The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on March 20, 2011

Somewhat related to my previous post…

This brings up some salient points about, well, people. To reiterate for the lazy: SETI, that big satellite thing in the desert that’s looking for alien radio signals, is based upon a single, very large assumption that many people seem to take for granted: the idea that alien life is not only out there, but that it has evolved in such a way that they have learned how to manipulate radio waves and are sending out signals to be received by other such beings. As said there, the problem arises that the only example of a species learning how to manipulate radio waves we have us is…well, us. So basically, we are assuming that there has to be an alien species that is, more or less, exactly like us.

Years of science fiction has dulled us to the incredible nature of such an idea. Just think: over the course of millions and millions of years, the earth has seen countless species come and go. A vast, vast, selection of organisms, each with a different set of traits unique to them. How many of them have been like us? Uh…other than us, none, although Neanderthals were there during our rise, so I guess that makes two, albeit two offshoots of the same line. So really, if one or two out of who-knows-how-many organisms on earth ended up being what we would define as sapient, how likely do you think it would be that one would just so happen to evolve on a completely different planet with a different ecosystem, different history, etc.? It would be like expecting to find basking sharks and red squirrels on alien planets. Even with some slight differences in terms, and in evolutionary terms a lot of the proposed ‘differences’ between possible aliens and homo sapien sapien are minuscule, it would still be a huge leap to expect such a thing to occur. We just possess such a specific set of traits, that the odds of something else in a completely different environment coming along and just so happening to have even a few of the same traits are astronomically low.

This seems to have come about as part of a natural human mindset that even the most rational people fall prey to it: the idea that we are not simply another organism, that we are special, that we are some evolutionary apex. But we aren’t. Our combination of traits are no different special than any other living thing’s; we have the ability to even have the concept of evolution, yes, but even that is just another adaptation that seemed like a good idea at the time. There is no evolutionary high point; it is simply a process that goes on forever, or at least until everything explodes. So expecting that all other world’s biological development will happen just like ours? Mmmm, not very well-thought out.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer to some of you people looking to the stars every night, waiting, hoping. If it makes you feel any better, we don’t have all that much data on the subject, so there’s always a chance some things will change. Thus is the ways of science.

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