Life in perspective

“We are searching for life, yet we have a little idea what life really is….”

A quote I read in a Natgeo article some years back. The article was based on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). And today I came across another article which reminded me of the line and about why liked it the first time.

Take a read. (Alien life on earth??? – the BBC’s Science portal)

The article essentialy is in 3 parts:

The first, suggests that alien life may exist in earth itself – in very unusual or toxic lakes etc. It could be the result of ferrying from comets, mars – the usual sources. Not very convincing though. As one scientist questions in the article – How do u differentiate between earth and non-earth forms? Even the article itself uses the phrase – wierd life everywhere. Not at all impressive.

The second part, calls for more exploration on earth itself. Sensible – no matter what “life” you are looking for… wierd, alien, earth like. But an interesting quote here – “Personally, I’m only interested in establishing whether life happened more than once. If we find it has happened twice from scratch then its going to have happened all around the universe.” This makes a lot of sense. I believe when and if we find life – this is the one that everyone would agree to.

It reminded me of another article I read (I will put in the reference as soon as I recollect it). This was about a team of scientists who modelled our galaxy from origin. They modelled everything (so they claim) and simulated the entire program to search for intelligent species and came up with  (I believe what is an disproportionately large number!) 361 results. The findings were published with a theme like – Oh, you know, life isn’t rare after all!  – –  Is this really necessary????!

I believe I am ambivalent when it comes to SETI. Undoubtedly, it fascinates me. It is a part of a quest, which began with intelligence itself. The earliest of civilizations have put up questions – What is the life? What is its purpose? Does life exists else where? Now for me there exists just the question – Whether these questions will ever be answered?

But sometimes it makes me wonder, whether these people have nothing else more realistic to do. I mean the world is so full of problems that threaten our very existence – such genius brains could be of great use here, not to mention the money spent.

The third part of the article is what interested me. Titled ‘Life in the lab’ it interviews a group of scientists who claim to have prepared molecules that are capable of ‘Darwinian Evolution’. These molecules have a DNA – RNA base with 6 letters in the genetic alphabet. The scientists have observed that the mistakes made in pairing are carried forward – showing that the molecule is evolving. The scientists claim that “Since, the accepted definition of life is a molecule capable of Darwinian evolution”, they have developed life and they would be testing the molecules for natural selection.

The phrase “definition of life” caught my attention. That would be the biochemical way to define life.

I believe somethings missing in their definition. I think that only one thing stops us from being just a blob full of chemical reactions. As Agent Smith would put it – PURPOSE

We’re here because we’re not free. There is no escaping reason; no denying purpose. Because as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist.

It is purpose that created us.

Purpose that connects us.

Purpose that pulls us.

That guides us.

That drives us.

It is purpose that defines us.

Purpose that binds us. [1]

Life cannot be defined without it.

My head is full of thoughts and imaginations, doubts and debates which perhaps may never be sorted, a stand never be taken. And hence, I must end this blog the same way as I started it –

“We are searching for life, yet we have a little idea what life really is….”



  1. Adi said

    I will have to disagree with “whether these people have nothing else more realistic to do” part of your comment. Its not just about results. You have to pursue everything that shows the faintest signs of producing results in future. If we stop trying things because of fear of failure we would have been just as ignorant as monkeys! Thats the way we progress, we try different things. These guys are driven by the sole motivation that is life on earth; can it also be anywhere else? Why not? Just imagine the magnitude of one single breakthrough in this field.

    About the investment part. Again its something you just have to do! We do plenty of things as it is (like weapons perhaps) which some can regard as useless (from a broader perspective of course!) but are done under political tensions and will be around till the end of mankind. I think this is a more fruitful way to spend money than weapons. When I am watching Formula-1, I get plenty of environment cautious elderly worries- How much petrol do they WASTE? My answer is the same. Races have been there since the beginning of time (not entirely unlike weapons!) and now you want to stop them because they consume 72000 liter petrol per team? I can simply ask them, do you turn off your engine on signal when its about to go green in 30sec? We on earth live very inefficient lives. Its not fair to point out one activity as useless!

    Your perspective on ‘purpose of life’ is very interesting. The final line reminds me of ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ and your recent email!

  2. Avnish said

    yes thank you… Needless to say I am not oblivious to this… its just a guilt conscience thats all… that perhaps we are not doing much for our home planet or our fellowmen…

    And abt the Total perspective vortex – a special blog post must be dedicated to it…

  3. Adi said

    Hats off to Douglas Adams for introducing this concept to us!

  4. adimrin said

    got to your blog looking for paper presentation topics…Study in MIT,pune….which yr are you in? Anyway would reading through & saw your tag relating to Matrix & being a VERY big fan [] had to read the post 🙂

    I agree with the purpose funda [even though smith said it…but hey he was right :)] without it the whole creation would be meaningless, or a blob as you put it.

    good work man…the ppr presnt thing may just work out 🙂
    going through more of you posts…nice!

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