Space scientists recently completed an examination of orbital debris, recovered after circling the Earth for several years. They discovered that much of it was coated with a thin film of what was delicately described as `fecal matter', attributed to astronauts' sloppy sanitation.
This may solve one of the mysteries of life's origin on Earth: it seems to have arisen almost as soon as conditions were favourable, and not after the billions of years of molecular trial and error required by what Isaac Asimov called the 'unblind working of chance.'
Obviously, organised life-forms need have occurred only once in this Galaxy, if the very first space-faring civilisation was as careless about the environment as we are. Years ago, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe suggested that life had a cosmic, and not terrestrial, origin. They may be right, though not precisely in the way they imagined. It's a humbling thought that we may have arisen from dumped sewage; the first chapter of Genesis would certainly require drastic revision.
On the other hand, if - as some philosophers have suggested - this Earth does indeed harbour the only life in the Universe, that deplorable state of affairs is now being rectified. We may draw some consolation - I hesitate to say inspiration - from the fact that our descendants are already on their way to the stars.
But we certainly would not recognise them, and it might be tactless to ask exactly how they got there.
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this page last updated 4 January 2003
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