Doug sticks to his guns: aliens don’t exist!
My last post ended with this paragraph:
“Sooner or later the world always gets a war though. This, this is why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet. Well, and the fact that they don’t exist. Details.”
An esteemed reader commented:
“Again, I will point out this isn’t accurate. I agree with you that aliens are NOT visiting earth in flying saucers, but to say “they don’t exist” is to VERY much overstate the case. We don’t know, one way or the other, and we don’t have enough info to even REALLY assess the likelihood that they exist in a scientific way.
BUT, and this is the key … given that earth supports life, and is one planet orbiting a relatively non-special star in a non-special galaxy, what are the odds that in all the trillions and trillions of stars out there, our sun is the ONLY one to have developed a planet with life around it? Strikes me, that would make us amazingly, unbelievably unique in the universe, and that sort o claim MUST have some backing to it.
Sagan said it best IMO. “If we are alone in the universe, what a tremendous waste of space.” Aliens aren’t visiting us in flying saucers, but I really don’t think it’s appropriate to say NO aliens exist. Given what we know today, if we ARE the only life in the universe, then we occupy a special position that needs to be explained. Until someone shows why earth is the only planet among TRILLIONS of stars to develop life, the logical assumption SHOULD be that life occurs anywhere that conditions allow it.”
OK, for starters I’m not saying that it’s impossible for a a language using, tool using, intelligent alien race to exist somewhere else in the Universe, in fact it’s entirely possible that a UFO will land on the White House lawn tomorrow. In the same sense that it’s possible for a chimp at a typewriter to randomly type Hamlet. And with the size of the Universe, and you put a chimp on every planet, it’s practically guaranteed, right? Well, no, it’s not, but I’ll get back to the chimps in a second. What I arguing is that “There’s no such thing as aliens” is the logical equivalent of saying “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.” And please note that I am not talking about life, I think the Universe is permeated with life, I’m talking about other civilization-creating beings that would get most of our jokes, understand the concept of taxes, and probably blow each other up for equally inane reasons as we do. Yes, our brothers among the stars.
Well, first, let’s look at the evidence. (I have a theory that evidence is a good place to start.) And here we have a problem. The evidence for aliens is exactly the same as the evidence for ghosts, angels, fairies, God, Sherlock Holmes, Superman, etc. IE there may be people out there convinced they have met any and all of the above, and a whole host of imaginary beings that humans have conjured up throughout history, but none of them passes the first bar when looked at scientifically, because there’s nothing to look at. In fact the ubiquity of fictional beings throughout human history and across human culture argues pretty strongly that these fantasies fulfil powerful human needs. And whatever need they fulfil, no matter how much or how many people believe in them, from God to Santa Claus to aliens, there is no empirical evidence that they exist. In fact sociologists and historians have already noted how quickly belief in aliens is morphing into religion, there were UFO cults in the fifties for God’s sake. For all practical purposes, aliens are demonstrably no more real than Santa Claus.
So I think I’m pretty safe in putting aliens in the category of myth, since at the current time, that’s all the only category they fit in. Now what about arguments that with all that space out there, there have to be aliens? I mean, there’s 30 billion trillion (3×10²²) stars in the observable Universe, surely the odds say there have to be aliens? Well, let’s look at some long odds. Going back to our monkeys, what are the odds that a monkey will type Hamlet by typing at random? The probability is one in 3.4 × 10183,946 that the monkey will type Hamlet on his first try. Note that this number dwarfs the number of stars in the Universe, so it doesn’t help to have a monkey on each planet typing away. In fact, if the entire Universe were converted into typing monkeys, the odds of them typing Hamlet in the expected lifetime of the Universe are still less than less than one in 10183,800.
My point here is that there’s no reason to believe that humans are anything other than a really unlikely fluke. Life in fact seems to evolve into virtually infinite variability, it’s only our narcissism and conceit that we think it’s “natural” it evolve into something like us. Let me repeat that, just on Earth there are near infinite possibilities for life to evolve into, and no matter how many stars there are, they don’t approach infinity. Or another example, no two snowflakes are alike (well, maybe a few are,) but snowflakes seem to have an almost infinite number of very organized shapes they can form in. Well, snowflakes are simple compared to the evolution of DNA, there’s every reason the believe that life may exist in near infinite variety … with creatures like us just being one of endless possibilities. In fact I make the argument that the mere existence of us means that arguing there are going to be be others like us is like arguing that the monkeys are going to type Hamlet twice!
In any event, no disrespect is meant to Mr Bateman or anyone else who believes in the possibility of aliens. I also believe in the possibility of aliens, I’m just saying it’s the people who claim aliens are likely to exist are the ones making the unsupported claim. As another person put it, the chance of there being aliens in space is the same as the chance we will find a MacDonald’s® on Mars. Well, there’s basically no chance of that, right? My point here is that aliens are just as much a creation of the (limited) human imagination as Macdonald’s … so expecting to find them out there in the stars is about as likely.
I don’t know what we will find when we start to explore the stars, but I’m willing to bet that whatever it is … it won’t be what we expected in any way, shape, or form.
“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”
Sir Arthur Eddington, English astronomer (1882 – 1944)
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I’m a little unclear on who holds the copyright, but I got it from this fine Slovak web site, here is the picture’s caption translated into English: “UFOs may collide with Santa Klaus only at a single location. The PF channel Sci-Fi TV by agency BETC euroRSCG.” Yes, there really is an infinite monkey theorem. And coming soon, my idea for SETI, since I seem to be lost in space these days.)