We should try to have more children,
and to bring them up in our values.
The Fermi Paradox Resolved
by L. Neil Smith
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
In 1954, the dashing atomic physicist Enrico Fermi, who constructed the first nuclear reactor, asked a casual question of his buddies over coffee: given what seemed to be the overwhelming likelihood that there are thousands of intelligent species living elsewhere in the galaxy, and there probably had been for millions of years, why hadn’t they dropped in on us before now?
There followed, after Fermi’s death, sixty-odd years of bad guesses, shabby statistics, wild speculation, and powerfully-wrong-headed “reasoning” to account for what became known as “Fermi’s Paradox”. Now, having spent a half-century of my own as a “science buff”, a reader and writer of science fiction, and a student of philosophy (not to mention an observer of history and what you might call “humanoid nature”), I believe I have stumbled upon the ultimate answer to Fermi’s question, and it is not encouraging for our future as a species.
There is a developmental biological phenomenon known as recapitulation (no, I am not changing the subject) , in which the body of an organism, at first a zygote, then a fetus, and finally a baby, repeats many of the features that its ancestors evolved to get it to its most-developed state. For example, at one stage or another of its gestation, a pre-born human being will exhibit gills, and, at another, a tail. Ook-ook.
It has often struck me that this process continues for some time after birth, as well, and whether it is organic in origin or “just” behavioral, is manifested in various observations one can make of criminal street-gangs or that became part of the famous Robber’s Cave Study (look it up), where the tribalism of troop-monkeys became the order of the day among young boys at a summer camp in Oklahoma.
It has been suggested—to the point of monotony, I’m afraid—that humanity is under a kind of galactic interdict because we seem to fight all the time and occasionally blow each other up with fissiles. But I would counter that mortal conflict is inevitable between sapient beings, especially when it involves objective matters like resources or trade routes, and that atomics are just another kind of explosive, no different in principle than nitroglycerin or dynamite, especially to cultures capable of handling the titanic energies that must be associated with interstellar spaceflight.
This is not to suggest that this island Earth is not some kind of ethical leper colony, but for a different, far more threatening reason. Consider: the entire point of bringing a young person into the world is to produce another, fully-autonomous being. But on this planet, all too often we pour our young into uniforms and three-piece suits and expect them—sometimes on pain of death—to do what they’re told to do. We pound them and shape them and glue and nail things to them until they become well-behaved enough to torment the next generation exactly the same way, and we’ve been doing it for at least 10,000 years—500 generations, and probably a lot longer than that, if Thomas Hobbes was right about “nasty, brutish, and ... whatever”.
In short, humans obey orders—and to well-disguised alien scouts, the effects are pathetically obvious.
And that is a disease worth isolating an entire planet for, even one with good barbecue.
How do we get around this infernal blockade? I don’t know that we can. But it might help to put together a manifesto, like the Bill of Rights or the Covenant of Unanimous Consent and rent some outgoing time on a powerful radio telescope like Arecibo or F.A.S.T.. I don’t believe that interstellar species will still be using radio signals (that’s the basic stupidity of SETI), but maybe we could catch the attention of an antiquarian hobbyist.
Let them know Out There that not everybody down here is a robot slave. Maybe we could take our next vacation on one of those exo-planets we’ve been discovering lately.
Award-winning novelist and essayist L. Neil Smith is a retired gunsmith, Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise and the author of over thirty books. Look him up on Google, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com. He is available, at professional rates, to write columns, articles, and speeches for your organization, event, or publication, fiercely defending your rights, as he has done since the mid-1960s. His writings (and e-mail address) may also be found at L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise, at JPFO.org or at https://www.patreon.com/lneilsmith, to which you can contribute, directly. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essay was originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. Use it to fight the continuing war against tyranny.
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