Pure science would say that since there is no evidence of life beyond our own planet, one can neither assume nor rule out life elsewhere.
Our place in the universe. Click to make massive.
Yet a mind open to surprises looks at the above schematic, factors in the existence of 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars (that’s 70,000 million million million) in the known universe, and that’s as of 2003, and wonders what kind of hubris allows for this incomprehensible vastness and beauty to exist solely to amuse us? As of 2012, Wikipedia reports, “Data from the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (HEC) suggests that, of the 725 exoplanets which have been confirmed as of 14 January 2012, four potentially habitable planets have been found, and the same source predicts that there may be 27 habitable extrasolar moons around confirmed planets.”
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image was taken of an area of the sky just a tad over 3 arcminutes across. That’s smaller than a 1 mm by 1 mm square of paper held at 1 meter away, and equal to roughly one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky; with the exception of one or two local stars in our neighborhood, every pinprick of light in this image is a galaxy. Every single spot. Add to that the fact that galactic scale is unfathomable; despite the existence of hundreds of billions of stars in a single cluster, when our own celestial home collides with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, no two stars will ever come close enough to collide. (Watch the video at the link, it’s elegant.)
Using the Drake equation to estimate the number of civilizations with whom we might have communication is an exercise in futility, simply because none of the terms are or can be known, but I don’t need higher math to look out into such mind-bending vastness and see a result higher than zero. For me, life out there is inevitable.
No, I can’t get my head around the idea that we’re the only thing out here, or the best, or the brightest. Unless someone figures out how to void the laws of the universe, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know, but that doesn’t dampen my certainty: we’re not alone.
The Old Wolf has spoken.