Steve sent me a link to an article that discusses the possibility of the existence of aliens, and posits that they must have visited earth at some time, because if we assume they exist, it’s almost certain they would have stumbled across us by now. Although I have a ton of work to do this morning, I couldn’t resist commenting. Here’s my reply:
The existence, or lack thereof, of aliens basically comes down to a matter of belief. We can’t prove one way or another, and there are only two ways to truly answer the question:
1) Meet an alien race.
2) Scour the entire stinkin’ universe and find nothing.
Since #2 is unlikely or impossible, that leaves #1. We either find the aliens, or spend eternity looking for them. We can’t prove they don’t exist, just as we can’t prove God doesn’t exist.
Anyway, Fermi’s Paradox as described in the article doesn’t hold water with me. Just because there are aliens (which I firmly believe) doesn’t mean they must have encountered us by now. The galaxy is bloody huge, and is only one of maybe trillions. Even with “dispersion models” one cannot assume that an alien civilization would have expanded to our little corner.
The dispersion model assumes, for one, that aliens would expand. I think this is a false assumption: they might– but they might not. Perhaps at a certain level of technology, all civilizations end up constructing Dyson spheres and sort of keeping to themselves. Perhaps they reach some higher transcendant state and end up encasing themselves in vast computer networks, lost in their own thoughts. Whatever. There are many scenarios where a civilization would *not* expand, even though they might be continuing to advance.
Moreover, I think theories that aliens have visited (or are visiting) earth are completely bunk. Again, I see two possibilities, both based on the assumption that an alien race capable of interstellar flight is far, far more advanced than we are:
1) They’re malevolent, in which case they’d turn our planet into rubble before we even knew what hit us.
2) They’re benevolent, in which case they’d introduce themselves and share technology or at least ideas.
There’s no way, in my mind, that an advanced civilization would do goofy things like draw crop circles or kidnap hillbillies for medical experiments. It’s just ludicrous.
So all in all, I’m convinced there are aliens out there, and I’m also convinced we simply haven’t found them yet (or they us). We need to keep looking, though, because the discovery of another civilization would radically alter our world-view… for the better, I hope. It would have profound impacts on everything from politics to religion to science.
On a related topic, I imagine that finding life (however you define it) on Mars or Titan or Europa would also be profound, though not quite as earth-shattering since it would likely not be “intelligent”.
Anyway, that’s my treatise. Back to the grind.