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Math can’t conjure aliens?

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From Ross Andersen at Atlantic:

We can’t extrapolate from our experience on this planet, because it’s only one data point. We could be the only intelligent beings in the universe, or we could be one among trillions, and either way Earth’s natural history would look the exact same.

We certainly don’t have grounds to say that the “odds are high” that some civilization preceded ours, or enough evidence to suggest that skepticism about the possibility “borders on the irrational.” More.

That’s the trouble. 1 is not a good number to work with when assessing probability.

See also: NASA “shameful” in not looking harder for alien life? Are these people willing to grasp the possibility that we might BE alone? For whatever reason.

and

How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?

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2 Replies to “Math can’t conjure aliens?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Cosmologists who doubt there is life anywhere else in the universe still accept the Drake Equation, which the article completely ignores.

    The guys the author is writing about are clearly at the “pre-Drake” phase of understanding the question, since they’re attempting to guess the value of a single variable for “Is there/was there Life?”.

    As I understand it, when Drake first composed his equation, he used our own solar system, and rounded down to “1 in 10” from 1 in 9 (habitable planets around the Sun). And for lack of any better number, Drake then also assigned 1/10 to each of the other factors. (I’m sure Wikipedia has a nice explanation of The Drake Equation.)

    What has happened since Drake first made his base assumptions is that for each of factors in the equation, each new estimate has driven the original “1 in 10” to something more like “astonishingly small”. The net result being that when we plug in the current numbers and turn the handle, the Drake Equation spits out “not bloody likely.”

    So, the guys who wrote the article choose to COMPLETELY ignore ANYTHING that might approach science and go back to campfire stories for pre-adolescent boys. I know we use campfire stories as the basis for our economic planning and foreign policy, but I thought we’d decided that what we called “Science” was going to be based a bit more in facts.

  2. 2
    ellazimm says:

    Are these people willing to grasp the possibility that we might BE alone? For whatever reason.

    Of course. But why not look? In the spirit of exploration. If we find aliens that’s fascinating and wonderful. If we don’t then no harm done.

    My own view is that if ‘they’re out there’ they’ll be too far away to ever meet or have real conversations with. But I’d still like to know if there is intelligent life on other planets. I like knowing stuff.

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