Skeptics accused of narrow minded cynicism at a Skeptics meeting.by Don Lacey on Sep. 12, 2012, under Critical Thinking, Freethought, Freethought Events, Logic, Question of the Day!, Quotations, Reason, Sanity, Science, Skepticism
On Monday, we had a Skeptics meeting with 13 present. The presentation was done by a member of the group and focused on a similar analysis that was carried out by Frank Drake when he came up with the string of probabilities aimed at predicting the number of intelligent civilizations present in the Milky Way Galaxy. The equation that he derived is called the Drake Equation and is the driving force that keeps the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project funded.
Cal Benjamin in his presentation varied the analysis to predict the probability that an intelligent space faring civilization was colonizing the planet we call Earth. His analysis resembled the Drake Equation but had a few more considerations to consider. In the Drake equation, it was enough for a civilization to exist and have enough technology to communicate with us. The Drake equation is at best an estimate and there are quite a few unknowns in the chain of probabilities. We continue to fine tune it as more information becomes available but current estimates for the number of intelligent civilizations is between one thousand and one hundred million. That’s quite a range. The rather large number of predicted intelligent civilizations led Enrico to ask way back in 1950, “Where are they?” In other words, “If there are so many intelligent technically advanced civilizations, why haven’t they contacted us?” This idea has become known as Fermi’s Paradox.
Apparently, there were a couple of Mulders at the meeting that really wanted to believe and were uncomfortable with a focused look that the underlying probability of space aliens visiting the planet. To them a focused analysis is the equivalent of being cynical and closed minded. However the alternate view is that if we can apply what we know from our earthly experience to what it would take to have a space faring species visit us from light years away, we can virtually eliminate space aliens as a possible answer when we see something in the sky that we don’t understand. This is a far more efficient approach than addressing each and every unexplained sighting on the internet. That is not to say that there are no “real” UFO sighting but when you hear the sound of stampeding hooves, your first inclination is to say horses not zebras.
The important lesson here is that Skepticism doesn’t always lead to the answer we want. Evidence, analysis, and critical thinking can possibly change an outcome but simply saying that someone is closed minded and cynical because they’ve come to a different conclusion is not a proper application of Skepticism.