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Problems With Fermi’s Paradox

A literal interpretation of Fermi’s Paradox embraces a number of invalid assumptions. It therefore has irreconcilable problems, putting it in conflict with reality. Some misguided individuals attempt to use Fermi’s Paradox as if it were proof that Earth is the only home of intelligent life in the Universe. They are erroneous and likely misunderstand the original point of Professor Fermi’s question.

Fermi’s Paradox appears at first glance a contradiction between the theoretical existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the alleged lack of evidence that human contact has ever been made with such hypothetical civilizations. These invalid assumptions effectively make this supposed paradox null.

What is Fermi’s Paradox, and who came up with it?

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The exact date of the conversation may be unclear, but apparently in either the late 1940s or early 1950s, (perhaps the summer of 1950), depending on the source you read, a group of scientists at Los Alamos were having a lunch time conversation, about the probability of extraterrestrials throughout the Universe, when the physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question, “Where is everybody?” His basic argument was that given the extreme age of the Universe, and the vast number of stars, life throughout the cosmos ought to be common place. If true, and that many planets have also been the homes of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, then even at sub-light speeds a multitude of these ETs should have visited Earth by now, and therefore we should have discovered considerable evidence of such alien visitations, or have had direct contact, or even been conquered by technologically advanced beings with conquest on their minds. Many “conventional” minded scientists take Professor Fermi’s question to assume that such evidence does not exist. This is among the first of the invalid assumptions found in a literal interpretation of this paradox, for a plethora of such evidence does indeed exist, it’s just not accepted by such “Conventional” minded scientists.

The Basis of Fermi’s Paradox

In a nut shell, Fermi’s paradox is the conflict between a disagreement of scale, probability, and an alleged lack of evidence. A more comprehensive characterization might go more like this…

The enormity and great age of the Cosmos suggest that a plethora of technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations should exist, possibly millions of them in our galaxy alone. However, this idea appears logically inconsistent with the apparent lack of observational evidence to support that basic contention. Consequently, either…

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User Comments
  1. C Jordan

    On March 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    A remarkably well conceived and strongly written article.

  2. Bill M. Tracer

    On March 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you, C. Jordan. I spent a long time doing the research, and composing this one. This article was a major time burner, but one I really enjoyed writing.

  3. maranatha

    On March 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    You did a great job. It is categorical, logical in sequence, and makes sense.

  4. Lauren Axelrod

    On March 13, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Fantastic piece Bill. Excellently written. I will blog this on the revolution if you don’t mind.

  5. Bill M. Tracer

    On March 14, 2009 at 4:34 am

    Wonderful! I’m glad you both like it, Maranatha, and Lauren.

    And, Lauren, please feel free to link it up to your blog. The more the word is spread, the better.

  6. R J Evans

    On March 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Same here…

    As Marantha said, I like the way you have logically sequenced your argument. EVen I get to understand it!

  7. Bill M. Tracer

    On March 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Wow! Thank you, R J. The cool Webphemera Blog page looks great.

    And by the way, Lauren, if you do Blog this as well, then please feel free to leave another comment, with the link, like R J did with his link. I’d really like to see your Revolution Blog.

  8. CutestPrincess

    On March 15, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    excellent post… very well-researched…

  9. Brenda Nelson

    On March 15, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    wow, that sure is reason to think! Paradoxes are great when well thought out, I am glad you took the time to write this. I am a big fan of your Picable art too!

  10. Dave Nora

    On March 16, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Excellent foundational piece. My only question (maybe a sequel article?) is why some of the evidence that we have been visited by ET’s for thousands of years wasn’t included. The Dogon tribe knowing about Sirius B before we (modern science) did because the “sky people” told them is just one of many such instances. Any one instance might be explained away, but giving the sum of these occurrences in my mind makes that unlikely. Anyway, again, an excellent piece attacking the flaws of the Fermi paradox.

  11. Abhichoco

    On April 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    a great post…i must say…well researched too…

  12. Aauhein

    On April 7, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this piece. Flawless flow, professionaly written,great subject,high caliber,well researched unusual refrences;a AAA read.

  13. izziddin

    On April 8, 2009 at 7:23 am

    I like it, well written. I still do not beleive in other living beings in the univerese. I do beleive in an infinite worlds and creations on a different level of our existence ( different Frequency ), as we live on a certain frequency or level and other worlds live on another.

    I am a spiritual writer, please read my articles and in the near future I will bw writing on the Physical Plane (which we Know) and other planes that we Yet to discover.

  14. manya

    On April 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    A very well researched and well articulated piece. There is so much information to grasp! Very commendable indeed!


  15. Joe

    On May 5, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Very funny article. Completely backward logic. I happen to be working on an article that is almost exactly the opposite in tone to yours. We are unique, and the universe itself will not survive unless we do, and find a solution to universal entropy.

  16. Bill M. Tracer

    On May 5, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Actually Joe, my logic is not backward; it is merely different than yours. From a purely objective scientific standpoint neither of us possesses sufficient evidence to draw a definitive conclusion. That being the case, we can only draw tentative conclusions. Obviously, you draw a different tentative conclusion than I do. And there is good reason for that. It’s not because of either logic or illogic, but rather the preconceptions or beliefs we each carry into our analysis of the data at hand.

    Included with the raw data most tend to seamlessly weave in their beliefs. I believe the Universe must be teeming with life. The same principles that lead to life here on the Earth must hold true everywhere in the Universe where the conditions are ripe. Likewise, I believe intelligent life is equally prodigious throughout the Universe. Apparently, based on what little you say in your comment, I gather your beliefs about intelligent life differ from mine. So, you and I each utilize approximately the same raw data and mix it together with our beliefs and come to different conclusions. However, what neither of us is doing is pure scientific logic. We each use logic together with a bias. For pure science does not include beliefs. Taking on a purely objective point of view sheds the bias perspective. And frankly, that is a very difficult thing to do, for often our bias will creep in underneath the shadows or our own awareness. With pure science and that alone, a final conclusion can not be drawn at this time, therefore pure science can only say the answer to the question, “Do other intelligent beings exists elsewhere in the Universe?” is inconclusive. At this point in time, what little bit of data that we do have on the subject is insufficient, and without more data, no purely scientifically logical conclusion can be drawn. In other words, the Jury is still out on this one, and will be until a great deal more data can be gathered to shed enough light one way or the other. Until then the best any of us can do, including you and me, is speculate. And hey, that’s fine with me. Speculating is fun. You speculate that we are unique, i.e. alone in the Universe. I speculate that there are many other intelligent life forms spread throughout the Universe, but even with that said I too think we are unique among them.

    There may be many different elements on the periodic table, but each is unique, each with its own properties and function in the Universe. We couldn’t have the Universe as we know it, without each of them. Just like that, each of the myriad beings of the Cosmos is unique and each has a place in the Cosmic Drama that is life. Therefore, every one is just as important, just as significant. Being one among many does not diminish us.

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