The Fate of Life in the Universe; The Once and Future Cosmos; Special Editions; by Lawrence M. Krauss and Glenn D. Starkman; 8 Page(s)
Eternal life is a core belief of many of the world's religions. Usually it is extolled as a spiritual Valhalla, an existence without pain, death, worry or evil, a world removed from our physical reality. But there is another sort of eternal life that we hope for, one in the temporal realm. In the conclusion to On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote: "As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken.... Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length." The sun will eventually exhaust its hydrogen fuel, and life as we know it on our home planet will eventually end, but the human race is resilient. Our progeny will seek new homes, spreading into every corner of the universe just as organisms have colonized every possible niche of the earth. Death and evil will take their toll, pain and worry may never go away, but somewhere we expect that some of our children will carry on.
Or maybe not. Remarkably, even though scientists fully understand neither the physical basis of life nor the unfolding of the universe, they can make educated guesses about the destiny of living things. Cosmological observations now suggest that the universe will continue to expand forever-rather than, as scientists once thought, expanding to a maximum size and then shrinking. Therefore, we are not doomed to perish in a fiery "big crunch" in which any vestige of our current or future civilization would be erased. At first glance, eternal expansion is cause for optimism. What could stop a sufficiently intelligent civilization from exploiting the endless resources to survive indefinitely?