Perhaps there is no life on other planets

The fundamental weakness of the Drake Equation is that it starts with the assumption that life on Earth is not unique. After that it merely applies a string of probabilities to derive the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible. Fermi’s paradox is the apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations (such as given by the Drake Equation) and the lack of evidence for, or contact with, such civilizations.

The paradox of course is resolved if there are no other such civilisations except on Earth which would be the case if life (as we know it) was unique to Earth.

It might not be what I would want to or like to believe but it is the simplest resolution of the apparent paradox. And if that is so then Drake’s equation starts with a false premise and is irrelevant and invalid. The existence of extraterrestrial life is still in the realms of belief and hope and is not (yet) science.

Now Bob Yirka of PhysOrg reports that

Astrophysicists apply new logic to downplay the probability of extraterrestrial life

David Spiegel and Edwin Turner of Princeton University have submitted a paper to arXiv that turns the Drake equation on its head. Instead of assuming that life would naturally evolve if conditions were similar to that found here on Earth, the two use Bayesian reasoning to show that just because we evolved in such conditions, doesn’t mean that the same occurrence would necessarily happen elsewhere; using evidence of our own existence doesn’t show anything they argue, other than that we are here.

…….. Spiegel and Turner point out, basing our expectations of life existing on other planets, for no better reason that it exists here, is really only proof that we are more than capable of deceiving ourselves into thinking that things are much more likely than they really are. ……

When taken at face value, some might conclude that such arguments hold no more logic than arguments for the existence of God, i.e. it’s more about faith, than science. At any rate, most would agree that the only concrete way to prove whether there is life out there or not is to prove it, by finding it.


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