Are we alone? I think so

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Jamesroper35's picture
Are we alone? I think so

I think there is a good chance we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, and maybe the whole super cluster.

What I like about these arguments is that they are so universal in it's debunking of extraterrestrial intelligence. In fact, it was realizing these arguments applied to God (in a much more general sense, being that powerful entities are by definition easy to observe) ultimately lead to me becoming an atheist. I would love to hear other's thoughts on them.

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Sky Pilot's picture


"I think there is a good chance we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy, and maybe the whole super cluster."

You have to understand that humans only became intelligent less than 100 years ago. And today there are billions of people who are still dumber than a bunch of rocks.

People such as you and I are semi-intelligent. We can visualize the possibilities of space aliens but we simply can't do anything about it. I doubt if we can even calculate the distance to the moon and how large it is. I've seen methods of how to do it but I haven't done it.

A hundred years ago people thought that the visible stars were the entire universe. Today we know that it's much larger but we still don't know how large it really is.

So is humanity really intelligent? Not really. I doubt if more than 1% of the current world population can be considered to be really intelligent.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture


N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

The challenge (at least for now) is that astronomers don't have firm numbers on any of those variables, so any calculation of the Drake Equation remains a rough estimate for now. There have been, however, discoveries in some of these fields that give astronomers a better chance of finding the answer.


However the chances of finding a carbon based intelligence at the same relative level as ours are so small as to be invisible. The chances are any intelligent carbon based lifeforms would be already extinct, way in advance so as to be 'godlike' or just beginning the long road to discernable intelligence or any point in between.
Add the possibility of silicon, hydrogen or other elemental based life forms, and, actually recognising them as intelligent, or them recognising us as at the beginnings of intelligence, is problematic to say the least.

So, yep, assuming we are alone but recognising that the overwhelming probability is that we are not alone, just not at the same levels is the way to go.

Jamesroper35's picture
I attached the justification

I attached the justification for my view. Space is big, really really big, but that doesn't mean there is nessasarly civilization. Hart's conjecture (the second link) is pretty convincing. The first link is a bit more of a complete explanation.

David Killens's picture
"If we have not seen it, then

"If we have not seen it, then it does not exist" is an incredibly flawed statement.

Just our milky way is freakingly huge. If you could travel at the speed of light, it would take you 100,000 years to go from one end to the other. Our nearest star is 4.22 light years away.

The farthest human-made object is also the fastest human-made object. Cast into space on September 5, 1977, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. And mounted on a Titan IIIE/Centaur launch vehicle, Voyager 1 is now the farthest human-made object from Earth at 17,922,521,702 km (119.80465777 au). Voyager is not even close to one light year away.

One needs to comprehend the vast distances involved.

Jamesroper35's picture
That's not the point of the

That's not the point of the video. You think too small. If a species like ours live a few million years ago, they would likely be galaxy spanning now. It's not that we don't see them anywhere, it's that we don't see them everywhere.

Sky Pilot's picture


"You think too small. If a species like ours live a few million years ago, they would likely be galaxy spanning now."

You are too funny. The distance to the closest galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, that is not being absorbed by ours is 2,537,000 light years from us. So if you had a space ship that could do 10,000 times the speed of light it would still take you 253.7 years to reach Andromeda. And it would take you 10 years to reach the other side of this galaxy. You had better get busy on your space ship.

Cognostic's picture
A Paradox between the size

A Paradox between the size and age of the universe and the absence of any other intelligent forms of life.

What? Where is the paradox?

1. There are billions of Galaxies.
2. There are billions of potentially habitable planets in these galaxies.
3. And they have been around for 13.8 billion years.
4. We have not even scratched the surface of exploring our own galaxy and there are billions and billions to go.

You are basing your assertion that we are alone on no evidence what so ever. It would be like reading one word in Tolstoy's War and Peace and then drawing a conclusion about the entire book.

What we do know is that the universe is carbon based, it contains water, and the elements occur throughout the known universe in similar proportions as they do here on earth. (We don't know if this continues or is a local phenomena). What we do know is that life forms have been suspected in asteroids that have made their way to earth.

As we do not know the origins of our own life, how do we draw any conclusion at all about life outside our own existence. There are no "high probability estimates," which is what the paradox attempts to debunk. We have not even looked at 1 billionth of one percent of our universe. With what we know so far, the similarity of the universe to our environment, it takes only a small leap of logic to suppose life might exist elsewhere just as it does here. (That does not mean it does and it does not mean it doesn't) FACT: we don't know and there is no paradox.

Lastly, and if you want to buy into it. The Paradox states that Earth should have already been visited by extraterrestrial entities. I got about a million people who will swear it has. I've got scientists who swear life forms have been found in meteorites that hit the earth. I've got the Truth Project swearing that NASA has crashed UFOs and has been working on reverse technology. Yea, it's all hearsay and conspiracy with no good evidence whatsoever; however, there is no good evidence for the conclusion of the paradox either. WE JUST DO NOT KNOW.

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
Luckily we can use equations

Luckily we can use equations to reasonably work out the probability of life in the universe, such as the drake equation.

We would obviously have to unpack what do we mean by intelligent, and what we mean by life.

I would be happy to admit that I find the notion the there is no life in the universe as improbable,
And the fact that there are locations within our very small and local system that may very well harbour life renders it very likely.

fishy1's picture
I absolutely believe their is

I absolutely believe their is life elsewhere in the Universe.

To think we are so special as to be the only life anywhere, sounds like silly christian thinking to me.

Most of the prominent scientist / atheists believe their is probably other life out there somewhere too.

LogicFTW's picture
@ original post

@ original post

I agree, it is fairly likely we are the only intelligent life, (that is similar to us.) In the galaxy. And yes quite possibly in the entire supercluster. But in all of the known and unknown universe, I think it is very likely there is intelligent life out there somewhere, based on pure raw numbers.

Unless there is a way to beat the speed limit of the universe "speed of light" (Perhaps wormholes or the like.) Being able to become aware of, let alone interact with an intelligent species like ourselves even within our own galaxy would be incredibly difficult. Outside of our supercluster, would be impossible unless a much more advanced race communicated with us instead.

Jamesroper35's picture
The guy in the video has made

The guy in the video has made a lot of detailed videos on subjects like interstellar and intergalactic travel, given current and near future technologies. All that is required to cross the galaxy is patience. Millions of years worth.

chimp3's picture
I think it is logical to

I think it is logical to state ET's have not visited earth. As far as whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, the best we can do is remain agnostic.

algebe's picture
It's a big universe. If life

It's a big universe. If life and civilization evolved here, they can evolve elsewhere. Our sensors and telescopes are improving dramatically, resulting in the discovery of more and more exo-planets. The SETI program and Project Breakthrough Listen are meanwhile scanning radio waves for evidence of communication.

I think we'll find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence within a few years. We may never be able to meet them or even communicate with them, but it'll be good to know they're there, or at least that they were there once.

And when we do find ET, we'll be entertained by Olympic-class mental gymnastics on the part of the religions as they try to incorporate alien life into their narrow world-views.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Algebe

@ Algebe

"And when we do find ET, we'll be entertained by Olympic-class mental gymnastics on the part of the religions as they try to incorporate alien life into their narrow world-view"

The Moslems will find a passage in the Qu'ran that references something in an obscure way and maintain that up until that moment it had been mistranslated and that Mohammed was quite clear about the events and the coming of the 'visitors'

Buddhists won't really give a shit.

Hindus will immediately invent several hundred gurus and appropriate any god the newcomers have. But paint them really really nice colors and have a festival or two.

Christians will split into another thousand or so sub sects arguing the possibility of aliens either being a) The instruments of Judgement b) Angels c) Deamons. The Pope will pronounce something about something which will be contradicted by the next one. He will continue to protect pedophiles.

Epsicopaleans (anglicans) will split on the issue some churches will accept aliens as priests others will deny them, yet others will join the catholic church in protest.

Pentecostals will discover to their surprise that their babble is also completely incomprehensible to the visitors.

Wiccans as usual will sell each other various crystal artifacts and chant in unison to attract good fortune to the aliens. With absolutely no discernible effect.

Various Ways of Woo will rise in popularity until the aliens mention that woo is a load of junk. It is best avoided.

Jamesroper35's picture
This is the kind of elitist

This is the kind of elitist behavior christians think defines us. Please don't be like this

Old man shouts at clouds's picture


Well slap me with a label and call me alice.

algebe's picture
@Ghostsharklegs: This is the

@Ghostsharklegs: This is the kind of elitist behavior christians think defines us.

What do you mean, and who are you responding to?

mykcob4's picture
Say I am on a planet. I

Say I am on a planet. I decide to go out and find another life form similar to mine. Let's see which way should I go? The chances of me actually deciding to go in the correct direction are infinitely small. I don't know but I would hazard a guess that there are many intelligent life forms, and many have come and gone...not HERE, of course, just existed and went extinct. The chances that someone else actually choosing to head in my direction to discover me are equally small.

Sky Pilot's picture


"Say I am on a planet. I decide to go out and find another life form similar to mine. Let's see which way should I go?"

I think that the problem is that we have all been brainwashed by fanciful sci-fi movies like Star Trek and Star Wars. The characters get in their fancy space ships and zoom across the galaxy in a flash. So it becomes hard for the average person to realize the distances involved and the time it would take to get to a specific place. It's estimated that the closest planet to us that could support life as we know it is about 16 light years away. Then there's the gravity and atmosphere problems.

So in order to make the trip the vehicle would have to be the most prefect thing ever made. All of its systems would have to function flawlessly for decades. And then there's the money problem. Who's going to pay for it? There are so many problems that we'll just continue to make movies about it instead of every trying to do it.

Dave Matson's picture


It's all too easy, on paper, to argue that aliens should be presenting themselves to Earth. The energy requirement, however, is not a trivial matter if you want to go at a significant fraction of light speed. It's just assumed that fusion engines will turn up that look sleek and nice like something from Star Trek instead of being the size of a large asteroid. One idea was a ramjet that scooped up loose hydrogen in space for fuel. Then you get into the details. It would have to be miles across to get enough of that very scarce interstellar hydrogen. Another detail. Hydrogen approaching your ship at relativistic speeds would act as dangerous cosmic rays. And, the more armor you apply the more energy to get the ship up to speed. One idea is to use high-power lasers to push the hydrogen out of a collision path with the body of the ship. Whether that could even be done on an engineering level is anyone's guess. Keep in mind that highly advanced aliens, maybe millions of years ahead of us, don't necessary translate into little gods who can zip around the universe at will. Our dazzling rise of technology reflects only a very special period in our history. The engineering discovers might level off after a 1000 years, and our super-advanced aliens might well be stymied by something that seemed trivial in our imaginations.

The only good answer, as always, is that we just don't know. With civilizations popping in and out of existence over, say, 100,000 years, and assuming that they are fairly rare to begin with, getting two nearby ones to appear at the correct times for a visit might be unlikely.

Sapporo's picture
I don't think it is

I don't think it is advantageous to make any solid conclusions on the matter.

Sky Pilot's picture


"I don't think it is advantageous to make any solid conclusions on the matter."

Really? Where are these space aliens supposed to come from? The nearest star is is about 4.25 light years from us. A light year is about 5.88 TRILLION miles. So the nearest star is about 25 TRILLION miles from us. Now how fast is your space buggy?

That's 25,000,000,000,000 miles. There are 8,760 hours in a year. So if your space buggy does 500,000 mph how long will it take to reach the nearest star?

The Voyagers go about 35,000 mph and it will take them about 40,000 years reach the end of our solar system, about 11,760,000,000,000 TRILLION miles.

So once you start to think about distances and speeds it's very easy to make some solid conclusions on the matter.

Sapporo's picture
There could be intelligent

There could be intelligent life in the next galaxy, or there could no other intelligent life other than on this planet. We can speculate that intelligent life in nearby galaxies is improbable based on informed assumptions, but it would be foolish for that to be the final say on the matter.

I'd recommend: If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... Where Is Everybody?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life by Stephen Webb to anyone who is interested in the topic.

Sky Pilot's picture


"There could be intelligent life in the next galaxy, or there could no other intelligent life other than on this planet."

Technically the next galaxy is the Milky Way. Our solar system is part of the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, which is being absorbed by the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy is about 2,500,000 light years away. It has more planets than the Milky Way group has so it should be teeming with life. But it simply doesn't matter because it would take over 2.5 million years to get there at the speed of light. And that's no going to happen anytime soon.

But it's expected that the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies will start to merge in about 4 Billion years. The Sun should still be around.

Now imagine life on Earth. What was happening 2.5 million years ago? Heck, we've only become intelligent 100 years ago. Since astronomical distances equal time we will never see any space aliens except in the sci-fi movies.

nog642's picture
We are not noticeable to

We are not noticeable to other aliens in the galaxy. A civilization at the exact same level as us could also look up and ask the same questions we are. It's pretty likely there are at least a few dozen human-level civilizations in our galaxy.

Based on our observations, there are probably no galactic civilizations in our galaxy (although you can't generalize that to our supercluster). But clearly, with ourselves as an example, you don't need to conquer the galaxy to be "intelligent". When we conquer the galaxy and don't notice anyone else doing the same, then we can say we're special.

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