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Nature meets Philosphy: searching for other forms of life

Have you ever wondered if aliens exist? Or what they would look like? A lot of scientists have too. And it made them look for other forms of life, both in space and on our own planet. But are they too short-sighted? Or are they just limited in what they can do?

I always have a bit of trouble with the way people envision aliens. They are usually depicted to be human-like, strangely mutated beings. At least, that is what they do in movies. But many scientists make themselves guilty of the very same thing. They start looking for signs of life, but use our own characteristics of “life” in their search. They for example assume oxygen to be essential for living beings. Or, if they look a bit more broad, at least some other form of respiration.


But should all life “breathe”? Aren’t there other ways for beings to capture energy and nutrients from their surroundings?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not an expert in the area. And really, I think nobody actually knows. If we did, we had already found “other” life, and the search would take on another form. So it is all guesswork. Just by being the creative biologist here, I should think that other, completely out of our mindset, life should be possible to exist. I mean, there are 500 billion galaxies in the universe. It can’t be that this one little planet is the only one that has interacting molecules leading to some form of “life”.

But then, what is the definition of life? Is it having a mind? Is it being able to respond to the environment? Because if the last one is the case, then there would probably be tons of other completely unimaginable things “living” in the universe around us. On our planet maybe even.

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The only problem is. How do you find something when you have no clue what it is? And that is where our ability to search for other life is limited. For we do not know what other processes could be happening, so we cannot devise ways to detect them. However creative you may be, you can never imagine something completely new. It is always based on some former knowledge. From there, you can start inventing. But you have to have a basis.

Will we ever get a grip on the basis to start finding other life? Who knows, it could happen. But for now, we can only hope to find out as much about the things around us that we already know a little bit of.

Do you think other forms of life could be possible?

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