Stupid Assumptions and other redundancies…
1.) That interstellar travel must be fast
Why, exactly? What is the basis of the assumption that life on other worlds would be limited to factors of longevity similar to humans? What evidence do we have to suggest that aliens live longer than 15 minutes, or shorter than ten millenniums? By what system of reasoning have “experts” arrived at magic numbers like, “within a few lifetimes” or “feasible travel within a generation”? Whose generation? A human generation? Or a Nalotreexian Generation, which is of course, 50,000 of our years…
2.) That “advanced” civilizations are remotely similar to us
Why must we conclude that “at some point, every civilization…” when we haven’t got the slightest idea how things really work on other worlds? We have no evidence that radio is an inevitable medium for communication, and we have even less evidence that visual signals are essential. What if the alien species that we are surrounded by only rarely have what we would recognize as eyes or ears? Why couldn’t communication come in the form of smells or tactile experiences? Why must speech be a factor? How do we know that an advanced civilization would be made up of creatures with five primary senses? How can we even assume that all life is Carbon-based? Earth is a tiny sample and we cannot assume we are representative of anything other than earth.
3.) That aliens give a shit about us
What possible value would we be to a race of beings whose ecology is based around neon? Are we of significance to societies that can build stars or move whole systems? Are we of significance to a species that can harness the power of a black hole? We are assuming in these propositions that any civilizations exist, but in a cosmos where one planet has life forms, it is rational to guess that somewhere in all that vastness, another life form or two exists. It seems rational to suggest the existence of other evolved life that can do some or all of the things we can do, and then some. It seems foolhardy to conclude that the denizens of totally alien environments, capable of interstellar congress and transit, would concern themselves with us at all. The odds are, even in Fermi’s Paradox, that we are primitives with whom intercourse of any sort might well prove a total waste of time.
4.) That advanced aliens would allow us to see them
We already have developed stealth technology for avoiding our own early warning and tracking systems and it’s entirely possible that projects exist or are underway to create vessels that are fundamentally invisible. If aliens can cross interstellar space, they can hide. This is almost a foregone conclusion. Moreover, if we are a meaningless backwater, we are likely a site for alien grade school field trips or worse. We might be a dumping ground or a dung heap for any number of species too advanced for us to detect at all. The notion that we could “see”, let alone shoot down an alien interstellar craft is asinine.
5.) That we aren’t food for a more advanced species or group of species
“On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the United States.” Consider that there are some 300 million Americans, and the running percentage is perhaps about 0.33%. Consider that this is an excessive number and that some societies could be inherently superior in moral quality and general safety. Let’s say the global percentage is something like a much more conservative 0.1%. That would give us a number close to 6 million missing persons worldwide at any given moment. This is of course not a perfect statistical assessment, but it gives us a general idea of how things might be. The point is well-carried: Lots of people go missing all the time. Enough people go inexplicably missing to support the argument that a fair number are being eaten by aliens. Or they could be the victims of a secret vampire elite that has preyed upon humanity in perfect silence and anonymity for millennium. The reality of the situation is that without assumptions fueled by the unspoken terror that motivates virtually all skeptics, we have no explanations. And Occam’s razor cannot save us from paranormal or off-world explanations in a vast universe that only a small percentage of our species merely insists they understand. There are no external measures for the general validity of human science. The certitude with which skeptics and some dogmatic scientists proceed is no different than that of Inquisitors. Our era is a passing thing, and in a thousand year’s time, much of what we believe may turn out to have been mythology and desperate imaginings designed for the acquisition of power through the allaying of common fears. Many a skeptic will insist that aliens do not exist even as they are devoured by the aliens they have so recently committed to the realms of fantasy.
6.) That we are the dominant and most advanced life form on the planet
Who says so? Is it because we build cities? Is it because we have things that we identify as advanced? Is it that we conclude we are dominant and therefore, we are the masters of the planet? Even now, another species could live below ground or under the oceans, and we would have no notion of their presence. Given a thousand-year technological advantage, just by our own scales and frames of reference, such a species could send individuals into our homes on a regular basis with no one the wiser. You have no genuine way of knowing that you are not surrounded by non-human entities and intelligences at all times. The concept of “cryptoterrestrials” ought not be discarded or laughed at, since these very beings may be there to watch you masturbate, defecate, pick your nose and furtively conceal your failures.
7.) That we aren’t regularly contacted all the time, but are too primitive to understand what’s happening
If the “Dark Ages” of a species or given civilization can at our level be defined as excessively credulous and dominated by mythologies, fantasies and folklore, then it might readily be argued that a second phase of culture-wide fallacy lies in concluding that the “supernatural” is a concoction of silly impossibilities. Our very skepticism, confined in reality to a few cadres and cliques where decisions get made about what is “acceptable” to believe, may be a natural reactionary belief system that counterbalances the credulousness of our ancestors. In essence, aliens may often call scientists on the telephone but their claims of off-world origins are dismissed out of hand. Credulous or skeptical dogma is still dogma at the end of the day. Moreover, our limited evolutionary state could mean that a species of highly evolved primates with the equivalent of a million years more development might seek to help us, but find that we lack the sensory or communicative organs necessary for interaction. If a single “contactee” is telling the truth, then at least one incident of alien contact has occurred on Earth, and that incident too was disregarded by the recognized authorities. It is, quite simply, against the cultural laws of the Western elite to acknowledge the possibility of an alien interaction without “evidence” which seems truthfully to be a cipher for automatic refusal regardless of what information is presented to the contrary.
8.) That our governments, cultures, economics and hierarchies would be recognizable to a non-terrestrial civilization
Would a species of technologically advanced ants identify our systems as legitimate? Is it entirely possible that an off-world civilization might look at how we are ruled as a species and determine that we need to be liberated? Is it equally likely that we could be viewed as tribal, backward and brutal? Could a civilization reach the point where it would conclude that populations not involved in consensus are essentially volunteering for elimination by the greater whole? Could a civilization developed by a non-terrestrial species be conceived as in perfect balance or efficiency when those who hold the statistically “wrong” views are “recycled” so that their nutrients and proteins can be used by those with the “right” viewpoint? It is possible that a perfectly machine-like attitude could be desirable for successful interstellar governance. Or an alien species might choose to be ruled by something superior to but related in form to our criminal oligarchies masquerading as messy pseudo-democracies. Perhaps an ursine race might accept the autocratic rule of a line of female sages. Perhaps an intelligent and technically advanced species of crustaceans would find our systems so immoral that they would set out to obliterate us the moment we were detected. We have absolutely no way of knowing.
9.) That human cognitive mechanisms are accurate in perception or reason
What external evidence do we possess to suggest that our ways of perceiving, interacting and judging are of any validity? The contrary can be argued quite persuasively. Human societies are unstable over time. Human cultural and social designs seek timeless truths for their bases, yet the core beliefs and values of virtually every people are observably altered over time. Civilizations fall neatly into predictable and inevitably destructive patterns like conservatism versus liberalism, stagnation versus the generative, sedentary versus exploratory, aristocracy (by whatever name) versus proletariat (also by whatever name) and entertainment versus productivity. If our species cannot even design a reliable mechanism for general organization that does not disintegrate as a result of its own innate structural flaws, how can we even begin to conclude that our perceptions and judgments are accurate? A little over a century ago, men believed that the evidence of civilizations could be seen on the surface of Mars. Now, having sent sub-robotic probes there and surveyed some few square miles of terrain, we are told no such thing exists. But the entire debate hinges on how well we see, and we are told with equal certainty that seeing is an interpretive function. The brain processes light information. So what we see is less what is there and more what we believe is there – or not there- as the case may be. Given the nature of human psychology, it seems far more likely that we collectively construct temporary truths which we insist are real in order to perform simple roles in maintaining our sanity. We tell ourselves what lies we must in order to maintain the integrity of our egos, the perceived validity of our mythologies, and the desperate hopes we depend upon for peace of mind. The genuine realities are likely far removed from the “truths” constructed of human intellect.
10.) That there is such a thing as evidence to begin with
Is there evidence that would convince the people of 50,000 CE that the United States once existed? Is there evidence to be trusted with regard to the vilification of some, and the enshrining of others? What evidence exists to state that Hitler was evil, whereas Gandhi was good? While it is true that many of us disagree with Hitler or else identify with his victims, this is not proof of error. Unpopularity or generalized repugnance does not stand for evidence of a moral “truth”. Gandhi may have said and done many fine things in the view of many people, but this again is opinion. Therefore, evidence is a matter of opinion. Some are convinced by very little in the way of physical data. Others require more. And all evidence is subject to interpretation. It is a matter of interpretation for nearly every living human being that the Earth is “round”, since very few people have ever been in a personally valid, personally reliable situation from which to observe the Earth as a spheroid object in space. We very often take for granted the “evidence” that is offered to us, and this is increasingly a crazy thing to do considering the emergent technologies that allow fabrication of convincing vistas, experiences and data. Not having been to the Moon, none of us know for a personal fact that it exists as a quasi planetary body orbiting our world. Not having traveled to other star-systems, absolutely no one has a valid opinion regarding life on other planets, the nature of planets in other solar systems, or the ways in which alien species should or could or would develop and/or evolve. Evidence is what we make of it, what we argue it to be, and nothing more. The emotional reaction is predictable in those for whom evidence is a dogmatic article of faith. There are those who will argue that certain instruments are flawless, without realizing that what is constructed by humans will be subject to human fallibility and that even this is a human conceit. The collected data is interpreted before it is even processed as data, when the trained human mind translates one set of symbols into another. Lovecraft may have had far more right about the universe than Einstein, and it is only human fallacies that render the mathematician superior to the pulp literary icon. We hold certain endeavors more valuable and valid than others, while the tendency for our civilizations to collapse implies that we are placing faith in the wrong things. A certain flexible stability would seem the hallmark of a species that is capable of enduring, and human kind has not been around long enough in cosmic terms to make any lasting claims on anything.
To the otters and octopi that will inherit our world in a few million of our years and manage to translate the relics of the past into meaningful terms, I would convey a message: “It’s our assumptions that got us in the end. Mind your own – If you can.”