Do Silicone-Based Life Forms Exist On Earth?
By James Donahue
The concept of developing new silicone-based bodies capable
of withstanding the hostile environment of space, has been heavily suggested by famed physicist Stephen Hawking.
Hawking has urged exploration for this technology not only
as a way to build colonies on other planets, but to escape a doomsday scenario already beginning to play out on Earth. He
believes, as do more and more scientists today, that human intervention has caused irreversible harm to this planet’s
ecological system. If they are correct, our planet may soon be unable to support most life now in existence.
Because silicone has properties very similar to carbon,
from which all known life forms on Earth are made, scientists like Hawking believe it may be possible to genetically engineer
a silicone-based body for human occupancy. Either we build the machine and somehow abandon our bodies and move into it, or
we learn to genetically alter the infant while it is still in the womb.
However we do it, humans need to find a way to escape Earth
before it burns us alive and we go extinct. Hawking has stated in public appearances that he believes it is possible that
the planet will get so warm it will evaporate the oceans. Some say the heat could go so deep that it will destroy all of the
pre-biotic chemistry that exists deep in the crevices of the planet and thus destroy any chance of the planet ever returning
It is from this pre-biotic chemistry that Earth has always replenished
life after earlier extinctions.
But wait. Is there a possibility that we have overlooked
the possibility of silicone-based life forms that already live among us?
Dr. Tom Gold, emeritus professor of astronomy at Cornell
University, has published a book, The Deep Hot Biosphere, that offers a theory
that such organisms may live at great depths of the Earth. His earlier theories, that forms of bacteria live miles deep within
the Earth’s crust have been proven correct by scientists who have ventured into some of the deepest mines on the planet
and found life within the rocks.
Gold suggests that we have not found silicone-based life
there because we have not looked for it. Before now, we did not conceive of its existence. “We may just not be clever
enough to identify it,” he said.
Every known living organism, from bacteria to mammal, is
based on the chemistry of carbon, which forms the complex molecules that comprise us. Because of this, scientists generally
believe that extraterrestrial life, if it is ever found, will also be carbon-based.
“It is speculative but logical that there could be
a large bio-chemical system very deep down which works better at high temperatures and pressures,” Gold said.
Dr. Harold Klein, who headed the Viking Lander project team
that searched for life on Mars in the 1970s, says silicon is not as good as carbon at forming the complex polymers crucial
for life. But he would not rule out the possibility of silicone based life on other planets.
“It’s almost na´ve to assume all life must be
carbon-based; I could possibly make good cases for life based on both silicon and phosphorus,” Klein said.