Almost every day, it seems, we read something in the media about new evidence that we may not be alone in the universe. The search for alien life, once the province of science fiction, has become an established and respected field of astronomical research. The universe is portrayed as an inconceivably vast space with billions of stars, and a statistical probability of having spawned intelligent life on numerous planets in Goldilocks zones around diverse suns. Man, whom the Christian Church once decreed to be the centre of creation, is now viewed more as a random emanation of no particular significance in the grand plan of the cosmos.
Maybe we should go back to Bishop Berkeley, the eighteenth-century philosopher who asked if the tree in the quad existed when no one was looking at it? The good churchman answered his own question by asserting that God was always watching the tree. But if we put God aside for a moment, the question remains unanswered. Not only the tree in the quad, but the entire universe, is an image in the human mind and we can assign it no other reality. In what sense, for example, could dinosaurs be said to have existed before men started digging up their bones and conceiving their nature?
More than a century before Berkeley, Rene Descartes had asked himself an even more fundamental question. If all he saw and heard was an illusion created by a wicked demon, was there anything of which he could be sure? He came, of course, to his immortal ‘cogito ergo sum,’ the realisation that the only certainty was that he was thinking. Now, through the contemplation of language, it is established that more than one thinking mind exists, but the fact remains that all reality is contained within human minds. Books and