Tim Mulgan is professor of philosophy at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and professor of moral and political philosophy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is the author of Purpose in the Universe: The Moral and Metaphysical Case for Ananthropic Purposivism (2015).
The Surprising Implications of Extraterrestrial Life
In a vast universe, we see no evidence of extra-terrestrial life. The Fermi Paradox asks: Where is everybody? One popular answer is that life can only emerge in extremely rare conditions. Discovering any alien life would rule this out. If life arose twice in the tiny fraction of the universe we have explored, then it must be everywhere.
Another popular solution is that aliens choose not to visit us. To explain why no one visits us, this unwillingness must be universal. Some philosophers find this absurd – behavior is driven by biological desires, and aliens with radically different biologies will not all choose to remain invisible. But other philosophers argue that rational behavior also responds to objective values built into the fabric of the cosmos. The quest to understand the universe might transform a creature’s motivations. Perhaps aliens smart enough to conquer the stars will find they must introduce God to explain why the universe exists. They will then abandon their previous plans, embrace God’s purposes, and lose interest in colonizing the galaxy. We might hope such aliens will be benevolent. But why would an alien God care for humanity? Perhaps the real answer to the Fermi Paradox is that we see no one for the sobering reason that neither aliens nor their God have any interest in us.