In The Eerie Silence, Paul Davies looks at all the different ways we might be able to prove or disprove the idea that there are sentient beings on other planets.
The whole book is interesting, but one thought has particularly fascinated me. Davies considers the likelihood of the development of intelligence.
It seems like a really good idea, intelligence, one of those things which ought to pop up all over the place, like agriculture and weaving. As far as evolution goes, it seems as though intelligence is such an obvious winner that it would probably turn up every time it got the chance.
So, if life has begun elsewhere, it might well be that sentient life has also developed there.
But Davies points out that intelligence has had plenty of time to show up on Earth, on different branches of the tree of life.
There are no marsupial sentient beings.
There were no sentient dinosaurs.
Sentient beings did not evolve in the Americas or in Madagascar.
There was enough time for intelligence to develop in all kinds of places, but it didn’t. So maybe it’s not a great evolutionary idea that would come up all over the place. Maybe we’re freaks of nature.
Davies takes it further. He suggests that technologically developed creatures need more than intelligence.
We probably won’t meet up with other sentient beings unless they have radio technology or the ability to travel in space. And the development of science and technology, Davies says, was the result of a belief in a law-governed and orderly universe.
It required a belief in God.
Without that faith, Peter Davies suggests, there would be no reason to look for mathematical patterns in the world.
So the aliens who might be out there would have not only to have developed a high level of intelligence, language, and higher mathematics — they would also have to know god.
I don’t know whether that’s true or not. It’s very interesting, though.