Design inference Extraterrestrial life Intelligent Design

Isn’t the famous Drake Equation a sort of design filter for intelligence?

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At Mind Matters News: The Drake equation at 60 years: The second most famous equation after e = mc squared. New technology is improving our ability to search the skies for signs of possible extraterrestrial civilizations.


Last year marked the sixtieth year of the iconic Drake Equation, developed by astronomer Frank Drake aimed at stimulating the public to think about the prerequisites for life on other planets…

Drake was pretty daring. When he first started working on the idea, it would be over three decades before exoplanets began to be spotted in the 1990s. Now they are routinely catalogued…

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb seems to be following in Drake’s footsteps with his efforts to develop detection systems for intelligent signals, but some aspects of his work are proving controversial…

Loeb replies to his critics, “We will not entertain fringe ideas that are outside the boundaries of the standard model of physics.” Of course, the Standard Model of physics does not rule out extraterrestrial civilizations; all we can infer from it is that they would be bound by the same laws as we are.

Whatever comes of the current ET detection projects, a design filter of the sort proposed is more useful than squabbling about the probability of ET without collecting any data.

News, “The Drake equation at 60 years: The second most famous equation” at Mind Matters News


Takehome: Whatever the fate of current ET detection projects, a Design Filter like design theorist William Dembski’s beats squabbling about the probability without collecting any data.


You may enjoy these accounts of why we do not see extraterrestrials:

1.What if extraterrestrials can’t afford to take chances with us?
That’s the Dark Forest Hypothesis, riffing off the title of one of famed Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin’s novels. The Dark Forest Hypothesis assumes that we can use sociology to figure out what extraterrestrial intelligences might be like or might want. But can we?

2.Are the Aliens We Never Find Obeying Star Trek’s Prime Directive? The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions. Hence the Zoo hypothesis. Assuming the aliens exist, perhaps it’s just as well, on the whole, if they do want to leave us alone. They could want to “fix” us instead…

3.How can we be sure we are not just an ET’s simulation? A number of books and films are based on the Planetarium hypothesis. Should we believe it? We make a faith-based decision that logic and evidence together are reasonable guides to what is true. Logical possibility alone does not make an idea true.

4.Did the smart machines destroy the aliens who invented them? That’s the Berserker hypothesis. A smart deadly weapon could well decide to do without its inventor and, lacking moral guidance, destroy everything in sight. Extinction of a highly advanced civilization by its own lethal technology may be more likely than extinction by natural disaster. They could control nature.

5.Researchers: The aliens exist but they are sleeping… And we wake them at our peril. The Aestivation hypothesis is that immensely powerful aliens are waiting in a digitized form for the universe to cool down from the heat their computers emit.

6.Maybe there are just very few aliens out there… The Rare Earth hypothesis offers science-based reasons that life in the universe is rare. Even if life is rare in the universe, Earth may be uniquely suited to space exploration, as the Privileged Planet hypothesis suggests.

7.Does science fiction hint that we are actually doomed? That’s the implication of an influential theory, the Great Filter hypothesis, as to why we never see extraterrestrials. Depending how we read the Kardashev scale, civilizations disappear somewhere between where we are now and the advanced state needed for intergalactic travel.

8.Space aliens could in fact be watching us. Using the methods we use to spot exoplanets. But if they are technologically advanced, wouldn’t they be here by now? The Hart-Tipler conjecture (they don’t exist) is, of course, very unpopular in sci-fi. But let’s confront it, if only to move on to more promising speculations.

9.Is the brief window for finding ET closing? According to some scenarios (the Brief Window hypothesis), we could be past our best-before date for contacting aliens. Of course, here we are assuming a law of nature as to how long civilizations last. Can someone state that law? How is it derived?

10.What if we don’t see aliens because they have not evolved yet? On this view, not only did we emerge during a favorable time in the universe’s history but we could end up suppressing them. The Firstborn hypothesis (we achieved intelligence before extraterrestrials) lines up with the view that humans are unique but sees that status as temporary.

11.The aliens exist—but evolved into virtual reality at a nanoscale. That’s the Transcension Hypothesis, the latest in our series on science fiction hypotheses as to why we don’t see extraterrestrials.
On this view, after a Singularity the ETs become virtual intelligences, exploring inner space at an undetectably small scale.

12.Is intelligent life in the universe living in interior oceans of planets and moons? The Ocean Planets Hypothesis is that intelligent beings may flourish in the interior oceans of the moons of gas giant planets — or within exoplanets — but they are trapped there. If intelligent life forms are trapped in the interior oceans of rocky moons and planets, Earth is a special planet—much better suited to space exploration.

13.Is real-world space travel just too daunting for ET? That’s the Percolation Hypothesis as to why we don’t make contact with aliens. They can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can. If there is a purpose behind the universe, maybe the aliens and we weren’t intended to meet. That’s worth considering, given the physics barriers.

14.The Aurora Hypothesis: ET could risk only rare contact with us. Given the difficulties and risks of space travel, extraterrestrials with advanced technology may have visited Earth only one in a million years, researchers say. After centuries of modern science, we are just now looking for fossil bacteria on Mars, not without risk. ET may be in the same position.

15.Data analyst offers 15 reasons extraterrestrials aren’t seen. He estimates that there should be 100,000 civilizations in our galaxy. Some of Yung Lin Ma’s suggested reasons are ones we had not considered before, including flow of time and communication differences.

16.What if ET has morphed into what we now call the laws of nature? Astrophysicist Caleb Scarf has asked us to consider a daring hypothesis for conundrums around dark matter and dark energy. Scharf’s hypothesis highlights the genuine difficulty of accounting for a universe that comes into existence without any underlying intelligence at all.

19 Replies to “Isn’t the famous Drake Equation a sort of design filter for intelligence?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Loeb is accused of “intermingling fanatics with legitimate scientists”.

    Legitimate scientists are currently torturing and strangling and obliterating all life on Earth, and developing black holes to obliterate the entire universe. UFO fanatics are NOT torturing or slaughtering anyone. I’d much rather be ruled by the “fanatics”.

  2. 2
    doubter says:

    It appears that this site has instituted censorship of posts – a bad sign for freedom of expression. I just submitted a post concerning the extraterrestrial hypothesis for some UFO sightings, and got the following:

    “A potentially unsafe operation has been detected in your request to this site
    Your access to this service has been limited. (HTTP response code 403)”

    I made sure there were no http link addresses included in the post, and of course nothing illicit. Just references to various UFO sightings. It looks like somebody controlling this site and with more power than they should be entrusted with is certain UFOs are nonsense and very much doesn’t like the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    The Drake Equation has been superseded by the Rare Earth Equation. And the Rare Earth Equation has been superseded by the Privileged Planet’s equation.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    As for extraterrestrials- we have seen them. Our military used to engage with the UFO’s until they realized it was not only futile, but deadly.

  5. 5
    doubter says:

    Most likely the answer to the Fermi Paradox is very simple – they actually have been coming here all along,

    The extraterrestrial hypothesis remains very plausible as the explanation for the major category of UFO-related phenomena, which is vehicle sightings especially with optical media, radar and EMI interaction.

    Some of the theoretical arguments against the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) for UFOs are that there is zero knowledge of other life much less other intelligent life, if it actually exists it is apparently impossible for it to get here, the apparent ridiculousness and absurdity of some of the phenomena (such as alien abductions, many UFOnaut encounter accounts, brilliant “advertising” lights), the supposed parapsychological connection, and the supposed similarities with historical accounts of things like faery sightings.

    But as far as I am concerned real data, evidence, always trumps theory. These cases were real events in the world, in space-time, occurring to real people that presented as described. The witnesses’ testimony and other (physical) evidence can’t reasonably be dismissed just because they appear fantastic or theoretically preposterous. Especially with good observers like pilots and police officers (sometimes multiple) whose testimony would otherwise be accepted in a court of law. The burden is on the skeptic to credibly demonstrate how these cases are actually misperceptions, hallucinations, errors, hoaxes, useless anecdotes, etc. And on the skeptic of the ETH to come up with a more credible general explanation for the many cases of physical interaction with physical apparent vehicles.

    Some people have observed strange apparently structured material objects in the atmosphere that give the strong impression of being vehicles, somebody else’s hardware.

    The best cases stand on their own merits as evidence that on some rare occasions what seem to be alien vehicles appear to humans, sometimes producing physical effects including radar returns, radio interference, ground traces and leaving images preserved on photographic film or electronic media.

    The relatively recent (in 2004 and 2015) sightings and radar trackings of small UFOs shadowing US Navy carrier battle groups, featuring multiple pilot and ship radar reports and HUD video display recordings amount to some of the best data. Some of these HUD videos were released by the Defense Department a few months ago.

    My view is that this phenomenon is complicated, being composed of several different types of phenomena of fundamentally different natures that interact in various ways. Other explanations than the ETH, some involving paranormal phenomena, subconscious influences of the Zeitgeist, extra-dimensional or time travelling aliens, etc. etc. may possibly apply to other subcategories of UFO-related experiences including alien abductions. I think both the modern “zeitgeist” and accounts of real physical alien vehicle encounters could stimulate subconsciously generated fantasies like alien abductions and subconsciously generated fantastic or apparently ridiculous “occupant” encounters (like the Betty and Barney Hill case).

    The phenomenon is probably composed of many different components and levels. So as to the question of which potential explanation is the real nature of the UFO phenomenon, it is probable that the question is simplistic and that the answer is “all of the above”.

    One thing is sure: at least one type of UFO, the ones focused on here, are somebody else’s hardware. And that somebody else isn’t from our planetary system.

    Note: the Wordfence system allowed this post after I deleted all the sightings summaries and other evidence. Curious. About Wordfence:

    Wordfence is a security plugin installed on over 4 million WordPress sites. The owner of this site is using Wordfence to manage access to their site.

  6. 6
    JVL says:

    ET: As for extraterrestrials- we have seen them. Our military used to engage with the UFO’s until they realized it was not only futile, but deadly.

    That’s a pretty strong assertion. I’m guessing you, yourself, have not had a dramatic alien interaction. (If that’s wrong then please elucidate.) What evidence do you consider conclusive? Are there any particular events (Roswell, Rendelsham Forest, etc) do you think are particularly compelling? OR is it just the sheer weight of thousands of reports and personal experiences?

    IF the US military thought interacting with aliens was deadly then surely we would have been wiped out by now?

  7. 7
    JVL says:

    Doubter: It appears that this site has instituted censorship of posts – a bad sign for freedom of expression. I just submitted a post concerning the extraterrestrial hypothesis for some UFO sightings, and got the following:

    “A potentially unsafe operation has been detected in your request to this site
    Your access to this service has been limited. (HTTP response code 403)”

    In the words of John McClane: Welcome to the party pal.

  8. 8
    ET says:

    JVL:

    That’s a pretty strong assertion.

    Except it isn’t an assertion.

    IF the US military thought interacting with aliens was deadly then surely we would have been wiped out by now?

    That doesn’t follow.

  9. 9
    Trumper says:

    Quite a bit to unpack with the ET and Bigfoot theorists. I have to wonder what is is that after traveling across light years with such massive and advanced technology… so many ETs just can’t handle their devices and crash. Sure, many don’t but that does not explain anything about those that do.
    We already have seen the military release some technology examples that fully explain many of the ET sightings by the public and even military declassification sightings…. so there is that one needs to digest before support more conspiracy thinking that it is only a conspiracy that it was released.

    Sometimes it is fun to call something one can’t identify as an ET…but in the end all that it really is is just unidentified, or unconfirmed…or more often unadmitted (protected tech).

  10. 10
    EDTA says:

    Doubter,

    The burden is on the skeptic to credibly demonstrate how these cases are actually misperceptions, hallucinations, errors, hoaxes, useless anecdotes, etc.

    I’d say the burden is on the pro-alien/pro-real-hardware people to bring one of the dang things down for all to see. For dinosaurs, at least we have fossils. I have yet to see an advertisement for a museum exhibition of real UFO hardware. They’re so good that they never crash?? Come on. Put what you have on a traveling exhibit and you’ll have all the money you’d ever want to start a real investigation.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    EDTA, not an advocate but if your tech is good to cross light years by the dozen or more, crashes or the like will be rare. KF

  12. 12
    Trumper says:

    And yet there are multiple reports of crashed UFOs…. to me that seems odd given the advanced tech in play. One more hard one to consider is, while there are ancient records of ‘things’ that we today interpret to be an ‘unknown’ …why is it that only in recent history have these ‘unknowns’ crashed? and then disappeared under the cloak of those men-in-black (there were no men-in-black back past 100 yrs ago)…who cleaned up those crashes back then?
    Always seems to be some gvmt folks showing up immediately after any crash and pulling a Serve Pro (like it never even happened) on the scene…..this points more to military/govmt involvement more than any ET.

  13. 13
    William J Murray says:

    Doubter @5:
    Well said. I agree with everything you said.

    ET @4:
    Yep.

    I find it interesting that, on this site, people argue for the validity of eye-witness testimony from 2,000 years ago, but dismiss thousands of current eye-witness reports from credible people all over the world, including the reports from retired military personnel and many aviation experts, such as the pilots that have had encounters.

  14. 14
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    I find it interesting that, on this site, people argue for the validity of eye-witness testimony from 2,000 years ago, but dismiss thousands of current eye-witness reports

    What is your credibility(your astral travels are the same like UFO “experiences”) compared with the credibility of Jesus?
    How is your life(and morality) compared with the life(and morality) of Jesus?
    What is your message compared with the message of Jesus ?
    Your message(same like all UFO witnesses): bragging, chit-chat , begging for attention, sensationalism,etc…
    Jesus message: the most fundamental problem a person can think of.

  15. 15
    Trumper says:

    what is funny is that some here actually are in a belief/support state of things they know nothing about. it would be better if they would just admit that they just don’t know – instead of insinuating that they do think they know.
    Instead why not follow the data and logic? Which points to no ET being involved ( it’s fun to imagine and make things up though).
    Just use science… and the most likely causes…. what was that … Osmond’s Razor?… Othello’s Shaver? …
    If someone is making claims that there are thousands of claims of UFOs ….cool… and I’d agree… but if they wish to take a mental trip and assume they are ETs …then I’m not on that bus…. I’ll stay with the facts that each and everyone is based in unknown and unfounded and unproven experiences….many of which (most actually) shown to be either faked, unprovable, and answered by current military tech……(ok if one is to believe military data)
    I don’t give any more credibility to some eye witness if they are a military person a nun… a politician ..or a bus driver…. all are just human.. and subject to the very same things.
    I have seen no evidence from any of the defense dept dump of UFOsthat is not also explained by the laser tech that is also released. I’m not counting anything out. just saying that there is just no real hard evidence out there….not through all of history. And it’s the all of history part that makes me think better of it all. had there been UFO crashes that are documented in recent history (and ‘cleaned up’) then there surely would have been crashes in all of our past history… but no men in black to clean them up… why is there nothing ?

  16. 16
    doubter says:

    Trumper@15

    This evidenceless rant ignores a host of the classic UFO cases where what clearly appeared to be large vehicles were seen and interacted with the witnesses.
    These cases and many others deserve a recounting in at least moderate detail.

    Please plausibly explain these cases in detail as to how exactly they are misperceptions, hoaxes, etc.

    An example is the well-known Chiles-Whitted case in 1948, early in the twentieth and twenty-first century history of the phenomenon. From Wiki:

    “In the early morning hours of July 24, 1948, Clarence Chiles, chief pilot, and John Whitted, co-pilot, were flying an Eastern Air Lines Douglas DC-3 passenger plane near Montgomery, Alabama, at about 5,000 feet altitude. The night sky was clear with “the Moon, four days past full, shining through scattered clouds.”

    At about 2:45 AM, Chiles “saw a dull red glow above and ahead of the aircraft.” He told Whitted, “Look, here comes a new Army jet job.” The object closed on their DC-3 in a matter of seconds, and both men later said they saw the object fly past the right side of their plane at high speed before it pulled “up with a tremendous burst of flame out of its rear and zoomed up into the clouds.” They observed the object for a total of ten to fifteen seconds. Chiles and Whitted stated that the object “looked like a wingless aircraft…it seemed to have two rows of windows through which glowed a very bright light, as brilliant as a magnesium flare.” Underneath the ship there was a blue glow of light. Both pilots claimed the object was 100 feet long and 25-30 feet in diameter, torpedo- or cigar-shaped, “similar to a B-29 fuselage”, with flames coming out of its tail. Only one of the plane’s passengers, C.L. McKelvie, was awake. He reported seeing a “bright streak of light” that flashed by his window.”

    UFO skeptics later claimed it was a large meteor, but this explanation is untenable due to the obvious characteristics of an actual vehicle. The witnesses (trained pilots and good observers) would have to have been on drugs to so misinterpret what they saw and experienced.

    Then there’s the RB-47 multiple air and ground electromagnetic signals interaction case, summarized at https://science.howstuffworks.com/space/aliens-ufos/rb-47-ufo.htm. This has been considered one of the best UFO vehicle cases ever. A better and more detailed account is at http://www.noufors.com/the_RB-.....unter.html .

    “Possessing the most sophisticated electronic intelligence (ELINT) gear available to the U.S. Air Force, the RB-47 could handle anything.

    Unfortunately, in the morning hours of July 17, 1957, over the southern United States, an RB-47 came across something it was unprepared for.

    In the first hint of what was to come, one of the three officers who operate the electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment detected an odd signal. Moving up the radar screen, the blip passed some distance in front of the RB-47, then over Mississippi. Though puzzled, he sai­d nothing. However, a few minutes later, at 4:10 A.M., the sudden appearance of an intense blue light bearing down on the aircraft shook the pilot and copilot. Even more unnerving, the object changed course in the blink of an eye and disappeared at the two o’clock position. The aircraft radar picked up a strong signal in the same spot. The UFO maintained this position even as the RB-47 continued toward east Texas.

    The pilot then observed a “huge” light, attached, he suspected, to an even bigger something that the darkness obscured. When the electronics gear noted the presence of another UFO in the same general location as the first, the pilot turned the plane and accelerated toward it. The UFO shot away. By now the crew had alerted the Duncanville, Texas, Air Force ground radar station, and it was soon tracking the one UFO that remained (the second had disappeared after a brief time). At 4:50 radar showed the UFO abruptly stopping as the RB-47 passed under it. Barely seconds later it was gone.

    This incredible case — considered one of the most significant UFO reports ever — remained classified for years. When it became known years later, the Air Force declared that the RB-47 crew had tracked an airliner. Physicist Gordon David Thayer, who investigated the incident for the University of Colorado UFO Project, called this explanation “literally ridiculous.””

    Here’s some more:

    – The Nash-Fortenberry Sighting (aircraft encounter with formation of UFOs) – Virginia, United States – July 14, 1952
    – Socorro / Zamora UFO Incident – Socorro, New Mexico, United States – April 24, 1964
    – Coyne Helicopter Incident – Mansfield, Ohio, United States – October 18, 1973
    – “Dogfight over Tehran”, the 1976 Iranian Air Force Incident, a multiple pilot/ground/radar/visual/EMI signal case. Details at http://www.nicap.org/760919tehran_dir.htm .
    – The Cash-Landrum Case – Huffman, Texas, United States – December 29, 1980
    – Japan Air Lines Flight 1628 Over Alaska – Alaska, United States – November 17, 1986
    – Belgium Triangle UFO Sightings – Belgium – October, 1989
    – Illinois Triangle UFO Sighting (by multiple police officers) – Illinois, United States – January 5, 2000

    There is an exhaustive analysis of electromagnetic effects generated by UFOs, the technical report Fifty-Six Aircraft Pilot Sightings Involving E-M Effects – Haines (1992), at http://www.nicap.org/papers/92apsiee.htm .

    The Abstract of this paper:

    “Reports of anomalous aerial objects (AAO) appearing in the atmosphere continue to be made by pilots of almost every airline and air force of the world in addition to private and experimental test pilots. This paper presents a review of 56 reports of AAO in which electromagnetic effects (E-M) take place on-board the aircraft when the phenomenon is located nearby but not before it appeared or after it had departed. These effects are not related to the altitude or airspeed of the aircraft. The average duration of these sightings was 17.5 minutes in the 37 cases in which duration was noted. There were between one and 40 eye witnesses (average = 2.71) on the aircraft. Reported E-M effects included radio interference or total failure, radar contact with and without simultaneous visual contact, magnetic and/or gyro-compass deviations, automatic direction finder failure or interference, engine stopping or interruption, dimming cabin lights, transponder failure, and military aircraft weapon system failure. There appears to be a reduction of the E-M energy effect with the square of increasing distance to the AAO. These events and their relationships are discussed. This area of research should be concentrated on by other investigators because of the wealth of information it yields and the physical nature of AAO including wavelength/frequency and power density emissions.”

    Please plausibly explain exactly how these electromagnetic interaction cases are misperceptions, hoaxes, etc. on the part of the trained pilots involved.

  17. 17
    EDTA says:

    Beyond hallucinations or Havana-Syndrome-while-flying-a-plane, etc., the most intriguing idea is the inter-dimensional hypothesis. It explains their speed, sudden appearance and disappearance, and the fact that they don’t seem to do anything useful while here. They’re just some fifth-dimensional space agency’s experiment gone awry…

    But if you want me to buy the actual hardware hypothesis, then bring one down.

  18. 18
    William J Murray says:

    Trumper said:

    what is funny is that some here actually are in a belief/support state of things they know nothing about.

    WRT the UFO/ET phenomena, can you please support your claim that we “know nothing about” what we are talking about?

    Instead why not follow the data and logic? Which points to no ET being involved ( it’s fun to imagine and make things up though).

    Could you please support your claim that the data and the logic “points to no ET being involved?”

    If someone is making claims that there are thousands of claims of UFOs ….cool… and I’d agree… but if they wish to take a mental trip and assume they are ETs …then I’m not on that bus

    Please understand that while the term ‘ET” began under the assumption that these beings come from another planet, the term has grown in meaning to largely be a place-holder for a host of anomalous beings that appear to be using some form of unknown vehicular technology. There are many theories about where the are from which include, in one form or another, Earth.

    I’ll stay with the facts that each and everyone is based in unknown and unfounded and unproven experiences….

    Please support your assertion that it is a fact that every bit of eyewitness testimony is based on “unknown, unfounded and unproven experiences” …. whatever that means.

    I don’t give any more credibility to some eye witness if they are a military person a nun… a politician ..or a bus driver…. all are just human.. and subject to the very same things.

    …. just saying that there is just no real hard evidence out there….

    If there was “hard evidence” out there, how would you ever come to know about it, since the only way you could come to know about it is through the eye-witness testimony of those who have encountered it, and you’ve already dismissed all eye-witness testimony? Do you expect someone to ship you a piece of alien technology?

  19. 19
    Trumper says:

    Show us all then… I don’t fault anyone for believing in something they have no evidence of (compelling evidence) that is why we have so so many conspiracy theories. Show us the hard evidence… and yeah i too have seen the declassified vids..and tic tac vid. but we have ample tech that can produce just that same rapid acceleration.. and rapid direction change and rapid appearance and disappearance. our own military has declassified such tech that produces that.
    So it comes down to one’s own belief that it could be ETs or not… doing so puts that same person up against having to use facts and data- in other words can they prove what they claim? so far NO they can’t they might have some compelling data…but in the end..it’s still a UFO – as in unidentified…until you can identify it (actually and factually) ..that’s all we have.
    Can I prove that no UFO is an ET? nope…and we all know where proving what something is not leads us. but I fully admit that I can’t prove my point of view…and I fully understand that they can’t prove theirs either….which is where the burden would land if one makes such an insinuation.

    Personally, I welcome some real intelligence to our world given the horrid political waste we are going through now (and yes the last few admins here in the US and elsewhere)….but I just don’t see it especially given what we know so far about life and it’s coded and intelligent design.

    and as for the hard evidence… I guess one would believe 100% in bigfoot too… a large hairy creature that has never been found… never been videoed (credibly)…. if one would think that ETs have been here all along where did they go when they crashed in the past? ( many claim they crashed recently but the men in black cleaned it all up)…. so why would any ETs not crash in the past ….but now be known to have crashed? Nobody was around to hush hush it all up… it would of produced artifacts and documented too but we have nothing like that…. maybe the warranty ran out on the UFOs 60 years back ..typical manufacturing and insurance ploy. eh?

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