Something which I find mind-blowing: Life on Earth evolved intelligence, and it likely evolved elsewhere.
We will assume that the universe is full of life. We will make the assumption that, because life came to exist on the Earth, and because the Earth, its solar system, and its galaxy are completely unexceptional, we can use the conditions and variables of Earth to gauge where life can arise. Considering the amount of stars there are in our galaxy alone (400 billion), and the increasingly apparent fact that each star has a number of planets orbiting it, it is statistically very likely that the conditions on Earth are matched somewhere else. If we total up all the planets from throughout the universe where the conditions are equal and where life arose, then it is statistically very likely that at least a small fraction, if only a sliver, of that life developed intelligence. It happened here, and it more than probably happened somewhere else.
What is so incredible about this is considering the journey life took here on Earth to arrive at intelligence. The rise of the dinosaurs coincided with small mammals, and it took their death by meteor to let mammals finally dominate the Earth. The development of social ties between primates would lead to the evolution of cooperation, which would lead to the advent of intelligence. I wonder what the development of intelligence on other planets looked like. What factors would life evolve to deal with there, what precipitated the development of the intellect? What are the species which evolve to become intelligent like? Do they have culture, and if they do are their elements of culture similar to our own. I’m sure that there must be cultures and societies so absolutely foreign that we cannot conceive of them. I’m sure that some species operate differently than us in societal structure. Could an intelligent species have a hive mind, akin to the societies of our bees and ants?
I consider all the art, music, literature, poetry that humans have produced throughout their history, and I find it beautiful to know that other intelligent species must have their own productions, or aspects of culture that they find important which we will never know about. I consider all of the war and bloodshed that has happened here on Earth, and I recognize that they too must have had or are having their own struggles and conflicts. The history of the Earth and humanity is so varied and so deep. Imagine the history of some other species somewhere in the universe. They must have it, they might have history books or records of their own. I wonder what is in them, what their development must be like.
I find it beautiful that, considering all of these things I’ve described, that statistically even if life is rare and intelligent life even rarer still there still must be hundreds of thousands of intelligent species. We live in a universe full of culture and feeling and other things associated with life which we cannot even begin to imagine. Somewhere, there is a civilization conquering its planet and exploring its solar system, somewhere there is a civilization that has gone into space, somewhere a civilization is recovering from a massive war or in the process of blowing themselves up.