The Fermi Paradox

Before I tell you what happened the next evening when Roger promised to explain the mystery of where he had come from, I want to tell you what the Fermi Paradox is.

It is not really a paradox, it is a question. If there is intelligent life in the universe, why hasn't it visited us, or why have we not at least discovered some evidence of it? The question is based on the assumption that life evolved on this planet, and since there are billions of stars in the universe and there are certainly many planets in many star systems similar to earth where life would have evolved multiple times throughout the history of the universe, some of that life would surely be intelligent. If there are such intelligent beings, as Fermi put it, "where are they?"

I arrived at Roger's estate at six, as promised, and we enjoyed a pleasant dinner, after which Roger invited me into his study, which was more like a library. Andrew brought us both an Ale brewed on Roger's estate and told me to help myself to his marvelous custom cigarettes.

"You are probably not going to believe what I'm about to tell you, Mark. You know I would not deceive you, so you will either assume I'm suffering some kind of delusion, or am simply mad.

"That does not matter, however. I assure you what I'm going to tell you is true. It is going to stretch your credulity, and challenge some of your most cherished beliefs.

"I told you I am not an American and that I was not born in the United States. Your question was, 'where then were I born?' I suppose you think it was in some other country. The truth is I was not born in any country on this planet. I was not born on this planet at all."

Roger paused, I suppose to give me a chance to take in what he had just said, and to gather my thoughts, which I did not do very well.

"Then Roger, where were you... how did you get here... how can you be ... are you a human being?"

I had the impression Roger was struggling to keep from laughing out loud.

"Mark, I'm as human as you are. I was actually born on a..., ah..., 'ship,' which is the closest I can come to describing it to you. It was on the way to the planet my parents were from and where I grew up—a planet of a star system in a very distant galaxy you could not possibly know of.

"As for how I got here, I cannot tell you. I mean, I do not have words you would understand to explain it. I assure you there was nothing magical or mystical about it, but the science and technology are beyond anything your sciences have yet discovered."

Roger was right about one thing. I was having a very difficult time believing what he was telling me. Roger is generally regarded as an eccentric, but I could not believe he was truly, "mad," as he put it.

"I know you'll have endless questions, Mark, and I'll answer all I can. There are a couple of things I want to explain before you ask them though.

"You know what the Fermi paradox is, Mark." It was a statement, not a questions. I assured him I did.

"Fermi was a brilliant scientist, a rare one on this planet. But Fermi made the mistake that all people on this planet make. They assume things they've always believed are true, because no one ever bothers to question them. Fermi's mistake was the result of an unquestioned assumption.

"That assumption is that life, particularly human life, evolved on this planet.

"Now it's true it's not known to anyone on this planet, but the fact is, the universe is teaming with intelligent beings. It perhaps will not be too difficult for you to believe that, but what will be much more difficult for you to believe is that all those intelligent beings are human beings.

"I would say they are exactly like earth humans, but that would not be quite true. Though the variations in appearance are even greater than those on this planet, most resemble homo-sapiens found right here. They are immediately recognizable as human beings.

"Most could walk among earth's populations without ever being suspected of not being "Earthlings." In fact, some do, but are, and will remain unidentified, with the exception of what I'm now revealing to you about me."

Roger paused again, allowing me to ask an obvious question.

"Roger, you're trying to tell me the universe is populated with human beings genetically identical to the human beings on this planet?"

"I'm not asking you to believe it, Roger, but that is exactly what I'm telling you."

"Then where did human beings come from if they did not evolve here, or... are you suggesting humans evolved more than once?" I asked.

"The truth is, no one knows where human beings came from, or even if they had an origin. I know that sounds fantastic. Everything has a beginning, but a race of beings is not a thing, but the identification of a long complex chain of events. There is no logical reason to assume there was any beginning to that chain, and when your scientists have learned some more about the universe they will know there is no scientific reason for that assumption either.

"Then," I was perplexed, "... where did the human beings on this planet come from?"

"No one knows except that they didn't evolve here, or anywhere most likely. Species evolution is only a hypothesis. On this planet it has gained "authority" as a science, not because it can be proved, which it cannot, but because it cannot be disproved, and because the so-called "evidence" for evolution can be woven into an intricate plausible explanation for human origins on this planet. Of course the mistaken assumption is that they did originate on this planet.

"One major argument for evolution has been the argument that the only opponents to the hypothesis are religionists with their competing hypothesis that the origin of humans, and everything else, was something they call 'creation'—by a mythical being they call God, or worse, a non-entity called, "intelligence."

"The evolutionists have advanced their hypothesis by means of a ruse, putting the entire debate in terms of a false dichotomy: one either accepts the 'scientific' hypothesis of evolution or accepts the 'superstitious' hypothesis of the creation. Evolution may be more plausible than the creation fairy tale, but it is no more scientific, and in fact is wrong, because human life did not begin on this planet at all.

"Of course that makes Fermi's question moot, but his is not the real question. Since the universe is teaming with human life, why has this planet never been been visited or contacted by any of those human beings, or why hasn't at least some evidence of them been discovered?

"Human beings obviously have visited this planet. That is how they got here. No one knows how or when, or what apparent catastrophe caused them to regress so far, or why it has taken so long for them to make the little progress they have.

"Nevertheless, since there is no recorded history of the arrival of human beings on this planet, and no subsequent record of more recent visits, as far as earth's record goes, the absence of alien visits to this planet is correct. For Fermi, and all others ignorant of the extent of human populations throughout the universe, the real mystery, which they could never have been aware of, remains; why have the intelligent beings in the universe, to this day, kept their existence hidden from those who live on this planet?"

I had never been impressed by the so-called Fermi paradox. Even on this planet, there were life forms that existed for eons without ever being suspected until finally discovered. There were lots of, "pat answers," I could never accept, not because I knew what the real answers were, but because I didn't, and knew the so-called experts didn't know either. I had to admit that Roger's explanation was as plausible as any other I had ever heard, and was made even more believeable because I knew Roger.

"The apparent absence of human life in the universe is no accident," Mark. "It is intended. It is not meant as a deception, as though human beings had something to hide. The deception is a kind of protection of human life from a terrible evil.

"That evil is the life of this planet—not all life," Mark, "only the human life. In all the universe, earth is one of only three planets on which human life has exhibited the kind of evil found here. The other two have already destroyed themselves.

"There may have been a fourth. It is known there was human life on another planet, which life is now extinct, but it is not known what the cause of that extinction was. Most assume it was another earth-like population that destroyed itself.

"Mark, governments, wars, and the kind of human cruelty found on this planet is unknown anywhere else in the universe except on those two, or possibly three planets I mentioned. There is something terribly wrong with the beings on this planet.

"Why this is true is a great mystery. The beings on this planet are individually identical to humans everywhere. Collectively, it is not populated with the most intelligent of people, but there are planets with populations of more limited intelligence which exhibit none of the evil that prevails here.

"It was thought there must be some disease, or genetic defect, or something in the atmosphere or the earth itself that would explain the behavior of humans on this planet. We now know none of those things are true There is no cause. The horrible evil that exists on this planet is simply chosen, and it is a choice that perverts human nature itself."

"Roger," I finally had the courage to ask, "if all you say is true, and I neither doubt or believe it yet, why are you, why are any of the other ah... non-earth human beings here?"

"It's our work, Mark. It's what all I've told you so far is a preliminary to.


Andrew brought us both another of Roger's private brews, and Roger explained what his real work was, which I'll tell you about next time.


—Mark Halpern (01/31/12)