What is the probability the following proposition is true? “There are rational beings other than humans in the universe.” Well, given the evidence of angels, who are rational non-human beings, the probability is 1.
Given that answer won’t satisfy those folks whose minds are given over the fallacy of naturalism, let’s change the proposition to make it more challenging. What is the probability, “There are rational physical beings other than humans in the universe”?
Enrico Fermi famously suggested, given that no other rational physical beings had ever been discovered even though they had been most earnestly sought, that the answer was therefore near 0: these other beings probably don’t exist. But some said this was paradoxical. They thought such beings surely existed, even though they were thus far unseen.
In other words, some say the probability of the proposition is near 1, given such things like the size of the universe, its age, the projected number of other planets, the possibility of evolution, and so forth.
Yet there is no escaping that there has been no direct evidence of these other beings. According to its eponymous website, the definition of his “paradox” is “the apparent contradiction between the high probability extraterrestrial civilizations’ existence and the lack of contact with such civilizations.”
The glorious hope in that apparent is a joy to behold—for there is no paradox if there are no other rational beings. And that there are no other rational beings accords well with all the observational evidence we have. In other words, given what we have not seen, the way to bet is on us being alone.
Still, the idea of other rational life is too intriguing to let go. The evidence that there might be such life is taken as proof that there must be, and, given the age of the universe etc., there must be a reason we have not yet seen these beings. They’re there, but hiding or are hidden.
Now there’s an interesting result in math which shows that they more efficient a method of communication the more it looks like unpredictable gibberish to outsiders. Advanced rational beings might be using ways of talking to one another that we don’t recognize. Some especially anxious yeti—sorry, I meant SETI—hunters thus take the absence of signals to prove these signals exist. These people have seen one too many Wesley Crusher episodes.
Some say the rational beings exist all right, but they have blown themselves up, a self-refuting anthropomorphic projection. Those aliens which exist are just like us, see, therefore they have killed themselves off with their advanced weaponry. But if they have killed themselves off, they don’t exist, n’est-ce pas?
Another favorite reason to explain that these beings exist is that they don’t, because evolving life to the point of rationality is hard; and besides, there aren’t a lot of planets like Earth where evolution like that is easy.
And now comes along another explanation, this one by Geoffrey Miller, a professor of psychology. His job title is pertinent, as you will see. Miller says the reason we don’t see advanced aliens is that they have gone insane. The form of insanity is a terminal addiction to video games.
They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good. [ellipsis original]
The last thing the world needed was yet another allusion to that goofy Matrix movie, but since Miller has made it, we have to deal with it. Actually, I really only have two questions for Miller: who is writing the code for these games and who is developing the hardware? It can’t be the aliens who imagine themselves heroes in some blue-pill-red-pill-I-save-the-universe fantasy. There’s too busy pretending they’re beating up simulations in slow motion.
At least some alien entities have to remain on the sunny side of sanity or no toys would ever be built, and these creatures could have, in their spare time and using the wealth they have accumulated from selling their addictive games, taken the time to say hello to us.
Thanks to @Mangan150 where I first learned of Miller’s entry.