For more than a century, the idea that the universe is lavishly filled with a multitude of living structures was a straightforward theoretical consequence of the Cosmological Principle within the framework of General Relativity. This principle (though primarily a mathematical condition for the global metric of space-time in order to assume isotropy and homogeneity) essentially states that the physics is the same everywhere in the universe. If so, then it is straightforward indeed to imply the existence of planets that carry life according to whether its star is sufficiently sun-like or not. However, it has not been until recently, beginning in the eighties and nineties of the last century, that a large number of (exo-) planets orbiting remote stars have actually been found, many of them looking earth-like. These observations have strongly amplified the activities of the new research field that is called astrobiology. However, beyond the various topics of generalized geophysics and biology, the not only physical but also philosophical question arises for the explicit function of life within a physical universe. The idea is to visualize life as a complex physical system among others supporting the cosmic tendency of maximizing complexity (Stuart Kauffman). The meaning of life, then, shows up as life’s function within the constituents of the universe which itself is being visualized as a maximal system. Research on these basic questions also has to ask for the philosophical foundations of physics and biology, taking care of the metaphysical discrepancy between the world as it is observed and the world as it really is. The concept of system itself, e.g., depends on epistemological aspects rather than on ontological aspects of the world. Hence, when we ask for the meaning of life in the universe, it is also necessary to reflect on the epistemological loop of self-reference, which is a consequence of the fact that human beings are a species that tries to illuminate what is producing it, including its epistemological instruments of cognitive perceptions in the first place.
Among the six articles (that are open access) three are authored by persons who are – in one way or another – affiliated with GSIS (click on the titles to read more):
Annette Grathoff | On the explicit function of life within a physical universe (which is another building stone of her project on Evolution of Information Processing Systems)
Doris Zeilinger | Doctrine of the Ciphers Intercursions among Zeropoint-Utopia-Core
Rainer E. Zimmermann | Philosophical aspects of Astrobiology revisited