Category: Horse Feathers

E.T. Will Call Home Within 25 Years?

My answer is, BULL!

An article on the Real Clear Science web site got my attention this evening. It seems that SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is boasting that we should be communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence within about twenty-five years.

How can they make this prediction? Well, that’s easy when you take a look at their reasoning and even their mathematics. You see, they make stuff up as they go.

N = R_{\ast} \cdot f_p \cdot n_e \cdot f_{\ell} \cdot f_i \cdot f_c \cdot L

This equation is called the Drake Equation. Before you flip-out with the mathematics staring you in the face, rest assured that you know as much about this math as the people that made it up.  Yep. It is possible to write impressive looking equations and not know what the heck you are doing. SETI proves this.

They are attempting to express “N”, the number of civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy with whom we may be able to communicate. The problem is that there is no basis for the equation, and there is no way to measure, or even estimate the values of most of the terms.

In other words the neat looking figures literally mean, NOTHING. They use this stuff to get funding.

What does all this have to do with E.T calling our home? The Director of SETI made this stuff up to keep the funding coming, and the twenty-five years is a “brown number” that came right out of his butt.

The reasoning in the article goes like this:

There are a couple of hundred billion stars just in our own Milky Way galaxy, so the odds are good that we are not alone in the universe. On the other hand, if life abounds, why haven’t we found any evidence of it—and is that about to change.

Arguments like this have one great fallacy. They are not based on any evidence whatsoever.

A better way to assess the probability of encountering extraterrestrial intelligence is fairly easy. Since you cannot calculate the probability, you an make a statement. Here’s mine.

Since we have never been visited or communicated with by extraterrestrial intelligence, the probability is that it will never happen. This is essentially what the Fermi Paradox addresses.

You see? I didn’t have to calculate anything, and have gotten a profound message across without  any mathematical chicanery.

I cannot rule out the possibility that it will happen. That’s the way life is. You can never say never, but is SETI worth funding?

I don’t think so.

The Political Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1

This is a Biblical thing that I have always read with an eye to actual experience. To say that there is a time for EVERYTHING is a strong statement, and brings out the legalistic monster in all of us.

For example, is there a season for killing? Does everyone get to go about killing at random, or at will? Is there a season for sinning? I thought pretty much all sinning was open season. For Ecclesiastes to speak in such generalities is to me like one of those sayings generated in small towns by out of work farmers dipping snuff and whittling on wooden sticks.

Like many sayings, there may be some truth in this one. We all know that our year is divided into seasons, and agricultural societies look forward to the seasons to plant, nurture, harvest, and breed. In our modern society all this stuff is transparent, but we can still name seasons like baseball season, football season, and chili season (not seasoning). Hamburgers and hot dogs are good year round.

The National Political Season used to come every four years and lasted only a few months. The cycle is still four years, but the duration is up to about one and one-half to two years, now. Some presidential candidates campaign pretty much full time, including the incumbent.

With the political season come new rules of conduct that should apply only during that period of the cycle. Politicians have the right to modify the rules of language and courtesy, and fling BS…

OK, we need to pause, here, for some language modification. It is not polite to use bathroom or fecal related expressions in civilized circles. Who knows, maybe there are children present. To repair this linguistic error, I will borrow a phrase from my childhood that means pretty much the same thing as the metaphoric BS. Let’s replace BS with Horse Feathers (HF). Now, I feel better.

To continue…
During the political season, politicians have the right to modify the rules of language and courtesy, and fling BS horse feathers at each other with impunity. A pol can lie, twist meaning, misquote, and even accuse his opponent with ridiculous crimes and not be held responsible for any of this calumny. 

Most importantly, a candidate is allowed tons of horse feathers in establishing their political positions on important issues like abortion, gun control, genocide, and jay-walking. The news media awards points to the most creative, and nuanced positions. For example, a liberal candidate is allowed to say that he/she is pro-choice without explaining that their choice is between candy and breath mints. Cool, huh?

After the primary wars have cleared the field to only two opponents, these guys are allowed to change their positions to further comply with a large segment of voters, comically called “independents”. Independent voters are parasites who get taken out to dinner, invited to phony town-hall meetings, and wined and dined by election consultants who need warm bodies for their focus groups. 

The idea that independent voters have not made up their minds is a double load of horse feathers. The truth about independent voters is they always have their minds made up. 

They will vote for whoever gives them the most goodies. That’s the American way.

Happy political season, everybody.