The Fermi Paradox.

The Fermi Paradox is not, and has never been an actual paradox; nor is it a serious problem of any sort. It’s only a problem for those who don’t see broadly enough. Here’s why:

  1. Does an ant know what it is seeing when a human drives a car nearby? Probably not. Would humans have any clue what they were seeing if signs of advanced alien life were right in front of us? Probably not. The idea that we would actually recognise evidence of advanced alien life really relies on the assumption of our own ability to comprehend things which are completely outside of our perceptions and experience.
  2. Electromagnetic radiation actually dies off quite fast as it travels through interstellar space, such that we only really see any evidence of extremely powerful sources. So the whole “Why don’t we see any signals?” thing isn’t a problem at all.
  3. Timeframes. Consider, we’re only been emitting reasonably powerful (see 2; probably not powerful enough) electromagnetic signals for less than a century, and we’ve already come to the realisation that broadcasting is extremely wasteful in terms of energy, and we’re moving toward cabled and tightcasted communications. Therefore if we’re expecting to see television or radio signals from other planets, we’d only have that short window of overlap when their technologies involve broadcasting as we have been, and our technologies involve listening for such broadcasts.
  4. Energy efficiency. As discussed in point 3, technologies advancce, and eventually people realise that broadcasting is wasteful. Maybe they transmit all data via quantum entanglement, or via some technology we have absolutely no idea about yet.

A note about falsifiability in science.

First, forget what you learned from your skimming of one paragraph on Wikipedia.  Such monolithic efforts toward education are counter-productive, and unfortunately do not adequately substitute for genuine education and reasoning ability.  All too often, interkiddies debating one thing or another vomit up the phrase “It’s not falsifiable, so it’s not science”, and assume that phrase alone makes something not real, true, or accurate.  They are, of course, completely mistaken.  Another common belief associated with Popper’s falsifiability idea is that falsifiability is the sole determinant of whether something is indeed science.

Now, the concept of falsifiability in science generally stems from the philosophical works of Karl Popper.  Popper himself was not a scientist of any sort, but was generally inclined toward academic endeavours and even secured teaching positions in several places.  He’s not known for any scientific work of any sort, but for his personal philosophy about science, especially his idea that his notion of falsifiability is what makes something science.

So what was Popper’s concept of falsifiability in science?  In very brief terms, Popper argued that we can never absolutely prove something to be true, but can approach closer and closer to the truth by means of experiment and confirmed hypotheses; and that while we can never absolutely prove a hypothesis completely true, we can prove it absolutely, invariably, and irrevocably wrong with one successful experiment showing a result contrary to that proposed by the hypothesis.  This is often interpreted to mean that something is only science if you can design a test to prove it wrong.

Popper himself stated “A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific.”

Now let’s examine the obvious illogical nature of that assertion.  Popper is stating that if something can not be proven wrong, it is not scientific.  If we take “scientific” to mean provably true, then he’s asserting that something can only be true and real if it can be proven wrong.  That is inherently moronic, but unfortunately people allowed themselves to be swindled into accepting it by circumlocution and verbosity.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Hypothesis: The universe exists.  Popper falsification: Prove the universe does not exist.  Therefore the universe does not exist unless you can prove that it doesn’t exist.
  • Hypothesis: Gravity exists.  Popper falsification: Prove gravity does not exist.  Therefore gravity does not exist unless you can prove that it doesn’t exist.
  • Hypothesis: F=ma.  Popper falsification: Prove that F does not equal ma.  Therefore F does not equal ma unless you can prove that F doesn’t equal ma.
  • Hypothesis: Evolution.  Popper falsification: Prove that evolution does not happen.  Therefore evolution does not happen unless you can prove that evolution does not happen.

Look, there’s a reason why Popper wasn’t a scientist, and was only ever famous for philosophy.  He was just a good talker, and had no understanding of science.  He was good at talking rings around people by talking colossal loads of bullshit.

“A theory is falsifiable, as we saw in section 23, if there exists at least one non-empty class of homotypic basic statements which are forbidden by it; that is, if the class of its potential falsifiers is not empty.” Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 95.

Note that Popper’s quote deals not at all with science, facts, or reality, but with semantics and linguistic wrangling.  That was Popper’s one and only area of expertise, and the one and only area where his philosophy stands up to scrutiny.

To illuminate the extent of Popper’s complete lack of understanding of science, let’s consider what science actually is:

  • Hypotheses which can be tested to verify their validity.
  • Experiments intended to establish truth.
  • Observations.

Note that last one: observations.  The single longest running scientific endeavour by mankind was nothing more than a series of observations recorded over several centuries.  That was science.  That was epic science.  It required no testable hypotheses and no experiments.  It was just recording observations.  That’s a scale of and commitment to science which the world had never seen before and (chronologically at least) hasn’t seen since.  But according to Popper, it’s just not science.

Here are some more lengthy discussions of Popper’s philosophy of falsifiability:

Karl Popper was not a scientist.

Karl Popper never had any scientific theories.

Karl Popper never did any scientific work.

Karl Popper’s falsifiability idea is demonstrably wrong.

Using Karl Popper’s falsifiability philosophy as the differentiation of science or not science, true or not true, real or not real, is stupid.

Linking ideology and intelligence.

A lot of fuss was made over a study published in Canadian journal Psychological Science about the relationship between intelligence and ideology. The study is titled “Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact” and was published in 2012.

First I’ll provide a link to a response by a real statistician: Low IQ & Liberal Beliefs Linked To Poor Research? That response is by a professional statistician, W. M. Briggs, who does quite a good job of pointing out the massive flaws in the study.

Low IQ & Liberal Beliefs Linked To Poor Research?

Who Is W.M.B.?

Tim Worstall, Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute of London, focused on more social aspects in his criticism of the study, titled “Scientific paper: Conservatives are stoopid so there!”.

This Psychology Today article discusses several studies with conflicting results, some showing a correlation between conservative values and high intelligence, some showing a correlation between what Americans and Australians would call liberal values and high intelligence.

Now I feel it is appropriate to mention that a great deal of psychological research is simply not actual science.

Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

We found only one-third of published psychology research is reliable – now what?

Over half of psychology studies fail reproducibility test

Scientists Replicated 100 Psychology Studies, and Fewer Than Half Got the Same Results

Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of psychology experiment results

Now I shall move on to my own comments regarding this matter.

First, the reason for all such studies and discussions is simple: Most ideological differences tend to be polarising, and people like to feel better about their own beliefs, to feel right, by calling the other side stupid. That’s really all there is to it. Whatever the ideological difference, each side will accuse those who disagree with them of being stupid, ignorant, fearful, uneducated, et cetera. There is simply no truth or logic to the accusation, but truth isnt’t the goal; the goal is to feel reassured about one’s own beliefs.

As for studies, unfortunately if it’s not a hard science (involving physical properties), then the studies will be biased to show whatever the researchers want to show. This has been proven many times. We all know it.

As for my own experience, I can say in my opinion that some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met were at university, and I attended one of Australia’s best universities. They were quite well educated, most from reasonably affluent families (there is a correlation between tertiary education and coming from a wealthier family), and unfortunately at that impressionable age when people are most ready to believe what they feel are important revelations without having the cognitive ability and experience to really question what they’re told.

Even people of assuredly high intelligence can have crazy beliefs. Look at Stephen Hawking. The guy’s obviously as intelligent as any other university level mathematics lecturer, but believes in string theory (Hawking stated “When we understand string theory, we will know how the universe began. It won’t have much effect on how we live, but it is important to understand where we come from and what we can expect to find as we explore.”), which is a field of study which has never had the slightest shred of evidence to support it.

So, there you have it. When it comes to ideological differences, the only logical basis for the assertion that “Anyone who disagrees with me is fearful, ignorant, uneducated, and of low intelligence” is the fundamental human need to feel right.