Of evolution, God, aliens, and the weak anthropic principle
During a recent short session of Zen mind relaxation exercises (I recommend "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" which while interspersed with the inevitable counterfactual mysticism also has some very practical advice), it occurred to me the cosmological weak anthropic principle is also highly applicable to human evolution: just as the universe obviously must exist in a way that allows intelligent humans to arise in order for us to be here asking questions about it, so too human evolution must produce intelligence or we couldn't be here intelligently discussing that (this does NOT mean human evolution to intelligence was inevitable, just that in our observed state of being it is necessary). As in the case of the cosmological application, no necessary coincidence is too great for evolution to handle, because it had to happen for us to be here noticing the coincidences. Given our current understanding of the universe as physically infinite in extent, there are no troublesome Drake equations to overcome either, at least in terms of our own existence: if something could happen and must have in order to explain on our current reality, then it did happen.
Also, this morning I happened to hear a Mancow interview with some of the alien people. They come across as fairly reasonable people who do not wear tinfoil on their heads, esp Dr. Michio Kaku, and visiting their site I found they brought up some very interesting and thoughtworthy points, such as the idea that UFOs could be from civilization(s) a million years ahead of us. Just think how different our lives are compared to humans of 100 years ago; given our current rate of technological advance it's unknowable what life will be like for humans in another 100 years let alone a thousand or a million. Charles Stross hypothesized a posthuman causality-protecting entity called the Eschaton, essentially benign but acting ruthlessly to prevent any events that might unmake its existence through human-induced causality violations.
The common thread here of course is causality. Could an alien civilization that advanced have the computational capability and/or physical understanding to somehow overcome quantum uncertainty and predict the effects of various interventions with at least relative certainty? That might make covering things up far easier, a la Asimov's Minimum Necessary Change from "End of Eternity." That made me wonder about the unprovability of UFOs and the apparent disinterest in serious investigation of some interesting incidents involving multiple people who ought to be credible witnesses, such as the missile silo shutdown. It doesn't seem likely the gov't knows much more than it's telling; I have little faith in their ability to keep things secret. On the other hand, I have great faith in the gov't's ability to be incompetently unaware of events (I mean come on: they missed the fall of the Soviet Union and insisted finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam-dunk."). It wouldn't take much intervention to keep them ignorant.
I've run the SETI@home software for years now (circa 1400 units completed so far), although I do not think we will find any alien broadcasts out there. To me, the main question I have about the possibility of any advanced race monitoring, contacting, or influencing us is: why would they bother? It seems unlikely we would have anything they want, so what are their motivations in doing any of those things? This in turn got me to wondering how aliens perceive God, if they exist and have such beliefs. In religious terms, I consider myself to be a nondenominational Christian sympathizer -- I tend to believe (based on the empirical evidence available) that while all religions have some insight into the nature of God, Christianity is probably the most correct perception of God currently available, though almost certainly not the completely correct version. But what about these aliens? How would they perceive God? Did God send them a Savior as he did us, a deity in the flesh who showed them a better way to treat each other?
Well, that's my semi-random rambling for today. I hope you found it pleasantly disjointed, wandersome, and perhaps even accidentally insightful.