Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but what counts as extraordinary?
First, a detail not often recognized. The Fermi Paradox was first formulated by Enrico Fermi in Los Alamos at a time when national security types were worried about frequent sightings of green fireballs with odd trajectories.
The nerds in Los Alamos (Manhattan Project/cold war era Los Alamos) were split between Soviet probes and UFOs.
Second, your list of three options leaves off two or three that really should be considered.
4) unknown physical phenomena. Those cubes inside spheres are the side effect of frame dragging in a chronosynclastic infendibulum of electromagnetic time crystals. (All made up, because how should I know what undiscovered physics is going on)
5) actual woo. The UFOs are real pixies and sprites, or the astral/etheric effects of Thor throwing down with Hermes.
6) archetypes and the collective unconscious. 1,000 years ago people saw angels and demons because that is what they expected to see. These days people see UFOs (overwhelmingly in the English speaking world) because that is what they expect. Whenever some stimulus doesn't fit into available patterns it gets shunted into forms that make sense. For a fun rabbit hole, look up near death experiences by culture. (The Hindus have the best one, where they see a giant bureaucracy that sends them back due to clerical errors)
Finally, missing from the equation is the interest in space. Life might be abundant, intelligence might be an emergent property, even technological development might be common, but we might be the only species in the universe that cares about space exploration. That might even be limited just to western civilization (Faustian according to Oswald Spengler) and other human cultures lose interest after the west finishes imploding.
I'm going to be that guy who pisses in the pool it seems.
Just because something /should/ have developed due to similar circumstances sadly has no bearing on whether it exists or not. I'll use a couple of well-known conundrums:
>Why no industrial revolution during the height of Egypt, Greece or Rome? All of the requisite knowledge, materials and socio-economical base conditions were in existence. Not only didn't it happen in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it didn't happen at all anywhere until much later.
>Why didn't an ambitious empire-building colonising culture arise somewhere in Africa, rather than in Europe? The raw materials are there. No winter. Plenty of game and plenty of space for agriculture. And if we believe the "out of Africa-hypothesis", a huge advantage in time. Yet nothing like the persians, the greeks or the romans arose.
While it is both probable and plausible that there are millions of planets with life, long dead or just formed, well... compare to purposeful and conscious exploration of Earth. It didn't take off for real until quite recently, measured on our species' time of existence. Nor was it very systematically performed, initially.
And all the above things doesn't even take religion/spirituality into account, or "prime directive"-stuff. Maybe the UFOs are interstellar sociologists?
My favourite pet-hypothesis is, the dinosaurs ruled the planet for over 100 000 000 years. Obviously, they developed intelligence and sci-tech and left before the impact, throwing their ships into a slingshot orbit around some star or other, course calculated to bring them back to Earth when they could be certain conditions were approaching tolerable. A couple of decades aboard ship, tens of millions of years on the planet, thanks to relativity and time dilation due to the relative velocities.
Making the UFOs scout ships of course.
Maybe that's why Mars looks like it does? They went there because their main engines were that hypothesised kind that chain-detonates hydrogen bombs to push the ship into tens of percent of light speed?
Just spitballing. Very enjoyable read, you spoil us - also nice to see a mention of Brahe, the man with the silver nose.
I lean towards number 1. I remember reading stories about anti vaxxers in the early 2010's, and thinking to myself, who are these people? I've never met one. The #METOO stuff starts early also, does anybody remember the Duke lacrosse team who were accused of rape by a stripper, and then later the stanford swimmer and the drunk girl at the party? The 90's had plenty of stories of "terrorism" to get everyone ready for you know what. They only publish what they want you to see, as we all learned in 2020. Things are getting crazier by the day, anything that keeps people from pointing the finger where it rightly belongs will be trotted out. Bread and circuses my friends.
Maybe this is only tangential: I just finished reading a sci-fi book called "Ascension" by Nicholas Binge. Without spoiling it, I hope, I'll say that the premise is: do ants, for example, know that we humans exist? They may steal our food, live in our houses, and be killed by our feet...but perhaps they think these are just natural phenomenon, and have no idea humans exist. What if we are in the same situation?
I can think of a reason why all this might seem more acceptable now: we've just been culled by our governments, men are now women, the life we knew is going or gone, war is hanging over us, evil is everywhere ascendent. Hell, what's a few aliens...
I saw weird lights in the sky my whole childhood doing things conventional wisdom said man-made aircraft couldn't possibly do. I also lived near several bases where the military tested rockets and experimental aircraft.
Having worked on those bases later in life, and having had privileged access to things that most people, including the pilots of those aircraft, did not have access to, I can tell you it's not at all unusual for the pilots not to be aware of the existence or capabilities of other aircraft being tested at the same time and same location as the ones they're testing.
Compartmentalization in experimental military technology is so extreme that lack of coordination between projects sometimes causes serious accidents.
Another thing I can say is that none of it is as impressive as wild speculation and runaway imaginations sometimes makes it out to be. No known laws of physics are being broken. Oddly shaped objects moving (or hovering) in ways jet planes can't doesn't require Clarketech. Drones that you can now buy at walmart move in ways and at speeds that ordinary people believed wasn't possible only 30 years ago.
The reason you don't always see these gadgets revealed to the public is sometimes they turn out to not be very useful and the project gets shut down. But the military jealously guards their secrets, just in case the commies might see a use for it that they don't.
Sadly I can't say more or they'd have to kill me (or put me in jail forever more likely). But more than once I've seen a UFO freakout that I could perfectly explain because I knew exactly what it was, but of which I am not permitted to speak. I promise none of them involved anti-gravity, hyperspace, faeries, or anything else other than conventional propulsion technology. But the spooks and arms dealers don't mind you thinking that because it muddies the waters and serves the purpose of keeping these things secret.
_And yet, personally, I don’t trust any elements in the regime. At all. Even if there’s fire where that smoke is, and I lean strongly in the direction that there is, I suspect there’s some kind of angle they’re playing._
So, pretty much "option 1 is not exclusive of option three... there's something real, AND the government is likely lying about it in some way."
Regarding the emergence of civilization on Earth, it took (we think) about half the planet's expected 10 billion year lifetime. That would be consistent with a miniscule probability (say one in a million), even if simple life can form quickly. Still, the rapid development of simple life would be required to support the billions of years of evolution that produced us. It's hard to avoid the anthropic principle...
I vote for UFO option 1, psyop. Government is trying to distract from its failures.
Thanks for highlighting the failures of reason. We should expect that every step has at least a 50 % chance of being wrong. "Because reasons" is a great saying.
There's another possibility: For whatever reason, the aliums have decided it's time to make their presence known, and our pathetic loser excuses for leaders are trying to get ahead of it, so as to try and retain what little credibility they have left.
After all, as Uncle Clif has noted, if the government is helpless to protect us against UFOs (and all the abductions and cattle mutilations) then why the fuck should we give them any authority at all?
I'm going with massive psy-op overcapacity in government so they're doing it for some trumped up reason, essentially for the LOLs.
Historically a lot of apparent UFO activity was just different branches of the military doing stuff the others weren't aware of is also likely as the military is even bigger and more byzantine now.
Watch the Skies by Peebles is a great book from 1994 published by the Smithsonian that tracks UFO sightings in the US, the "UFO myth" and shows how they follow historical themes. The current government semi-but-not-quite admissions would fit in well as an additional chapter.
"The interaction between believers has been a major influence on the myth’s history. The flying saucer myth … also involves how the believers view the role and nature of government… This interaction both fed the flying saucer myth and brought about the very things the government sought to avoid"
Great essay. Your point that the Fermi Paradox is only a paradox because we ignore UAPs/UFOs needs to be widely circulated.
A strong argument. One niggle:
"The emergence of life more or less immediately tells us one of two things: either life was seeded on Earth from somewhere else, or physics makes the emergence of life highly probable once the conditions are right."
There is at least one other possibility. It is possible that our current understanding of physics is missing a key ingredient of life's emergence, which may serve to invert the supposed prerequisites (in causal terms).
In other words, what appears to us human observers to be a fertile sphere in which life automatically develops could instead be the effect of a life "signal" causing changes in its immediate surroundings that advantage the flourishing of dynamic complexity. "The tree makes the soil" may sound like hippy-dippy bullshit, but so far there doesn't seem to be a method of proving it's impossible.
How does that third option relate to the prospect of extraterrestrial life capable of interstellar/galactic adventure? It depends on your opinions about the nous, and the prospect of life as the result of divine intelligence rather than the dice games of Fermi and others.
You can count me in as a moon landing denier. Judging it by how NASA treats what should be nearly sacred film more like an old movie prop: by losing it! Same with moon rocks. It would appear that the USA can’t or won’t go back, and the moon shots become more difficult to replicate ‘in a lab’ every day. That said, the moral argument for the moon landings is strong, and I don’t mean just the astronauts. I mean the many scientists and engineers who worked on the project, believed in the project, and never wrote conspiracy theory books.
"To be sure, many remain skeptical. And not without good reason. It isn’t like officialdom hasn’t lied to us before. They lie to our faces daily. About everything. It seems to be their main joy in life." I reman skeptical and this line epitomizes it. As a simpleton who found Sagan interesting, this essay is what I would hand to someone wanting to steelman the ET exist argument. High-level.
For my money, if UAP is ET, then I am going with possibility 4): 1, 2, & 3. Cheers.
I'm for #1 with it being a distraction and throwing more things in the psyop brew, if it's only between the three presented.
What I think, though, is that there has been a shift in how we view things. Because each individual now holds a smaller and smaller percentage of the total information we know, we rely on books, authorities, and experts to know things for us, and then trust them. However, you can only write a book or be an expert on a few things - meaning these experts themselves also trust other experts.
This leads to us having to change our target for analysis from the factual (things we know to work because we have experienced them) to the counterfactual (things we have not experienced but we are told should work or have been vetted by the "know betters"). There used to be a release valve for this in the form of saying "I don't know", but that's not something we're allowed to do anymore, because you can "just Google it!".
This means you either have to believe or disbelieve - no middle ground, no neutral - very polarizing.
It might really just be that we don't know what we're observing, and we shove it into the "aliens!" mental schema, because that's something close to hand.
I saw a green fireball myself on Oct 19, 2019, above Moffett Field. At first I thought it was a plane coming in too fast, but then it vanished in a green flash. I was stunned. No one believed me until I found that someone else got a video of it coming down, though not the green flash itself, sadly:
I find it unlikely that it just happened to occur over a military airfield.