If we could, based on the knowledge we have today, draw a robust conclusion about the number of alien civilizations within the galaxy, it would be a revolutionary advance in our scientific understanding. However, the history of the search for intelligent aliens is filled with arguments that draw a conclusion based on ill-founded assumptions, and these latest assertions are sadly just another example of that sort of wishful thinking.
If we’re willing make assumptions about how likely it is that life arises on planets with certain similarities to a young Earth, we can indeed draw conclusions about the likelihood of intelligent life throughout the galaxy. The only problems are that our conclusions are only as good as our assumptions, which we have no reason to believe are very good. There may well be 36 alien civilizations in the Milky Way right now, but science has a long way to go before anyone — even the paper’s authors — are convinced of that conclusion.Ethan Siegel, “36 Alien Civilizations In The Milky Way? The Science Behind A Ridiculous Headline” at Forbes
The problem is that, as we said earlier, this ISN’T science. Science is about discoveries, not speculative games. Siegel seems to agree. So the question is, how did science come to be speculative games instead of discoveries?
Hey, deal, guys: Find us fossil bacteria on Mars and we’ll think it’s science. Heck, we’ll believe all over again. Just fossils, just bacteria.
Tell us more about intelligent aliens? We’ll think: Science fiction
Also: 36 alien civs? Paltry! Claim: up to 6 billion Earthlike planets in our galaxy There’s got a reason why so much science is beginning to sound like the National Enquirer for STEM nerds. But we are waiting for the Big Explain book to come out. Should be a classic.