We can agree that the conditions on Earth are sufficient to support intelligent life. We are a product of the universal environment. Therefore it is safe to say the conditions in the universe at large are consistent with those that can support intelligent life, however slim the odds.
As conscious organisms we might be a rarity, however, the fact of our presence and ability to make observations about the universe allows us to assume that the fundamental physical constants of the universe are compatible with intelligent life. But to what extent?
Why do the fundamental physical constants of the intelligent life equation seem fine tuned to accommodate intelligent life? This is what’s known as the anthropic principle. Our understanding of the universe is filtered through a human bias, our vantage point. But because we are a product our universe, emergent within it, and beholden to its fundamental laws, the transitive property of universal constants makes it possible for us to gather some knowledge about it.
One of the physical constants is the total amount of mass and energy in the universe. Picture a full stack of cards. If you shuffle those cards enough times, a sequential flush will occur. If you continue to shuffle them, in time, any and all possible sequences of that deck can and will occur. Within the constraints of our universe, a universal deck of mass and energy, we can be thought of as a statistical emergence.
The important takeaway is that the fundamental laws of nature here on Earth are consistent with those found anywhere in this universe. If they were slightly different, the universe would be inhospitable, and therefore unobservable. We can observe some universe, though as we know, in our current state, we are ill equipped to observe the universe as it actually is. For example, we do not sense the earth’s rotation under our feet, or our bodies hurling through the cosmos. Those sensations are not only outside of human scope, but they are completely unnecessary from the vantage point of genetic adaption.
Genes get themselves replicated at the expense of their rivals. That is all. Genes undergo random variations and tend to pass on those variations which promote their production, and inhibit their destruction. The process of evolution is not linear, nor have we had much conscious say in our evolution as a species. Though through selective breeding humans have tried in the past to interfere with or manipulate this process. A large scale eugenics program to boost human intelligence or select for desirable physical traits is a morally and politically unviable route. Though most dogs and much of the food we consume are products of genetic modification through highly selective breeding.
Embryonic selection, however, choosing even one embryo over another for its genetic potential is a practice which could boost a human IQ 4.2 points. IQ is by no means the be all and end all of intelligence, though take it here as just one measurement. Select 1 in 1000 embryos and it is thought that 24.3 IQ points could be gained. Successive generations of embryonic selection yields an even higher IQ but with diminishing returns. Countries will probably hold out on adopting such practices large scale on moral or religious grounds. Obviously it would take over twenty years for the genetically selected children to mature and make a considerable impact on the work force. However, the first country to find a cost affective way to broadly adopt these practices, could in time achieve a collective super-intelligence, and a decisive strategic advantage over countries that opt out.
The advantages of such a process in tandem with advances in technology are unending in terms of social problem solving and the longevity of the human race. The disadvantages though, the potential for power seizure (imagine a class of humans more intelligent than any who has yet occurred) and social disaster are equally imaginable.