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 is urging 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 obviously 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 is dying and it may soon be impossible
for it to support life.
Because silicone has
properties very similar to carbon, from which all known life forms on Earth are made, 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 warned that it is
possible that the planet will get so warm it will evaporate all of the oceans and the heat will go so deep that it will destroy
all of the pre-biotic chemistry that exists deep in the crevices of the planet.
It is from this pre-biotic
chemistry that Earth has replenished life after earlier extinctions. Even if the extreme heating does not occur, science has
shown that our sun is aging and we lack the time in this solar system for another successful evolution of life. Thus we may
have gone too far and that the extinction process will be complete and permanent. We may then be doomed.
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, is about to publish 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,”
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.
na´ve to assume all life must be carbon-based; I could possibly make good cases for life based on both silicon and phosphorus,”