Seminar: Life on Earth, and Earth Alone: How to Make Sense of the N = 1 Problem in Astrobiology

Philipp Spillmann
Department of History & Philosophy of Science
University of Cambridge

5th March 2024, 16:00 CET

Astrobiology is often said to be limited to a single instance of life in the universe: Life as we know
it on Earth. Scientists and philosophers alike have been worried that this unfortunate
predicament may lead to serious, perhaps even insurmountable obstacles to the justification of
astrobiological models and theories. This concern is known as the N = 1 problem. In my talk, I
take a closer look at this problem from a philosophical perspective, and analyze how exactly it is
best phrased, explained, and solved – both in theory and scientific practice.