Fermi Paradox: it’s back!

Apparently Fermi’s question: “If other extra-terrestial civilizations exist, why don’t we see them here among us already?” is interesting again.

“The Fermi Paradox is the contradictory and counter-intuitive observation that we have yet to see any evidence for the existence of ETI’s. The size and age of the Universe suggests that many technologically advanced ETI’s ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it.

Largely ignored in 1950 when physicist Enrico Fermi famously asked, ‘Where is everybody,’ and virtually dismissed at the seminal SETI conference in 1971, the conundrum was given new momentum by Michael Hart in 1975[1] (which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Fermi-Hart Paradox).”

…The fact that our Galaxy appears unperturbed is hard to explain. We should be living in a Galaxy that is saturated with intelligence and highly organized. Thus, it may be assumed that intelligent life is rare, or, given our seemingly biophilic Universe, our assumptions about the general behaviour of intelligent civilizations are flawed.

A paradox is a paradox for a reason: it means there’s something wrong in our thinking.

So, where is everybody?

One of the ways to resolve the paradox is to posit that they’re out there but they’re hiding from us. Why would they hide from us? One answer is that they are waiting until we demonstrate that we are fit to take our place in their society (i.e. The Prime Directive Answer) or more sobering, they’re preparing an Armada to enslave us all as drones of the salt mines of Titan…

Or hopefully something else.

Actually, it’s a very interesting and profound question with lots of theological implications. I don’t know that anyone has yet enumerated the theological aspects.

Read the rest here: Sentient Developments: The Fermi Paradox: Back with a vengeance

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

7 thoughts on “Fermi Paradox: it’s back!”

  1. The thing is, though, I was just reading that in 5 billion years, old broken-up episodes of “I Love Lucy” are still going to be traveling outward from earth as our sun explodes.
    So why haven’t we getting any transmissions from all these advanced civilizations? Why haven’t we seen any ET sitcoms? Where is everybody?

  2. Hmmm. Is there enough information for a “paradox” to exist at this point? I mean, surely some of this is conjecture, right? And based on fairly recent observations, no?
    But maybe scientists know a lot more than I thought. They can’t be hiding, though, can they? Wouldn’t they have had to go through the same stages we have, meaning they’d have started broadcasting before they ever thought much about ETs? I suppose it could have been a very long time ago – but there’s also the fact that if they know about us, they know we’re essentially helpless to affect them, so they wouldn’t bother to hide.
    I think it all might mean we’re alone, and the conjectures are wrong. (Of course, I’m talking to an astrophysicist, so please be kind…. ;-D )

  3. The point of the article linked in the post is that with the significant numbers of extra-solar planets being found, the number of planets that have the possibility of being life supporting and the stability of the galaxy, all the evidence we have points to the Drake Equation (which predicts the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life) to have a solution that would indicate the galaxy is teeming with life.
    If that’s all true (and it seems to be), why don’t we see them? One of the basic principles of science, and especially cosmology is the idea that we are “not special”. We don’t live at a special time, nor are we a particularly special place.
    If that’s true (and it’s pretty much always been) then since we would want to learn and visit other cultures, we should reasonably assume they want to visit us.
    But they haven’t or aren’t. The paradox is that we have one prediction based on observations that they should be here, and another observation that they aren’t….
    So, that’s the paradox.
    (Did that make sense? It was actually a 20 minute riff when I taught this section over the last 10 years or so at Lehigh.)

  4. It definitely makes sense – and I did read the article, BTW. I was just asking if there was enough evidence to have a strong theory on the side of “teeming with life.” I hadn’t ever thought so, but I will now check out the Drake Equation, which I’ve never heard of before.
    (The “transhuman” stuff you can link to from there is pretty amazing, isn’t it? As you say, the theological implications are quite amazing; hard even to see what will happen in that respect.)

  5. “They’re extinct” is one of the standard responses to Fermi’s observation… in other words advanced civilizations don’t survive very long.
    But the shear numbers of candidate places for them to develop would lead me to expect that they would have left some sort of marker that they had existed for future civilizations to discover.
    Sort of like we have seen with the pyramids…

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