I put that title into quotes because about half the things we call paradoxes aren’t paradoxes at all. Sort of like most of what we call conspiracy theories aren’t truly conspiracy theories. The chicken and the egg paradox, for example, isn’t a paradox because the answer is obviously the egg. Those who like to debate theology have the old “If God created the universe, then who created God” which, despite my complete lack of belief in a deity, I see as a real paradox because if you change the terms to the scientific, i.e. if the Big Bang created the universe, what created the Big Bang?, you still have a paradox. Whatever creation story you use, there still has to be a back story beyond that.
The one that I was thinking about today, however, is Fermi’s paradox, which isn’t really a paradox at all. Fermi’s paradox: If there are trillions of stars in our galaxy alone, and most of those stars have planets, as we now know they do, and lots of those planets have water, as we now know is likely, and that’s about all it takes for life to evolve, why is it that we haven’t ever been visited by space faring aliens? It’s not a paradox because there are several possible resolutions, we just don’t know what the right one is yet.
Resolution A: the flying saucer people are right, and we’ve been visited tons of times, the powers that be just don’t want us to know about that. I don’t know what the motive for secrecy might be, maybe the aliens have threatened them, or maybe they feel that knowledge would be a threat to their power, but it’s definitely one possibility. Resolution B: There’s nobody out there, at least nobody technologically evolved. There might be billions of planets with some equivalent of dinosaurs where no meteor ever struck. If true, that would be kind of amazing, too. The whole galaxy, just waiting for us to fill it up. Resolution C: There’s lots of intelligent life, but the speed of light is a natural, unbreakable, physical speed limit. In that case, there might be somewhere, in a densely populated star cluster, where different species on different planets have communicated with each other, but living out here in a nebulous outer arm of the galaxy, we would be the space faring equivalent of a Pacific Atoll which has primitive people, but nobody from the modern world has discovered us yet. Resolution D may be the most disturbing: They’re out there, they know we’re here, and they want nothing to do with us. Maybe they’ve noticed that we only have one technological species, from which they can easily infer (if they have invented space travel, they probably had some equivalent of a Darwin along the way) that we killed off all the other intelligent species, and that’s just a level of violence they don’t want to deal with. Or maybe they’ve been watching our TV programs, such as Star Trek, and realized (if they have invented Space Travel, they no doubt had some equivalent of Joseph Campbell along the way) that the Klingons, and Cardassians, and the Borg are all manifestations of humanity, as they were written by human writers, and they want nothing to do with us for that.
I don’t know if it’s one of these reasons or some other, but there’s a reason, and therefore it’s not a paradox.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs' Archive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s