In my commitment to actual news post election, I subscribed to The New York Times. I use it as a kind of methodone for my social media addiction, and so I often find myself perusing it on my phone when I feel that itch for a digital dopamine fix. This past weekend, I came across a very interesting, very credible opinion piece from June. Before proceeding, you should read it in its entirety. I promise it’s worth it.
The article asserts that, thanks to technological advancements in astronomy, we are now able to say that we are almost certainly not the only civilized species to have existed in cosmic history. Yes, there is some speculation involved, and no, it doesn’t speak to whether or not we are currently alone, but it is definitely still cause for reflection.
Much like one of my favorite TV FBI agents, I want to believe. I always have, to a certain extent. Maybe you could call it more of a faith than a conviction. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but we have known for long enough that we are just a tiny speck in the universe, and that anything could be going on out there. To many of us, it seemed not only plausible, but likely that intelligent life existed elsewhere in the universe. Still, it was all conjecture. This is actual, numerical calculation. As the article states, we no longer have to reduce the matter to pessimism or optimism. We don’t have to subscribed to crazy conspiracy theories. Intelligent life outside Earth has almost certainly existed.
The implications of this idea are staggering. Mankind, particularly those of us who have predominantly subscribed to western thought, has operated for all but the last few moments of its existence under an assumed self importance based on the notion that there are no other species quite like us. We’ve just been handed math to strongly suggest that that assumption is bullshit. The ground from underneath our perception of the universe has been ripped out like a table cloth from under plates and glasses, and some how, bizarrely, nothing has fallen off the table. Nobody is talking about this. Everyone is carrying on as normal.
Perhaps that is what blows my mind the most. This piece, published in June, only just now crossed my path. I regularly read about space, science, and science fiction. The internet knows I like this shit. How have I only just now seen this? How has nobody been talking about this? It isn’t as dramatic as a bunch of flying saucers landing in DC, granted. It’s also not as real, ominous, and imminent as many current events. But it’s still a radical shift in our understanding of our own place in the universe. This is a discovery that has the potential to seriously reconfigure people’s philosophies, to alter the undercurrents that influence our decisions every day, if we only stop to consider its implications. How is this not bigger news?