Evolution and ET


Students of the search for ET life and intelligence will no doubt today have noted that, after over a century of energetic activity, the light has finally gone out in evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr .

Harvard professor of zoology and one of the great architects of the evolutionary synthesis of the C20th, Professor Mayr was largely responsible for the latter day definition of species as ‘an interbreeding population that cannot breed with other groups’

Interestingly, as with other prominent scientists such as Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle , Mayr was very critical of astronomers’ and astrobiologists’ insistence that our Galaxy was replete with life. Mayr often accused astronomers of physical determinism – a ‘happy, clappy’ optimism that the emergence and evolution of life is essentially an inevitable consequence given certain starting conditions.

And, of course, he has a fair point. Though these days the pendulum has swung the other way. Perhaps a “life principle” operates in the universe. And maybe the cosmos tends to produce increasingly complex organic systems from simple beginnings wherever conditions remotely allow it.

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