Sunday, October 08, 2006

Are We Alone?

To anyone who thinks we're alone in the universe - that we are the jewel of creation, that we are "it" - you really need to take a prolonged wander through the website of the Hubble Telescope, and just look at the photos.

Try one of the other galaxies. Try to imagine the vastness of the universe.

And then tell me, with a straight face, that it's all there for us - including galaxies that we will probably never see, much less visit.

Is there intelligent life out there?

D'uh. It's the one thing that SETI and ufologists can agree on.

Is it coming here?

Who knows? But it's at least within the realm of possibility, if not now or in the past, then someday. It's definitely worthy of something more than just a smirk.

It's time for us to grow up, and accept the overwhelming odds that we are not alone - and then we need to start considering what that means for us, not necessarily in practical terms (we may never actually meet this ETI), but in terms of our understanding of ourselves, and how we interact with each other, and how we should go about resolving our differences.

Ironically, the realization that we are just a drop in the universal bucket, and a small drop at that, is what we need to open our eyes up to all of the larger possibilities, and to reorientate our way of thinking to the future, as opposed to fighting over the things that we've been fighting over for years, and in many cases decades or even centuries.

By realizing how small we are, we will become bigger in the ways that matter.

If you're an American, you might want to ask your candidates about this in the upcoming election - not the "UFO question", but rather the almost certain reality that we're not alone, and what they think of that.

Paul Kimball

15 comments:

m4ever said...

Paul, good points all - and certainly worthy of making the politicians talk about. That said, if you really really want the vastness of what space-time is -- what our reality is -- folks would be limited by a factor of TRILLIONS if ALL they `looked' at was our `visible' universe. As I'm sure you know, OUR UNIVERSE (according to the theory of inflation) is trillions and trillions the size of the visible portion (which is what is the drop in the bucket actually). Out in the region from which light will never reach us or our planet are planets and stars JUST LIKE HERE. We are all part of the same whole of which ALL parts can see just a sliver.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that SETI have stated "intelligent life" must exist somewhere. Although the apparently boundless vastness of the universe would perhaps suggest otherwise, it may indeed transpire that intelligent life is such an extraordinarily rare event that it has only happened in one place. I myself actually do not subscribe to this opinion, but I acknowledge it as a possibility. You state "...accept the overwhelming odds that we are not alone" - from where have you managed to calculate these "overwhelming odds"? Drake's equation has so many unknowns that it is to all intents and purposes a theoretical exercise, until we have at some future time (assuming the human race does not first obliterate itself) much more definitive data to accurately estimate the many missing parameters. I would also disgree that "all ufologists" subscribe to the idea of ETI. This is patently untrue. Some ufologists will acknowledge the possibility that this type of phenomena, even including those examples that cannot be easily explained and where there is apparent evidence of intelligent ufo behaviour, may have a much more prosaic explanation.

Dustin said...

Great thoughts. If you haven't seen this video yet, check it out. It's rapidly moved to the top of my all-time favorite astronomy short-videos. It really gives a nice look at the vastness of the universe.

Anonymous said...

WOW>>>>> very interesting stuff on your site.Though have not read everything .............will take some time.Keep it up

Paul Kimball said...

Somal:

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for stopping by.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Anonymous:

You wrote:

I would also disgree that "all ufologists" subscribe to the idea of ETI. This is patently untrue. Some ufologists will acknowledge the possibility that this type of phenomena, even including those examples that cannot be easily explained and where there is apparent evidence of intelligent ufo behaviour, may have a much more prosaic explanation.

Indeed, which is why I said that it was worthy of consideration - I never said that it was a proven fact. You must not be familiar with my position on this issue - I am a firm proponent of the ETH as just that - an "H", i.e. hypothesis, not an "F", i.e. a fact - much to the chagrin of many ETFers. :-)

It is true that UFOs may all have prosaic explanations, although some cases may involve things about our own planet, or ourselves, that we do not yet understand, so I'm not sure I'd use the term "prosaic", but I know what you mean.

That is a different question that whether there is other intelligent life out there. Yes, it is possible that we're alone, in the same way that it's possible I'll win the Powerball lottery by buying one ticket, once in my life. But I wouldn't bet on it. The sheer size of the universe, and the indications of possible life that we've already found in out own solar system, make it an odds-on-favourite, to the point, in my mind, of being close to beyond a reasonable doubt (note the word "reasonable", which does not mean "any") - certainly likely on the "balance of probabilities" standard of civil law.

We may never meet that life (quite unlikely in our lifetimes), but, unlike someone like Alfred Lehmberg, I don't believe that we have to in order to change our way of thinking about ourselves, and to open our minds to the possibilities. That's the key.

And I'm pretty sure that any SETI scientist or ufologist would agree with me, judging by what I've seen them write and heard them say.

Paul

Mac said...

There's a good book about the arbitrarily high probability of ETI called "Probability 1."

Anonymous said...

old bill

There has to be intelligent life in such a vast universe. to think we are alone is just plain silly and proves the truely intelligent life is not on this planet.

Don Maor said...

Isaac Asimov said that there was something "repugnant" in the believe that the earth was the only planet with life. Of course, i am hoping here that the translation of Asimov's words to Spanish was a good one.

On the other hand, at the MUFON website, one can see the little article, what MUFON know to be true:
http://www.mufon.com/what_mufon_knows.htm. One of the conclusions is "Our universe is teeming with life". Obviously, it is a conclusion based on the UFO evidence.

Therefore, it is an independent support of the SETI guys, who believe basically the same thing, but based on their best estimates of the Drake Equation.

We have two fronts of the human knowledge (SETI specialists, and most ufologists) reaching basically to the same conclusion, i.e that there is much more life in the universe, but both fronts using independent methods. That should be meaningful.

The only big objection to the SETI guys that i see is the irrational beliefe that aliens should stay on their own planets sending radio signals.

Paul Kimball said...

DM:

You wrote:

On the other hand, at the MUFON website, one can see the little article, what MUFON know to be true:
http://www.mufon.com/what_mufon_knows.htm. One of the conclusions is "Our universe is teeming with life". Obviously, it is a conclusion based on the UFO evidence.


If that's what it's based on, then it is - to paraphrase Stan Friedman - a false conclusion, because the UFO evidence simply does not prove the existence of ETI. It is, as I was at pains to point out in this little piece, just a theory, one that has some validity (as much as others) and is worthy of consideration, but it is still just a theory.

The basis for my belief (and it is a belief, because I can't prove it, although I think a logical and probable conclusion) that there is ETI "out there" is the odds, pure and simple. It's a big galaxy... let alone universe.

However, you can reverse the argument - we are just a speck in the galaxy, in a relatively isolated corner at that. The odds that someone would have made it here are rather daunting. Not impossible, but a long-shot. Space is a big place.

And there is no UFO evidence that makes me think otherwise, even as I don't rule the possibility out. It is - pun intended - in my grey basket, where it will probably remain until ET says "hello".

Paul

Mac said...

And there is no UFO evidence that makes me think otherwise, even as I don't rule the possibility out. It is - pun intended - in my grey basket, where it will probably remain until ET says "hello".

Or offers an unsolicited rectal exam.

Anonymous said...

I question anyone who says they might be "coming here." How is it that so many in the UFO interest community are never talking about that vast database of historical documentation proving that ETs have long been here. Sumarian Tablets, anyone?

Don Maor said...

Anonymous user:

May be there is not "a vast" database of historical knowledge about possible visits to earth. or may be it is not determinant. But there are many people out there who simply can not accept that such documentation lacks completely.

On the other hand, even accepting that there are not such “vast” databases, it would be completely irrelevant. I have been always amazed by the surprising ability of some skeptics to base their conclusions on irrelevant facts.

Fasz said...

First, I just want to say that I couldn't agree more about there being intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. It is craziness to believe that in such a large space, only Earth had the right conditions to form intelligent life.

One thing that does drive me crazy is when people justify the belief that Earth has not and can not be visited by said intelligent life becuase of the distance between the next probably habitable planet. What these people fail to realize is that they base those judgements using human modern day technology. The ETI might be millions of years more advanced than us and can do pretty much anything they want including time travel or just opening up a worm hole and getting to distant places quickly. Imagine what the human race could do technologically speaking a million years from now! And finally, lets not rule out the "multiverse" theory which is now becoming accepted by several scientists. What if visitors are just opening a window in space time and are simply coming here from another time. We still have so much to learn about our own planet, let alone what else is out there. IMHO, many years from now people will look back at a Star Trek movie and say "wow, they got it right way back then!"

fasz67 said...

First, I just want to say that I couldn't agree more about there being intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. It is craziness to believe that in such a large space, only Earth had the right conditions to form intelligent life.

One thing that does drive me crazy is when people justify the belief that Earth has not and can not be visited by said intelligent life becuase of the distance between the next probably habitable planet. What these people fail to realize is that they base those judgements using human modern day technology. The ETI might be millions of years more advanced than us and can do pretty much anything they want including time travel or just opening up a worm hole and getting to distant places quickly. Imagine what the human race could do technologically speaking a million years from now! And finally, lets not rule out the "multiverse" theory which is now becoming accepted by several scientists. What if visitors are just opening a window in space time and are simply coming here from another time. We still have so much to learn about our own planet, let alone what else is out there. IMHO, many years from now people will look back at a Star Trek movie and say "wow, they got it right way back then!"