Fermi’s Paradox

Have you seen any UFO’s recently? If so, a Congressional hearing currently underway in the United States may be interested in hearing your story. The hearing, being conducted by an Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives, is investigating claims by an ex-intelligence official named David Grusch that the US government is covering up its knowledge of UFOs and even has in its possession some alien spaceships. Grusch, however, openly admits that he has never seen a UFO himself or even seen the supposed alien spacecraft.

Of course, there is nothing new in these kinds of claims. Conspiracy theorists have been making similar claims for years. But it does raise the old question again, ‘Do aliens exist?’ While the existence of aliens would not be a problem to my own theology (after all, it is a very big universe created by a very big God!), Fermi’s Paradox would seem to argue against their existence.

Fermi’s Paradox articulates the discrepancy between the lack of evidence of advanced extra-terrestrial life and the apparently high likelihood of its existence. As a 2015 article put it, “If life is so easy and common, someone from somewhere would have come calling by now.” Enrico Fermi was an astrophysicist who was part of a team searching for extra-terrestrial life in the 1950s. His name is associated with the paradox because of a casual conversation in the summer of 1950 with fellow astrophysicists Edward Teller, Herbert York, and Emil Konopinski, in which he reportedly said, “According to our calculations, there should be tens of thousands of planets where intelligent life must have developed in our galaxy. So, where are they all?”.

As time has passed and we have been able to see further and further into the depths of our universe, the paradox has increased. Consider the following data regarding just our own immediate galaxy:

* There are an estimated 200 billion stars in our galaxy, and over recent years we have observed that about 90% of stars have at least one planet. That’s at least 180 billion planets in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. (Actually, it’s a lot more than 180 billion, since many of these star systems have several planets – but I am being deliberately conservative in my estimates).

* From current observations, about 20% of those planets are orbiting in the habitable zone in relation to their star – the “Goldilocks zone” (close enough to their star for liquid water to exist but not so close that water would evaporate or boil away). So that amounts to 36 billion planets in the habitable zone (180 billion divided by 5).

* Let’s be extremely conservative and say that only 1 in 1,000 of those planets would have developed even simple biological life (I’m using the arguments of evolutionists here, as they believe alien life could have developed naturally on such worlds). That would be 36 million planets that should have developed some form of biological life.

* Then let’s be equally conservative and say that only 1 in 1,000 of those planets eventually developed intelligent life capable of achieving space travel (IE. At least as intelligent as humans). That amounts to 36,000 planets with intelligent life.

These calculations involve the most pessimistic assumptions. I have heard some optimistic scientists recently claim on national radio that intelligent life could be much more prevalent than this. One astrophysicist who was interviewed recently on ABC Radio, Sydney, stated that she thought there could be as many as 60 billion intelligent species inhabiting our Milky Way Galaxy alone! But sticking to the very conservative estimates that I have used above, our galaxy should contain at least 36,000 planets with intelligent life.

* Furthermore, evolutionists say that our star is relatively young. Approximately 80% of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy are ‘supposedly’ much older than ours – by millions of years. Thus, according to this timescale, there should be at least 21,000 (80% of 36,000) species of intelligent alien life in our Galaxy who are more advanced than us and have had thousands or even millions more years to expand across the cosmos and fill up our Galaxy with their technological signatures. They should be everywhere!


Yet our long-range radio telescopes and sophisticated orbital optical telescopes continue to reveal that the visible and electronic emissions of our galaxy are completely and utterly devoid of any sign of the presence of intelligent life. Astrophysicist, Enrico Fermi, pointed out this conundrum in 1950, when he said to his colleagues, “So where are they all?” His question remains unanswered to this day by astronomers who continue to search the cosmos in vain.

At the time when Fermi formed his paradoxical question, cosmologists could take comfort in the fact that they had only just begun to search the stars and they were confident that the ongoing passage of time, together with future advances in technology, would soon result in the discovery of the missing alien species. Now, over 70 years later, with telescopes and scanners that can probe to the far reaches of our galaxy and beyond, we can no longer hide behind the naïvely optimistic hope that Fermi’s colleagues clung to in the 1950s. The silence of the universe, in terms of evidence of intelligent life, is deafening.

And if aliens DON’T exist, this actually has profound implications for our view of ourselves. It means that we are unique in all the cosmos. And this, in turn, is strong evidence that our existence is the product of intelligent design rather than blind chance. Because if we arose from merely natural causes, we should expect to see intelligent life popping up all over the universe in places where the same favourable conditions prevail. If it happened once by chance on our planet, it should have occurred thousands or even millions of times elsewhere. But if it didn’t occur elsewhere – if we are indeed unique – then we must consider the overwhelming possibility that we are the product of intentional, intelligent design. If life has not evolved on any other world through natural processes, despite the billions of opportunities it has had to do so, then the most logical conclusion is that something more than natural causes was at work in our creation; something unique and “super” natural. I believe it shows that we are the intentional handiwork of an all-powerful God, who placed us in this amazing universe so that we might know him as our creator.

For more information, including a detailed discussion of the creation / evolution debate, see my book, “No More Monkey Business: Evolution in Crisis”, available from SmartFaith.net or all good online bookstores.