Some of you may know, or remember, or if you’re like me not know (at least during most of my 85 years) what is meant by the expression, The Fermi paradox, named after the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901-1954).
But first what is a paradox? I take a definition from a Cambridge website, a paradox there being a statement or situation, which while it may be true somehow seems impossible or difficult to understand. Why? Because it contains two seemingly contradictory facts or conditions.
Again, What is a Paradox? (from Wikipedia) A paradox is used to challenge the mind and make you think about the statement in a new way. Take the statement “Less is more.” This statement uses two opposite words that contradict one another. How can less be more? — Other examples, You can save money by spending it. I know one thing, that I know nothing. This is the beginning of the end. Deep down, you’re really shallow. “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw. “I can resist anything but temptation.” – Oscar Wilde
The Fermi paradox is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations along with the high probability in respect to the numbers of planets out there, for the existence of such civilizations.
The basic points of the argument made by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart are:
- There are billions of stars in just our own galaxy that are similar to our Sun, and many of these stars are billions of years older than the Solar system.
- There is a high probability that some of these stars have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, there is the high probability that some may have developed intelligent life.
- Also some of the resulting civilizations may have developed interstellar travel, a step that we are now investigating here on Earth.
- Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, our galaxy, the Milky Way, could be completely traversed in a few million years, allowing us to identify other forms of intelligent life along the way.
Now I’d like to introduce another paradox much closer to home. No need to travel impossible interstellar distances to see this one. This Paradox, that I will call the Waring Paradox after Lloyd B. Waring who himself throughout his life was very much puzzled by the huge numbers of times we used in our words and prayers the word God and yet never, nowhere did we see with our own eyes, or hear with out own ears, the presence of a real God, did we ever have any real evidence of God’s presence among us. Much like intelligent life on other planets God’s presence on Earth had not yet revealed itself, at least to Waring or to anyone else. Here the seeming contradiction between our excessive usage of the word God, what I call the God talk, and the absence of God’s “presence” or reality among us.
The paradox being, how can we go on talking, for hundreds, thousands of years, about this whatever it is “God”? and yet never be sure of its being real? Lloyd Waring’s suffering was real, as was his real need for a God. And he was no different from other people, the billions of others like him, sufferers and survivors, most of whom would regularly attend God services, pray for their family and friends, and even put “In God We Trust” on one of their most precious possessions, their money.
A seeming paradox, no? All the talk and never the presence among us of the object of all the talk? Do you believe in the real presence of God? I understand there are those who are convinced that God has revealed his presence, although not yet to the mass of mankind, not to the scientist by and large, not as in my own case to man’s reasoning power. If you would know, I myself have no opinion, neither on the reality of intelligent life elsewhere in own galaxy of one hundred billion or more planets, nor in the universe of one hundred billion or more galaxies, nor do I have an opinion on the reality of God here on earth, or anywhere else.
At the moment there are two principal paths before us. One the God path, which in terms of the number of times that God is mentioned seems to be the one more taken. The other, I’ll call the truth path, which is the path of science. The scientists who follow this path, still terribly outnumbered by the non scientists, look to nature as their God, this God being very real and recognized eons ago by the very first of our race or species. Those on a path to truth try to understand what they observe, make sense of it all, what’s in the universe outside, no less than in the universe within, understanding being their principal goal.
The God path has had its time, and during all that time, 10 thousand years of so, has pretty much failed us, and has even, on any number of occasions come close to destroying us, bringing us closer to extinction, the fate up until now of all forms of life on the earth.
The God path, if no longer alive, no longer living, is still our past, our history. This is where we’ve come from, what most of us have been through one way or another, but, while it’s led to enormous achievements, in music and art for example, this path has led nowhere in regard to how men might best live together, in regard to how best they might be led and governed. This they have still to learn and to do, and praying to God will not help a whit.
On the other hand man’s greatest achievements up until now on the other path, the path of truth, just have to be such things as liberal democracy, and the rule of law, the Liberté, Egalité, and yes, Fraternité raised to our consciousness by the French Revolution, the ideals of the 18th. century Enlightenment, and yes an ingrained love for your fellow man, all things to which the God path is no longer taking us, if it ever did.
Indeed, when we’ve made progress in the art of living together, getting closer to understanding one another, to understanding ourselves, it’s been most often by relying on ourselves, on our own means, on our own strengths and talents, on our constant pursuit of new knowledge, on expanding our horizons, certainly not on church attendance, prayer breakfasts, or what I would call God trappings (in God we trust etc.) of which there seem to be more and more among our ruling classes.
I’m not done with this subject, just getting started….