Is life special just because it’s rare?
Analysing the key role of vitalism in the age of modern science. Our studies of the universe have made us aware that "10 percent of all stars have a habitable planet in orbit." When we contextualise that in actual numbers, we might be tempted to assume life is not really as rare as we think. However, as Allan Lightman points out, "even if all 'habitable' planets do indeed harbour life, the fraction of all material in the universe in living form is (still) fantastically small." So, what can science take away from this knowledge? In this piece for Nautilus, Lightman — a professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT — explores.