Do You Even Science, Sis?

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] The headline on Jazz Shaw's article at Hot Air is a little offbase, but that's OK: NASA explains why we haven't met an extraterrestrial race.

When this story popped up on Yahoo News, I couldn’t resist taking a look. As you may have heard, NASA has taken a greater interest in UFO studies lately and they have always had scientists who have searched for signs of life elsewhere in the galaxy. Now some of their scientists have published a new paper that offers an explanation as to why we haven’t encountered any intelligent life from elsewhere in the universe. The Yahoo article variously describes this news as “heartbreaking” and “crushing.” Of course, all of this depends on whether or not you believe the underlying premise that we really haven’t run into any extraterrestrials yet. (More on that in a moment.) But if you take that as a given, here is part of what NASA offers as an explanation for the Fermi paradox.

The Yahoo! news article is actually a reprint of this HuffPo article. The (unpublished, not peer reviewed) paper from JPL (sponsored by NASA) is here. Spoiler: maybe we haven't met those intelligent aliens because they are destroyed before they get here, for any of a host of reasons: warfare, asteroid collision, climate change, pandemic, runaway AI, and probably some gotchas that escaped the authors' imaginations. This is known as the "Great Filter", and it's nothing new: it even has its own Wikipedia page.

All that is interesting stuff, but what I'd really like to point out is the underlying attitude, especially that of the HuffPo article by "Trends Reporter" Mary Papenfuss. Her headline (as Jazz Shaw quotes): "NASA Scientists Present Theory About Why We Haven't Met Other Intelligent Life. It's Crushing."

Crushing.

And her first paragraph:

NASA scientists have explained in a new paper why they believe it’s likely we haven’t ever encountered intelligent extraterrestrial life — and it’s heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking.

The NASA paper isn't quite so emotional, of course. (It gets pretty flowery, though: "Just as technology enables humanity to push back the boundaries of our knowledge of the cosmos, it tempts as well with the means of self-destruction. Abruptly realized, we find ourselves the sole stewards of a resource rich world – and socially ill-prepared for the job.")

But Mary Papenfuss really wants to believe in intelligent alien species. And, dear friends, that's fine, but that ain't science.

Which brings me to our Amazon Product du Jour, which was found by searching "want to believe". I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism, by A.M. Gittlitz. And that cover! Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and…

Anyway: Posadism? Let's Google that… and here's a Nation article that explains the basics of this ism you've never heard of:

During the middle of the 20th century, Homero Rómulo Cristalli Frasnelli, better known by his pen name, J. Posadas, was one of the most prominent Trotskyists in the Western Hemisphere. He unionized workers across Latin America and supported Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement. He led the Latin American bureau of the Fourth International, but eventually split from the revolutionary socialist organization in 1962 and created his own Posadist Fourth International.

Then, in 1968, he published an essay arguing that extraterrestrials would play a crucial role in a global anticapitalist revolution. By that point, Castro had already denounced him and Posadas was advocating a nuclear war to demolish capitalist states, leaving the working class to rise from the ashes. Still, his cult-like following grew—despite his increasing interest in communicating with dolphins.

Then, in 1968, he published an essay arguing that extraterrestrials would play a crucial role in a global anticapitalist revolution. By that point, Castro had already denounced him and Posadas was advocating a nuclear war to demolish capitalist states, leaving the working class to rise from the ashes. Still, his cult-like following grew—despite his increasing interest in communicating with dolphins.

The Nation article also contains a pic (click to embiggen):

[Posadist Meme 1]

Helpful caption: "Posadist memes, like this one, are how many young socialists are introduced to J. Posadas. (Courtesy of the Posadist Paul Mason Memes Facebook page)"

And that Facebook page is pretty easy to find too.

Man, just when you think your side is harboring some crazies, you get reminded that the crazies are everywhere.