"It is a very seductive explanation for the fact that the universe does seem to be kind of attuned to the development of life," said Shostak, who wrote the foreword to Biocosm.
Gardner believes that eventually life and intelligence will evolve to the point where it is capable of figuring out how to create, or give birth to, another universe, just as he believes an earlier universe gave birth to our universe.
As the progeny of an earlier universe, the cosmic equivalent of DNA is stitched into our universe, providing a recipe for development and a blueprint for the construction of offspring, according to Gardner.
When it comes to the issue of ultimate origins, Gardner said his theory becomes its most speculative. He postulates a closed time-like curve wherein the universe serves as its own mother. But he has other theories as well.
"I feel somewhat tempted by the approach [Charles] Darwin took when questioned about the origin of life," Gardner said. "The whole matter, Darwin remarked famously, is far too profound for the human intellect; a dog might as easily contemplate the mind of Newton."
Proof of Theory?
Gardner's greatest challenge is to gain credibility for his theory as true science rather than pure speculation. "While intriguing and appealing, how can you know whether it is right," Shostak said. "What is the test?"
According to Gardner, key among the consequences of the life-friendly nature of the universe is that we humans ought to encounter life and intelligence as we explore the cosmos. Such an encounter would help prove the selfish biocosm theory, he said.
"In some sense it's a test, but it's not rigorous," Shostak said. "It's hard to prove that nobody is out there and it may be hard to find them even if they are there."
Other tests put forward by Gardner include detecting the evolution toward intelligence in nonprimate species, the evolution of artificial life into what is called a "conscious artifact," and the emergence of transhuman intelligencethe evolution of ever higher levels of intelligence on Earth, such as a community of humans and machines that is more intelligent than humans are alone.
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Biocosm: The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe