Observations and experiments from the science
of evolutionary biology have provided us with a solid base of knowledge about
how life on Earth came to be. This is
not to say that all the mysteries of the evolution of life are solved - far
from it. However, the core of what we
have learned about Earthly life from the study of evolutionary biology may
provide important insights into the question of whether life exists elsewhere,
and if it does, what form(s) it might take.
Diversity and adaptation are
the defining features of life on Earth.
The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection provides an explanation for
observations of diversity and adaptation in the living world. After presenting some basics about the
evolutionary process, I will consider a range of issues including: 1) What determines the outcome of the
evolutionary process? 2) What is the
role of evolutionary innovation on the course of evolution? 3) How do periodic
extinctions alter the history of life? 4) Was the evolution of intelligent life inevitable?
Consideration of the course of the evolution
of life on Earth puts the search for intelligent life in other universes into a
context in which contingency is of paramount importance. This raises issues about the possibility of
intelligent extraterrestrial life that might otherwise be missed.
Contributed by: Dr. Sara Via