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Fermi paradox a.k.a. "Where is everybody?"

VysePSU

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I remember reading about this years ago and it made me question, if intelligent extraterrestrial life does exist, why we have yet to see evidence of it.
  • There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to the Sun, and many of these stars are billions of years older than the Solar system.
  • With high probability, some of these stars have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some may have already developed intelligent life.
  • Some of these civilizations may have developed interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now.
  • Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in a few million years.
It is also worth reading about the Kardashev scale which talks about Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 civilizations. We are thought to be "0.7" on said scale, where a Type 1 civilization would be intelligent enough to use and store all of the energy available on Earth.

Some interesting explanations for this (courtesy of the Wikipedia article).

They are too alien:

"Another possibility is that human theoreticians have underestimated how much alien life might differ from that on Earth. Aliens may be psychologically unwilling to attempt to communicate with human beings. Perhaps human mathematics is parochial to Earth and not shared by other life, though others argue this can only apply to abstract math since the math associated with physics must be similar (in results, if not in methods).

Physiology might also cause a communication barrier. Carl Sagan speculated that an alien species might have a thought process orders of magnitude slower (or faster) than ours. A message broadcast by that species might well seem like random background noise to us, and therefore go undetected.

Another thought is that technological civilizations invariably experience a technological singularity and attain a post-biological character. Hypothetical civilizations of this sort may have advanced drastically enough to render communication impossible."


They tend to isolate themselves:

"It may also be that intelligent alien life develops an "increasing disinterest" in their outside world. Possibly any sufficiently advanced society will develop highly engaging media and entertainment well before the capacity for advanced space travel, with the rate of appeal of these social contrivances being destined, because of their inherent reduced complexity, to overtake any desire for complex, expensive endeavors such as space exploration and communication. Once any sufficiently advanced civilization becomes able to master its environment, and most of its physical needs are met through technology, various "social and entertainment technologies", including virtual reality, are postulated to become the primary drivers and motivations of that civilization."

I like to believe we aren't alone in the universe because it's such a big place but this may be a question we'll never know for sure in any lifetime on Earth. Still, what do you believe?
 

Pimpbaa

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"Another possibility is that human theoreticians have underestimated how much alien life might differ from that on Earth. Aliens may be psychologically unwilling to attempt to communicate with human beings. Perhaps human mathematics is parochial to Earth and not shared by other life, though others argue this can only apply to abstract math since the math associated with physics must be similar (in results, if not in methods).

Physiology might also cause a communication barrier. Carl Sagan speculated that an alien species might have a thought process orders of magnitude slower (or faster) than ours. A message broadcast by that species might well seem like random background noise to us, and therefore go undetected.
I think this is most probable. Considering how diverse life is here on earth, it's got to be far far more diverse in regards to our galaxy (even more so considering the universe as a whole). What if say jelly fish were on an evolutionary path to gain intelligence equal or greater than ours. How the fuck would they communicate with us? Alien life could be far more bizarre and hard to communicate with than that movie "Arrival". So no hot green women from the planet Orion :messenger_crying:
 

Ornlu

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I always found the basis for the idea a bit arrogant; the assumption that we should have found life by now doesn't fly with me:

1. We've only been able to look for other life for a few decades
2. We only really look for radio waves, other species could use something different
3. Space is very, very big
4. We're picking up signals from hundreds/thousand/millions/billions of years ago depending on distance
5. "Life/Sentience" as defined by current science may not be something that forms/evolves naturally
6. We currently only study tiny slices of the sky
7. Our understanding of space is extremely infantile; current thinking is going to change radically we we continue to advance

That's just a few things off of the top of my head. I'm sure others could come up with a lot more. Basically my thought is that there are too many variables, and that we as a species are too new at space exploration and study to even expect to have found anything yet.
 

-Minsc-

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I think this is most probable. Considering how diverse life is here on earth, it's got to be far far more diverse in regards to our galaxy (even more so considering the universe as a whole). What if say jelly fish were on an evolutionary path to gain intelligence equal or greater than ours. How the fuck would they communicate with us? Alien life could be far more bizarre and hard to communicate with than that movie "Arrival". So no hot green women from the planet Orion :messenger_crying:
I don't even know how to communicate with other people.

There very well could be sentient and intelligent life out there that doesn't need to rely on machines, tools, etc. like we do.
 
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Pimpbaa

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I don't even know how to communicate with other people.

There very well could be sentient and intelligent life out there that doesn't need to rely on machines, tools, etc. like we do.
There could be sentient and intelligent life that live in space, are as big as a planet, or as small as an ant. I just hope none of them want to destroy us and plunder our resources.
 
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Ornlu

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There could be sentient and intelligent life that live in space, are as big as a planet, or as small as an ant. I just hope none of them want to destroy us and plunder our resources.
That's another thing...if the other life were significantly beyond us, they would most likely be beyond a resource based economy/existence.
 

Dazrael

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What if in all the time that has passed since the beginning of everything; we were the first example of life spontaneously coming into being. That it’s taken this long for life to naturally occur and that as being the first we are so far alone in the universe.

Kind of a chilling thought.
 
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Ornlu

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What if in all the time that has passed since the beginning of everything; we were the first example of life spontaneously coming into being. That it’s taken this long for life to naturally occur and that as being the first we are so far alone in the universe.

Kind of a chilling thought.
If we're the first to appear, that points to life not forming the way current theory states it should.
 

SLoWMoTIoN

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I'm that kind of guy that if he doesn't see something with his own eyes (while awake) he doesn't believe in it. Aliens, love, and cryptids all sound about as real as clean low cost renewable energy. That being said I can see why people want to believe in extraterrestials. The idea we are all alone in the seemingly infinite universe is something we can't prove or disprove.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Rare Earth was written almost 20 years ago but it's still a pretty concrete explanation as to why complex life may be uncommon throughout the universe.

I think the most plausible explanation for the silence is the tremendous scale of time. Humans have only been able to reasonably detect alien civilizations for... maybe 50 or 60 years? I dunno. That's not even a blink. That's a fraction of a fraction of a blink, and an alien civilization would have to simultaneously exist in a window of time that lines up with this blink.

The further away they are, the earlier in the history of the universe they'd be and there are cosmological reasons why the early universe was more unfriendly toward life.

What if we're the first intelligent life? It's not implausible, and it should give us a proper respect for our home and our fellow humans.
 
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Thurible

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Gosh, Giorgio Tsoukalos weirds me out with his hairstyle. I also hate the idea of the show "ancient aliens". From what I understand, its a show where they speculate on unusual happenings/architecture in history and blame it on extraterrestrials. It's so asinine and idiotic. It also belittles the real history by making the work of REAL MEN AND WOMEN into some weird little game.
 
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nkarafo

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In order to ever have contact with aliens we don't only need to be close enough, we also need to co-exist.

Given both the size and age of the universe, both seem unlikely.
 
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YukiOnna

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Well, there's things that hint at it like the WoW Radio signal among other things like that military encounter and recording a few years back and my own person sightings of UFO lead me to stick to the belief they exist. But the most probable one is the first point made about them being too alien or either too far advanced or too far back. On top of it being unlikely the same concepts assumed here on Earth are there among other factors. Space is too big and there's probably many, many things that exist we still don't know about to this day.

And even if there was compelling video footage or documents in history of visits through the ancient art or symbols in language, the general mass won't really believe it.
 

zenspider

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They're inter-dimensional brings. Duh. Do you even listen to Alex Jones?

Rare Earth was written almost 20 years ago but it's still a pretty concrete explanation as to why complex life may be uncommon throughout the universe.

I think the most plausible explanation for the silence is the tremendous scale of time. Humans have only been able to reasonably detect alien civilizations for... maybe 50 or 60 years? I dunno. That's not even a blink. That's a fraction of a fraction of a blink, and an alien civilization would have to simultaneously exist in a window of time that lines up with this blink.

The further away they are, the earlier in the history of the universe they'd be and there are cosmological reasons why the early universe was more unfriendly toward life.

What if we're the first intelligent life? It's not implausible, and it should give us a proper respect for our home and our fellow humans.
I forgot where I heard someone go i to the incredible unlikelyhood probablistically that we would be the first or the last intellegent life in the universe. I'll try and dig it up.
 

MetalAlien

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I always found the basis for the idea a bit arrogant; the assumption that we should have found life by now doesn't fly with me:

1. We've only been able to look for other life for a few decades
2. We only really look for radio waves, other species could use something different
3. Space is very, very big
4. We're picking up signals from hundreds/thousand/millions/billions of years ago depending on distance
5. "Life/Sentience" as defined by current science may not be something that forms/evolves naturally
6. We currently only study tiny slices of the sky
7. Our understanding of space is extremely infantile; current thinking is going to change radically we we continue to advance

That's just a few things off of the top of my head. I'm sure others could come up with a lot more. Basically my thought is that there are too many variables, and that we as a species are too new at space exploration and study to even expect to have found anything yet.
You don't really understand why it's a paradox. We shouldn't have to look hard. That's what the fermi paradox is saying. Assuming we are not special and life pops up everywhere it can. The universe is old enough and planets numerous enough that all it takes is one species to want to populate the galaxy. That is where people get hung up. Odds don't lie. If it can happen it does. If we survive and it's possible we will populate the whole galaxy even if it takes a million years using slower than light speed ships.

Any species that develops after us will see evidence of us everywhere in the Milky Way. So if we don't see that it means at no time in the life of the Milky Way has that happened yet. That's the paradox.
 
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Ornlu

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You don't really understand why it's a paradox. We shouldn't have to look hard. That's what the fermi paradox is saying. Assuming we are not special and life pops up everywhere it can. The universe is old enough and planets numerous enough that all it takes is one species to want to populate the galaxy. That is where people get hung up. Odds don't lie. If it can happen it does. If we survive and it's possible we will populate the whole galaxy even if it takes a million years using slower than light speed ships.

Any species that develops after us will see evidence of us everywhere in the Milky Way. So if we don't see that it means at no time in the life of the Milky Way has that happened yet. That's the paradox.
I get why it's a paradox as presented. I just find the presentation a bit silly, for the reasons I posted already.
 
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MetalAlien

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I get why it's a paradox as presented. I just find the presentation a bit silly, for the reasons I posted already.
Because the stars and planets are so numerous and they have been around for so long, your reasons are actually the silly part. Not trying to insult but giving how probability works there really should be life everywhere unless it's WAY harder than we give it credit for.

There is a TED talk where a guy using only slightly more great filters works out there might be only one planet with intelligent life per observable bubble of the entire universe. I'll see if I can find it.

Found it...
 
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Ornlu

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Because the stars and planets are so numerous and they have been around for so long, your reasons are actually the silly part. Not trying to insult but giving how probability works there really should be life everywhere unless it's WAY harder than we give it credit for.

There is a TED talk where a guy using only slightly more great filters works out there might be only one planet with intelligent life per observable bubble of the entire universe. I'll see if I can find it.

Found it...
No insult taken. I'm saying if reality doesn't match the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is flawed. Maybe life doesn't just begin from nothing? Maybe life doesn't trend toward sentience? The list of reasons why not is endless.
 
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Xiaoki

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Im sure this picture has been posted before


So, our sphere of influence only extends 95 light years in a galaxy that is 106,000 light years in diameter in a supercluster that is 110 million light years in diameter in an observable universe that is 93 billion light years in diameter.

Aliens havent found us because we are too small and insignificant.
 

Pagusas

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My theory: interstellar travel is just not possible. Faster than light drives can not exist in our universe and that is why we haven’t heard from anyone else. It’s just too much space. Maybe every species; even those way more advanced than us has tried and failed to create FTL.
 
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MetalAlien

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Space is just absolutely, unimaginably huge. Even if intelligent life happens relatively easily, chances are no species will ever contact one another due to this.
That's not how it works. If intelligent life happens easy it would be everywhere around us. Space is big but so is time. Even with the size of our galaxy and withOUT faster than light we will be able to populate the entire Milky Way in a few million years if we survive the next couple of great filters. A few million years is nothing.
 

Insane Metal

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That's not how it works. If intelligent life happens easy it would be everywhere around us. Space is big but so is time. Even with the size of our galaxy and withOUT faster than light we will be able to populate the entire Milky Way in a few million years if we survive the next couple of great filters. A few million years is nothing.
How exactly would we do this? Also... that is also a HUUUUUGE "if". Considering we're basically newborns here, we could be gone as easily as we came.

Edit: love this guys' videos

 
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MetalAlien

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How exactly would we do this? Also... that is also a HUUUUUGE "if". Considering we're basically newborns here, we could be gone as easily as we came.
Generation ships eventually. You are right it is a huge if. In fact the chances are remote we will even live long enough to do this. But that's what happens when you start muiltpling things by thousands of planets and millions or even billions of years. Suddenly things that only have a remote chance of happening turn into a sure thing IF it's psossible at all.
 
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VysePSU

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Well, there's things that hint at it like the WoW Radio signal among other things like that military encounter and recording a few years back and my own person sightings of UFO lead me to stick to the belief they exist. But the most probable one is the first point made about them being too alien or either too far advanced or too far back. On top of it being unlikely the same concepts assumed here on Earth are there among other factors. Space is too big and there's probably many, many things that exist we still don't know about to this day.

And even if there was compelling video footage or documents in history of visits through the ancient art or symbols in language, the general mass won't really believe it.
Wait, what are you talking about? And what were your UFO sightings?
 
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MetalAlien

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You guys better hope there are no aliens within reach of us. Whatever shows up is going to make the craziest Marvel villian seem tame.
 
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WhiskeyDiver

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I'm betting on the fact that the hyper advanced races that have cracked the code to ftl travel and communications would be at the point of not giving a shit about a bunch of primitives on a dirt ball in an underwhelming solar system.

Honestly, the best chance we have for them to care about our existence in any way would be arts like music and drawing. Books might be another interest to them. I would think thats about it.
 

Sakura

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That's not how it works. If intelligent life happens easy it would be everywhere around us. Space is big but so is time. Even with the size of our galaxy and withOUT faster than light we will be able to populate the entire Milky Way in a few million years if we survive the next couple of great filters. A few million years is nothing.
This is where I always get hung up. Sure we could populate the galaxy. But why would we? Human population isn't growing exponentially. We don't have much reason to colonise a few planets let alone all of them. Maybe alien species are just taking it easy on their homeworld.
 

MetalAlien

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This is where I always get hung up. Sure we could populate the galaxy. But why would we? Human population isn't growing exponentially. We don't have much reason to colonise a few planets let alone all of them. Maybe alien species are just taking it easy on their homeworld.
That factor is part of the fermi equation. Willingness to colonize. 1000 planets with life say no. but that one crazy planet says yes. Boom Life everywhere.
 
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XVision84

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Well there is a staggering number of planets within the habitable zone of their respective star just within our galaxy alone. The probability that we are the only living beings in the universe is very low. However, we have only seen evolutionary pathways of carbon-based life forms. I remember one of my astronomy professors lecturing on the potential for silicon-based life but she never went too far into the topic since it's kind of out there. It's hard to imagine life without carbon or nucleic acids but our conception of life is very limited right now.

Another relevant question to ask is are we worth communicating with? It's also possible that aliens are fully aware of our existence but we are nothing to them. Our sphere of influence is miniscule relative to the universe and we haven't even set up a base on our own moon. Space travel wise, we're barely infantile. This is just my own thoughts running, but I imagine that aliens can almost buy up our region of space (assuming they've got that kind of economy) without caring about us, much like how you buy your home without caring for the ants/insects that live in it too. You don't ask the ants for permission to buy the home.

Whatever it is, the properties of the universe certainly aren't helping. The universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Space can expand faster than the speed of light. Barring the creation of some kind of wormhole, it's incredibly unlikely that we will be able to explore the far reaches of our universe (from what I have learned, at least).
 
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XVision84

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I'm betting on the fact that the hyper advanced races that have cracked the code to ftl travel and communications would be at the point of not giving a shit about a bunch of primitives on a dirt ball in an underwhelming solar system.

Honestly, the best chance we have for them to care about our existence in any way would be arts like music and drawing. Books might be another interest to them. I would think thats about it.
I'm curious as to how aliens would view "art". Just within our own species, what constitutes art is quite abstract. There are debates on that all the time, we even have trouble understanding fellow human beings' "art". It seems like a natural step towards intelligent life, but what do we know? It's not like we can test it out on another species from another planet.

The day we find aliens and communicate with them will probably be a huge leap forward in scientific understanding. It's just unfortunate that the odds of this happening within our lifetimes is astronomically low. The vast majority of our understanding in science, technology, and logic has come within the last century. That's 1 or 2 lifetimes. We've essentially just begun in the grand scheme of things. The year is only 2019, that's nothing compared to humanity's estimated 200, 000 year existence. Technology has already progressed to the point where daily human life in 1519 is dramatically different from life in 2019. Go to the year 100,019 and human life at that point will be near unrecognizable to us imo.
 

nush

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Gosh, Giorgio Tsoukalos weirds me out with his hairstyle. I also hate the idea of the show "ancient aliens". From what I understand, its a show where they speculate on unusual happenings/architecture in history and blame it on extraterrestrials. It's so asinine and idiotic. It also belittles the real history by making the work of REAL MEN AND WOMEN into some weird little game.
If you've not watched the show they don't draw the conclusion everything was aliens. It's looking at things "according to the theory of ancient astronauts" it's more of a "what if" spitball that got dragged out too long as ther series was popular.
 

Thurible

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If you've not watched the show they don't draw the conclusion everything was aliens. It's looking at things "according to the theory of ancient astronauts" it's more of a "what if" spitball that got dragged out too long as ther series was popular.
So they aren't claiming anything, but rather playing a hypothetical what if game? But why? I get thinking about what alien life could possibly mean philosophically and scientifically as a little thought experiment or joke, but why make up fantastic what if scenarios in REAL HISTORY with no basis in reality as a show?
 
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neobiz

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It sounds like you're answering your question

billions of stars in the galaxy

I'd say even if life is abundant, the scale of distance and time will be a hindrance to some Joe alien from popping by and saying 'sup bitch'

theoreticians
 

nush

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So they aren't claiming anything, but rather playing a hypothetical what if game? But why? I get thinking about what alien life could possibly mean philosophically and scientifically as a little thought experiment or joke, but why make up fantastic what if scenarios in REAL HISTORY with no basis in reality as a show?
You actually Catholic? If so basis in reality is probably not a good angle to go for here.
 

MetalAlien

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It sounds like you're answering your question

billions of stars in the galaxy

I'd say even if life is abundant, the scale of distance and time will be a hindrance to some Joe alien from popping by and saying 'sup bitch'

theoreticians
It would actually be the opposite of that. It would make it practically a certainty. I not trying to pick fights with anyone. I'm just trying to point out what Fermi was trying to communicate. The paradox is real.
 

nush

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Yes I am a catholic. What does that have to do with what I've said about aliens and what have you?
It's something they touch on in the series where religious explanations have been used to explain what's not understood at the time. There's things in the bible that have since been explained by science for example. My point is that it's theory not fact.
 
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neobiz

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It would actually be the opposite of that. It would make it practically a certainty. I not trying to pick fights with anyone. I'm just trying to point out what Fermi was trying to communicate. The paradox is real.
A certainty that Joe Alien would say 'sup bitch' if he was cruising through ?
 

Thurible

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It's something they touch on in the series where religious explanations have been used to explain what's not understood at the time. There's things in the bible that have since been explained by science for example. My point is that it's theory not fact.
I still don't quite understand. Are you saying my beliefs are no different than crazy alien conspiracy theories?