It is a common view among astrobiologists that life is not a one-off, and that biospheres, and perhaps even civilizations, are plentiful. Given the growing number of known extrasolar planetary systems and our continuing astonishment at the hardiness of life in extreme environments, this opinion is relatively well-founded. But David Waltham’s book Lucky Planet reminds us that there is a second, equally common view: our existence may be the result of incredibly good fortune, and much of what we regard as evidence for life’s abundance may actually be the result of our own biases.
For example, while rocky planets appear to be common – the latest estimates suggest there is at least one for every star in the Milky Way – Waltham poses a difficult question when he asks how many of these we can expect to be truly “Earth-like”. The word “Earth-like” is widely abused by scientists and journalists alike; in fact, we are still struggling to find a sensible definition of what makes the Earth “Earth-like”. More.
Yes, the made-up “Copernican” Principle, according to which Earth is nothing special, so there are lots of Earths.
This guy argues that Earth is special, but that that is just a fluke. Possibly that is the only safe thing he can say. But how would he know it is just a fluke??
See also: Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.
“Behold, countless Earths sail the galaxies … that is, if you would only believe …”
Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
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