Fermi’s paradox poses the following simplified question: if the universe is full of life then where is it?
First off, is the universe really full of life?
Secondly, a group of answers to this question run like this:
Earth is a zoo and we, the aliens, are protecting it.
Earthlings are not ready yet to deal with alien contact.
Earthlings are not cool enough yet to join our club.
Earthlings must transcend beyond their self destructive natures first.
Interference in planetary cultures not capable of interstellar travel is verboten!
I group all of the above into what I call “standoffishness.” Aliens are standoffish.
To respond to Fermi’s question I pose two conjoined ideas that refute both the idea that the universe is full of life and that such life, when sufficiently advanced, is standoffish.
The first of these ideas is the following: Earth has been emitting signs of life for more than three billions years. The “There is LIFE here!” neon sign has been blaring for eons. The O2 and CH4 (methane) signature that Earth emits and has been emitting for as long as bacteria and photosynthetic algaes have existed, are defacto signs of life. These signs of active life, O2 and CH4, are exactly what human astrophysicists are now focused on in our own search for life in the galaxy. We’ve found extremely strong evidence for the existence of exoplanets and now we’re looking to see if any of them emit these telltale signs of life.
If this technique is one humanity has adopted, a simple method I’ll agree, but one that would mark Earth as have been harboring life — for billions of years — then one would assume highly intelligent exo-life would also use these techniques. No doubt Earth emits other obvious signs of life and has done so for, again, eons. Signs that we may ourselves start to use in our own search for ETs. Signs that ETs would have employed.
If there is intelligent life out there in the galaxy, looking for its own version of exo-life then it should have found Earth at some time in the past. I would conclude that Earth’s life signature, as a beacon for the existence of life, could not be ignored by life searching for life in the galaxy and the universe.
Having established the fact that life would have found us by now, if there is life out there, then why haven’t they contacted us? Here we get to discuss the standoff philosophy of alien life.
Without relying upon complete conjecture (what does an alien life form ‘think’ like), we need only look into the mirror to determine if ‘standoffishness’ is really how aliens would treat the discovery of alter-alien life. The answer I come up with is a resounding NO. Let’s face it, humans just want to say “Hi!”
Explorers of every culture throughout recorded human history have never held the philosophy, “Hey, there’s a new type of people on that island. Let’s just leave them alone for now because they look really primitive.” What cross-country expedition or ship’s captain would ever think that way? We explore. We are driven to it. And in exploring we want to discover, to meet, to engage, to exchange. A space faring human species would never travel for trillions of miles and when finally arriving at a location that shows a thriving alien culture sit back and say, “You know, they don’t look ready for us just yet. We better turn back.” Humans, as alien travelers, would never be considered standoffish. Can we assume anything but for other intelligent alien peoples? Explorers want to connect.
Let’s also not forget that most explorers of humanity’s past have been conquerors. Not satisfied with simply saying ‘Hi!” they wanted to step down from their ships and own the places they discovered. If this is true of alien space travelers — where are they? Where are our en-slavers? Our oppressors? One answer, they don’t exist.
Earth is a life discoverable target and has been so for billions of years. Humans, non-star traveling species that we are, are already seeking planets just like ours using characteristics we know exhibit signs of life. Intelligent alien life, were it to exist, would be as curious and invasive as humans would under the same conditions.
If there was curious life out there, looking for life like us, we would have been found by now. Becase we haven’t, we can assume that the universe is not full of life. That more than likely, Humanity is alone.
7 thoughts on “Intelligent alien life does not exist”
Nearly 12,000 years ago, a sudden burst of methane surged from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, leaving an array of gigantic craters in its wake. And a slow trickle of gas continues to leak from the seafloor to this day.
The findings, described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science, are the latest of recent discoveries pointing to Arctic methane explosions in the ancient past. And the findings have inspired debate among scientists about whether such an event could happen again and how it could affect the climate.
“The authors show exciting new evidence that this methane can be trapped in the sediment and released in large bursts, with a much greater potential of reaching the atmosphere,” said Stephen Grasby, a research scientist with Natural Resources Canada who was not involved with the new research, in an emailed comment.
This matters because methane is a potent greenhouse gas — its warming effect on the atmosphere is up to 30 times as strong as that of carbon dioxide over a period of 100 years or so. So the discovery of any new methane sources or leaks on the planet is a point of interest with climate scientists.
But the climate implications of underwater methane leaks are murkier. First, these leaks or “seeps” are by no means rare. There are hundreds of known seeps throughout the ocean floor. They’re the result of a natural process, in which methane forms as organic matter decomposes at the bottom of the sea and gradually bubbles back up from the sediment into the water column.
Scientists generally believe that the methane leaking from these seeps never makes it to the surface of the ocean, instead dissolving in the water on its way up. But some suggest that an explosion, of the type described in Thursday’s paper, could produce enough force to send some gas straight up to the surface and into the atmosphere, with potentially climate-warming consequences.
The new paper describes one such event that occurred about 12,000 years ago in what is now the Barents Sea, a region of the Arctic Ocean stretching between Norway and Russia. There, at the bottom of the ocean floor, stands a collection of more than 100 craters, some as much as 3,000 feet wide and nearly 100 feet deep. The researchers believe they were formed by sudden rushes of methane from the seafloor.
Methane, although most commonly observed in gas form, can sometimes become trapped at the bottom of the ocean in very deep or cold regions, freezing into a solid substance known as a methane hydrate. It can remain trapped this way indefinitely until something destabilizes it.
The area where the craters are located was once covered by extensive glaciers, which placed enormous pressure on the land beneath them, helping to form the methane hydrates and keep them stable. But about 15,000 years ago, the ice sheet began to retreat, gradually releasing some of that pressure. As this happened, the space in the ground where conditions were right for the hydrates to remain stable grew thinner and thinner.
“The thinning and the retreating of the ice sheet led to increased concentration of gas hydrates in increasingly shallow layers below the ice sheet,” explained Karin Andreassen, the new paper’s lead author and a professor of marine geology and geophysics at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate at the Arctic University of Norway.
At the same time, temperatures in the region were increasing. And as the ice continued to retreat and the enormous pressure was relieved, Earth’s crust began to bounce back into shape. These factors further contributed to the compression of the hydrates in the Arctic sediment and began to cause mounds to rise up at the bottom of the newly formed sea. Finally, the pressure became too much, the gas burst forth, and the mounds collapsed into the craters we observe today.
“I think it was probably like a lot of champagne bottles being opened at different times,” Andreassen said.
Although there’s no evidence that other sudden bursts have occurred in the region since, there appears to still be a substantial reservoir of gas there. To this day, methane and other hydrocarbons continue to slowly vent from the seafloor — and probably have been since the explosion occurred, Andreassen said.
She added that there’s evidence of other intact hydrates still in the region — mounds that have yet to burst — and what will happen to them in the future remains unclear.
As for the methane explosion, it’s not the only such event to have occurred in ancient Arctic history. Grasby, the Natural Resources Canada scientist, recently published research describing a cluster of rocky mounds in the Canadian Arctic that researchers believe were also caused by an ancient methane explosion, although much further in the past. Grasby’s mounds were likely formed about 100 million years ago, probably after a sudden warming period in Earth’s history destabilized the hydrates.
His paper raised the question of whether modern-day Arctic warming could be priming the region for another methane explosion in the future and whether that gas could make it to the atmosphere. The concern is that this scenario could lead to a dramatic amplification of global warming, even potentially triggering a climate feedback loop, in which more warming causes more methane to be released.
But some scientists have contested this idea. When Grasby’s paper was released in April, geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel of the U.S. Geological Survey told The Washington Post that the findings did not substantially change our understanding of what happens to methane when it vents from the ocean floor, and she has generally taken a skeptical position on the theory that unstable methane hydrates could lead to runaway climate effects.
Andreassen, too, cautioned that these theories have no concrete support for the time being, noting that it would be a “dramatic conclusion” to assume that ancient methane explosions had a significant effect on the climate without substantial extra work to back up the idea. Still, because methane hydrates do still exist in the region — and conditions in the Arctic are rapidly changing, thanks to the climate change — it’s a scenario deserving of continued research.
But because we haven’t observed any similar explosions in the present day — not yet, anyway — Grasby also agrees that there’s considerable uncertainty remains about exactly what happens when such an event occurs.
“The novel study points out that we still have a poor understanding of the mechanisms of how methane hydrates melt and release gas, and the potential of that methane to reach the atmosphere,” he said.”
I’m working on a novel premise where aliens are extremely rare, only three intelligence species in the galaxy (we included), and two of them discovered Earth/humans ~100 years ago during WWI, but as humans weren’t space faring yet, they’ve held off contact. They’ve left a pair of monitors, with advanced tech to track humanity’s progress. But now, with global warming, populist conservatism, over population and terrorism rampant, they’ve decided to forgo their society’s rules and intervene. They do so by identifying a physicist grad student, and intend to work through him to introduce a NFE (nearly free energy) source, hoping this will help humanity on the way to cultivate a more egalitarian and low carbon society. There’s a bunch of other things they also intend to do, knowing how theology based most of humanity is. You mentioned you thought “spying” was not probable. I tried to make the monitoring of humans as plausible as possible.
Any thoughts on this?
@Paul O., Thanks for your participation.
I would say that my argument is undoubtedly anthropocentric, as it must be coming from where it comes. And it may or may not ultimately prove to be true. But nothing in your comment invalidates it. My comments are simply a theory, one of hundreds out there, a theory that will prove unprovable.
I follow your supposition and can see how an extrapolation of cultural advancement might afford an intelligent species (our perhaps someday) the option of remaining aloof from a discovered ETI. And I cannot invalidate your theory. But then neither can you invalidate mine.
I personally believe that the surprise of finding *any* life in the universe aside from Earth based, will be so shocking that were it to be intelligent and capable of recognizing us as fellow Universal beings, that we would compelled to share with it our existence. “Hey, we found you! You’re not alone in the Universe. Isn’t that cool!”
It’s true that explorers and imperialists of the past never stopped to think about what interfering with other societies would do. However, we have changed and nowadays if there were societies we had not contacted on Earth that could be damaged by such contact, I think there would be debate about whether or not to do it eg. in Papua New Guineau and perhaps very remote parts of Brazil.
There is a group of islands called the Andaman islands and on one of them are a group of aborigines who do not wish contact and are at aggressive pains to show this. Present day society leaves them alone (though of course both sides know that the other does exist).
Ethics changes and the behavior of explorers in the past on our planet is no sure guide as to how advanced alien life would regard us. In addition technology also changes and if they do not need our resources, they may very well decide not to bother us. Finally, advanced civilizations would surely have developed a robotic technology whereby there was no need to enslave anybody.
You may well be right that we are alone in the universe but the argument from our behavior is not a valid one.