads of feasible space missions to the Galilean moons.
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I discuss briefly the history of the origin of life field, focusing on the "Miller" era of prebiotic synthesis, through the "Orgel" era seeking enzyme free template replication of single stranded RNA or similar polynucleotides, to the RNA world era with one of its foci on a ribozyme with the capacity to act as a polymerase able to copy itself. I give the history of the independent invention in 1971 by T. Ganti, M. Eigen and myself of three alternative theories of the origin of molecular replication: the Chemotron, the Hypercycle, and Collectively Autocatalytic Sets, CAS, respectively. To date, only collectively autocatalytic DNA, RNA, and peptide sets have achieved molecular reproduction of polymers. Theoretical work and experimental work on CAS both support their plausibility as models of openly evolvable protocells, if housed in dividing compartments such as dividing liposomes. My own further hypothesis beyond that of CAS in themselves, of their formation as a phase transition in complex chemical reaction systems of substrates, reactions and products, where the molecules in the system are candidates to catalyze the very same reactions, now firmly established as theorems, awaits experimental proof using combinatorial chemistry to make libraries of stochastic DNA, RNA and/or polypeptides, or other classes of molecules to test the hypothesis that molecular polymer reproduction has emerged as a true phase transition in complex chemical reaction systems. I remark that my colleague Marc Ballivet of the University of Geneva and I, may have issued the first publications discussing what became combinatorial chemistry, in published issued patents in 1987, 1989 and later, in this field.
This article can be viewed as an attempt to explore the consequences of two propositions. (I) Intentionality in human beings (and animals) is a product of causal features of the brain. I assume this is an empirical fact about the actual causal relations between mental processes and brains. It says simply that certain bran processes are sufficient for intentionality. (2) Instantiating a computer program is never by itself a sufficient condition of intentionality. The main argument of this paper is directed at establishing this claim. The form of the argument is to show how a human agent could instantiate the program and still not have the relevant intentionality. These two propositions have the following consequences: (3) The explanation of how the brain produces intentionality cannot be that it does it by instantiating a computer program. This is a strict logical consequence of 1 and 2. (4) Any mechanism capable of producing intentionality must have causal powers equal to those of the brain. This is meant to be a trivial consequence of 1. (5) Any attempt literally to create intentionality artificially (strong AI) could not succeed just by designing programs but would have to duplicate the causal powers of the human brain. This follows from 2 and 4. 'Could a machine think?' On the argument advanced here only a machine could think, and only very special kinds of machines, namely brains and machines with internal causal powers equivalent to those of brains. And that is why strong AI has little to tell us about thinking, since it is not about machines but about programs, and no program by itself is sufficient for thinking.
Astrobiology is an expanding, interdisciplinary field investigating the origin, evolution and future of life in the universe. Tackling many of the foundational debates of the subject, from discussions of cosmological evolution to detailed reviews of common concepts such as the 'Rare Earth' hypothesis, this volume is the first systematic survey of the philosophical aspects and conundrums in the study of cosmic life. The author's exploration of the increasing number of cross-over problems highlights the relationship between astrobiology and cosmology and presents some of the challenges of multidisciplinary study. Modern physical theories dealing with the multiverse add a further dimension to the debate. With a selection of beautifully presented illustrations and a strong emphasis on constructing a unified methodology across disciplines, this book will appeal to graduate students and specialists who seek to rectify the fragmented nature of current astrobiological endeavour, as well as curious astrophysicists, biologists and SETI enthusiasts.