A Real-Time Map of Births and Deaths

A very enlightening visualization. :wink:


and i wonder whether this is a sign of intensified gods demise or elevation of lower worlds dwellers

Wow, that’s really amazing. Sometimes technology really is great, after all! the home page for the visualization is here:


Still, the population of living keeps growing… where is the surplus coming from?! Hells below and heavens above? :confounded:

No need to postulate such things; wielding Occam’s Razor, we can simply note the biology involved, and refrain from metaphysical silliness. Why bother? Confirmation bias isn’t something to be happy about…

when it comes to rebirth populations people always forget the bugs… and the aliens… and perhaps even the bug aliens.


this was a selfie from a former life of mine :stuck_out_tongue:

as for this website, if I’m correct this is not like instant actual live births and deaths, just going by statistics “every x seconds a child is born here, every x seconds someone dies there” no?


Karma is so amazing. Even as a space alien bug, you look just the same! :sunglasses:

Yes, that’s right.


not only do I look the same, i still have the same hard head !

"Bhante, what is the reason, what is the cause, that though gone from life as a bug-alien to a human, that one should still have a hard head?

It is from clinging to views that one, having gone from bug-alien existence to human existence, still maintains a head hard enough to break heartwood in two."


aren’t they and the devas are one and the same?

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as far as I understand aliens are part of the human realm…

unless you mean this.


then yes, aliens are the “devas” who visited the buddha every night when no one else was around ;).

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It is a curious thing, though, there are bunches of parallels between traditional descriptions of deva experiences and modern alien encounters. I guess there are aliens in many world systems, so there are alien devas and humans and so on.

On a slightly more serious note, one interesting assumption in the Buddhist cosmology is that intelligent life is pretty much humanoid. Coming from a science fiction background, I always thought this was a cultural simplification, like how the Jatakas, though set across unimaginable time scales, always depict historical conditions uncannily similar to India a couple of centuries before the Buddha. In conventional sci-fi you usually get humanoid aliens, but people like Tarkovsky and others have strongly argued that this is just a lack of imagination, and we simply couldn’t conceive what a true alien might be like.

But now I’m not so sure. I think there are strong arguments to be made that intelligent life is very likely to be recognizably humanoid. There are just too many fundamental physical constraints. Leave aside the whole question of devas and energy beings for now, and just consider ordinary creatures. Let us also leave aside exotic Universes and just considering the common-or-garden-variety Universe we all know and love. Similarly, leave aside questions of, say, dolphin intelligence, and just consider the normally accepted, language using, thought-having, and tool-making intelligence we all (mostly) share.

First, it has to be a carbon-based chemistry. Silicon won’t work. This is an absolute physical constraint, determined by the geometry of the carbon atom, and must be the same everywhere in the Universe.

If it’s carbon, it must also be combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Again, this is just basic chemistry. So you’re going to have some form of organic chemistry, probably with things like proteins, something like DNA, and so on.

To make the complex chemistry work, you must have water as solvent. On the other hand, you can’t evolve complex material culture with transforming materials, and that means fire. That means you can’t live in water, and the atmosphere must have a lot of free oxygen. But oxygen is reactive, so you must have a massive amount of something to continually create it, i.e. plants.

Given that the chemistry depends on a water solvent, it’s highly likely that you evolve in water, but to develop higher culture you must leave it. That means lungs. Since you’re living in an environment with lots of plants, presumably you’re going to eat them. That means a whole digestive system, with long tracts for extracting nutriments. Not to mention the waste disposal arrangements.

So there you are, a wet creature descended from the water but living on the land. You can evolve in all kinds of ways, as evidenced by the extreme variety of animals on our planet. But of all those millions of species, only one has developed intelligence. I wonder why?

Well, one problem is brain size. There isn’t an exact one-to-one correlation between brain size and intelligence, but there must be some relation. We have brains that are much larger in proportion to our bodies than any other animal, and that must mean something. It’s conceivable that a brain might evolve in a way that’s far more efficient than ours, but I think we will find that brains, like so much of our biology, are a highly optimized solution.

In order to have a brain this big, you have to have a reasonably large body. Fine. But then you run up against the square/cube law: weight increases as a function of cubes, while strength increases as a function of squares. That’s why insects have spindly legs and elephants have fat legs. Again, this is a basic constraint of physics. This is also a reason why it’s unlikely that intelligent life will exist at a radically different scale than us. Maybe as big as a horse or as small as a dog, but not the size of a mouse or a T Rex.

But if you’re going to grow fat legs, this is biologically expensive. There’s a lot of meat in them! That’s why, though smaller creatures have many different combinations of legs, all the larger creatures have four legs. It’s the most efficient arrangement; basic geometry.

In order to evolve a tool-using culture, you need to manipulate things. That means you need free hands. If you’re coming from an evolutionary tree of four-legged animals, the most efficient way to get hands is to stand up and adapt your legs and feet. You could in principle mutate so as to have four legs and two arms, but this is much more wasteful. Sorry, centaurs. What about tentacles? They’re just not as physically efficient, you have to leverage your strength from where they join your body; hands really are the go. Maybe not five fingers, but certainly with thumbs.

Similarly wasteful is having lots of eyes. For detailed and clear visual perception, two is good, and if they’re both at the front, not only do you get depth perception, you have redundancy if one is damaged. Eyes are fragile, so this is a good evolutionary investment.

Okay, so we have a large bodied, wet, carbon-based creature standing upright on two legs, with the other two legs adapted for manipulation, i.e “arms”, and a large brain and two eyes.

Now, the brain is very delicate; again, this seems like it would be a universal, as it has to do a lot of very complex things, its delicacy is not arbitrary. Given this, it makes sense to protect it; a thick and strong casing is good for that. Call it a “skull”. You want to place your sense perception near to your brain, for the sake of speed and efficiency. Again, these are absolute physical constraints, not just arbitrary happenstance. So you’ve probably got a bunch of sensory perceptors located near the brain, with holes in the brain’s casing to allow the information to flow. Must we have the full set of eyes, ears, and so on? Maybe, but I’ll leave it at that for now. In any case, we have something that is recognizably a “head”.

Given the twin requirements of sense perception and safety, it makes sense for the “head” to be as far off the ground as possible. So it is located at the top of the body. To do this, you need something like a spine. Actually, a spine is a much more basic requirement, but hey, I’m no biologist.

This argument can be taken much further. We could make a case for things like bones, mouths, and other features as being probable or inevitable in intelligent species. Reproductive requirements are also constrained. Even something like our dietary flexibility may well turn out to be essential, as it allows the preservation of culture through adverse and changing conditions.

None of this is to say that it is impossible for other forms of intelligent life to exist. But it does suggest that our form is highly specific. Lacking any evidence to the contrary, it seems likely that other forms of intelligent life will be fairly similar to us in many ways. Of course, there will be minor differences, just as there are between humans.

So it seems to me that the position of the Buddhist cosmology—that various forms of intelligent life exist throughout the universe, but they are mostly similar to us—is not just a cultural assumption, but has a strong logical grounding.

To return briefly to the question of devas, it seems to me that deva bodies, however you conceive them physically, are in some sense a projection of an idealized version of our own bodies. We make karma primarily in the human realm, and this shapes the form that our bodies take, even when they are freed from the constraints of biology. Thus it also seems reasonable to suppose that deva bodies, in all the realms, would be humanoid in form.

Well, that went on longer than I expected. I will have to review my morning coffee allowance!


Thanks for this Bhante! This is all a sci-fi fan lay disciple needs from his dear bhikkhu friend to read in the morning as he has his coffee. hahaha

It is noteworthy however that a new sci fi movie - Arrival - challenges all this and proposes a heptapod star-fish intelligent alien specie who is capable of time-traveling (i.e. is free to roam across the 4th dimension)

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I stand corrected!

Having said which, at the bottom of that article I noticed a link to another article which makes essentially the same argument that I do here. Coincidence, or conspiracy? You decide!

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It is a curious thing, though, there are bunches of parallels between traditional descriptions of deva experiences and modern alien encounters.

The common theme here is the human mind; notice that visionary experiences are informed by the culture(s) within which they arise. We don’t need to use speculatively-ontological entities, realms, or other metaphysical hypotheses, and we have no reason to think that one set of sacred texts ‘got it right’ somewhere in human history.

I know it’s fun to play with & argue about, but in this particular case consider the following:

Ultimately, the jury is out on the extent to which intelligent aliens – if they exist – would resemble us. It may or may not be significant that humans have just two eyes and… most species have been subject to an accidental “locking down” during development… Untangling the functional from the accidental is one of the big outstanding challenges in evolutionary biology.

These discussions are at best “I wonder”, tools of confirmation bias at worst.

(I know it’s the watercooler… but, this is the sort of thing I talk to people about at e.g. the watercooler…)

(Many potentially wise annihilationist wanderers, these days, will not listen attentively to the Dhamma when these bells & whistles occur; unfortunately, I as yet take this personally, and thus consider this a bit of an important issue…)

People have described encounters with angels, demons and all sorts of supernatural beings way before aliens entered the popular culture. Nowadays it’s fashionable to dismiss these things as hallucinations produced by the brain and manifestations of our subconcious mind.

But aren’t all other beings just hallucinations produced by the brain and manifestations of our subconcious mind? Aren’t we ourselves just hallucinations produced by the brain and manifestations of our subconcious mind? Don’t our minds just grab hold of a bunch of impermanent phenomena, take that bunch to be something more or less permanent and assign a label ‘being’ to it?


Spot on! In my case, I do strongly believe I exist, both physically and mentally, I am relevant, I can make a difference, etc - and strongly hold to opinions of my own! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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I find this argument logical - yes, it is quite probable, that in similar Earth-like conditions intelligent life would evolve similarly. But there is one more variable that you are missing here. Natural evolution for human species is more or less done. We are only years away from practical gene editing. People will be able to pick and choose how their children will look like. I’m quite sure additional eyes or legs are not that far away.

Due to the civilisation, we are no longer constrained by natural environment, at least not as much as we were ten thousand years ago. Any civilisation sufficiently advanced would come to similar point, where body structure is no longer evolving, but instead is designed.

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[quote=“raivo, post:16, topic:3725”]
But aren’t all other beings just hallucinations produced by the brain and manifestations of our subconcious mind?[/quote]

It doesn’t seem to be the case for e.g. animals & other communal-reality features.

You seem to be espousing a form of Yogācāra, here…?

Human civilization is itself natural; the human being & human activity is part of the natural environment. For “human” to mean “non-natural” is… sorta odd…

Yes, you are right. I suppose it’s just bad choice of words on my part. What I wanted to convey by natural vs. non-natural environment is the difference in environment created by non-human forces as opposed to environment created by humans (or to be more generic, by intelligent species).