The Fermi paradox isn't quite as telling as some believe, in fact detecting "leaking" radio signals from planets around even the nearest star is problematic. The Earth, due to the interference of the interstellar medium, would not be detectable by "us" further than about .5 light years.
It’s a slight misconception that Fermi’s paradox
, as the science legend arising from the ca. 1950 lunchtime conversation between Fermi, Emil Konopishku, Edward Teller, Herbert York, and perhaps several others has come to be known, involves searching for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. What Fermi actually asked was “where is everybody?” by which he meant "why was Earth not 'colonized' by ETs long ago?" The fact that the search for ET intelligence is necessary at all, rather than being an uncontroversial part of our history and current society, which reasonable statistical arguments (like Drake’s equation
) compellingly suggest that it should be. (Note that Fermi and his lunch mates wouldn’t have known Drake's equation by name, as Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison didn’t publish the paper that inspired Frank Drake ‘til 1959, and the equation didn’t become well known ‘til around 1961)
Eric Jones deserves praise for his science history work in documenting, in 1985, Fermi’s “where is everybody?” discussion. His paper, which includes letters exchanged with Konopinsky, Teller, and York (Fermi died in 1954), is available here
. Prior to his work, the event was science legend, prone to the distortions of spoken folk history. Most of these legends, however, are not too far off real events, and the essential “where is everybody?” question remains IMHO an important and perplexing one.
BTW I thought the documentary was the best one I had seen, I must have missed the "spiritual" claim....
I too consider UFOs: The Secret History
the best documentary on the subject I’ve ever seen.
A year after watching it, I don’t recall it in detail, but the few notes I took summarize it as “a decently balanced credulous/skeptical documentary of the subject”, and don’t mention any spiritual claim in it, which I’m fairly sure I would have noted had I seen any.
My opinion that
... Cherniack, while far from the least scientific UFOologist, is an epitome of the wrong way to approach the search for ET intelligence, having early in his life abandoned a “hard” scientific approach in favor of a “spiritual” one.
comes from reading personal information about him, such as this brief autobiography
, in which he describes being “at loose ends” after getting an undergraduate Physics degree, realizing it “wasn’t going to answer any of my deeper questions,”, changing his studies to filmmaking, and finding personal satisfaction in Buddhism. The last paragraph from this really resonates with me:
As for the content...well, while I've been fortunate to witness and experience many things that have continuously pushed back the borders of what I recognize as reality, I am also, I think, increasingly more aware of the difference between belief and knowledge, shaded as it is by wishful thinking and self-deception. This tends to make what I think I know, increasingly less...and much more provisional in nature. That which I may not have experienced first-hand I tend to put on the shelf if it seems sincere, and to disregard if it doesn't.
I admire Cherniack’s feelings about the “provisional” nature of knowledge, but still suspect he errs, in a philosophically profound way, in his approach to it.
I don’t know nor have I even ever spoken to Cherniack, so, of course, I could be wrong in my suspicions. Even if I knew him well and had my suspicions concerned, I could be wrong in my philosophy of knowledge. But, of course, I don’t think I am – if I did, I, like Cherniack, would cast around for one that better satisfied me.
To his credit as a documentary filmmaker, I think Cherniack put aside personal beliefs when making UFOsTSH, presenting material in an unbiased way that allowed viewers to learn and make their own speculations and conclusions. As he notes early in it, regarding UFO literature, and legend, "the gold is almost impossible to separate from the dross,” so the best that can often be done is present it openly and without intentional lies, distortions, or obfuscations, and help and encourage the viewer to use their best critical facilities in evaluating it. Little if anything, in my experience, is more dross-making and detrimental to learning than the agenda-driven distortions of “true believers