SETI stands for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. For over one hundred years now, people have been searching for signs that there are other intelligent life forms on other planets. As soon as we discovered that we could transmit information electronically across vast distances first via radio, then television and other means, we’ve wondered if other civilizations far, far away might be doing the same thing and, if so, whether we could listen in.
In the past hundred years our methods of searching the heavens for life similar to ourselves have become increasingly more sophisticated and far reaching. So far we haven’t turned up anything conclusive.
In the early 20th century it seemed entirely possible that our own solar system was teeming with other civilizations. The idea of canal-builders on Mars and warring medieval kingdoms on Venus seemed reasonable. But further study has shown that it’s highly improbable that any type of advanced civilization exists or has ever existed on any of the other planets orbiting our sun. We’re still not discounting the possibility that the oceans under the ice covered surfaces of some of Jupiter’s or Saturn’s moons might be full of weird alien fishes. But there’s probably nobody out there we can talk to.
Still, it’s not impossible that some kind of something we’d recognize as a civilization could exist in the far reaches of space. But if they do, why haven’t we seen any evidence?
There are a number of possibilities. Maybe the only civilizations using communication technologies we could detect are too far away. Maybe there are civilizations out there transmitting all kinds of stuff using technologies we haven’t even thought of. Perhaps the UFO people are right and they’re already here, their visits covered up by shady members of our own governments and men-in-black.
But there’s also another, more likely possibility. Maybe, even if life is common in the universe, what we’d call “intelligent life” is extremely rare. We already know it’s extremely rare on our own planet. The dinosaurs existed for hundreds of millions of years in every environment on the globe and still never produced anything smarter than a velociraptor. After the mammals took over, it was more than 70 million years before our ancestors started making stone tools and cave paintings.
The fact that we evolved at all seems to have been due to a lot of extraordinary luck. Humankind very nearly became extinct long before the first civilizations arose. And we have come very close to destroying ourselves with our own technologies a number of times in the past fifty years. There’s no reason to be confident we won’t find a way to wipe every trace of humanity off the Earth some time in the future.
Maybe that’s what happens to creatures like us. Maybe they evolve from time to time but always end up killing themselves before they can get very far. Or maybe the rise of a civilized society is even more rare of an event than we’ve dared to imagine. It is entirely possible that we are the only example in our galaxy, or in our galactic neighborhood, or even in the entire universe.
If that’s so, we are very important. Hell, even if that’s not the case, we are still very important. But let’s imagine for a moment that maybe we are the only self-aware life in the universe, or at least in our corner of the universe.
To me, that says we have a duty not to fuck it up. Not just a duty to our country or even our world, but a duty to the entire universe.
Donald Trump is not running for dogcatcher, or mayor of Palm Springs, or chancellor of pre-nuclear Germany. The stakes are much, much higher than they were in 1933.
I hate it when people rush to compare their political enemies to Hitler. It’s dumb when they say Obama is like Hitler, just as it was dumb when friends of mine said George W. Bush was like Hitler. But in the case of Donald Trump, the comparison is entirely accurate.
Adolf Hitler in charge of Germany seventy years ago started a war that killed millions. But humanity as a species was not in danger of extinction when Hitler was running around invading everybody. Trump in charge of the USA in 2017 could destroy the entire planet. In minutes. Not just that. Trump could destroy the only intelligent life form within billions and billions of miles, maybe the only intelligent life form in the entire universe. It’s a very real possibility.
So use your intelligence and try to prevent that from happening.
Thank you, America!
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March 5-6, 2016 Austin, Texas Austin Zen Center
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March 18-20, 2016 Mt. Baldy, California SPRING ZEN & YOGA RETREAT
March 25, 2016 Venice, California Mystic Journey Bookstore 7:00pm
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April 8, 2016 San Francisco, California San Francisco Zen Center
April 22, 2016 New York, New York Interdependence Project
April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
June 2, 2016 Los Angeles, CA The Last Bookstore 7:00pm
September 9-11, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 16-17, 2016 Dublin, Ireland 3-Day Retreat
September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat
September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
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You’ve convinced me to vote for Trump. Best to put our species out of existence quickly rather than let it drag out in apocalyptic zombie hell.
I’ve been reading lately about the American Plains Indians and their inter-tribal warfare. Man, those dudes were really into fighting with each other. They were about as blood thirsty as can be imagined. Child murdering and hostage raping and torture were common with them. And then an odd form of Western Civilization found them and ruined their fun.
Book, or articles? Do tell.
Hi Mumbles. The book is Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. It’s an older book – 2011, but it is fascinating and well written.
Thanks Harlen, I’ll track it down!
LOL. I hit up Amazon and recognized the cover. I have it in my library, but haven’t read, but will now, thanks.
I see on Amazon that Stephen Batchelor has praised Brad’s new book. Personally, I’d rather be endorsed by Hitler.
I’m curious. What do you have against Stephen Batchelor?
Mainly faux scholarship in the form of cherry picking texts to present a Buddhism which he knows us lazy westerners will agree with, and you know just diluting Buddhism in general. And don’t give me that “oh Buddhism changes with the culture” crap. That’s a load of bullshit. China, Korea, and Japan didn’t lower the bar as far as we have, in that they didn’t actually make the practice easier, correct me if I’m wrong there. And also his face, his big fat Scottish face with that smug grin on it as though he’s truly gotten to the bottom of things.
I formally endorse Used-rugs. He an upstanding sort of guy in my book.
“When the Tao is followed,
the war-horses plough fields;
When the Tao is not followed,
the war-horses give birth on the battlefield.
The greatest misfortune
The greatest burden
The greatest curse
Only those who know
when enough is enough
Will ever have enough.”
Hey Khru, please just STFU.
Khru & Khru, for president!
While it’s of course in line of what (little) evidence we have of times ages past, saying this as a fact and not supposition has always struck me as little presumptive: “The dinosaurs existed for hundreds of millions of years in every environment on the globe and still never produced anything smarter than a velociraptor.”.
Had the human race gone extinct (due to a plague, or war, or famine, or whatever) in the 19th or early 20th century, what kind of evidence would future archeologists be able to find of our society or even existence in 50 or 100 million years?
GOOD POINT! This is something I’ve wondered myself. It’s intriguing to think that maybe the dinosaurs got to, say, stone-age or even bronze-age levels but we just haven’t found any evidence.
“But let’s imagine for a moment that maybe we are the only self-aware life in the universe, or at least in our corner of the universe”; fortunately science has for some time already known that homo sapiens is not the only self-aware form of life even on planet Earth. We may be the one with most sophisticated technology and perhaps even the “highest” form of self-aware consciousness, but definitely not the only one.
Also a good point. And maybe there are thingies on the bottom of the ocean on Enceladus that are highly intelligent but use no technology. It’s possible.
I’ll have to add, that even though humans are not the only self-aware intelligences on the planet, and even though there might well be self-aware organisms on other worlds as well, I do agree that we – as a species and global society – have a responsibility to not obliterate life as we know it. We should work to preserve it and help these various forms of self-awareness to spread out in the larger universe. Especially as long as Earth is the only place we know of where intelligent life has sprung up from the evolutionary ladder.
There Is No God And He Is Always A Jerk
By Warren B. Radley
What worries me more than one Donald J. Trump is the millions of people whose brains have somehow decided that he should be president. Who would those people vote for if Trump was not running? Where are those intelligent lifeforms on Earth that people keep talking about?
“It’s dumb when they say Obama is like Hitler, just as it was dumb when friends of mine said George W. Bush was like Hitler. But in the case of Donald Trump, the comparison is entirely accurate.”
Trump followers in brown shirts are not smashing Jewish shop fronts for example so how is it entirely accurate? Bush and Obama both maintained the wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, hasn’t Trump said they’re a mistake, actually more isolationist/ opposed to foreign wars than Bush and Obama.
John, there are some details missing from your comparison.
The article Brad posted is from 1922. The “smashing Jewish shop fronts” that historians refer to as the “Kristallnacht”(crystal night in german) happened in 1938.
It wasn’t until Hitler had cemented his power that pogroms began to happen.
The fact that Trump is willing to discriminate against Muslims by preventing them from entering the U.S. gives creedence to the comparison as well. It is a textbook case of antisemitism.
Recent research says a lot of the political consciousness of America
This study shows how political belief can undermine our ability to understand math
This country was built on compromise, but now ideological purism is favorited over realistic policy. It’s amazing how poisonous absolute belief can be.
I’m pretty damn cynical when it comes to anything related to politics. I’d describe my own leanings in regard to that arena tentatively anarchistic. I found George W. to be a repellent human being, but I didn’t bother to vote either time he ran for office. Nor did I plunge into a pit of despair when he won, like some of my more liberal family members. And if I were inclined to vote for anyone, Hillary Clinton (almost certain to receive the Democratic nomination, I guess) would not be at the top of my list. Not least of all because I think she would perpetuate the sort of socio-economic practices that give people like Donald Trump a snowflake’s chance of achieving public power, and make the idiotic propaganda he spouts attractive to a certain segment of the population.
A rather larger segment than I thought possible, as it turns out. Throwing out comparisons to Hitler indiscriminately is useless and puerile. But in this case it isn’t indiscriminate – it’s perfectly appropriate. Obvious, really. The situation is so alarming I’m actually considering throwing my support behind someone I have no respect for, to say nothing of participating in an enterprise I almost abhor. The way I see it, voting for Hillary to keep Trump off the throne would be akin to deliberately contracting malaria in order to rid oneself of syphilis (which as I understand, actually works)… but I have to admit, I’d rather have malaria than syphilis.
In the words of Allan Watts, if the universe doesn’t take me seriously why should I take it seriously.
I don’t understand the lack of a big picture outlook from Brad or the people who think we have “responsibility” toward anything other than not being assholes. This planet and its inhabitants cannot be saved. There will come a point where this planet and all life on it will be no more. And yet…the universe will go on (in a sense, assuming consciousness exists elsewhere, since it takes consciousness observing to universe for the universe to exist). Of course, we shouldn’t be assholes and hurry the process up anymore than we need to, but I think there are basically an infinite number of factors out of our control here.
If God wants me to vote against Trump you’d think she’d be able to do a lot better than Hillary Clinton. Can I vote for Jill Stein instead? Or would that be “throwing my vote away”? I’m sorry God, but I cannot stomach voting for either of these scumbags. I just won’t do it. Screw you, God. (I mean that in the most respectful way, of course.
She gave you her chosen one, Bernie. What more the hell could you ask for?? And don’t give me that ‘he’s unelectable’ bs, he just took 3 states over the weekend, not that the media wants anyone to know that.
Trump captures another vote.
Like any of this shit even matters anymore.
The Koch brothers are the tip of the iceberg of 1 percenters who decide our fate, if they use Trump or Clinton or whoever for their next puppet, what difference does it make? We’re just the test kitchen for the evil empire and have been for a long, long time.
What are the root of conflicts? Conflicting views? Incompatibilities of perspectives? Cognitive dissonance? I would tend to think that those are what is at the very root of conflict.
Dissonance is part of life, competition for resource being one of its expression. But we also tend to try to contain the conflict. Human being are very creative, they have created ‘institutions’ and consensual views in order to contain this conflict. Justice system, religions, nations, views and viewpoints, etc.
At the office where I work, there are a few Muslims, recently I ask them if they believed in evolution, dinosaurs, etc. They all told me in a very arrogant way, as if I was a very stupid person (which I might be) that there is no evolution, the world we now live into has been created by God, just the way it is now (roads and building included?), and there was nothing before. You see for me, that is a profound incompatibility of perspectives,. How can we contain, resolve these kind of incompatibilities?
A few weeks ago, Brad told us a story about himself and some long time friend of his, again; incompatibilities of perspectives. The viewpoints were mutually exclusive. How again can we contain or resolve those dissonances? How can we bring back harmony?
How do you solve the never ending conflict between Palestinians and Israel? Between the Sunni and the Shiite Muslim? Between the Gop and the democrats? Between you and your neighbor? Between yourself and yourself?
When mutually exclusive views cannot be contained, when compromise cannot be found, when alternation fails (democracy/shift of power structures), when mediation fails, and lastly when we cannot found a creative solution, violence erupt. Until what? Well until we get tired of fighting.
A monk ask a Zen teacher; ‘What is Zen’, the teacher answered: ‘sitting, getting tired’.
Why I have written about all of this? Because is some ways, Trump is seen by many as a way to contain the subjectively perceived collapse our ‘own’ white anglo saxons protestant perspectives (wasp/ Judeo-Christian). Let us make America great again! Which America is he referring to? His own of course. We all have views, implicitly or explicitly, and those views all over the world are collapsing and colliding. What can be done? How could we bring back harmony?
When Buddha said that life is suffering, he meant to say that while living, you will experience a lot of those dissonance, a lot of those conflicting views, within and without, one of which is well know in some Buddhist circle; right from the beginning you are whole and complete, why then am I suffering, why do I experience pain, anger?
My own way is to examine thoroughly all my own views, if we cannot see them as being views which rest entirely on viewpoints, we will tend to think that they are real, the truth, absolutes. But when truly seen into, they become dust within the mind; nothing, of no worth whatsoever. Why would anyone fight for dust?
In Zen, one of the way, is to sit down and shut the fuck up.
Thought-provoking comment. Thanks.
This is a really good post.
I don’t think most people will understand what the hell you’re trying to say.
It’s not your fault, necessarily. It’s the whole “dissonance” thing you’re talking about. People are blinded by their own convictions that they are right and have some kind of clue about things. Which none of us have. Or, at best, the only clue we have is that we don’t have a clue. Dissonance is like a game of tug-o-war Absolutes create tension and tension creates the desire from both sides to pull harder. At some point it’s best to just drop the rope and quit playing.
Nice post, Brad.
Louis C.K. has written something similar, too.
I don’t think it’s too extreme to compare Trump to Hitler. No one imagined the Holocaust would actually happen. Hitler was certainly not the first megalomaniac in history and he definitely isn’t the last. He’s just the most recent one we are young enough to remember. History is full of them.
If you read through internet comments on Trump articles on the internet, or most articles about race, religion, gender etc., all you see is followers who want Muslims dead, Mexicans dead, feminists dead, liberals dead, gays dead, aboriginals dead etc. Even if they couch it in the language of wishing the “other” would just kill themselves (so they won’t get in trouble for making threats) , it’s the same belief system.
I often think the same thing…ISIS has always been there…just called something different in history. Whatever makes a non murderer able to murder and slaughter…has always been here n always will be. CNN’s ratings ensure we hear about it, constantly. Trump is a tool, a by-product but he’s no Hitler, he doesn’t have an agenda of wanting to secretly destroy…he’s saying whatever it takes to make it, then he’ll be king. He wants to be king, and will say all the things red neck (probably southern leaning if this was the 1800’s so same old same old) people want to hear. There’s a difference. The same red necks thought Obama would do what we think trump will do. Obama was stone walled left right n center, America has a check n balance system for the potential of insane president’s. Trump may mess things up cause he’s a tool, it’s not because he’s evil. We (u – IM not american) have to be careful cause Trump bashing is feeding the trump machine, it’s a fear n gloom campaign and reacting with that energy feeds it. If we panic then both sides panic and helps him. He’s fine…just let the beast be a beast…we all just carry on and vote in another Clinton.
Also, I’m getting that book someone suggested in the comments…it’s. Best seller so, was easy to find. I love history!! Thank u for the suggestion 😉
Clash of Civilizations ?
Clash of mutually exclusive worldview?
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