Friday, December 13, 2019

Where is Everybody?!

We will soon if ever resume our discussion of the subject at hand -- whatever it was -- but at the moment I've got a conceptual earworm tunneling around in my head, and the only way to eliminate it is to write about it. For me, this process serves as a metaphysical exterminator. Or nonlocal ghostbuster.

It reminds me of a patient who was suffering from PTSD as a result of experiences in Iraq, including multiple roadside bombs. Especially when he was tired and laying in bed, he would see horrific and monstrous images emerging from the patterns in the ceiling. These weren't hallucinations per se, more dreamlike projections of unmetabolized experience. In any event, he was a skilled artist, and dealt with the flashbacks by drawing and thus externalizing them. So long as he could fleshout the flashbacks, they'd settle down and stop bothering him. At least for the night.

Well, I can't draw. So here we are.

It started a couple of days ago, when a friend mentioned that a spiritual-but-not-religious atheist friend of his gives great credence to the Fermi Paradox, or the Where the hell is everybody? problem.

For me it's not a problem, because I don't expect human intelligence to exist elsewhere in creation, although I don't rule it out. But if it does exist it can only have a transphysical source, and would not in any way prove that the existence of human beings is a random occurrence explicable by chance. Metaphysically this is a total nonstarter, so long as one understands what human intelligence is.

At bottom, the Fermi Paradox is just another iteration of the 100 Monkey business, i.e., that with enough random typing on an infinite number of typewriters, everything will occur, including us. Any plausibility in this idea was given the kibosh with the discovery of the Big Bang, which limited our monkeys to 13.7 billion years of typing. That's a lot of years, but not enough for randomness to produce an amoeba, much less a me Bob (and this is leaving aside the ontological leap from animal to human intelligence, unbridgeable by any material explanation).

I used to accept the Fermi Paradox, although I wasn't familiar with the name. To the metaphysically untutored, it has a kind of prima facie plausibility. You know what they say: a little philosophy inclines one to atheism, while a lot of it lands one in the lap of God. That's not an insult. It just means that you need to be intellectually consistent and rigorously follow your metaphysic all the way to its principal source and its logical entailments.

But let's just focus on our earth. First, it hasn't been here for 13.7 billion years, only 4.5. Moreover, life appears around 3.7 billion years ago, leaving a window of only 800 million years for our primate typing pool to get the job done (exact numbers subject to change without gnosis).

Others have done the math, so I won't bother you with the details, but it is mathematically impossible. Add to this the fact that for most of those 800 million years the planet was too hot to host life. If I recall correctly, life appeared within a window of something like 130 million years, and there just aren't enough monkeys or typewriters.

Ah, but that's the point! Yes, it is impossible for life to have occurred by chance in such a short time. But the problem disappears if we posit enough galaxies and planets. Perhaps life appeared on another planet, but their sun went supernova on them (d'oh!) propagating its elements hither and yon. Some of this fairy dust landed on earth, and here we are.

Of course, this just pushes the essential problem further back without addressing the real question, which is the generation of extraordinarily complex information content in lifeless matter. If this is even possible, then it is necessarily possible in principle. So, by virtue of what principle is it possible for matter to leap across the exterior horizon and organize itself around a subjective center? I know how it's possible. But I would like to hear how the materialist explains it without negating the explainer -- you know, climbing into a metaphysical hole and pulling the hole in after him.

Is there extraterrestrial life? Yes, of course. For life itself -- and in principle -- is extraterrestrial, i.e., transphysical. If it is wholly terrestrial then it reduces to matter, but in so doing eliminates everything that is distinctive about life. It reminds me of the free will problem: if one believes in predetermination, then our individual existence is illusory, and we are but mere extensions of God (or of matter, depending on your god).

What about planets other than earth? What is the earliest conceivable time that planets could have formed and cooled sufficiently for life to magically appear? I don't have time to look it up, but there's much more to the problem than mere statistical likelihood. For example, given the fact that the NBA has existed for some 70 years, the Clippers should have won several titles by now. And yet they've won none. Paradox! The Boston Celtics must have drafted players from other galaxies!

Obviously there are other factors than pure probability. In the case of life, the number of factors necessary for life to exist are too numerous to catalogue here. So long as you set no conditions on planets, and assume that every planet is habitable, then the emergence of life seems superficially plausible.

But in fact, there are so many necessary conditions -- leaving aside the sufficient condition -- that the real probability approaches zero. And indeed, if we leave out the sufficient condition, then the probability is in fact zero, because no number of necessary conditions adds up to a sufficient condition.

Here again, I won't bore you with all the necessary conditions, but these include size (too much or too little gravity causes the wrong molecules -- e.g., methane and ammonia -- to remain at the surface or the right ones -- e.g., water and oxygen -- to dissipate), distance from the sun, axis of rotation, a perfectly situated moon, the existence of a planetary wingman like Jupiter, whose much stronger gravitational field pulls in all the meteors that would otherwise strike the earth, etc.). Last time I checked, the number of such necessary conditions surpassed 150, which works out to something like one chance in 10 the 73rd power.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking:

I see your scientistic faith is strong, but no, there is no chance. We haven't even addressed the sufficient condition for human intelligence, and as we've pointed out so many times, no amount of animal intelligence adds up to human intelligence or even human stupidity (for example, there are no Marxist or deconstructionist animals).

The gap between animal and human intelligence is literally infinite, even though, from our perspective, we can see numerous analogues between our intelligence and animal or tenured intelligence. But the most intelligent animal lacks the transphysical soul whereby we effortlessly navigate an immaterial world of abstract concepts, essences, logic, truth, beauty, compassion, humor, inexhaustible creativity, and so much more. No animal can conceive oneness, let alone conceptualize the One.

One question addressed in the bOOk is how prehuman primates came to inhabit this mysterious intersubjective world in which we have our being. Here again, no amount of intelligence can result in this leap into the transitional space of intersubjectivity.

Nor is it likely to occur, even on earth. Last time I checked, some 50 billion species had arisen on earth. And yet, we are alone. Then again, being human means we are never actually alone, or we couldn't be human. But that's the subject for a different day and a different earworm. I think I killed this one.

In conclusion,


julie said...

But if it does exist it can only have a transphysical source, and would not in any way prove that the existence of human beings is a random occurrence explicable by chance.

As our local priest observed in a recent homily, if there are aliens then the God of all Creation is God of them, too.

Gagdad Bob said...

Our former priest would say that if there are aliens, then we have to let them live here. Fortunately, we have a new priest.

julie said...

Thankfully, I've never heard ours say that. We've been very fortunate to have him; sadly, he's a young guy so next year at some point he's going to be reassigned. On the plus side, he's mentioned that young priests are tending much more orthodox these days, which kind of makes sense since you'd have to be spiritually crazy to be serious about being a priest right now. I hope he's right.

ted said...

Being a priest these days is like opening up a Blockbuster franchise ten years ago.

julie said...

I don't know about that; the number of faithful Catholics doesn't seem to be dwindling all that much, even if they aren't having as many kids as they once did. Being a priest is more like volunteering to be potentially hated, feared, and assumed guilty of pedophilia/ corruption/ misconduct by association. None of which is any more true or likely of priests than it is of the average schoolteacher, but the perception is there and has serious consequences.

Anonymous said...

Good evening all:

This post was a dud although the Dr's style is good enough to render it bearable. With that literary flair even an explication of a telephone directory could be made amusing. The post was enjoyable to read although total hogwash.

I won't go into why it was hogwash, beyond saying the Dr. himself is well aware it was hogwash. Glad you got your ear-worm taken care of, now back to business for the next post I hope.

May I suggest some topics: Sex, drugs, or rock and roll. Or all three.

-Puffy Pudenda

Anonymous said...

Every mass I have attended in the last 10 years has been packed. Catholicism is if anything gaining steam in the regions I frequent. Have no fear regarding the vigor of the Catholic Church, she is going strong. And there's plenty of young ones too, of all races. There are plenty of brown, white, and black faces in those pews.

ted said...

If that's true about the RCC, then terrific. I know Bishop Barron keeps quoting the stat that for every person who enters the church, six leave. But what I do think has happened is those in the faith these days are more serious than the cradle Catholics of past years.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted:

I couldn't agree more. Catholics these days are in the main devout and pious. I wasn't aware of the Bishop's statement on attrition within the faith and I find that disturbing. As I said, it could be regional (Southwest), but parishioners seem to be gradually increasing in number. In my parish the church is building a large and well-funded school and has bolstered all of the youth programs.

Anonymous said...

Hello All:

If God wills we must rub elbows with out-system folks, so be it, we should love them as we love any neighbor.

But good neighbors don't enter one's house uninvited. Making sneaky incursions in shiny wondermobiles and doing whatever you want whenever you want is not acceptable behavior.

If by fate we meet with any legitimate authority on this frontier the first order order of business would be to protest this gas-lighting nonsense. We have already been terrorized enough, just look at at the stuff Hollywood puts out.

Possibly rogues and scoff-laws are responsible and not decent folk, but as for me I don't want these sh*tbirds coming around here anymore. It is disrespectful.

Anyone with me on that? Weigh in.

julie said...

Ted, I can concur with the Anon at 8:19. Attendance usually drops off a bit during the summer, but still pretty steady. The only times I've seen it empty are on weekdays, and even then there's usually a small, dedicated group. At our Easter vigil Mass (where adults who have gone through RCIA are baptized and confirmed), there was a pretty large group, around 20 I think, just this year - after the rules were changed so that it now takes (I think) two years of classes instead of just one. These people take it seriously, and quite often they bring their families with them.

I'm sure that a lot of Catholics drop out, and I know for certain that a great many are poorly catechized, and don't understand why they go except that's what their family has always done; even so, there's a strong core of people who are there because of a deep-seated faith. Those are the ones the Church should be encouraging most, as they are the mustard seeds.

Van Harvey said...

"...Is there extraterrestrial life? Yes, of course. For life itself -- and in principle -- is extraterrestrial, i.e., transphysical. If it is wholly terrestrial then it reduces to matter, but in so doing eliminates everything that is distinctive about life..."

That's a really good way of putting it, angles the O-prism to the light, just right.

Anonymous said...

So SETI is doing it wrong then?

Anonymous said...

Hello Panel:

Well of course there are sentient beings running around out there in this galactic locality, the Third Spiral Arm. This is a well known fact in certain circles but not in the culture widely. Don't be fooled.

Our position is much the same as it was for pre-contact Yanomamo villagers in the 19th century.

Yep, the outside is dribbling in and this uneasy phase will last a while. So just go about your business and if the sh*t hits the fan you won't be too surprised. There are people working on the transition plan, good people, so you don't have to worry about it. We can shelve this topic as it could be decades or even centuries until anything moves in this arena.

Dr's claim that all people are in part "extra-terrestrial" because they occupy, inhabit and are invested by non-physical planes and modes is a valid statement. It could be said to be true for just about anything.

What's important on a day to day basis is love for all and for God. Cue George Harrison. Here come's "My Sweet Lord." Bam! there it is.

Anonymous said...

Hello blog aficionados and general public:

This comment thread has stalled. Apparently the question "where is everybody" is not of great interest. And that is fitting. This is a "wait and see" sort of conjecture. Not much can be done with it aside from speculation which has been presented ad-nauseum in the public for decades. Hence the X-Files are now just re-runs.

However, there is a tie in with sex which deserves some examination. Aliens are imagined to "probe" and to penetrate human bodies, ostensibly angling for eggs and sperm. But,there is another element, and that is aliens are presented as sex-starved and horny, and this may be a projection of a cultural preoccupation.

The word, "nasty." What is nastiness, exactly? Catholic women are said to be nasty in the bedroom. The Japanese are said to be freaks between the sheets. These are popular stereotype. Why? Is there anything to them? What makes one mating session routine, and another nasty? Is it a lack of inhibitions? Is it carnal abandon? Is it a marker of some unrighteous emotional need? What are the motives for being nasty? What does it do for people? Is nastiness a sin? Does being nasty have a legitimate place in human interactions?

Some think aliens want intense and nasty sex they can't seem to get among themselves, and that brings them here. Maybe we are special that way. Who knows.

Nastiness is an odd thing. Where does it comes from? what it is supposed to do for us? These are unexplored investigations, virgin territory.

Please share your thoughts on the matter. This is a legitimate philosophical inquiry.

Thanks, Greta from Germany

Anonymous said...

Everybody sins. Always have, always will. But when they sin in sexual ways, well now that's different. Now it's gotten serious.

Anonymous said...

Computer models suggest that humans are among the first. Since most stars are red dwarves which are pretty unstable for their first many billions of years before becoming tame enough for their own planetary life to comfortably grow into technologies, we’ve got some waiting to do before life is all over the place. The sweet spot is several hundred billion years in the future.

The models suggest that any intelligence statistically existing is likely far too sparsely populated around the galaxy to be able to communicate with each other. And then there’s all the filters. Selfish best survival urges turning into selfish sin which tends to win and ruin everything by misusing the technological power it’s conquered, is one of the worst filters.

So it becomes a matter of the odds. Stable stars located in safe suburban zones of the galaxy (the center is a very dangerous hood) are in the tiny minority. Double stars don’t keep their planets around for long, giants blow up way too soon, and anybody can be around a variety of events which can vaporize atmospheric protections for life.

But you knew all that. The good news is that the odds are that space aliens wont be invading us anytime soon, yet. And Mr. Tsoukalos will get to keep his crazy hair and spout nonsense. So there’s that. I think one of the Star Trek series paid homage to his hair style by devoting an entire species to this.

So the far more important question: Is Mr. Tsoukalos gay?

Anonymous said...

Where is cousin Dupree when you need him?

Cousin Dupree said...

I am disappointed at the deterioration in quality of our trolls. Rarely do their comments merit so much as a nonverbal shrug.

Anonymous said...

Should we dumb them down even more for you?

Cousin Dupree said...


julie said...

I find it mildly amusing that they think insulting someone's intelligence is some kind of sick burn.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dupree:

The quality of the trolls is proportional to the quality of the posts. Let the Dr. know.


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