9 October 2004|
"When the extraterrestrial visitors land on Earth in their space-saucer, they will be excited to see that ours is one of those rare planets where complex life has evolved. They will have found microbes, like our viruses and bacteria, on every life-bearing planet. Naked biological molecules and simple single cells will be a familiar experience...But only a few planets will have complex life."
Mark Ridley projects this scenario based on the observation that "the fossil record tells us that life was probably easy to evolve, but complex life was hard to evolve and might not have evolved at all. Simple life appears to have evolved almost instantaneously, as soon as it was possible. But complex life evolved only after a long delay, as if it had been held up by some inherent difficulty."
(The Cooperative Gene, or Mendel's
Maybe he's right. But it's humbling to remember that even the simplest living organism is far beyond the analytic capacity,
let alone synthetic skills, of today's biochemistry. We are very far from creating bacteria or even viruses in a test tube, and perhaps we should not underestimate the surprises and revelations yet in store for us as we proceed meticulously to unravel life's secrets.
We'll have a better idea when we've completed this understanding of earthly
life, but we won't really know until we interview the extraterrestrials. I can't wait.
8 October 2004|
"We have to believe in free will. We have no
7 October 2004|
"The ocean of intelligence is here, common to all, available to
all, always open, always ready to be poured from. The lack is of another
kind: Lack of love. Perhaps one should rather say: Lack of discovery
of love. For love is there too, a frothing, surging stream. It just has to
be discovered, then tapped. Love is the driving force that harnesses and
uses will, intelligence, muscle."
In 1979, I attended a conference on renewable energy from the ocean. I
came by myself. This was not my field, but I was there to learn. A white-haired man
invited and then captured me with the twinkle in his eye. He could tell I
was a yogi, he said. "Yoga and sufism are the same thing,
He was Bryn Beorse, a Berkeley professor of engineering, a pioneer in
the science of ocean thermal energy; and he was Shamcher, a Sufi master
with a small, devoted clan of disciples in San Francisco. He became my
friend over the three days of the conference. He returned to the West
Coast, and passed into a world of greater love a few months afterward.
6 October 2004|
"Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even
though you never touch its coattails."
- Clarence Darrow
5 October 2004|
"We (that indivisible divinity that operates in us)
have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it as enduring, mysterious, visible, omnipresent
in space and static in time; but we have consented to tenuous and eternal intervals of paradox
in its architecture that we might know it is false."
-Jorge Luis Borges
Avatars of the Tortoise (reprinted in the
Inquisitions", and later in "Labyrinths")
4 October 2004|
A sixth-grade teacher asked her students to write about why there
are humans on earth:
I believe that there is, despite the fact that we humans have done so
much damage to the world, a reason for our existence on this planet. I
think we are here because the universe, with all its wonder and
balance and logic, needs to be marveled at, and we are the only
species that has the ability to do so. We are the one species that
does not simply accept what is around us, but also asks why it is
here, and how it works. We are here because without us to study it,
the amazing complexity of the world would be wasted. Finally, we are
here because the universe needs an entity to ask why it is here.
Vermeer in Bosnia,