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Fermi's Paradox & Preparation For Contact

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sat, 04 Aug 2007 13:19:02 -0400
Archived: Sat, 04 Aug 2007 13:19:02 -0400
Subject: Fermi's Paradox & Preparation For Contact

Source: Bernard Haisch's UFO Skeptic.Org


February 21, 2006

Fermi's Paradox And The Preparation For Contact Hypothesis

There are at least 100 billion, and perhaps as many as 400
billion, stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. Carl Sagan once said:
"There may be a million worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy alone
which are at this moment inhabited by other intelligent beings"
(Cosmos, episode XI). A recent study of several hundred solar-
 like stars shows signatures of heavy elements in their spectra
from which one can infer that material to form Earth-like
planets should be abundant. Astronomer Norman Murray of the
University of Toronto reported at the 2001 AAAS meeting that:
"There is evidence that there is terrestrial-type material
orbiting most of the stars in the solar neighborhood. So, the
implication, if this result holds up, is that there are Earth-
 like bodies in orbit around most of the stars in our galaxy."
Even if this turns out to be overly optimistic and the formation
of habitable planets around solar-like stars proves to be less
likely than that, one might expect there to be at least a few
other civilizations in the Galaxy. If that is the case, one can
draw the conclusion statistically that unless civilizations tend
to extinguish themselves once they discover sufficient
technology to do so, most alien civilizations would be older and
more technologically advanced than we are. It can then pretty
easily be argued that a few million years would suffice for such
an advanced civilization to spread across the Galaxy even at
sublight speed by colonizing habitable planets, eventually
sending out second waves of colonization from those planets,
then third waves, etc. Astronomer Ian Crawford recently wrote
about this in Scientific American. His diffusion model leads to
"full galactic colonization" in 5 to 50 million years (Sci. Am.,
Nov. 2000, p. 8), a small fraction of the age of the Galaxy.
Naturally this all assumes human-like behaviour and motivation.
The bottom line is that if even only a few alien civilizations
have arisen in the 10 billion or so year history of our Galaxy,
most of the habitable parts of the Galaxy would likely be
colonized by now.

The famous physicist, Enrico Fermi, was referring to such an
argument when he asked: "Where are they?" Since he was a
prominent (and very smart) scientist, his simple question has
been given a duly profound name: Fermi's paradox. The paradox is
resolved, of course, if the answer is: "Well, they are already
here!" (and possibly have been for a very long time and perhaps
have even been involved in the rather sudden emergence of homo
sapiens sapiens, but that may be over the top, so ignore that
last conjecture if it is too much, though I seem to recall that
even Sagan considered that possibility at some point). Their
being here - but surreptitiously - would answer Fermi and at the
same time address a second common objection to the UFO
phenomenon by scientists: that the observations indicate such
utterly nonsensical, bizarre behaviour that it just could not
possibly be real. Intelligent visitors just would not pull such
disreputable antics as have been reported.

Between 1969 and 1972 astronauts visited the moon about twice
per year and, while there, did mostly (apart from a few
astronaut shenanigans) reasonable and rational things that one
would expect an intelligent alien observer to recognize as
scientific exploration. The nature of the reported UFO sightings
and encounters, on the contrary, does not reflect the kind of
purposeful behavior that we terrestrial scientists would expect
from our extraterrestrial colleagues. By some estimates over a
million UFO events have been witnessed. Even if one discounts 90
percent as misperceptions or hoaxes, that leaves far too many
events to attribute to the kind of careful, sophisticated,
efficient, high-tech exploration we scientists would expect from
our alien counterparts, especially ones who would necessarily be
more advanced than we are to have gotten here in the first
place. In addition, the kinds of objects sighted range from
little floating things the size of a baseball to giant lighted
craft bigger than a stadium (yes), again posing incredible

It is tempting to argue, as some do, that since the visitors are
not behaving like proper alien explorers, there are no visitors
in the first place. (For some reason this logic brings to mind
Galileo attempting to get the Cardinals to look through his
telescope.) To counter this argument, I would like to suggest
one possible rationale that might, in principle at least (no
real world guarantees), account for the widespread, disjoint
kind of behavior that the UFO phenomenon has manifested over 50
years. The reason for proposing this "preparation for contact
hypothesis" (which is certainly no original idea of mine) is
simply to facilitate a "suspension of disbelief" so that the UFO
evidence can be confronted on its own terms without the mental
roadblock that the phenomenon violates all common sense, or more
precisely the common sense of modern western society, and that
of the scientific community in particular, and hence cannot be

The discovery and open recognition that alien beings (especially
more advanced than we) exist and that they are already here
would be a fundamental turning point in civilization. That
revelation would constitute a one-time phase transition in human
knowledge like that from ice to water. The societal significance
of initial contact seems to me to be indisputable, and it is
only less indisputable by epsilon that whoever or whatever they
are (if indeed they are here) they are well aware of the
consequences of initial contact, since unless they happened to
be the first civilization in the universe, they must have gone
through initial contact once themselves. (And even the first
civilization would have seen the effect of initial contact on

The working hypothesis - and that is all it is - is thus that we
are being monitored by extraterrestrials and that they are
coaxing us into awareness of their existence slowly enough to
not disrupt our self-centered civilization ("gradually turning
up the gain" as one of my colleagues put it). We are beginning
to take our first steps into space, and though our primitive
behavior - warfare, terrorism, bigotry, intolerance, senseless
violence, greed - is not yet a danger to any extraterrestrial
civilization, it could be someday. It has also been suggested
that the diversity of life on our planet constituting a rich
genetic bank of living organisms may have something to do with
it. Perhaps the Earth is a greenhouse and nursery of some
importance and value beyond its own confines as a biological
databank. It could be that wet, green, just-right worlds are not
all that common, and perhaps the Earth is special within some
limited region of the cosmos, such as the local neighborhood
(astronomical jargon for the volume of space within a few dozen
parsecs in our spiral arm of the Milky Way) as a repository or
laboratory of life forms. Unfortunately we who happen to live on
this biologically rich planet are on an ecologically destructive
course that will eliminate a third or more of the Earth's
species in this century. This lack of stewardship may not have
gone unnoticed. For such reasons, perhaps events are being
staged involving a few people at a time, so that little by
little the belief system of our society is challenged and
altered. Our neatly packaged worldview is being deliberately
unraveled by things that do not fit into our reality. The
dramatic "landing on the White House lawn" that scientists
demand as confirmation is exactly not the right thing to happen.
At least not yet.

To repeat, this is merely a mental-roadblock-clearing
hypothesis. But on the other hand, there is no doubt that the
attitude of society has changed dramatically over the last 50
years to the extent that over half the population in the U.S.
now believes in the reality of ongoing extraterrestrial
visitation of Earth. That was certainly not the case in 1950. If
public opinion polls are correct, the average person today
appears to be pretty prepared for open contact, while we
scientists would be quite jolted if UFOs proved to be real and
extraterrestrial. (A nice, safe, distant radio signal from Tau
Ceti would be more to our liking.) The "preparation for contact"
hypothesis is merely a plausible idea, but it may be part of the
explanation of the seemingly bizarre UFO behavior.

In any event, whether the above is merely fantasy or not, the
duty of the skeptic is to confront the evidence, even if it
seemingly violates all common sense.

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