What happens if we encounter life that isn’t representative of what we know to be life? We have this preconceived notion that life is representative of life on Earth. Does it ruin what we believe to life or expand ourselves to new possibilities of life?
Since there has been no actual concrete evidence of life in space this is purely hypothetical. But let’s say we discovered life on Jupiter itself, that whatever they are have the capacity to live on gas giant in hostile storms. For one it would rock the scientific community especially astrobiology but what does that mean on our understanding of life. We believe life as surviving mostly in Earth like conditions but when that’s no longer the case do we encounter that.
I believe that rather than ruining our perception of life I believe it would open the possibilities to discover life in places we otherwise would not have considered. This would broaden NASA search of exo-planets to include, in this hypothetical situation, gas giants as well. And as for the case for how we define life I believe in an extreme case as this is we expand the definition to include sub-categories because even now we struggle to encapsulate of life as it currently. These sub-categories would be designed to fit certain classifications to avoid contradictions and paradoxes.
Sine we have no evidence that such a scenario is even possible, and we still have not detected life on other planets. As said in Steven Brenner’s Defining Life we do not change the definition, “because we do not constructively believe that this kind of life is possible”. This is more something to think about the possibilities of life rather than being constrained to our own presumptions.
I agree with you that it would be very important to consider definition of life if, as you had said, life was found that completely negated our earthly definition. I definitely agree that it would begin a search to life beings that we have not considered looking for before. In addition, I believe that it would incredibly open our horizons and continue to update our definition of life (because I once we find life that does not match our definition, more will become aparent to us).
I am not sure, though, how we will discover life that we are not looking for. We only concern ourselves with planets that we can imagine life surviving on. I could even argue that we may have observed life elsewhere, we just have not been able to detect it as life. It would really intrigue me to be able to see how we will find life outside of our definition, if not by complete accident.
You are right! Since the only forms of life we have seen are existent on earth only, we do fall into this preconceived notion that life is what we see at home in our planet. There must be other forms of life that will not follow the same logic and facts as do the ones on earth.
I misunderstood what you meant by gas giants. Are you referring to planets formed from gas? All in all, I enjoyed your post and your claims are valid from my point of view.