The Biodiversity of the Universe

I am fully aware that life as we know it, as it is manifested on Earth, is by far represented by microorganisms. Bacteria and related organisms are the ones that really rule our planet. This is just a fact.

Can I tell you a secret, though? I like multicellular organisms, particularly animals, so much better!

Now please don’t get me wrong, all life is majestic (yes, plants and microbes too). We still don’t know what life is; we do not have a definition that satisfies everyone, that is part of its majesty. All forms of life are mysterious.

However, it is a safe bet that if you like nature and science, your interest started with animals. You may have (as I used to do as a boy) just take long walks and see some nature firsthand, go to a small lake or stream and see the little critters that make childhood so precious. Alternatively, you may have learned about nature through books. Oh my, paleontology books, those were the best! I don’t know about you, but they kindled my imagination. I thought a lot about dinosaurs of course; who does not like T-Rexes (at least in theory and from a distance)?

How about nature documentaries? Not the ones like “Finding Bigfoot”, as much as I’d like them to exist too, which according to the best data is really, and I mean really, unlikely, but the documentaries that showed animals that we will surely not encounter in our daily lives…

Sometimes I get nostalgic of the things that I never saw, I get nostalgic of all the things that I will never see. I know this statement does not make much sense, but it is how I feel. I want to see life in all its majesty. I really do, from what makes it tick all the way to behavior.

I want to know how dinosaurs *really* looked like. I want to see (again, from a very safe place) a saber tooth tiger. I want to see a prehistoric planarian, I want to see… all.

And, how about all life that likely existed and may still exist on other worlds? I know that many before me have said this and many after me will say it, but just think:

…about the 100-300 billion stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, alone.
…that we know that many, but many stars have planets; I won’t even do the math.
…of the 100-200 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
…about the distinct possibility that ours is just one universe out of many.

Can we even imagine the ***TRUE*** biodiversity of the (multi?) universe?

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? This is one of the thoughts that make me wish will all my heart that there is a higher power that would answer all my questions. My religious/spiritual longings or lack of thereof are explained elsewhere. I will not talk about them here.

At any rate, literally, “…endless forms, most beautiful…”
(:-)

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Picture credits:


Ainsley Seago and https://www.facebook.com/trust.biologist

Want to see more of the things I write? Go here for some other posts. By the way, I wrote a book!

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This is a popular science book, which I hope to be enjoyed by laypeople and biologists alike.

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15 Comments

  1. Have you ever wondered if the randomness of mutation events that lead to the selection that drives evolution is actually something pleasing to God. Think about it from a God perspective, it would be tedious to set everything in place and sort of wind the entire freaking universe up and let it operate like clockwork. Evolution brings uncertainty and surprises into the mix and is messy and thrilling at the same time. The concept of a vast array of worlds that have the capacity to generate life its unique version of life is worth pondering.

    I seriously doubt we humans are even able to recognize most of it as being alive.

    The poster is right, evolution makes me want to get to know God better.

  2. I do not think that awe disappeared with Nick and Isaac. Maybe some people (or many) think that a deterministic universe is less interesting, but I do not think so. I am not so sure that life is entirely deterministic though. The selection part of it, certainly is, but mutations, symbiosis, genome fusion (a little stretch there) or any undiscovered mechanism that result in variations is much more random. As for meaning, I’d love for life a a biological phenomenon to have meaning, but even if it turns out that it does not, I would still find it beautiful and majestic. Maybe that IS its meaning…

  3. Do you agree that Copernican/Newtonian science diminished the awe that had previously been the purview of religion? Is a deterministic worldview really less significant than a spiritual worldview? I see posts like this one, and statements that mirror what you said above, such as Carl Sagan “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”, and I can’t help but wonder if the very idea of galactic or universal biodiversity is itself a profoundly deterministic view. Biology is what it does. It will exist independent of any higher purpose, because it just is. I find this concept to be intrinsically beautiful. Life is abundant and exists purely because it can…but such apparent meanless existence seems offensive to a lot of people.

    I’m not sure that made sense, but I’d like to know your thoughts.

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