That’s the verdict of astrobiologists on the MIT Technology Review. Now, despite the iterative hoopla on the web and in the popular media about how there *must* be ET life out there, this isn’t the first time mainstream scientists have argued that the possibility of life elsewhere is remote (see Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee).
My favorite part of the article has to be the smack-down of the Drake equation. I’ve blogged on it before (“Trusting in the Blessed Equation“), chiefly about how amazing it is that this literally contrived-out-thin-air equation has stopped critical thinking on this issue in its tracks. It’s really at the level of religious dogma for ET believers. But as the MIT piece notes (emphasis mine):
The Drake equation is one of those rare mathematical beasts that has leaked into the public consciousness. It estimates the number of extraterrestrial civilisations that we might be able to detect today or in the near future.
The equation was devised by Frank Drake at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1960. He attempted to quantify the number by asking what fraction of stars have planets, what fraction of these might be habitable, then the fraction of these on which life actually evolves and the fraction of these on which life becomes intelligent and so on.
Many of these numbers are little more than wild guesses. For example, the number of ET civilisations we can detect now is hugely sensitive to the fraction that destroy themselves with their own technology, through nuclear war for example. Obviously we have no way of knowing this figure.
. . . the fact that life emerged at least once on Earth is entirely consistent with it only having happened here.So we could be alone, after all.
Let’s please put the Drake equation fantasy to rest. Statistically, it has nothing to offer, and anyone who builds a belief (and a religious worldview) on the “statistical fact” that life must exist elsewhere derived from the Drake Equation is literally arguing from no data at all.