The curtains of paradox are woven of the fabric of ill assumption and intent. So goes this apothegm of ethical skepticism. Our assumptions surrounding the promotional rhetoric of the Fermi Paradox are immature and lacking in skeptical circumspection. The odds are, that a civilization long determined to not exist, will contact us well before we are equipped to resolve any questions raised inside the Fermi Paradox’s very posing to begin with.
Primate sign language existed long before we taught American Sign Language to Koko the Gorilla, and well before we even knew that many primates possessed both a vocal and gestural language all their own.1 2 It took us a mere 30,000 years to figure out that animals and plants on our very own planet communicate by means around which we did not bear the first inkling of awareness.3 How much more time will mankind need in order to understand a potential communication means, which is completely alien to anything we have ever experienced? How do we go about establishing a probability that we will be able to discern such an incongruous construct to our own forms of communication, and easily distinguish it from all forms of background noise inside our cosmos?
The reality concerning the rhetorical ‘Fermi Paradox’, as it is called, centers around the tenet of ethical skepticism which cites that our most dangerous weakness resides in the fact that we do not know what we do not know. We have signal-searched an infinitesimally small segment of our galaxy, and an even smaller segment of time.4 Yet, in our lack of wisdom we begin to demand of the cosmos, pseudo-reductionist answers which we are not prepared to accept in the least. The Fermi Paradox, along with its rhetorical resolution, stand exemplary of just such an exercise in pretend epistemology. The Fermi Paradox proceeds as such (from Wikipedia):5
The Fermi paradox is a conflict between arguments of scale and probability that seem to favor intelligent life being common in the universe, and a total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere other than on the Earth.
Totally. In a blog earlier this year for the SETI Institute, Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer for the SETI Institute, opines that the Fermi Paradox, and in particular the ‘total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere‘ component itself, constitute ‘strong arguments’.6
The fact that aliens don’t seem to be walking our planet apparently implies that there are no extraterrestrials anywhere among the vast tracts of the Galaxy. Many researchers consider this to be a radical conclusion to draw from such a simple observation. Surely there is a straightforward explanation for what has become known as the Fermi Paradox. There must be some way to account for our apparent loneliness in a galaxy that we assume is filled with other clever beings.
A lot of folks have given this thought. The first thing they note is that the Fermi Paradox is a remarkably strong argument.
Please note that the idea that ‘they don’t exist’ as a scientific construct is simple, but it is not straightforward, as Shostak incorrectly claims. It is a highly feature stacked alternative. His thoughts in this regard lack philosophical rigor. Moreover, that the Fermi Paradox, and in particular its last component boast in the form of an appeal to ignorance, constitute any form of ‘strong argument’ is laughable pseudoscience to say the least. An amazing level of arrogance. However, since Seth has made the claim, let’s examine for a moment the Fermi Paradox, in light of ethical skepticism’s elements which define the features of a strong argument.7
The Fermi Paradox Fails Assessment by Features of a Strong Argument
1. Coherency – argument is expressed with elements, relationships, context, syntax and language which conveys actual probative information or definition
The Paradox is simple. But never confuse simple with the state of being coherent. This is a common tradecraft inside social skepticism. The statement bears no underpinning definition. It seeks a free pass from the perspective that everyone knows what ‘intelligent life’, ‘evidence’, ‘scale’ and ‘probability’ are, right? For me, as an ethical skeptic, I fear what I do not know, that I do not know. I possess no definition of how evidence of this type would appear, nor the specific measures of probability and scale entailed in such a search. I cannot presume such arrogance of knowledge on my part – and certainly cannot pretense a resolution in its offing, before I even start looking.
This is no different than saying ‘God is Love’. Simplicity does not convey coherence (in the eyes of an ethical skeptic) – as it can constitute merely a charade. The principle is not coherent because it has been issued as law before any of its foundational elements of soundness have been framed; much less measured. This is what renders the principle both an Einfach Mechanism as well as a Imposterlösung Mechanism. Incoherent pretenses of science. A null hypothesis which has not earned its mantle of venerability.
2. Soundness – premises support or fail to adequately support its proposed conclusion
The premise that there exists ‘a total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere other than on the Earth‘ is unsound. Notice the prejudicial modifier ‘total’, employed in framing a supposed ‘lack of evidence’. Total lack, not just a lack, but a total lack – well now I believe you then. This is prejudicial language feeding into casuistry; it is agency – and does not stand as a derivation of science by any means. The term ‘common in the universe‘ is also not constrained, relegating the Paradox artificially into a divergent model structure. This as well renders the syllogism unsound.
A similar conjecture could be made in terms of a personal accusation in this form: There is absolutely a paradox surrounding your claim to never have beaten your wife, yet we can find absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support such a claim on your part that you have never beaten anyone’s wife.
3. Formal Theory – strength and continuity of predicate and logical calculus (basis of formal fallacy)
The Formal Theory of the model consists simply of a rhetorical syllogism citing that there exists a paradox. What is being sold are the premises and not the inert syllogism itself: the statement ‘a total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere other than on the Earth‘. This is a syllogistic approach to reverse-selling an unfounded premise assumption without due rigor of science, also know as rhetoric.
4. Inductive Strength – sufficiency of completeness and exacting inference which can be drawn (as a note, deductive inference when it exists, relates to 3. Formal Theory)
Since observation has not been completed in reality (see below, the Parce-Ames equation), there exists no inductive strength for the Fermi Paradox rhetorical argument.
5. Circumstantial Strength – validity of information elements comprised by the argument or premises
Since observation has not been completed in reality (see below, the Parce-Ames equation), there exists no factual strength for the Fermi Paradox rhetorical argument.
6. Integrity of Form/Cogency – informal critique of expression, intent or circumstantial features
The Fermi Paradox as it is currently expressed (and there is a future in which it can exist as an actual scientific principle) bears several forms of informal fallacy:
It constitutes non rectum agitur fallacy of science method
It stands as an appeal to authority
It stands as an appeal to ignorance
It is both an Einfach Mechanism as well as a Imposterlösung Mechanism (as there exists a very paltry set of ‘factualness’ surrounding this subject)
It is an Omega Hypothesis
To an ethical skeptic, the presence of technique involving reverse-selling a premise by means of structured rhetoric, inside a context of tilted language and equivocal definition, bearing a complete lack of soundness, and finally featuring the five fallacies at the end of this list, all collectively hint at one thing – A LIE. Lies are sold socially, by social skeptics. With that idea in mind of a social construct being sold as science, examine for a moment many of the explanations for the Fermi Paradox (which also assume it to be a strong argument – which it is not), which include placing galaxy-inhabiting civilizations inside the same dilemma context in which mankind currently resides. Alien civilizations all blow themselves up with nukes at some point. They all die from carbon harvesting global warming. They pollute themselves into extinction. They all could not exit their solar system as intact beings. They could not solve mass/energy to speed of light relativism, etc. This habit of judging novel observations in light of current and popular controversies is an exercise in socially constructed science, called the familiar controversy bias. It is a key indicator that social skepticism, and not science, is attempting to sway the perception of the public at large inside an issue. A rather humorous example of such socially induced bias can be found here. And in light of the Fermi Paradox constituting rhetoric itself – such extrapolations of current controversies off of its presumptive base, form sort of a double layer cake of rhetoric. An amazing feat of organic untruth (lying with facts).
Familiar Controversy Bias
/philosophy : informal fallacy : habituation : bias/ : the tendency of individuals or researchers to frame explanations of observed phenomena in terms of mainstream current or popular controversies. The Fermi Paradox exists because aliens all eventually blow themselves up with nuclear weapons right after they discover radio. Venus is a case of run-away global warming from greenhouse gasses. Every hurricane since 1995 has been because of Republicans. Every disaster is God’s punishment for some recent thing a nation conducted. Mars is a case of ozone depletion at its worst, etc. Every paradox or novel observation is readily explainable in terms of a current popular or manufactured controversy. Similar to the anachronistic fallacy of judging past events in light of today’s mores or ethics.
Continuing with the Shostak blog article then, Seth whips out another extraordinary claim casually near its end.
Consequently, scientists in and out of the SETI community have conjured up other arguments to deal with the conflict between the idea that aliens should be everywhere and our failure (so far) to find them.
One does not have to ‘conjure up arguments’ to his ontological-preference Fermi Paradox resolution (advanced extraterrestrial civilizations do not exist at all), as Shostak claims8 – as such alternative arguments are mandated by Ockham’s Razor. They should be studied, and do not need to be forced or conjured in any way. The Paradox itself in no way suggests that there ‘aren’t any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations out there’, as Shostak all-too-eagerly opines as well. This idea of complete absence bears no scientific utility, neither as a construct nor as a null hypothesis. So why push it so hard? Perhaps, again in fine form of rhetoric – far away advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are not the target of this lazy abductive inference at all. Rather the real focus is on promoting the concept of non-existence of nearby advanced civilizations, or even visiting ones. A very familiar target set comprising a curiously large portion of Shostak’s vitriol, air time and professional focus.
These are all extraordinary claims, made by a person with zero evidence to support them – coupled with a high anchoring bias in squelching this issue before the public at large. Seth Shostak’s entire mind, purpose and reason for being, is based upon a psychological obsession with the dissemination of propaganda surrounding this issue. He was selected for the symbolic role and the suit he inhabits precisely because of these foibles. He is babysitting a symbolic issue, passing out pablum to the public and helping obfuscate the answer to a question which his sponsors do not want asked in the first place.
Remember, that in order to get the right answer, one need only ask a wrong question (see Interrogative Biasing: Asking the Wrong Question in Order to Derive the Right Answer). The Fermi Paradox is an example of just such a tactic of obfuscation. It is a religious action – stemming from a faith, which we will outline below.
The Faith of the Fermi Paradox
The fact that we accept the Fermi Paradox, given the following conditions, renders it more a statement of faith than a statement of science by any means.
Critical Path Logic: Fatal
The preferred rhetorical conclusion it entails employs the implicit concepts ‘alien’, ‘extraterrestrial’, ‘scale’, ‘probability’, ‘evidence’ and ‘life’ in rhetorical, prejudicial, incoherent and unsound syllogism. While the topic is valid, the question in its current form, is not.
However, let us presume this condition of fatality to be irrelevant, and continue down its logical critical path in reductionist series risk:
Reductionist Series Risk: Extremely High
α: It presumes mankind to know the relevant range of what constitutes an inhabitant life form
β : It presumes mankind to know the means by which inhabitants would ostensibly communicate
γ : It presumes that all inhabitants are distant
δ : It presumes that technology takes only a single path and direction similar to mankind’s own
ε : It presumes that all communication media throughout the galaxy are similar to ours
ζ : It presumes that we would recognize all forms of communication similar to ours
η : It presumes that inhabitants would broadcast in omnidirectional and powerful EM signals or would be directing their EM energy straight toward us only
θ : It presumes that inhabitants would broadcast ‘in the clear’ (i.e. unencrypted outside the cosmic background radiation)
ι : It presumes that broadcasting inhabitants would have also presumed that no one was listening to them and/or would not care
κ : It presumes that life can exist inside only our relative frame of reference/dimensionality
λ : It presumes that we have examined a significant amount of space
μ : It presumes that we rigorously know what space and time are, and its reductive inference upon radiation to be
ν : It presumes that we have rigorously studied the timeframe in which an advanced civilization could broadcast during its development history
Finally we address key elements of the same logical critical path in macroscopic or parallel risk
Macroscopic Parallel Risk: Fatally High
- It presumes that mankind’s life originated only upon Earth through abiogenesis
- It presumes that all intelligent life is noisy
- It presumes that all universal inhabitants are full time bound by our frame of reference/dimensionality
- It presumes that we have actually looked for inhabitant signals
- It presumes that humankind’s existence is lacking in agency
- It presumes that science/skepticism is lacking in agency
- It presumes that those who might have observed such communication in the past (distant or recent), would expose this circumstance
- It precludes the idea that a subset of mankind is already communicating
The Omega Hypothesis therefore – the idea being artificially enforced at all costs – is expressed no better than by Seth Shostak himself, its proponent and babysitter:9
“Some even insisted that there was no paradox at all: the reason we don’t see evidence of extraterrestrials is because there aren’t any.”
This is what is known inside ethical skepticism as babysitter rhetoric (a form of Nelsonian Cultivated Ignorance) – false wisdom promulgated to stand in as a proxy for wisdom one desires to block. It is wishful thinking; pre-emptive thinking. The better-fit (least convoluted in necessary assumptions) explanation is, that ‘they’ are already aware of us, and have been for some time. This actually is a very elegant resolution for the Fermi Paradox at a local level, along with a battery of robust observations which lay fallow and unattended inside of so-called ‘fringe’ science – a hypothesis which requires significantly less gymnastics in denying data and twisting philosophy, than comparatively that required to enforce a single mandatory ‘nobody is home’ Omega Hypothesis. In this regard, I am not a proponent of enforcing one, Ockham’s Razor violating answer, over the condition of plurality which would dictate examining two possible solutions. I remain open to both ideas, as this is the ethic of skepticism – anathema to the cadre of pretenders who oppress this subject.
/philosophy : rhetoric : pseudoscience : science communicator/ : a celebrity or journalist who performs the critical tasks of agency inside a topic which is embargoed. The science communicator assigned a responsibility of appeasing public curiosity surrounding an issue which the public is not authorized to research nor understand. A form of psychosis, exhibited by an individual who is a habituated organic liar. A prevarication specialist who spins a subset of fact, along with affectations of science, in such as way as to craft the appearance of truth – and further then, invests the sum of their life’s work into perpetuating or enforcing a surreptitious lie.
So let’s develop a kind of Reverse Drake Equation why don’t we, based upon the above cited criteria of probability then (the Greek alphabet labelled items above as opposed to the bullet pointed items). This is a kind of risk chain assessment. Remember that risks in a risk chain in series are multiplicative as you add them into the mix. However, some of the above risks are in parallel, so they cannot be added into the series based formula below (Parce-Ames equation). The series based risks are highlighted by their corresponding Greek alphabet characters above, and are assigned a serial factor used inside the formula below. Parallel risk elements cannot be added into a risk reductionist critical path (as they are subjective and duplicative in nature and therefore are not able to be employed inside a reductionist approach) and are therefore excluded from the equation. Beware of those who intermix parallel and series risk arguments, as they are plural arguing. A sign of lack in intellectual rigor, and a key sign of agency.
Parce-Ames Probability Dynamic
The Parce-Ames equation demonstrates the ludicrous folly of the Fermi Paradox. It serves to expand the dynamic regarding the probability that we would have detected even one (x) of the total population (N) of advanced civilizations (from the Drake Equation) in our galaxy by this moment in our history. The Parce-Ames Probability Dynamic therefore, hinges off of the probability around fourteen low-confidence and independent input variables, as factored into 250 billion stars, all compounding risk in series and according to the following equation:
P(N(x)) = N/2.5 x 10¹¹ · Σ(Ψ) · α · β · γ · δ · ε · ζ · η · θ · ι · κ · λ · μ · ν
P(N(x)) = the probability that we would have detected even one (x) of N advanced civilizations in our galaxy by this moment in our history
Σ(Ψ) = the sum total of all stars (Σ) studied by all observation apertures (Ψ) on Earth
α : the chance that we grasp adequately what constitutes an inhabitant life form
β : the chance that we have correctly assumed how inhabitants would ostensibly communicate
γ : the chance that inhabitants are inside our search band
δ : the chance that a given inhabitant technology takes a path and direction similar to mankind’s own
ε : the chance that any communication is similar to ours
ζ : the chance that we would recognize all forms of communication similar to ours
η : the chance that inhabitants would broadcast in omnidirectional and powerful EM signals or would be directing their EM energy straight toward us only
θ : the chance that inhabitants would broadcast ‘in the clear’ (i.e. unencrypted outside the cosmic background radiation)
ι : the chance that broadcasting inhabitants would have also presumed that no one was listening to them and/or would not care
κ : the chance that life can exist inside only our relative frame of reference/dimensionality
λ : the chance percentage of signal-detectable space we have examined
μ : the chance that we rigorously know what space and time are, and its reductive inference upon radiation to be
ν : the chance that we have rigorously studied the timeframe in which an advanced civilization could/would broadcast in a detectable form during its development history
The journalists at Science News sum this equation dynamic up in one recitation:10
A new calculation shows that if space is an ocean, we’ve barely dipped in a toe. The volume of observable space combed so far for E.T. is comparable to searching the volume of a large hot tub for evidence of fish in Earth’s oceans, astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State and colleagues say in a paper posted online September 19 at arXiv.org.
Another way to put this, in terms of the discussion herein is that, the Parce-Ames equation always approaches zero, unless a majority of answers are ascertained and refined in accuracy by an observing civilization. We as a civilization are nowhere near the dynamic range of the Parce-Ames curve progression. We are in the first hot tub of ocean water, swimming around looking for fish and yelling ‘a total lack of any evidence!’ as bubbles come streaming up in sequence with our underwater declarations. And we have on our smart sciencey swim trunks too.
The stark reality is – that in absence of a civilization coming alongside and teaching us many of the objective elements of the Parce-Ames equation, we face very little chance of ever striking out on our own and finding (even by means of radio-telescope) a nearby, much less galactic, civilization. As you can see in the graphic above, the inflection point of knowledge which would equip us to answer the Fermi Paradox is far past the more likely state of our being contacted first.
The dramatically higher odds are, that an intelligence inhabiting life form will find us, long before we ever find even one, ourselves. The idea therefore, that another advanced culture is aware of or has visited Earth, is well supported by Ockham’s Razor, and should stand as a construct of science, even now. To avoid this alternative, is a form of pseudoscience. The more likely realities are that either:
1. they will find us first, by detecting the gamma ray bursts from our 2243 nuclear weapon detonations, long before we resolve even the first variable inside the Drake Equation – or
2. they already were engaged with ‘us’ a long time ago.
Both of these explanations are much less feature stacked than is the ‘they do not exist’ alternative being promoted by social skepticism.
We have no idea how an alien might exist, communicate or travel. We possess no compelling argument which falsifies the very possible hypothesis that they were already here long ago, and are still hanging around. Not one shred of science – therefore, plurality under Ockham’s Razor is mandated. And if you do not understand what this means, neither are you ready to argue this topic.
The First Duty of Ethical Skepticism, is not to promulgate answers. I do not hold an answer inside this subject. Rather it is to spot and to oppose agency. Especially the rhetoric of babysitting agency. Foolishness, dressed up as science. Wonder in the purported offing – but oppressive in its reality of enforcement.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Fermi Paradox is Babysitting Rubbish” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 2 Oct 2018; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-8jd
- R. Allen Gardner, Beatrix T. Gardner, Thomas E. Van Cantfort; Teaching Sign Language to Chimpanzees; SUNY Press, 1989
- Zoe Gough, “How we’re learning to ‘speak gorilla'”; BBC Earth; 29 May 2015; web, http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150529-what-do-gorillas-talk-about
- Dan Cossins; “Plant Talk”; The Scientist; 1 Jan 2014; web, https://www.the-scientist.com/features/plant-talk-38209
- Wikipedia: Fermi Paradox; web, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox
- Seth Shostak, SETI Institute: Fermi Paradox; 19 Apr 2018; web, https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox
- The Ethical Skeptic: Formal and Informal Fallacy and Their Abuse”; 11 Mar 2017; web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/2017/03/11/formal-vs-informal-fallacy-a-guide/
- Seth Shostak, SETI Institute: Fermi Paradox; 19 Apr 2018; web, https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox
- Seth Shostak, SETI Institute: Fermi Paradox; 19 Apr 2018; web, https://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/fermi-paradox
- Lisa Grossman; Science News: We may not have found aliens yet because we’ve barely begun looking; 30 Sep 2018; Web, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/only-small-fraction-space-searched-aliens?tgt=nr