Conclusion

After criticizing 49 resolutions of the Fermi paradox, it is only fair that I present my own. It is not an original suggestion, but it sums up what I feel the paradox may be telling us about our Universe.

David Brin, in his superb 1983 analysis of the "great silence,"235 wrote that "few important subjects are so data-poor, so subject to unwarranted and biased extrapolations — and so caught up in mankind's ultimate destiny — as is this one." Almost two decades later, little has changed.

The subject is still important. What could be more so? Either we are alone, or else we share the Universe with creatures with whom we might one day communicate. Either way, it is a staggering thought.

The subject is still data-poor. To be sure, there have been advances in specific areas. Advances in computing and astronomical technology have made possible the development of powerful SETI programs, and we now know much more about the formation of planetary systems and of the evolution of life on Earth (although in both these cases, as is usual in science, new discoveries seem to create an expanding shell of ignorance). Nevertheless, we have barely begun to find answers to many of the deep questions.

And the subject is still liable to unwarranted, biased extrapolations. Given the profound importance of the subject, though, should our lack of hard data force us to remain silent? Surely the best we can do under the circumstances is to be frank about our biases and open about our extrapolations. At least then a debate can take place, even if for the moment such debate will generate more heat than light.

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