Jul 22 2014

Aliens are Sinners

To paraphrase Carl Sagan: in one unremarkable galaxy among hundreds of billions, there is an unremarkable star among hundreds of billions of stars in that one galaxy. Around that star revolves a world with life. Some people who live on that world believe they are the center of the universe.

Sagan nicely puts into perspective how absurd it is to believe, given our current knowledge of the cosmos, that we are the center of all things, either physically at the literal center, or metaphorically as in, we are the most important things in the universe. This is a childish view, held by our ancestors because they couldn’t know any better. Science, as Stephen Gould noted, is partly a process of smashing pillars of human narcissism. Neither the earth, nor our sun, nor our galaxy are at the center of the universe. The universe, it turns out, has no center. Neither are humans at the pinnacle of the evolutionary tree – we are just one twig, and every other twig has just as much evolutionary history behind it as we do.

Humans are certainly the most encephalized species on the planet, with by far the most advanced culture and technology, so we are special in that sense. Every time, however, scientists believe they have nailed down something that is unique about humans, some researcher finds that chimps (our closest cousins), or even other species, can do it too. We are part of the animal kingdom, part of this physical world, the result of natural processes that seem ubiquitous throughout the universe.

This view of the universe and ourselves, a view that has been hard won over centuries of ego-smashing scientific discoveries, is very different from the world view held by herders and farmers living thousands of years ago. Yet, that primitive, prescientific, egocentric, and tiny world view still holds sway over many people living today.

Take Ken Ham (please) – he recently wrote a post in which he attacks the modern scientific world view as a “desperate” and “secularist” attempt to prove evolution in order to rebel against God. It is a little window into the mind of extreme fundamentalists.

Even in his speculations about the motivations of scientists, he believes that it is all about him and his religious beliefs. He equates scientists and secularists, as if they are defined by rejecting his religious faith. He thinks it is all about rebelling against his God, rather than simply discovering the nature and state of the universe.

He also thinks were are still trying to prove evolution, when in fact evolution is already an established scientific fact.

Ham writes:

You see, according to the secular, evolutionary worldview there must be other habited worlds out there. As the head of NASA, Charles Borden, puts it, “It’s highly improbable in the limitless vastness of the universe that we humans stand alone.” Secularists cannot allow earth to be special or unique—that’s a biblical idea (Isaiah 45:18). If life evolved here, it simply must have evolved elsewhere they believe.

Clearly he thinks that scientists are rejecting a biblical idea, rather than accepting what the science tells us – that there is no reason to think that the earth is unique.

Reading creationists write on such topics also gives me the impression that they have never tried to wrap their minds around how truly big the universe is. As was said in the movie Contact, if this is all for us, it seems like an awful waste of space. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars, many with planets, including earth-like planets. That is just in the part of the universe we can observe, but there’s much more.

We do get a (sort of) prediction from Ham:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

This does make me wonder what will happen if we do contact intelligent aliens. What will the Ken Hams of the world believe – that they are demons, that they are not truly self-aware, that they are damned to human hell? If we one day have relations with an alien civilization, will we have to deal with fundamentalists and their bizarre beliefs that aliens can’t exist, or that God will one day wipe out their entire civilization for the salvation of earth?

When the authors of the bible wrote their fables, they believed the earth was the entire universe, and everything in the sky was close and revolved about the earth. Ham is trying to apply that primitive world view to the universe as we now understand it, with all its vastness. The result is beyond absurd.

Ham does not think we should be investing in looking for extraterrestrial life, writing:

I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life.

This is a good example of primitive and firmly held beliefs squashing curiosity and exploration.

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41 responses so far

41 Responses to “Aliens are Sinners”

  1. Billzbubon 22 Jul 2014 at 9:00 am

    “If we one day have relations with an alien civilization…”

    Like Kirk does in every episode of Star Trek?

  2. carbonUniton 22 Jul 2014 at 9:33 am

    I don’t see anything in Isaiah 45:18 that rules out God creating life elsewhere.

  3. hardnoseon 22 Jul 2014 at 9:38 am

    Why do you waste time arguing against beliefs that are unscientific, illogical, and plain dumb? We know there are fundamentalists who need to believe in one central Truth that answers all questions and leaves no uncertainty or doubt. Trying to reason with them is just silly.

    Aside from that, it does seem that there must be life all over the universe. I never understand why “skeptics” seem to think everyone who reports an experience with alien beings or technology must be nuts.

  4. Steven Novellaon 22 Jul 2014 at 10:04 am

    Hardnose – how many times do I have to answer this question? I am not trying to reason with Ken Ham.

    As I wrote: “It is a little window into the mind of extreme fundamentalists.”

    And the structure of the essay follows this theme. Try to keep up.

    You then follow up with a blatant strawman that further begs the question. First, I don’t know any prominent skeptic who claims that all UFO reporters are “nuts”. The common skeptical position is that there is simply no evidence for genuine extraterrestrial activity or contact, and that those who report sightings are mostly simply mistaken about what they remember about what they thought they saw. We have, in fact, invested quite a bit of time exploring the science behind memory and perception.

    Most people who report alien abductions report details that are consistent with hypnagogia.

    Others had their memories “recovered” (read fabricated) during hypnosis.

    These and other neurological phenomena, in the context of a cultural belief, likely explain most alleged encounters.

    A minority appear to be deliberate hoaxes, and some likely involve those with diagnosable mental illness.

    This has been the consistent position of skeptics for decades, and yet somehow you completely misinterpret this as “all” reporters “must be nuts,” while feeling confident about your judgement of skeptics.

    Finally, I don’t know any fellow skeptics who doubt that life is common in the universe, and extraterrestrial intelligence is possible and likely out there. That does not mean, however, that they are here, or even that it is likely they are here. So again, you misinterpret the skeptical position entirely.

    Now, of course, someone is going to chide me for “trying to reason” with you.

  5. BillyJoe7on 22 Jul 2014 at 10:07 am

    hardnose,

    “I never understand why “skeptics” seem to think everyone who reports an experience with alien beings or technology must be nuts”

    I was going to reply but I won’t waste time arguing against beliefs that are unscientific, illogical, and plain dumb.

    (;

  6. DevoutCatalyston 22 Jul 2014 at 10:46 am

    Ken Ham is an idolater. He worships a compilation called the Bible and puts a lot of trust in the editors that pieced together that bestseller.

  7. Bruceon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:07 am

    Steve posts about the moon landings and now he posts about aliens…

    Coincidence?

  8. elmer mccurdyon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:35 am

    I thought the universe did have a center. Most likely round about where the big bang was. Why not?

  9. banyanon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:37 am

    Contact also did a pretty good job describing the likely fundamentalist Christian reaction to proof of extraterrestrial intelligence.

    Of course, I don’t think we can really make a good prediction given that we have no idea what intelligent extraterrestrial life will be like. I tend to think it will be so different from us, even in how it expresses its intelligence, that there will be significant controversy over whether it is actually intelligent or maybe even whether it is actually alive.

  10. Hosson 22 Jul 2014 at 11:48 am

    @elmer
    There is no spoon – uhhh, I mean, there is no center of the universe. I think you may have a few misconceptions about the big bang.

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/10/11/ask-ethan-6-the-center-of-the-universe/

  11. jsterritton 22 Jul 2014 at 11:48 am

    I’m more worried about the alien fundamentalist crackpots. How will they react when they find out about Ham’s irreligiosity? Zap!

  12. Steven Novellaon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:53 am

    very quickly – think of the universe as the surface of a ball. The surface has no center on the surface itself – all places on the surface would see themselves as the center of the observable part of their universe.

    Now just add one physical dimension. There is no place in our universe that is closer to the “center” than any other place.

  13. steve12on 22 Jul 2014 at 12:29 pm

    HArdnose:

    “Why do you waste time arguing against beliefs that are unscientific, illogical, and plain dumb? We know there are fundamentalists who need to believe in one central Truth that answers all questions and leaves no uncertainty or doubt. Trying to reason with them is just silly.
    Aside from that, it does seem that there must be life all over the universe. I never understand why “skeptics” seem to think everyone who reports an experience with alien beings or technology must be nuts.”

    I was wondering the same of you!

    Why do you waste time reading and commenting on a blog post that it arguing against beliefs that are unscientific, illogical, and plain dumb? We know there are fundamentalists who need to believe in one central Truth that answers all questions and leaves no uncertainty or doubt, so why read and comment on a blog post taking them on? Trying to reason with them is just silly, so repeatedly reading and commenting on blog posts re: this topic is just silly.

  14. Johnnyon 22 Jul 2014 at 12:34 pm

    This blogpost explains why some of us think that science and religion are not compatible ;)

  15. Chris Robertson 22 Jul 2014 at 1:14 pm

    “…that they are demons…”

    I’ve heard the demon theory of alien life. One particular fellow had it all worked out: when the rapture takes place and all the world’s Christians are pulled into Heaven, aliens will appear and the world’s governments will blame aliens for kidnapping Christians using Star Trek type transporter technology, only those aliens won’t really be aliens but will be demons pretending to be aliens in order to deceive people and keep people from believing in God.

    There might be a hole or two in that theory.

  16. Teaseron 22 Jul 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Ken Ham promotes the brainwashing of children via CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship). They are in Portland, OR this July at public playgrounds to deliver the message directly to children.

    http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2014/07/16/childrens-ministry-accused-of-psychologically-damaging-children/

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/22/portland-parents-fight-christian-extremist-club-trying-to-harvest-kids-at-public-parks/

  17. Kawarthajonon 22 Jul 2014 at 3:55 pm

    # elmer mccurdyon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:35 am
    “I thought the universe did have a center. Most likely round about where the big bang was. Why not?”

    Good question – listen to this great podcast to get the answer to that:

    http://www.astronomycast.com/2008/02/ep-77-where-is-the-centre-of-the-universe/

    It is still perplexing to me, even after trying to wrap my head around it.

  18. Kawarthajonon 22 Jul 2014 at 4:04 pm

    “This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.”

    Aliens would be affected by Adam’s sin, therefore, no aliens… Wow, that’s some amazing mental gymnastics! No, seriously, I’m impressed. I definitely could not come up with something more nonsensical if I tried.

    And talk about paranoid – “The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!” – more nonsense, of course, but a disturbing perspective that assumes that the evil “securalists” are out to get Christians and, of course, God himself. Nonsense again, of course. I may be naive, but I don’t think that there are an army of scientists out there with the intent of screwing over the Christians and rebelling against God.

  19. the devils gummy bearon 22 Jul 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I rebelled against god twice this morning.

  20. Tiggeron 22 Jul 2014 at 4:50 pm

    How do we know God didn’t send some of his other children to all the alien planets anyway. ;-)

  21. etatroon 22 Jul 2014 at 9:12 pm

    To the point of Sagan saying that it would be a waste of space if we were the only life in the universe, and to the point of saying that there’s no reason to believe that aliens are here …. I think an interesting thing to think about is that it would be a waste of time too and that there’s no reason to believe they are here now. What if there was a technologically thriving civilization trying to reach out beyond their solar system near us 10 million years ago and they died off before we came along? Given the amount of time life has been on earth and it took humans to evolve the tech to travel & communicate extraterrestrially …. how many civilizations could have come and gone since the Milky Way started to coalesce, seems we’d have to be very lucky in both time and space to encounter another civilized life form (not impossible, just improbable). I guess that why Star Wars too place both far far away AND a long time ago.

  22. Chris Robertson 22 Jul 2014 at 9:35 pm

    etatro,

    But no one knows how long civilizations survive, or what remains when they are gone. Finding life doesn’t necessarily mean finding civilization – though an advanced civilization would certainly be easier to detect. But even in the midst of the worst things we could do to our own world, it seems inevitable that life of some sort – and probably in some degree of rich diversity – would survive and would continue to evolve, perhaps eventually giving rise to yet another advanced civilization.

    When the NASA scientists say they expect to find life within twenty years (a claim I think is probably much too ambitious), I don’t think they necessarily mean civilizations. SETI-style searches aren’t receiving attention now, detecting exoplanets and trying to do spectroscopic exams of them is getting the attention. As those spectroscopic exams get more sophisticated, they have the potential to show signs of organic life on planets. Not necessarily advanced civilizations, but life nonetheless.

  23. Sylakon 22 Jul 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Ah Ken ham, Quite the character. I Read the CFI article this morning, If it wasn’t so sad, it would be hilarious. Can you Imagine Aliens coming here, we mounted a diplomatic delegation and somehow the Ham man Is on it going to talk the them : ” Hello My Name Is Ken Ham, you are going to hell. ”

    “When the authors of the bible wrote their fables, they believed the earth was the entire universe, and everything in the sky was close and revolved about the earth”

    That’s so true. They take the bible for granted so much, not seeing that it could be a total fabrication or just missreporting of a guy name ‘Jesus’ who was just a nice person wanting to help people. who knows.

    An why when peoples think “extra-terrestrials” they automatically think that they came here, and are so much advanced then us. There’s no evidence whatso ever. If any intelligent life form exist, they a probably stock on their hunk of rock like us. Law of physics is a bitch. And since we don,t know anything about that yet, it is as probable that we are the most advanced intelligent civilization around or galaxy as it is that we are not.

    And with all the cameras, telescope, radio telescope, satellite watching the sky in all the wave length of the EM spectrum, anything that move using massive amount of energy near our planet we be spotted fast. Radiation, heat. there’s no way around it. As advance as they can be, the laws of physic do chance for them. At least Independence Day movie got that right.

  24. shanon 23 Jul 2014 at 12:05 pm

    I am amazed that so many people can express such intelligent, well thought out responses and still be oblivious to correct grammar, spelling and terminology. Perhaps there are those upon this planet who would be better served focusing their efforts on understanding the workings of their own culture and species rather than speculating on theoretical civilizations?

  25. falloonacyon 23 Jul 2014 at 12:40 pm

    You do not need to use science to destroy people’s faith in religion. All you need is people like Ken Ham.

  26. wanda-leeon 23 Jul 2014 at 2:32 pm

    “I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life.”

    That is the most sensible, reasonable thing I’ve ever heard Hamm say, and the only thing I can agree with… and even that’s with a reservation. I don’t think the search has been “fruitless” I just think we had better things to spend the money on first.

    Upon discovering other life in the universe there can only be three scenarios.

    In the first, we discover a much less evolved life, it’s a fantastic and amazing discovery, life can exist elsewhere. Celebration. More research.

    In the second, we are discovered by more evolved and intelligent life, they are benevolent and consider us worthy of helping. They share their knowledge, as a result we smarten up and start working together for the common good. All is well.

    The third, we are discovered by a more evolved and intelligent species. They are warriors, seeking to re-supply themselves while on their life-long mission to conquer new worlds, we try to fight them off. Nearing total annihilation, small groups of survivors crawl back to the caves, hiding, surviving on bugs, rodents, and roots, scratching out a miserable existence, hunted to extinction, on our own planet. Eventually, we die out.

    I think the first scenario is the most likely, the second scenario is why we look, and the third would be just our luck. Personally, I’m hoping we find something out there that will utterly crush the religiously minded’s Invisible Sky Daddy, something that knocks their socks right off, along with their smug little smiles.

    In the sense of looking externally for answers to our biggest (moral) questions and dilemmas, I wonder if we sky-watchers are any less naïve than the Hamms of the world.

  27. D. Fosdickon 23 Jul 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Fermi Paradox or the Great Filter. As a skeptic, I feel that I am in the minority in having the opinion that intelligent, technological life is likely to be extremely rare.

    Of course, I grew up on science fiction, as did so many skeptics. As a young teenager, I watched, enthralled, as the Apollo missions piled on success after success, and I felt sure that I would be buying a ticket to space as an adult. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished! Back then, we had no evidence of any other solar systems but our own, but all of us fans just *knew* that they had to exist. We thought that the only way to be sure was to go to the stars. At least, I can be grateful to the scientific insight, hard work, dedication, instrumentation, and Kepler to have it confirmed, in my lifetime, that other planets around other stars do, in fact, exist.

    As exciting as it would be, perhaps, to get a real SETI signal that can be verified, I have changed my opinion as to the likelihood of finding a technological civilization — at least, within “shouting” distance.

    Opinions?

  28. a_haworthrobertson 23 Jul 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Ken Ham is today complaining that those who offered ‘publicity’ to AiG and him actually ‘falsely accused’ him over his comments regarding the NASA space programme and possible aliens. Well, I did NOT. He did imply strongly that an intelligent aliens would go to hell. Which is not biblical even.
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2967&start=1575

  29. pdeboeron 24 Jul 2014 at 11:09 am

    Ken Ham is going to be Jake Busey in Contact.

  30. Bruceon 24 Jul 2014 at 11:26 am

    D Fosdick,

    “I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Fermi Paradox or the Great Filter. As a skeptic, I feel that I am in the minority in having the opinion that intelligent, technological life is likely to be extremely rare. ”

    I actually composed a fairly long post about this and in the end I must have deleted it as I got distracted by work. I thought I had posted what I had written, but it seems I didn’t in the end.

    I fully agree with you in that I think given the massive distances and the complete vastness of time, statistically, even if there was a galactic empire of a million years the odds of us living in the same galaxy at the same time are really really quite small. I find the claims that we will find life within 20 years really quite fantastical and as a regular listener of SGU my first thought when I heard that recently was how the rogues react to anything that is 5 to 10 years away! What I would say, is that the longer we look without finding, the less chance we have of actually finding anything. Claiming there is a good chance that there is an observable alien race being right at the edge of our technological ability to detect can only really fly for so long.

    I am the first to admit that I do know very little about astronomy though.

  31. The Other John Mcon 24 Jul 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Fosdick, I did a blog post about this awhile back, I am total agreement with you:

    http://thoughtsonscienceandpseudoscience.blogspot.com/2013/01/is-there-alien-life-in-universe.html

    The punchlines, from my perspective as a psychologist with a moderate interest in evolutionary psych, are:

    - “intelligence” is a costly gambit for evolution to pursue; requires extensive infrastructure & regular high-calorie meals
    - evolving intelligence is difficult/unlikely; almost no animals pursue this route in evolution
    - it doesn’t seem to be a convergent evolutionary trait
    - “intelligence” is a specific adaptation to our unique physical/social environment unlikely to be common

  32. Bronze Dogon 24 Jul 2014 at 1:08 pm

    You then follow up with a blatant strawman that further begs the question. First, I don’t know any prominent skeptic who claims that all UFO reporters are “nuts”. The common skeptical position is that there is simply no evidence for genuine extraterrestrial activity or contact, and that those who report sightings are mostly simply mistaken about what they remember about what they thought they saw. We have, in fact, invested quite a bit of time exploring the science behind memory and perception.
    Most people who report alien abductions report details that are consistent with hypnagogia.
    Others had their memories “recovered” (read fabricated) during hypnosis.
    These and other neurological phenomena, in the context of a cultural belief, likely explain most alleged encounters.
    A minority appear to be deliberate hoaxes, and some likely involve those with diagnosable mental illness.
    This has been the consistent position of skeptics for decades, and yet somehow you completely misinterpret this as “all” reporters “must be nuts,” while feeling confident about your judgement of skeptics.

    Worth reiterating. It goes towards tearing down a pair of popular caricatures of skepticism. We don’t think woos are ‘nuts’ or ‘stupid’ by default, we just think they’re human.

    The biggest difference between a skeptic and a woo is that we try to be aware of our human flaws and take them into account. We question ourselves and maintain high standards. It’s a learned skill we want to share for society’s benefit, not an inbuilt arrogant superiority to lord over an underclass.

  33. The Other John Mcon 24 Jul 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Fosdick — I’d never heard of the Great Filter idea, thanks for mentioning

  34. D. Fosdickon 24 Jul 2014 at 11:19 pm

    @ The other John Mc:

    Thanks for the link to your blog post. Your site is now in my favorites file…

    There is a great wikipedia article on the Great Filter, which I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. It is a good starting point for researching the ramifications of the Fermi paradox.

    @Bruce:

    Too bad you lost your post. “…statistically, even if there was a galactic empire of a million years the odds of us living in the same galaxy at the same time are really really quite small.” Too true! Even if one postulates that, once a galactic empire arises, it would be self-perpetuating and last indefinitely in its own galaxy, the odds are still really, really small: they would be less than one in 400 billion, or so, wouldn’t they?

    @wanda-lee:
    The third scenario that you describe is quite grim, indeed. I have heard of a school of thought that cautions us humans not to be so “noticeable.” — For that very reason. However, I think that there are probably other possibilities, as well, besides those three. For example, what if they don’t want to be contacted? A paranoid race, such as Larry Niven’s “puppeteers,” would do their damnedest *not* to communicate with any other intelligent life.

    As far as Ken Ham goes, well… I can’t think of anything that is not an ad hominem…

  35. SimonWon 25 Jul 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Fosdick,

    agree here, I plugged my own estimates into the Drake equation (which I think itself is questionable), and got ~10^-15.

    So that is less than one advanced civilization per galaxy, some galaxies will no doubt have got lucky and have a disproportionate share, it is a big Universe. All we know is we aren’t in one of the unlucky ones who got none, and I wonder about that some days.

    I may be way off with my estimates, but I couldn’t immediately say those who forecast things to be much more likely have more evidence for their numbers, so I think we can agree the error bounds are broad.

    Also we’ve done really badly understanding: bird song, Whale and other primate communications, so we better hope any aliens we do meet already have a universal translator, since birds are practically indistinguishable from us, they have vaguely similar needs and desires (sex, hunger, warmth, thirst, a home) and anatomy, so birds should be really easy to understand and empathise with compared to aliens.

  36. mumadaddon 25 Jul 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the Fermi Paradox or the Great Filter. As a skeptic, I feel that I am in the minority in having the opinion that intelligent, technological life is likely to be extremely rare.

    To add to this, as far as I can tell it doesn’t really matter if it’s extremely common. Say half of all exo-planets have conditions that could sustain life as we know it; all of them sustain life at some point; half of those breed complex life; half of those breed highly intelligent, social species; half of those develop the technological means to either deliberately or accidentally send out some sign that they are there.

    Given the distances involved, even in a highly idealised situation it seems to me pretty much a given that any one technological civilization would be highly unlikely to detect another one, although it would be quite likely that some technological civilization would detect another one.

    If the seemingly impossible barrier of lightspeed is in fact unbreakable, we’re pretty much on our own so far as ever meeting another intelligent species goes. If all the signals we’re dripping off into the ether attenuate over distance, it might be impossible to be detected beyond a certain point.

    Having said all that, I f*cking love SETI. I know it’s all about detecting either:

    -a deliberately aimed burst of stuff we’re able to detect, impossibly sent back from the future of their detection of us
    -as above, but due to prescient knowledge that the planet was capable of bearing intelligent life (given a very long-lived and patient alien race sending signals to all candidates)
    -the accidental radiowave debris of a probably extinct alien race
    -the deliberate machinations of a pan-galactic empire

    Given the choice, I’d still give a couple per cent of my wages to fund this wacky idea.

  37. grabulaon 28 Jul 2014 at 12:19 am

    @hardnose

    “Why do you waste time arguing against beliefs that are unscientific, illogical, and plain dumb?”

    Because you keep showing up here making the statements you make? Is this a trick question?

    ” I never understand why “skeptics” seem to think everyone who reports an experience with alien beings or technology must be nuts.”

    More scare quotes hardnose? I don’t think we as skeptics necessarily believe they are nuts, unless they show some nutty behaviour. I have met some perfectly reasonable people who believe they’ve had some other worldly experience. I understand there’s no evidence to back these claims up, so I also understand that they are probably just mistaken in their interpretation of what they experienced.

    @Chris Roberts

    “There might be a hole or two in that theory.”

    Looks airtight to me

    @DGB

    “I rebelled against god twice this morning.”

    and made baby jesus cry

    @D.Fosdick

    “As a skeptic, I feel that I am in the minority in having the opinion that intelligent, technological life is likely to be extremely rare”

    I think of it as ‘rare’ but in the context of how many stars and planets exist, rarity is sort of subjective. I don’t think we’re going to find life in every solar system. I think we’ll find it in enough to show that it’s ‘common’. As for intelligent life, again, rare but subjective.
    Personally I just hope we’re close enough to any form of life that’s detectable at long range. It’s the closest I come to a sacred cow, believing in life on other planets. I hold no assumptions to intelligence but I feel comfortable assuming other life exists. I’m just crossing my fingers we see it’s fingerprint in the universe before I’ve committed my energy back to the universe as a whole.

  38. Bruceon 28 Jul 2014 at 9:26 am

    D Fosdick

    “Too true! Even if one postulates that, once a galactic empire arises, it would be self-perpetuating and last indefinitely in its own galaxy, the odds are still really, really small: they would be less than one in 400 billion, or so, wouldn’t they?”

    Indeed. I think the big problem we have is that as far as the emergence of life goes, at the moment we only have one data point and I think it makes our assumptions a lot more powerful in interpretting the data than the actual data itself, and projecting from there makes the word “rare” very very subjective.

    Grabula, I will settle for just finding any life whatsoever that is not terrestrial. A part of me hopes it is some kind of mycelium, because we could then call this evil alien life form the Spawn of Satan.

    /dad joke

  39. grabulaon 28 Jul 2014 at 10:50 pm

    @bruce

    “I will settle for just finding any life whatsoever that is not terrestrial”

    Absolutely! Intelligent life would be optimal but any kind of life beyond Earth would be the biggest discovery since beer.

  40. D. Fosdickon 03 Aug 2014 at 1:25 am

    mummadad: I’m sure that Seth Shostak and SETI will appreciate your 2% contribution! Probably more generous than most contributions…

    grabula; bruce; simonW: I understand what you mean. What is rare? Well… Even simonW’s 10^-15 estimate for the Drake equation would yield lots of advanced civilizations in the universe. But I think that even this small estimate is too large. Just an opinion, of course…

    How long did it take for our planet to evolve an advanced civilization? Maybe 4 billion years or so. Add that time scale as a factor favoring rarity. (And of course we have only one data point, so that’s moot).

  41. Sylakon 05 Aug 2014 at 12:23 am

    @Shan “I am amazed that so many people can express such intelligent, well thought out responses and still be oblivious to correct grammar, spelling and terminology”

    Well thanks, But I could write my comments in my home language, French ( so most people won’t get it, what’s the point) if you want, I’m better at it. You see I do My best to get my comment clear and understandable. English is not my “langue maternelle” after all. A lot of us do the best we can, I understand your point, and I kind of agree with it, but it does not mean the argument is null, or that the though is not sound. IF a blogger had super bad grammar, It would look terrible, but a person in the comments, who is just a layman, I can give them a brake, as long as it is readable, of course.

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