from SecularHumanism Website
The statement that extraterrestrial intelligence exists or doesnít can have the parallel statement that God exists or doesnít.
Some people say thereís already sufficient evidence of existence for both. If you set aside abductions and miracles, itís true that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence for either.
However, if and when one ever detects
evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence, it will break the
symmetry of these two statements and, in fact, that evidence will be
inconsistent with the existence of God or at least organized
Technological civilizations cannot be co-located - that is they canít be close to us in space and in time - unless on the average such technological civilizations are long-lived. Iím not talking about 100 years or 1,000 years. Iím talking about the age of stars or galaxies.
Let me illustrate that with the Drake Equation, which in fact I hardly ever use.
An equation is nothing more than a
lovely way to organize our ignorance. When you write an equation
somebody expects you to calculate an answer. Itís impossible. There
is no answer to this equation except by observation and experiment.
We now know about extra-solar planets - the number is 40, and counting...
The equipment that we have on telescopes today is best at finding only very massive planets with very short-period orbits. Maybe ten years ago somebody would have bet that there were none. But, we still do not have instruments with sufficient precision to find other planets.
So, we know something about extra-solar
planets, but not really a whole lot, particularly nothing yet about
the number of earthlike planets in an average solar system.
Given all we know and all we really
donít know, this equation degenerates to N is equal to or less than
L. To be completely accurate, we can say that N is much, much less
Let me calculate how many stars I would
have to search to find one intelligent civilization. And then, what
distance would I have to go out to search that many stars in the
Milky Way Galaxy?
Suppose that the right age is something like 13,000 or 15,000, the amount of time weíve had civilization so far.
Then itís 1 in 30 million stars and Iíll find one within 1,700 light-years. If civilizations last a million years, then I only have to search 400,000, and Iíll find one with 430 light-years.
And if civilizations last 400 million
years, then 1 in a 1,000 will be enough. And they will be within 50,
60, 70 light-years.
Ultimate success we think out in
generations. You canít necessarily draw the same conclusion.
Put another way, in general, bad people
do evil things; good people do good things. But, it takes religion
to make a good person do something really bad.
Ambrose Bierce defined ďto prayĒ as:
That frame of mind - a willingness to
set aside the laws of the universe in favor of some higher authority
- basically lets one off scot free. It allows individuals to evade
the consequences of their actions, including the destruction of
species and habitats.
H.L. Mencken said:
Steven Pinker tells us that the way evolution shaped human intelligence and the mind was to create a system of modules designed to figure out how the world works.
When youíre starting out you havenít figured out a whole lot yet.
Non-literate peoples routinely,
therefore, invent ghosts that they bribe for good weather. And, they
grant powers to ordinary objects. They donít invent totally
different objects; they take the ordinary and make them more
If weíre going to survive or turn into a
long-lived technological civilization, organized religion needs to
be outgrown. Religious wars traditionally have had secular
cessations. Somebody imposes a treaty, but the conflicts really
never end. There are some really horrific examples.
Such a religion might be able to coexist
for a long time with technological development without precipitating
the worst of human tendencies.
And, on the other
hand, if we get a message and itís secular in nature, I think that
says that they have no organized religion - that theyíve outgrown