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Theological Implications Of Fermi And Drake

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 10:24:23 -0400
Fwd Date: Thu, 31 May 2007 10:24:23 -0400
Subject: Theological Implications Of Fermi And Drake

Source: The Practicalithe(ology) Blog



Theological Implications Of Fermi's Paradox And The Drake Equation

I am an avid science fiction fan. I was talking to some friends
the other day around a game of Diplomacy, and the topic of Star
Trek came up. It quickly became apparent to many that I was
perhaps the biggest Star Trek geek at the table. After leaving,
I started to wonder some things about the implications
extraterrestrial life on theology. This is by no means scholarly
and will probably sounds just as much like science fiction as
Star Trek, but these are my musings nevertheless.

When considering Star Trek, Star Wars and other science fiction
franchises, we usually get a galaxy teeming with intelligent
extraterrestrial life. Encountering a new species make a good
story line and opens the door for endless imagination and
possibilities for character creation, varying species, and many
other things, as such. Science fiction as such has often
influenced the minds thinkers and has certainly played a part in
attempts to discover alien life in reality. Two things that are
very familiar to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence
are Fermi's Paradox and the Drake Equation. Any casual science
fiction fan has probably at least heard of these things, but I
will assume you haven't and explain them according. Fermi's
paradox, simply put is the apparent contradiction between the
seeming possibilities of thousands of sentient species in the
galaxy, yet to date, there has been no conclusive proof that any
other intelligent species exist other than our own. With this in
mind, there are perhaps two possibilities we can come up with:
either they do not exist, or we have not made contact them yet.
There have been a number of suggestions that have attempted to
reconcile the paradox, but generally speaking, most of these
fall under the second of the two possibilities, in that for
whatever reason we haven't made contact yet.

On the other hand, there is the possibility that human beings
are a unique occurrence in the universe, and against all odds
have come into existence. Theologically speaking, human beings
are the special and unique creation of God, such that there is
nothing else like them in all creation. This would seem to rule
out the possibility of other sentient life forms in the universe
from a theological standpoint. But we are not speaking
theologically, but more (or less!) scientifically, and thus
there is a need to substantiate such things.

In 1961, Frank Drake came up with the Drake Equation, a proposed
way of estimating the number of sentient species capable of
transmitting radio communication into space. The Drake Equation
is a type of Fermi equation, which are used in physics and other
science to identify key aspects of a given situation in order to
predict possible outcomes. Here is a summary of the key aspects
of the Drake equation:

N = R * fp * ne * fl * fi * fc * fL

N: the number of communicating intelligent species at this time

R: Number of "suns" that develop in the galaxy per year

fp: the percentage of R with planets

ne: number of planets capable of sustaining life

fl: fraction of ne on which life would evolve

fi: fraction of fl on which intelligent life would evolve

fc: fraction of fi of which the intelligent life would learn to
communicate with radios

fL: the number of years such civilizations would exist

Here are my assumptions:

R: 1 - Scientist estimate that 1 'sun' develops in the galaxy
per year.

fp: 75% - Recent evidence shows that planets are not a rare
occurrence as they once thought. There have been a number of
exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, discovered in the
past 15 or so years.

ne: 50% - This is a guess. It is suggested that every star has
what is called a habitable zone. This region surrounding a star
where water can exist on a planet as liquid, thus providing the
bedrock for life to form as we know it. The discovery of life
around hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean and in near
boiling temperatures around geysers suggest that the habitable
zone is rather large, rather than narrow as it was once thought
to be. About the only kind of starts that would not be habitable
are those that produce dangerous radiation. Even if planets
formed in the habitable zone with liquid water, life is unlikely
to form because of the radioactivity of the nearby star.

fl: 100% - fraction of ne on which life would evolve - I tend
to think that if life can evolve, it will.

fi: .0000001% - Now here is the catch: Although life may be
abundant, intelligent life perhaps is not. What seems to be true
is that higher-order life has a narrower band of existence, such
that the ranges required for sustaining intelligent life are
narrower than those required to sustain lower-order life such as
bacteria. Such things would be temperature variation, the
existence of lower-order life for the survival of high order
life, and the necessarily resources (tool making materials, etc)
needed to sustain life among other requirements.

fc: 50% - I tend to think that if intelligent life evolves,
then it is highly probable that such life will develop the
technology to use the eltro-magnetic spectrum to communicate.

fL: 200,000 - Our civilization has only been using radio
communication for about 100 years, and our civilization is
estimated to only be about 10,000 years old. Our species is
relatively young too: an estimated 200,000 years old. This means
humans existed for 190,000 years prior to developing
civilization and 199,900 years prior to developing eltro-
magnetic communication. Given the resilience of the human race,
I'd would at least say humans will exist another 200,000 years a
species if they don't destroy themselves or face destruction by
some other means.

N: .00375 communicating civilizations

If I go based on my guess, then human beings are the only
communicating civilization at this time, and that only happened
by a .375% chance. Accordingly the human species is indeed rare.

But here are a few problems:

The equation doesn't take into account the possibility of life
in other galaxies. There are an estimated 100,000,000,000
galaxies in the which would drastically increase the probability
of intelligent life forming.

The equation does take into account the possibility of an
intelligent species who can't communicate via radio. If
civilizations are anything like humans, then they have only been
able to communicate via radios .05% of their entire existence.
We don't know however how long humans will continue to exist
with this ability. We don't know if we are at the apex of our
technological achievements, or if radio communications is just a
baby step in technological development.

The equation doesn't take into account the possibility of all
civilizations for all time. Scientists estimate that the
universe has existed for some 15,000,000,000 years. Taken that
into consideration, we could estimate that life began to evolve
around 10 billion years ago. If we consider this, then it is
possible that intelligent life has existed for 6 billion years
ago, taking into account that is perhaps how long it took life
on earth to evolve.

With these considerations, we could modify the Drake Equation
with these values:

R: 100,000,000,000 - 1 new "sun" per day per galaxy

fp: 75% - unchanged

ne: 50% - unchanged

fl: 100% - unchanged

fi: .0000001% - unchanged

fc: - remove this from the equation to take into consideration
aliens that don't develop radio communication

fL: 6,000,0000,000 for all time; 200,000 for current

N: 225,000,000,000 for all time; 7,500,000 for current

With these new assumptions, there even with the low probability
that life evolves into intelligent species, it is still very
likely that there are a number of intelligent species in the
known universe.

Now consider Fermi's paradox: In spite of the significantly
large number of possible civilization, we have no conclusive
evidence that such civilizations exist. While this is merely
speculative, I think that we can at least consider the
possibility with some degree of certainty that perhaps humanity
is a unique occurrence in the universe. Going back to the two
original possibilities, either aliens don't exist, or we made
contact them yet, I think we can rule out that we havenít made
contact with them yet, and conclude that they donít exist. This
doesn't show the theological implications to be true, but
certainly leans towards such a thing.

[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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