Extraterrestrial life quote

There’s a quote about extraterrestrial life that goes something like this:

There are two possibilities: Either we are alone in the universe, or we are not. Either one is amazing.

What is the exact quote, and who said it? Nils Bohr? Arthur C. Clarke?

This isn’t any help but I too recall that quote and would like to know. It strikes me as something Carl Sagan might have said. I have read some of his books and that may be were I heard it. His Demon Haunted World is a possibility. Sorry I don’t have more specific info.

Apparently, it’s Bucky Fuller.

I don’t know that brainquote.com is an authoritative source. They don’t say where or when Fuller supposedly said it.

They attribute “Never attribute to malice, that which can be reasonably explained by stupidity.” to Spider Robinson, which is dubious since it’s one of those quotes that doesn’t have a definitive source, and gets attributed to a lot of different people (particularly science fiction writers).

Oh, I quite agree that it might not be something Bucky said (though it does sound likely), Frank Drake of the Drake Equation might have said it. That just happened to be the only place I could find the quote.

One source claims to have found the real Hanlon. And: "A similar quote appears in Robert Heinlein’s 1941 short story Logic of Empire (“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”), so some claim Hanlon’s Razor is a corruption of “Heinlein’s Razor.” So there may be some basis to a SF author claim as the source.

OT perhaps, but my favorite extra terrestrial quote has to be Bill Waterson (speaking through his character, Calvin, in Calvin and Hobbes): “Sometimes I think that the greatest proof that there is intelligent life out there is that none of it has tried to contact us.”

But probably not Spider Robinson, which is my point. I don’t know what kind of research or verification brainquote does.

Kind of amusing. . .

I did a quick google and found this sentiment attributed to Arthur C Clarke, Arthur C. Clark :), Sir Arthur Eddingdon, Buckminster Fuller, and Carl Sagan. Clarke is by far the most often cited.

The two possiblities are variously described as: terrifying, mind-boggling, staggering, or overwhelming.

In an actual, like, book, Ben Bova attributes it to Lee DuBridge, but again, no date, no context. The phrasing is “Either we’re alone in the universe or we are not; either way it’s mind-boggling.” He notes that this quote has also been attributed to the comic strip character Pogo. :smack: DuBridge is also said to have uttered similar remarks at a 1966 extraterrestrial life conference,
and this highly reputable source puts the conference in spring, in Califorinia. Both accounts give the phrasing, “Sometimes I think we are alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we are not. In either case, it’s a staggering thought.” None of this indicates that it was an original sentiment, of course. Lee DuBridge was the president of Caltech from 1946-1969 and science advisor to President Nixon from 1969-1970.

That’s the firmest attribution that I’ve managed to find, and I’ll admit it’s pretty flimsy.

This reminds me of my favorite quote from Pogo:
"There are some people who think that there are creatures in the universe smarter than us. There are others who think that we’re the smartest creatures in the universe.

Either way, it’s a mighty humblin’ thought."

The problem is this quote is so simplistic it is easy to imagine multiple people coming up with the same notion independently. Hanlon’s Razor is an excellent example of such. People do all sorts of things out of stupidity, and some coincidentally could seem malicious. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone could cite a similar sentiment to Hanlon’s Razor written a thousand or more years ago. The only thing about the extraterrestrial life quote is the very notion of extraterrestrial life (as in ordinary mortals, and not gods) was very rare before modern SF. Thus I’d be surprised if it originated before modern SF.

Brainyquote also attributes the quote to Arthur C. Clarke:

I am not staggered by the site’s attention to accuracy.

Can you cite that Pogo quote with a date? The quote in the OP seems to be just a variation on the same notion.

This is the exact phrasing that I heard.

Nope. I saw it posted in the Engineering Library at the University of Rochester in the 198os, but I don’t know how old it was then (it bore no date, and it may have been a photocopy).