Life on Other Planets from a Biological Perspective: Conclusion

About the biological perspective of life on other planets taking into account the forms life takes, consider lower life forms, and conclusion.

Life on Other Planets: Another View

Advanced "lower life" forms. One of the humblest of terrestrial creatures, a protozoan named Paramecium aurelia, looks like hardly more than a bit of protoplasm with a gullet. It would not seem possible that such a blob could learn or think. Yet, in a classic experiment, food-deprived P. aurelia were induced to cling to the sides of a sterile platinum wire. Previously, they had been exposed to the wire when it had been coated with food. Possibly, they had "learned" to cling to the wire. Beatrice Gelber, of the Dept. of Psychology at the University of Chicago, suggested that the P. aurelia were actually acting like higher animals.

In considering exotic life forms, our imagination needs stimulation, rather than restraint. Insects are so familiar to us that we lose sight of the fact that here on earth many of them are indeed exotic creatures. More than a century ago, 2 British entomologists, William Kirby and William Spence, asked what would happen if a naturalist were to announce the discovery of "an animal which 1st existed in the form of a serpent; which then penetrated into the earth, and weaving a shroud of pure silk of the finest texture, contracted itself within this covering into a body without external mouth or limbs, and resembling, more than anything else, an Egyptian mummy; and which, lastly, after remaining in this state without food and without motion . . . should at the end of that period burst its silken cerements, struggle through its earthly covering and start into day a winged bird. . . ."

They were describing, of course, the metamorphosis of a moth. Could life be more "extraterrestrial," at least in terms of our man-centered outlook on life? The moth is familiar to us only as one of the endless number of insects that, to most men's eyes, infest rather than enhance our world. But seen as a wondrous creature, the moth becomes a symbol of what extraterrestrial life could be.

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