To expect alien technology to be just a few decades ahead of ours is too incredible to be taken seriously.
Man-made computers are limited in their performance by finite processing speed and memory. So too the cosmic computer is limited in power by its age and the finite speed of light.
Is there anything science should not try to explain? Science is knowledge and knowledge is power – power to do good or evil. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
In science a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity whereas in religion having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.
Imagine a civilisation that’s way in advance of us wants to communicate with us and assist us in our development. The information we provide to them must reflect our highest aspirations and ideals and not just be some crazy person’s bizarre politics or religion.
Clearly some creative thinking is badly needed if humans are to have a future beyond Earth. Returning to the Moon may be worthy and attainable but it fails to capture the public’s imagination. What does get people excited is the prospect of a mission to Mars.
Science we are repeatedly told is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion by contrast is based on faith. The term ‘doubting Thomas’ well illustrates the difference.
We will never fully explain the world by appealing to something outside it that must simply be accepted on faith be it an unexplained God or an unexplained set of mathematical laws.
Perhaps the best motivation for going to Mars is political. It is obvious that no single nation currently has either the will or the resources to do it alone but a consortium of nations and space agencies could achieve it within 20 years.
Should we find a second form of life right here on our doorstep we could be confident that life is a truly cosmic phenomenon. If so there may well be sentient beings somewhere in the galaxy wondering as do we if they are not alone in the universe.
The way life manages information involves a logical structure that differs fundamentally from mere complex chemistry. Therefore chemistry alone will not explain life’s origin any more than a study of silicon copper and plastic will explain how a computer can execute a program.
A permanent base on Mars would have a number of advantages beyond being a bonanza for planetary science and geology. If as some evidence suggests exotic micro-organisms have arisen independently of terrestrial life studying them could revolutionise biology medicine and biotechnology.
Cosmologists have attempted to account for the day-to-day laws you find in textbooks in terms of fundamental ‘superlaws’ but the superlaws themselves must still be accepted as brute facts. So maybe the ultimate laws of nature will always be off-limits to science.
For me science is already fantastical enough. Unlocking the secrets of nature with fundamental physics or cosmology or astrobiology leads you into a wonderland compared with which beliefs in things like alien abductions pale into insignificance.
The birth of science as we know it arguably began with Isaac Newton’s formulation of the laws of gravitation and motion. It is no exaggeration to say that physics was reborn in the early 20th-century with the twin revolutions of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity.
The origin of life is one of the great outstanding mysteries of science.
Traditionally scientists have treated the laws of physics as simply ‘given’ elegant mathematical relationships that were somehow imprinted on the universe at its birth and fixed thereafter. Inquiry into the origin and nature of the laws was not regarded as a proper part of science.