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Will this be the year we make contact with reality about space aliens?

Pondering what lies ahead in 2014, science writer Michael Hanlon asks, “Could this be the year we make contact with aliens?”:

The longest shot of all, and there is no reason to believe that it is any more likely to happen in 2014 than the year after or indeed a thousand years hence. But that said, the more we learn about the universe the more, not less, curious it seems that we are apparently alone. When scientists including Enrico Fermi and Frank Drake first started seriously speculating about the possibility of extraterrestrial civilisations more than half a century ago, astronomers knew of only one solar system in the whole of the cosmos – ours. Now we know of more than a thousand, several containing apparently Earthlike planets, a handful of which may lie in their stars’ “habitable zone”, an orbit in which it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.

green space alien

All this raises the question: where the heck is everybody? Given that we have the technology today (but not as yet the money) to build telescopes big enough to spot signs of life spectroscopically on nearby “Earth analogues”, if intelligent life is as common as some suspect then it is certain that by now the aliens have used their telescopes to detect us. Maybe a signal is overdue. Or maybe someone is on their way. Or, of course, there is simply no one out there. The wonderful thing is that any of these possibilities is equally awe-inspiring.

Let’s look at those last four short sentences again. One of them is misleading.

1. Maybe a signal is overdue.

2. Or maybe someone is on their way.

3. Or, of course, there is simply no one out there.

4. The wonderful thing is that any of these possibilities is equally awe-inspiring.

The fourth sentence is misleading, but I doubt there was any intent to mislead. For over a century, science writers have had to approach ET as not only plausible but perhaps inevitable, and Hanlon is only doing his job. Just as Bigfoot must be implausible, ET must be superplausible.

Remember, the space alien is only assumed to exist because of the principle that Earth is not unusual. That is an assumption, not a finding. But it is routinely treated as a finding-to-be, the way chickens are counted before they hatch.

And it has given us some wonderful popular culture. So did the legend of the Round Table. Cultural power gives imaginary beings every type of life except the biological kind.

If we concluded that ET wasn’t really out there (the way we might give up any fruitless search), it could only be because of a massive cultural change. And all without a scrap of evidence one way or the other.

Our current chatterati would be traumatized by the idea that life on Earth is unique, so all other possibilities will be pursued indefinitely, no matter how disconnected they are from reality. More on disconnections from reality in a moment.

See also: Science Fictions

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4 Responses to Will this be the year we make contact with reality about space aliens?

  1. OT: I like your new Article on ENV News:

    But Who Needs Reality-Based Thinking Anyway? Not the New Cosmologists – Denyse O’Leary – January 2, 2014
    Excerpt: These multiverse theories all share the same fundamental defect: They can be neither confirmed nor falsified. Hence, they don’t deserve to be called scientific, according to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper. Some defenders of multiverses and strings mock skeptics who raise the issue of falsification as “Popperazi” — which is cute but not a counterargument. Multiverse theories aren’t theories — they’re science fictions, theologies, works of the imagination unconstrained by evidence. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....80281.html

  2. I’m perfectly willing to accept the proposal that some other planets are also populated. And the reasonable thing for inquisitive humans is to continue looking, as long as we don’t waste too much money.

    But the Saganites are on a Quest. They NEED there to be ETs, and THAT is silly.

    Is there water on Mars? An interesting question. Is there an ocean under the ice on Europa? Another interesting question. Does it MATTER? No.

    I wonder if the White Sox will win the World Series next year?

  3. Water is not the origin of life. Its just water!
    if evolution was undirected then why would there be life out there? The mutations thing is impossible! Oh yeah. They think it is possible.
    Surely no ET must hint evolution never happened otherwise they should be there!
    The bible says we are alone. We are in decay only because of our sin against God and aliens would not be affected by this as it would be unfair but clearly the universe is all affected.
    We were meant to live forever and so aliens would still be in that state because its unfair they pay the penalty for us.

    We were meant to colonize the universe. its the original eternity.
    We would have bred to a trillion at some point and need living space.
    Outer space is just undeveloped real estate for a original sinless eternal living man.

  4. Contact this year? Definitely not. I see no progress which would inspire such confidence.

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