Re: Fermi Paradox in the news

From: Emlyn (
Date: Mon Oct 23 2000 - 18:41:40 MDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug Skrecky" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 24, 2000 6:56 AM
Subject: Fermi Paradox in the news

> > From: "Darin Sunley" <>
> > Subject: Fermi Paradox in the news...
> >
> > It's interesting to see these issues gradually percolate into the public
> > consciousness. Of course Mr. Dyer doesn't mention the most probable
> > (IMHO) of the silence, which is that the aliens are using very precisely
> > aimed low powered signals, compressed sufficiently to be
> > from thermal noise, even if we did happen to be in the line of sight of
> > of them, which we probably aren't. Oh well :)
> >
> This is the same sort of argument fanatics give to prove the existance
> of god. Since there is absolutely no positive evidence in favour of either
> ETs or god, the simplest and most plausible explanation of this fact is
> that neither ETs nor god exist. This is a brutally obviously argument to
> any rational individual.

I don't think I quite swallow this argument, the standard argument against
the existence of life elsewhere in the universe.

We assume a lot of things about the universe. We assume that gravity works
everywhere, that the atomic world is the same everywhere, etc. We assume a
level of consistency across existence, with respect to physical laws (this
may not be exactly true; I think some theories involve different laws of
physics in weird places, but those are the exception that proves the rule).
The point is, that we expect our theories about physical reality to be

Much of the solid argument for life elsewhere comes from analysing these
rules, and noticing that life might not be a statistical fluke which
happened here, it might be a fairly common and robust process, which is
likely to occur many times, very likely more than once. I guess the jury is
still out on this, but it seems that this point of view, amongst those who
ought to know (not me), is swinging away from life being very uncommon, to
life likely being quite common.

And naturally we then look at the age of the universe, the age of our own
ancestry (from slop to here), and think that, if life is a common occurence,
and intelligence is also a relatively common occurence in biosystems (is
this supportable?), then likely there has been and probably is a lot of
intelligent life around right now. So where are they?

On the other hand, the existence of G is an entirely different matter.
Existence of ET's is an extrapolation, if not purely logical then eminently
plausible, from what we know of the physical universe. On the other hand,
the existence of G is not predicted by any physical theories, and in fact
seems to be entirely precluded; as we learn more, there is less place for G.
That's not an accident of course, as the scientific method appears to say
"Given non-existence of G, how does X work"?

Occam's razor is a curely principle, purely aesthetic as far as I can see.
How do you define "simple"? Given the choice between the existence and
absence of something, absence is not always the simpler path. The absence of
gravitation in the far flung reaches of space would not be a simplifying
assumption; nor, perhaps, would be the absence of life.


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