Very interesting column. For more on the paradox (including a lengthy list of theories as to why we haven’t heard from aliens just yet): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox
Not to pick nits or anything, but a “flying saucer” is not a UFO. After all, “UFO” stands for “unidentified flying object”. If it’s a flying saucer, isn’t it then identified?
Tea or coffee?
It might look like a flying saucer, but is it an alien spacecraft, or a weather balloon, marsh gas, Venus rising, experimental Air Force plane, etc. etc. etc.? It remains, literally, a UFO until it is positively identified.
The writer posed TWO questions about ETs–only one of which Cecil actually answered.
There are a great many mainstream, well-respected scientists who are perfectly willing to entertain the concept of intelligent aliens being “out there” somewhere – preferably way, way out there.
But if someone has the temerity to “transplant” the aliens to Earth, and claim that they are actually visiting us – that’s a big no-no. Suddenly it becomes a scientific version of heresy, and very few scientists will admit, at least publicly, to believing something other than the orthodox belief.
We KNOW that certain forms of space travel are at least theoretically possible. But because we humans don’t know at this current time how to actually make it work, the average scientist pooh-poohs the idea, and claims that it’s impossible.
One would think that scientists would have learned by now how to learn from history, but that’s evidently not the case. To give just one example, Robert Goddard was ridiculed for daring to believe that rockets could actually work. Why it is, in an age when the bizarre weirdness of quantum mechanics is accepted, that so many scientists should be so stubbornly blind to other possibilities of science and technology, is a phenomenon that is bizarre in its own right. But that’s the way it is.
I’m sorry, but what method of transportation is this “transplant”, and which average scientist in that particular field of study “pooh-poohs the idea, and claims that it’s impossible”?
No he wasn’t. Not by scientists.
The average scientist only has a vague idea, because all the elements are outside their field and they don’t care about UFOs. Those who do care and have thought about the topic claim there’s no credible evidence of visitations and that it’s plausible it’s impossible due to the theoretical space travel technologies being impractical or impossible in reality.
There is, however, some tension in espousing the Fermi paradox and holding that UFO accounts are nonsense because of the distances involved, since if the distances made space travel impossible, then the Fermi paradox would be solved. And these are often points of view found in one and the same person (believing the Fermi paradox is a problem and believing UFO visitations are nonsense because of the distances involved, I mean).
I think it’s entirely possible for aliens to have had the time to colonize the entire galaxy; however, there’s simply not a shred of credible evidence that they’ve ever been here.
Is it “pooh-poohs” or “poo-poos”?
Maybe just go with dismisses, rejects, spurns, rebuffs, waves aside, disregards, or discounts.
Not only are the distances involved vast, but so are the times. In a Fermi Paradox galaxy-colonization scenario, you’d have billions of years before the first sapient species developed starflight, then a period of mere millions when they do the colonization, then another span of billions when they’re everywhere. And for any given planet, that middle period shrinks from millions of years to a mere few years. Explaining UFO sightings as aliens is not consistent with the first long epoch, and it’s not consistent with the last long epoch, so it can only be that extremely short transitional period.
You also have to ask if they want us to know they’re here. If they do, then they could make their presence a lot more obvious (like, not a penumbra of a doubt to anyone on the planet obvious), and if they don’t, then they could hide themselves so well that not one single person on the planet would ever catch any clue at all. Both tasks are far, far easier than crossing the vasty deep. What motivations would lead to mere occasional glimpses?
The fact is that humans on this planet clearly have the most fascinating asses in the universe judging by the amount of anal probing being reported by concerned citizens. I think it imperative that the US government offer some sort of anal protection for the many people worried about this, perhaps some sort of plug they could insert at night. Indeed these people might be well advised to fit a plug over their mouths too and leave it there permanently other than when they need to eat. I don’t know if it would deter the aliens but it would most certainly bring relief to the rest of us.
Those are all excellent points. My main issue on this whole subject is whether the second epoch is likely to exist at all. To suggest that aliens would be driven to human-like exploration and colonization within the maximum limits of their technology is to attribute to them motivations and goals that are extrapolations of human ones that may be far from universal, and moreover, it extrapolates from human behaviors centuries ago. Today we do indeed explore space, but we do it in the interest of science rather than traditional colonization – it’s nothing like Star Trek and it may never be. Perhaps aliens have advanced technologies that let them do much better things with their time than flit around exploring planets that are mostly uninhabitable and uninteresting to them, and which uninteresting piles of rock can only be reached within relativistic limitations.
I’m probably in the minority here in feeling that the Fermi paradox isn’t really much of a paradox at all given the sparse distribution of stellar systems in the vastness of space. Regardless, I think most reasonable people can agree that the appropriate assessment of any claim that a UFO is an alien visitation is “maybe, but almost any other explanation you could possibly think of is about a million times more likely, so without extraordinary evidence the ‘aliens’ hypothesis is so vanishingly improbable as to be essentially zero.”
I plan to check with my insurance agent. Adding anal probe insurance to my homeowners’ seems like a good idea.
We would have a hard enough time detecting life in our own galaxy if it weren’t actively trying to communicate with us or other life in general. Perhaps we have so far been right and there is no other life in the Milky Way. This would hardly means there is no life elsewhere in the Universe. It’s a big place so surely our lack of ability to contact or observe the goings-on of other planets in our galaxy or in other galaxies alltogether could be to blame for not finding evidence of ET’s. Further to think that any beings capable of traversing their galaxy or even further to other galaxies would wish to come see what the Human race is up to seems to be rather suspicious as well.
I think this sums it up nicely.
We would have a hard enough time detecting life in our own galaxy if it weren’t actively trying to communicate with us or other life in general. Perhaps we have so far been right and there is no other life in the Milky Way. This would hardly means there is no life elsewhere in the Universe. It’s a big place so surely our lack of ability to contact or observe the goings-on of other planets or in other galaxies could be to blame for not finding evidence of ET’s. Further to think that any beings capable of traversing their galaxy or even further to other galaxies would wish to come see what the Human race is up to seems to be rather suspicious as well.
Agreed. In fact, the part about the Fermi paradox wasn’t even a question, just a supporting statement to the ACTUAL question, which was about the credibility of claims that we’re being visited.
I was interested to read Cecil’s thoughts on the topic because most of my extended family are convinced that there’s a government conspiracy to conceal the fact that we’re constantly being visited by alien spacecraft. To them, the Fermi paradox is non-issue because they think aliens are already here, now, and communicating with our governments.
That doesn’t make the Fermi Paradox go away at all. If there are aliens here, making contact with our governments, why have they only just arrived? There is no evidence whatsoever that aliens have ever visited Earth in its 4.5 billion year history. But now they are supposedly here. Where have they been all this time?
And if they are in contact with several different governments on Earth, why hasn’t one of those governments released the data? There is plenty of reason for one government to break the news, especially if it embarrasses other rival administrations.
Based on my experiences on the internet, I’d guess that they’re trolling us.
Crap. As usual, Douglas Adams beat me to the punchline.