from NPR

Were There Aliens Before Us?


Drake's equationUniversity of Rochester/Courtesy of Adam Frank

Are we the only civilization-building intelligent species that has ever occurred in the universe?

It’s one of science’s oldest questions. Earlier this year, my colleague Woody Sullivan and I published a paper in the journal Astrobiology presenting new results that, I believe, throw new light on the ancient question. And, based on that work, last month I wrote an OpEd in The New York Times that ran with provocative title “Yes, There Were Aliens.” The Times piece found a large audience and generated strong responses running from agreement to dissent to folks telling me I really should look into UFOs (sorry, not my thing).

Today, I would like, once again, to present our argument and dive a little deeper into its meaning and its limits. In particular, I want to address two excellent rebuttals written by Ross Andersen in The Atlantic and Ethan Siegel in Forbes. Neither Andersen or Siegel was buying some of my contentions and they both made good points. The thing about science (take note climate deniers) is that it’s really a call and response. Both Andersen and Siegel are great writers. Their skepticism made me think even harder about the ideas in our paper and that was really helpful.

One note before we begin. This piece is a tad long because I need to introduce some of the background for the rest of my argument to make sense. Those familiar with the “Drake equation” and its history can skip the next section.

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