Christopher Graney at the Vatican Observatory Foundation Blog offers some thoughtful comments on the relationship between the Star Wars we all grew up with and the actual universe we are learning about now:
Star Wars: On the Wrong Side of History & Science – Episode One:
Star Wars is set in a wonderfully imaginative universe that features a profusion of cool planets, cooler alien life forms, and the coolest space ships. But that universe, with Tatooine, Dagobah, Naboo, Jakku, Endor, and all their fantastic creatures and “people”—even the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks—is a well-worn idea, and an idea whose time has passed. Science and history are twin Dreadnoughts closing in on and crushing the Star Wars universe like the First Order picking off the last remnants of Princess/General Leia Organa’s little fleet (for those who have not seen the more recent Star Wars films, the First Order is the new version of the Empire). This is the first in a series of posts (click here for the series) that will argue that science and history strongly suggest that the universe seen in Star Wars—a universe full of intelligent, technologically advanced extraterrestrial life; that is, full of “Space Aliens”—is simply not plausible. Science and history strongly suggest that intelligent, technologically advanced extraterrestrial life is rare within the real universe that is the home of we Earthlings—rare enough that we may very well be “functionally alone” or “sensibly alone” (that is, far enough separated from any Space Aliens that we will never know that they exist, and they will never know that we exist). More.
The fact is that a couple centuries ago the conventional wisdom was that there was a “Plurality of Worlds”. In other words, the conventional wisdom was that the planets were much like Earth and the stars were much like the sun, and the planets orbiting those suns were like the planets orbiting our sun—and all those planets had life, and intelligent life. Given that it was broadly thought that life was spontaneously generated from inanimate matter (click here), why would they not?
That universe of two centuries ago, the universe of the Plurality of Worlds, is the universe of Star Wars: It is a universe full of other Earths, full of intelligent beings. President John Adams would not have found Jar Jar Binks, or Jabba the Hutt, or Maz Kanata surprising at all.
The idea of the Plurality of Worlds is an idea of universal homogeneity. Everything is like us: planets are Earths; stars are suns; planetary systems are solar systems; life is everywhere—just like Earth. Does that really make sense? Can we assume that just because planets are round, orbit the sun, and rotate, that therefore they have sailing ships and rope for them, because, well, why would Earth be the only place to have sailing ships and rope? But such homogeneity was assumed. More.
It didn’t used to be cool to say this stuff.
See also: Catholic astronomer on Canada’s government’s universe of randomness (“Stuff happens.”)
What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?