Re: Our rocky solar system may be rare

J. R. Molloy (
Sat, 11 Sep 1999 02:01:06 -0700

From: <>
>I am betting that Technology -Building life is extremely rare. Not because
>they decide to polute or to huff nukes or to nano-crap on themselves. I am
>suspecting that the initial conditions that promote tool users are
>vanishingly rare. Items such as Yellow stable stars, a local sizable moon,
>huge gas giant to slurp up the comets and asteroids, convection and
>subduction between an early planets surface and its mantle, the right
>climate..etc. Also I contend, that 12-20 billion years is a subjective
>on what it takes to bring forth intense self awareness. We may be the first
>beings in the Local Group to attain this awareness. We are set ( I suspect)
>against the after-glow of creation. Flip a coin.

Thank you for pointing out the important difference between "unique" and "rare."
If life as we know it occurs only very rarely in the universe, that gives us more cosmic elbow room (as implied by the rarity -- not "uniqueness" -- of our solar system).
But if life as we know it has only occurred once in the universe (unlikely in the hyper-extreme), that helps us immensely -- and also makes us incredibly important extropically, since we alone must struggle against all the forces of entropy.

But on the basis of what scientists have found necessary for life to get going, I tend to think life springs up more commonly than anthropic-minded folks would like to believe. Just as millions of seeds may only produce one or two viable organisms, so millions of seeded solar systems may only produce one or two intelligent life forms. But the universe contains billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars with planets. Consequently, millions of unrelated species and their civilizations may inhabit the universe and still never come close to bumping into each other.

I don't see that the rarity of intelligent life lowers the risk that we'll self-annihilate. The farther you look into the past, the more rare humans become. Yet ancient cultures wiped each other out at least as often than they do today.

BTW, if a SETI group discovers a signal from, say, 500 million light years away, forget communicating with that life form, because they have a 500 million year head start on us. It seems to me we have enough to deal with right here in our own solar system, which makes SETI premature.