There is a full-age ad in the Wall Street Journal today with the headlining question: “Are we alone?” The subhead is “Now is the time to find out?” and the ad is a plea from a group called Breakthrough Initiatives to governments all over the world to fund a “large-scale international effort to find life in the Universe.”
The ad says that finding life in someplace else besides earth is necessary because “the biggest questions of our existence are at stake.” And what would those be?
“Are we the Universe’s only child—our thoughts its only thoughts? Or do we have cosmic siblings—an interstellar family of intelligence?”
The ad is signed by 31 notable scientists and celebrities including Seth McFarlane, the creator of that highbrow series Family Guy, as well as Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, James Watson.
I am sure some of these signers are motivated by scientific curiosity, but I can’t help feeling that something else is at work with so many signers who themselves declare there is no God who made us or cares for us. The tone of this ad is almost plaintive more than curious. The last line declares that we should “seek other forms of life, and so know more deeply who we are.”
Of course, they know who we aren’t. We aren’t beings who have an ultimate purpose. No one had us in mind when we appeared on the earth. But for some reason human beings aren’t satisfied with this answer; although why evolution would program such longing into us, I don’t know. In fact, can this group be sure the other minds out there want to connect with us? I have seen Galaxy Quest enough times to have my doubts.
But these folks long to connect with someone else out there. If only we weren’t the only mindful beings in the universe, then we might understand who we are.
To be the only minds in the universe is such a lonely thought to them. I agree that it is a dispiriting thought. But there is a reason we feel that way. It is because we were made for relationship. And specifically we were made for relationship with the Mind in the universe who thinks of us.