The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet

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The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet

Hale Bopp 1997. 39 cult members committed suicide believing the aliens in the comet would take them up and revive them…

People who aren’t firmly grounded in an established religion will believe anything and that’s one proof. A friend and I decided we should design a religion that wouldn’t require you to kill yourself at the cult leaders urging. In fact- suicide would be a grave sin. So if you wanted badly to believe in something we could take your money and worldly goods and do some good with it without harming you. We wanted it to be compatible with atheism. That is, an atheist could believe in Church goals and tenets without believing they were revealed by God. And- we wanted it to be compatible with most other religious beliefs, so you could join the church while not leaving your current church. Impossible! you say. We did it. You haven’t heard much about is because, well- if you’ve read some of my previous stories you’re aware my better half is a really good Catholic. Staying happily married to a good Catholic while being a prophet of a brand new religion isn’t going to happen… Now- my intro to The Church of Human Expansion™.

The Church has 3 prophets whose ideas are responsible for Church tenets and beliefs. Enrico Fermi, Robert Heinlein, and Fred Saberhagen. Robert Heinlein has a number of short sayings he wrote that are incorporated directly into Church beliefs. We’ll start with “If mankind is to survive, then for the majority of its’ existence the word “ship” must mean “spaceship””. A number of others also directly applicable. But that’s the most important one.

Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where are they?” This question was in response to the answer to a question he had asked one of his classes, “How many civilizations in this galaxy are more than a million years older than us?” Why this question? They came up with 50. Our galaxy is about 100,000 lightyears across. Once in space, travelling at 10% light speed is trivial and easily done. Generation ships for such travel are readily designable and simply an exercise in engineering. Suspended animation, well, still in the realm of science fiction. They answered 50. They wouldn’t all be on the other side of the galaxy, but randomly scattered. And some would be much, much closer. His point being, if they existed, they would be here by now and we would be them. To date, there is no evidence of their existence. And while the absence of evidence isn’t evidence- normally- think about the dogs that don’t bark in the night. After decades of searching for evidence, we have none. No radio transmissions, while ours are now more than 100 light years away. No light wakes from Bussard ramjets, which may or may not be actually buildable. Nothing.

If life naturally arises from the primordial soup, then we really should have detected it by now. There are two, and only two, universal explanation for The Fermi Paradox. The first, not even believed by most theologians of most religions, God created us and only us, and the galaxy is ours for the taking. The second universal explanation was provided by Fred Saberhagen in his writings- Berserkers are real.

Berserkers? A long long (LONG) time ago two races fought an interstellar war. Race 1 designed self replicating war machines and programmed them to destroy all life forms other than them. Race 2 designed some sort of weapon, presumably biological, that killed every last member of Race 1. After Berserkers were set loose in the galaxy. While Saberhagen was writing enjoyable and thought provoking science fiction, he was also a prophet warning us that Berserkers are coming and that we need to prepare.

So, what is required to be a member in good standing of The Church of Human Expansion?

  1. In order for mankind to survive, the human race must expand into space. This is the one essential belief. Whether you come to believe this as God’s plan or because it simply makes sense is immaterial. The belief is not antithetical to any Earth religion I’m aware of, and is compatible with atheism.
  2. Berserkers are real. When they become aware of our existence, if they aren’t already, they will head in force towards Earth to exterminate us. Not truly essential to believe in order to support the Church goal of expanding mankind into space. But a belief that can be held whether you believe Saberhagen’s stories were inspired by God, or whether he simply stumbled upon the truth while writing entertaining stories. Not antithetical to most religions.
  3. Life is sacred and must not be taken for no reason or trivial reasons or because of theological or purely political disagreements. Does this mean the Church is against capital punishment? No- because if one person kills another for selfish gain or jealousy or whatever they are a danger to all, and if society determines they should die for it, it’s not a trivial reason. Of course, if Berserkers come and a cabal shares their goal, well…

Religion is much ignored in science fiction, and in most fiction for that matter. Arthur C. Clarke was an exception who incorporated religion in many of his works. Fred Saberhagen had the Templars in his Berserker books, a religious order devoted to defeating Berserkers wherever they appear. So if you want to have religion incorporated into your works, but aren’t satisfied with existing ones, feel free to use this one. Or if you have the necessary temperament to found a Church- this is yours for the taking.

141 responses to “The Church of Human Expansion by Harold Hamblet

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Arthur C. Clarke and religion?

    In the short story “The Star”, he had a religious person “doubting God” because the Star of Bethlehem was a nova that destroyed an alien civilization.

    Other than that, he only mentions Buddhism in a “good way” while talking of Buddhism as “not being a religion”.

    • It has been a recurring amusement to me how some people parse terms. Many choose to call certain religions, generally eastern ones, philosophies in order to make it more palatable to their thinking.

    • Oh, *hardly*. Arthur C. Clarke incorporated religion into a number of his stories – “The Star” was cited, but it plays a role in “Nine Billion Names of God”, and can arguably be said to play a significant role in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Saberhagen and Clarke were hardly the only ones to incorporate religion into their stories, though. Herbert had the Benne Gesserit doing “Religious Engineering” in the Dune Cycle, had the Destination: Void cycle, and did a really interesting examination of religious engineering concepts in “The Godmakers”. Harry Harrison had “The Streets of Ashkelon”. Zenna Henderson had her People stories. Heinlein of course had Stranger, as well as the whole World as Myth thing, but also “If This Goes On—“. And “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is perhaps the Ur-Example.

      For that matter, you could argue that many of the transhumanists have turned transhumanism and the Singularity into a religion. And honestly, SMI^2LE is not *that* bad of a catechism. (And seems to be the guiding force of Elon Musk’s life, so far!)

      However, can we incorporate Libraries as Temples into this Church of Human Expansion? And put some of the HFY material on the required reading list?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Depends on “how you define including religion” especially if the writer “includes religion” only to sneer at religion and/or religious people.

        I’m not sure that Herbert’s Benne Gesserit are presented in a “good light”.

        While I haven’t read Herbert’s The Godmakers. The wiki article doesn’t appear to put religion in a “good light”.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Godmakers_(novel)

        • Does Heinlein include Religion? Not just in Stranger but also in his other Martian tales, such as Red Planet? Several others of his works address fundamental questions that are typically the focus of Religion, such as “What is human?”

          I think we can exclude Sixth Column from the discussion.

          • Rich Rostrom

            Job: A Comedy of Justice is about religion. The protagonist is a minister; Lucifer himself is a character, and St. Peter and Jehovah have cameo appearances.

      • J. Michael Straczinski(sp) deserves a mention for the prominent role that religion played in Babylon 5. And while everyone remembers the Minbari and the Vorlons when that topic comes up, it’s also worth noting that members of contemporary human religions were presented in a positive light.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Agree.

        • Patrick Chester

          Earth’s dominant belief systems…

          • There’s also the black gospel choir in the episode “And the Rock Cried Out No Hiding Place”. They give a great performance of the song with that name, which Sheridan actively participates in.

            Of course, the juxtaposed events on the planet Narn aren’t so nice…

        • Ken Mitchell

          And please remember that in a discussion between the Vorlon ambassador Kosh and the Minbari ambassador DeLenn, DeLenn asks, if Kosh were to leave his encounter suit, who would recognize him? Kosh replies “Everyone”.

          When Kosh does leave his encounter suit in order to save Captain Sheridan, all of the aliens who saw him saw Kosh as an angel of their OWN mythology. Except the Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari, who apparently sees nothing.

          • That one’s an example of the Vorlons manipulating the younger races so that they see Vorlons as servants of the divine. According to JMS, Londo didn’t see anything because the Vorlons never visited Centauri Prime.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Well, we’re talking about a species that used Jack The Ripper as an inquisitor.

      • Absolutely libraries. They’d be part of each church. Free enquiry and discussion would be encouraged. Quickest way for people to see the truth. One of the early thought was to buy an old abandoned church (there’s actually quite a few of them in rural areas) and stock it up with books for research….

      • Carrington Dixon

        And “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is perhaps the Ur-Example.

        Lewis’ “Space Trilogy” precedes Canticle by a decade. I suspect that Lewis would have been able to name precursors; although, I seem to come up a blank.

    • I read that story a looooong time ago, and it annoyed the shit out of me. I’m still mad.

      ACC wanted to be an atheist, fine. Go for it, big boy. Your brain, your problem. But nobody else is allowed to be anything else? Not cool.

      • Wanting people to believe the truth is one thing.

        Making such a silly argument for something that you think true is another.

        Someone had to go to interstellar space to discover that bad things happen? (That’s without going into the way the narrator simply takes everything the aliens say about themselves on face value.)

      • Yeah, no. And he isn’t someone I would listen to on morals, or spirituality.

        • Chris Nelson

          There’s reasons ACC never returned to England. Lots of under-age reasons.

          • I met somebody who knew him, once upon a time. The young man told me quite a tale, let’s just say.

            Totally fits with the vindictive nature of the story mentioned above.

          • Yes. And it goes against my morals to listen to a pedophile tell anyone about spirituality or morals or belief systems. Talking about a hypothetical fictional belief system in a book he wrote? Sure. Anything remotely real? Not just no, but HELL NO.

    • I think we can toss Stasheff into the “SF incorporating Religion” bin, and a couple Zelazny works come to mind, although I am not entirely sure how to categorize the Amber tales.

  2. Once it is discovered that something with the destructive capability as Berserkers exists, it would strike me as past time to start looking at ways to counter them.  Unless that can be done, no matter how far humans spread through the universe, it would only be a matter of time before we are wiped out. 

    • It seems like we would need to have *some* idea of what we needed to fight against before we could start coming up with effective ways to counter them, though. Nanobots or death star? Bacteria or virus or chemical compound? Or??

      • “Report. What just happened?”

        “The Berserker glommed up a library, sir. Seemed to particularly be focused on political philosophy.”

        “And?”

        “Adopted a poisonous philosophy, implemented instantly, without proper analysis. Their systems collapsed not long after that.”

        “What was the poison?”

        “Just this once, Marx done good.”

        “Damn.”

      • Probably why there are no other civilizations left to contact. By the time anyone is aware of what a Berserker is and what is being fought it is too late to develop a response.

        • Roger Ritter

          Or maybe the Berserkers have discovered that infecting a lifeform with Marxist beliefs will destroy it without further effort. And they’ve already found us…

      • Patrick Chester

        …from some anime:

        Idol Singers.

        😀

      • William O. B'Livion

        “Yes”.

        If they’ve been fighting longer than we’ve been using DNA they’re VERY good at it.

    • The counter to Berserkers is bleedin’ simple: Bolos!

    • William O. B'Livion

      > Once it is discovered that something with the destructive capability as Berserkers exists

      Once you find it, you’re well behind the curve.

      It is better assume something like it exists out there (without going overboard. As Gibson put it once ”The cultivation of a certain tame paranoia”) and having the best weapons and operational plans in place Just In Case.

  3. How about a world in which we discover that thousands of Alien societies exist, but each one has succumbed to the brain dead idiocy of ‘rule by experts’, who banned space exploration because ‘the people might get ideas’.

    • Or they’re all “woke” and are still “taking care of the problems at home” before going to the stars…

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    Addendum to #2: Beware of “Goodlife”, in all its forms.

  5. Personally, I like to think that there are a multitude of advanced species existing in a galactic civilization with working FTL transport between solar systems. Where are they? Being advanced and benevolent beings they know how destructive contact with a superior civilization can be to one still developing. See the results of such encounters and the effects on any number of primitive societies in our own history.
    So, having noticed our planet spewing forth electromagnetic radiation for some hundred years now, they did a detailed evaluation and determined that until we grew up they would keep us behind a very effective firewall that keeps us blind to proof of their existence.
    It’s either that, or we/re alone in the universe.

    • The problem there is – when does a superior civilization quit developing? Obviously, *no* society quits developing – at least, until it’s in its final death throes.

      Yeah, ST:TOS had a reasonable Prime Directive – with a specific cut-off, and didn’t enforce it with absolutism and stupidity. But is ‘FTL travel or communications’ a good and sufficient cut-off point? And what if there are civilizations *above* those who are above us, and keeping *them* under their meta-Prime Directive? (Sylvia Engdahl hinted at this concept in one of her novels which included an interstellar civilization with a “prime directive” equivalent. Love her stories…)

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        The Prime Directive in TOS has one virtue above all others. It justifies interacting with a bunch of different types of rubber forehead aliens without having to build expensive model spaceships for every Tom, Dick and Harry, without it being a rush to build defensive relationships and infrastructure with newly discovered populations, and without spending a lot of time handing out trinkets.

    • Joe Wooten

      I’ll go for the second option……

  6. My dad mowed the yard today when it was already too hot for it. He then took a fall and couldn’t get back up without help and wobbliness. He is currently “saving time” in the hospital (though just getting into the cool seems to have helped).

    I am worried about him, because he’s been having to do a lot of exhausting or stressful stuff lately, and has been bulling through it.

    Please take this as a call for prayers, as well as a PSA. Don’t do this kind of crap.

    • Condolences on your Dad’s falling down. Always stressful. I did a similar thing myself on Wednesday, mowing the big weeds in the heat. Fortunately I’m a wuss, I went back inside before I fell down. Yesterday I only went outside after 5pm, when the heat was more reasonable.

      So, all you old bastards, take it easy. You can do the same stuff at 60 you used to do at 40, but you have to do it slower. ~:(

    • Hope your dad is okay. We had to go through this last winter when my dad got the bright idea to climb up on the roof in order to shovel and ended up flat on his back on the deck. After assuring ourselves that he hadn’t been killed or paralyzed and that nothing serious was broken, we had a long talk with him about when it was appropriate for him to climb on the roof: never. If he feels the need again, he is to call us, and we’ll either go up there for him or explain why no one needs to be up there in the first place.

    • May your dad recover quickly and fully, but not so fast as to convince you he’s overdoing it.

    • Bless, Downfall boomgo is scary

    • Prayers given.

      Adding on to PSA time: When hydrating, don’t forget the electrolytes. You can do Gatorade, or coconut water, but even just having salty snacks with your water (or a pinch of salt) is enough to stave off dehydration headaches. Trust me on this—I used to end up with dehydration issues despite tons of water until I started doing the salt thing (or lightly-sweetened coconut water.) If it’s hot, you have to keep an eye on yourself.

    • Hope your dad is okay & now listens (yea, I know).

      In the same boat with my mom. My problem is while she is over 80, we’re over 60, which means getting the Grand kids involved in shaky items like shoveling off the roof, or sweeping it. At least it is a flat roof …

      • My uncle Bob is 96. He has a flat roof and climbs up to sweep off leaves, clean gutters etc. A neighbor called my cousin to warn her that Bob was on the roof again. Cousins reply was that if he fell off and died at 96 it was better than a slow lingering deterioration.
        Then again… Bob was a domineering martinet as a father. Hmmm

        • Mom’s not slowing down either. Being on the roof, isn’t the problem, it’s getting up there. Technically she “pays” grandson to sweep roof & make sure drains are clear once or twice a year. She could pay a professional but she trusts him as grandpa trained him for their roof. (1969 to get to the roof: put ladder next to unloaded camper, climb on camper, jump to roof – not better now, no camper).

          Hubby still does our roof & gutters, he’s over 65; not flat, but not super steep either. But we have better ladders here at the house, but no good way to transport to mom’s house; could walk it over & back, which if it snows like it did in 1969, we’ll have to.

        • Heh. Remember this golden oldie:

          THE HALL OF FAMOUS JOKES
          presents

          Up On The Roof
          Jimmy and his brother Ralph both lived in the same town. Jimmy lived with their 90 year-old mother, and Ralph lived across town with his 12 year-old cat, Silky.

          Ralph was obsessed with Silky and treated her like a queen. The two were never apart. But one day, Ralph learned he had to go to England on business. Cats had to stay in quarantine for two weeks in order to get into that country, so it was simply impractical for Ralph to take Silky with him.

          Ralph asked Jimmy to care for his cat, and Jimmy agreed. So Ralph brought Silky over, spent an hour explaining the nuances of servicing the aging feline, and departed for London.

          Every night Ralph would call and ask “How’s Silky?”. The first four nights, Jimmy, holding in his growing irritation at his brother’s cat-obsession, answered, “Silky’s fine,” but the fifth night, in response to the question, he blurted out, “Silky’s dead!”

          Hearing that, Ralph almost died of shock, himself. When he recovered, he said to his brother, “Jimmy, that’s not the way to break news like that to someone. You don’t just blurt out information like that. You have to prepare a person.”

          ” Tonight when I called,” Ralph went on, “You should have said, ‘Silky’s fine, but she’s up on the roof.’ Then tomorrow you could have told me, “Silky fell off the roof and I took her to the vet’s.” Then, the next day, you could have said, “Silky didn’t make it, Ralph, she’s dead,” and I would have been able to handle the news.”

          “By the way, Jimmy,” Ralph asked, “How’s [Uncle Bob]?”

          “Oh, [he’s] fine,” said Jimmy. “But [he’s] up on the roof.”

          http://www.realnothings.com/famous%20jokes/upontheroofjoke.htm up on the roof.”

  7. Where ARE all those space aliens? Don Sensing suggested that once technology reaches a certain level, virtual reality becomes so entrancing as to cause a loss of interest in physical exploration.

    Don’s thoughts and my own here:

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/45870.html

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Those are interesting thoughts.

      The following are mine (some of which others may have thought of).

      First, what are the percentage of planets that developed life?

      Of them, what are the percentage that developed multi-celled life?

      What are the percentage of intelligent life?

      What are the percentage of tool making/using intelligent life?

      What are the percentage of tool making/using intelligent life that develops the concept of science? Without the concept of science, the civilizations may likely be stuck at the level of steam power and thus unable to reach space or to be “heard” by us.

      The last question (which you & Don talk about) is does the cultural ideas support expansion into space?

      As you, Don & others have mentioned, there are people here who have cultural ideas that work against mankind reaching for the stars.

      • Guesswork. The Drake Equation (also called the Greenbank Equation) covers factors to get a scientific wild ass guess (SWAG) as to how many are out there. Additional factors can be added. Turns out there are more planets out there than anyone using the equations in the past ever guessed at. Which increases the possible numbers of aliens… So other factors would have to be guessed at lower, or other factors added, to reduce the number of other living intelligent creatures in the galaxy. https://seti.org/drake-equation for a quick explantion.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          IMO there’s more WAG to that equation than Science.

          There are too many unknowns in that equation for it to be Science.

          • Agreed – that equation has more plugs than a Dutch dyke.

          • Well, yes, but— it’s the best we have. Are you familiar with “Fermi Questions? Not just “The Fermi Question” but Fermi Questions in general? “How many ping pong balls fit in a suitcase?” is a simple Fermi Question. You’re not told how big a ping pong ball is, how big a suitcase is, or packing fraction… So you start with guesstimating the size of a ping ball. Then guesstimating the size of an average suitcase. Then guesstimating how they pack together… and you come up with an answer. Fermi packed a suitcase full of them, and any answer within one order of magnitude up or down would be correct. Pretty wide latitude. In a class one day he reportedly asked “How many piano tuners make a living tuning pianos in Chicago?” Well, how many people live in Chicago? How many own pianos? How many bother getting them tuned? How often does a piano need to be tuned? All variables that cut down the number of people. By the end of the class, the students had come with 9. The Chicago phonebook (remember phonebooks?) was checked. There were 7 piano tuners listed. His semester long project was what led to The Fermi Question, “Where are they? The students came up with their equivalent of the Drake Equation, and actually ended up with an answer of about 500. And decided that was too large, and surmised that a great number of civilizations must have somehow destroyed themselves, and cut it down to 50. The number of stars in the galaxy is very large. Every group effort at applying the Drake Equation comes up with answers well more than one. And we know more now than when the equation was first developed. And what we know is that there are more planets out there than we though, and more planets in the habitable zone, defined as our orbit out to halfway to Mars and in halfway to Venus. and likely based on that- more of them have liquid water on them than originally thought. The more we learn- the more we find The Fermi Paradox really is a paradox. “Where are they?” is a very serious question. With only two universal explanations…

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I recall seeing a discussion of that in Taylor’s Planetary Defense book.

              My thought at the moment is ‘what if we could defend the argument that the correct distributions are profoundly different from normal distributions’.

            • I remember reading a short story by David Brin – Crystal Spheres – a very long time ago that answered the Fermi Paradox with the idea that every solar system is surrounded by an invisible crystal shell that can only be broken when something *inside* the shell collides with it (incidentally sending large fragments toward the Inner Solar System).

          • Ken Mitchell

            The Drake equations never seriously attempted to assign VALUES to the VARIABLES that they defined. I think the Drake Equation was pretty good at listing some of the factors that would go into that calculation. But the values were, as Paul stated, WAGs.

            More recently, the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of planetary bodies using a very primitive occultation technique.It only detects “planets” that pass between the star and the Kepler Space Telescope. A very rudimentary analysis will show that only a tiny fraction of alien planets are susceptible to discovery by occultation. Therefore, given that the KST has discovered thousands of them, we can assume that the vast majority of stars have multiple planets, and that with a trillion stars in the Milky Way, there must be “many” trillions of planets right here in the Milky Way.

        • Does anyone with more astronomy or cosmology background than I have any thoughts on the accuracy of this analysis of the problem:

  8. clark e myers

    Robert Heinlein has a number of short sayings he wrote that are incorporated directly into Church beliefs. We’ll start with “If mankind is to survive, then for the majority of its’ existence the word “ship” must mean “spaceship””. A number of others also directly applicable. But that’s the most important one.

    And also derived more directly from Arthur C. Clarke. Any good religion will allow followers and non-followers textual analysis and sources with varied attributions much like the Book of J writings.

    Arthur C. Clarke also quoted Larry Niven to the effect that dinosaurs had no space project and if we go the same way for the same reason it will serve us right.

  9. Where is everybody? They’re hiding. From what? Each other.

    SFF readers think this is strange because we’ve been raised on the twin myths of the fallen nature of Man and the holy nature of the Advanced Aliens who will come and tsk tsk at the ridiculous monkeys.

    Here’s some math: a shipping container full of rocks going 1/2C has enough energy to evaporate all life on the surface of the planet. More math, you can’t see it coming in time to do anything about it because radio travels at C.

    If you have a brain and even faintly suspect somebody might be out there, you can’t take the chance.

    Here’s why: all forms of life on Earth are hostile to each other. Even non-predators are hostile. Its the default setting of Nature. We get along, but only because no life-form has an unbeatable advantage over all the other ones. Humans are the Top Predator of Earth. There’s no reason to expect that biological aliens wouldn’t be the Top Predator on their planet.

    Okay Phantom, but what about all the AIs? Where are they?

    The answer is, where’s my flying car? It turns out that a flying car is a fabulously difficult engineering problem, AND a massive social problem as well. We don’t have the technology to solve that right now.

    AI is the same way. If we are talking about creating an artificial person, with all the faculties and powers of a plain-vanilla Human, a real live Being with a capital B, that might be really hard to do. Might be really expensive too. Might also turn out really badly, you never know. Humans can be pissy, right? Why can’t AIs be pissy?

    At any rate, for sure we can’t create an AI at our level of computing technology. We are at the point right now where emulating an ant brain -might- be almost in reach. Unless we discover ant brains function a lot more by quantum mechanics than we currently think they do. There might be a lot more going on in there than is currently the theory. My thought is there’d almost have to be, ants are millions of years old. How did they last so long unchanged if they’re so simple?

    I tried to get around all this stuff in my books by using entanglement as an instantaneous communicator. Then you can have arbitrarily fast computers, because physical size doesn’t matter anymore. Across a chip or across the galaxy, instant is instant. The latest experiments on entanglement don’t seem to break the C barrier, so my “solution” remains handwavium and may end up like the canals of Mars.

    But, there might be something that does break C. We don’t know, but if there is then everybody Out There would be using it to chat.

    Here’s another thought: Where is everybody? They’re Right There in front of our telescopes, they’re just really slow. It takes 200 years for a message to go 100 light years and come back. You need a being that considers 200 years the reasonable length of time to start a phone call. They wouldn’t bother with us, we’re too fast to see.

    • Reminds me of an old SF story whose title and author I’ve forgotten. An alien crash-lands on Earth and trades their starflight technology for help repairing his ship. After it’s fixed, the humans realize the equipment is just a fancy autopilot. The alien will just take a nap for the few hundred years until he gets to his destination…

    • MarcusZ1967

      “Here’s why: all forms of life on Earth are hostile to each other. Even non-predators are hostile. Its the default setting of Nature.”

      We are Deathworlders!

    • Ah, but jungles are not silent. There are alarm calls, and mating calls, and hunting calls.

      Even if the hiding aliens are silent, the hunting ones would be calling.

      And consider that these hooomans blazing away with radio noise, given a vast array of alien civilizations hiding silently, would look more like the call of a new predator than an idiotic junior prey race before they wise up and shut up.

      So our radio noise would likely make those hide more quietly.

      We are the Boojum going bump in the deep night: Hear our I Love Lucy and Despair!

      • Be vewy vewy quiet. The Bugs Bunny/Howdy Doody people might hear you…

      • We are the Boojum going bump in the deep night: Hear our I Love Lucy and Despair! Be vewy vewy quiet. The Bugs Bunny/Howdy Doody people might hear you…
        YOU OWE ME A CLEAN KEYBOARD!

    • The answer is, where’s my flying car? It turns out that a flying car is a fabulously difficult engineering problem, AND a massive social problem as well. We don’t have the technology to solve that right now.

      The technology is called quantum locking. It is quantum physics based, not classical physics. Without needing to fight Einstein or Newton’s theories about gravity, gravity isn’t even a thing that needs to be countered by the new physics. Thus there is no need to waste energy countering the force. Until they redo the theory of gravity and institute it as an EM or quantum force, they won’t be able to unify it with the other forces in physics, classical or not.

      At any rate, for sure we can’t create an AI at our level of computing technology.

      As human consciousness is closer to a quantum computer than a classical silicon computer of 1s and 0s, if people want to create AI at the level of human or crow intelligence, they would need quantum computers. Which humanity already has obtained.

      The latest experiments on entanglement don’t seem to break the C barrier

      It’s mostly a classical interpretation of C as a constant, being stuck to quantum physics, which is not classical physics at all any more. If C isn’t a constant, then Einstein’s math falls apart and needs to be redone. As for light speed barrier, there’s a dispute in quantum mechanics concerning how to interpret the results.

      There is another vid on quantum locking that people should also watch. But the link above covers the controversy concerning whether quantum entanglement communicates under light speed C or just basically ignores Relativity and Einstein.

      • Never mind that in a hundred or so years, most of what we now think we know now will probably be laughed at by scientists. That’s not to belittle science, because the only reason we are where we are, and they’ll be where they are, is because each generation of scientists stand on the shoulders of the scientists who came before.

        • Oh Nikola Tesla is already laughing at classical physics. And that’s not even our current generation of cutting edge researchers.

          It takes awhile for the new knowledge to become accepted as feasible. Ohm got into trouble when he tried to put out his Ohm’s Law V=IR.

          Got to wait for the Old Guard to die off first, otherwise they will peer review all the new stuff into oblivion.

          is because each generation of scientists stand on the shoulders of the scientists who came before.

          The problem is when the old theories are not just obsolete but incompatible with the new. Newton to Einstein to Dark Matter, is standing on the shoulders of the previous. But the big social and political problem is when the people are shown to be fundamentally flawed in their theories that their view must be thrown out entirely.

          Ohm had to wait about 20 to 25 years for that to happen. But we were not taught that in electrical curriculum, just that Ohm’s Law is king and we could reproduce it via lab work. We never wondered what other people at the time thought of his work. They thought it was either witchcraft or crank craft. In fact, since I knew my work was to reproduce Ohm’s Law, I could have just massaged the numbers to fit, instead of writing down the raw data and reviewing my experiment circuit for errors that would lead to significant digits worth of outliers. A lot of Western civilization accepts for granted that the theories and numbers they were given is correct, without checking them. That works so long as the previous gen was correct, but it begins to fall apart when the previous generation was incorrect.

          The traditions of the Left is beginning to fall apart, not because Marx was correct but because many of them were incorrect.

    • “Here’s why: all forms of life on Earth are hostile to each other. Even non-predators are hostile. ”

      on the contrary, mutualism and commensalism are very common.

  10. The first, not even believed by most theologians of most religions, God created us and only us, and the galaxy is ours for the taking.

    Do you have evidence for the part I bolded here? Because my experience suggests otherwise. I only have experience with Christian theologians, but as long as you’re talking about aliens who are physical beings (as opposed to spirits like angels or demons), almost every Christian theologian I’ve talked to has held the “Humankind, alone in the universe, is the only intelligent, embodied being that God created. All other intelligent beings that God created are spirits” position. Most of them would also be quick to say, “Now, the Bible doesn’t say one way or the other whether there might also be aliens, so I can’t rule it out.” But every Christian theologian I’ve talked to has been of the opinion that there are no aliens out there in the wider galaxy.

    Now, maybe Christianity is fairly unique in this matter; I’ll readily acknowledge my ignorance of how other religions’ theologians think about the possibility of aliens, by and large. But my own experience suggests the opposite of what you claim here, so I’d like to know what evidence you have that backs up your statement. That way, if I’m wrong, I can find out about it.

    • Well, I know that the Vatican has an official position on aliens and Christianity. Christ was sent to Earth to save us from original sin. Not aliens, who may or may not suffer from original sin. If they do, then God will provide a way for salvation to them. But not through the sacrifice Jesus Christ did for us. That’s roughly the outline without going into deep detail, which I haven’t read anyway.

    • Mormons explicitly believe in extra-terrestrial life. But there’s no information on it beyond the fact that it exists.

      I’ve been told that Hinduism believes in life on other worlds. That’s why a world population composed of reincarnated souls can increase. Or in other words, just because you’re reincarnated on Earth doesn’t mean that all of your past lives were here.

    • The ones I’ve known and discussed the issue with go the other way; they expect that there are lots and lots and lots and lots of other species elsewhere in the galaxy (not to mention beyond it). What forms they take could be almost anything at all, depending on their local conditions.

      I mean, just look at the arthropods here on this one single planet.

      • Whether there is intelligent life elsewhere seems to be the wrong question; we might instead ask, “If there is intelligent life elsewhere, how would we recognise it?”

        • Michael Flynn has written a lot more about the Catholic position, and specifically about what the medieval Scholastics and the much earlier Fathers of the Church said about it.

          Basically, humans are in the middle of the Great Chain of Being. There may be other material beings with intelligent minds and with eternal souls, but they would basically be humans, from a philosophical/theological point of view. Whether or not they would be children of Adam and Eve is another question.

          Anyway, the other question is whether the human vocation to multiply, fill the earth/land and tame it, extends to other planets, other solar systems, etc. Doesn’t seem to be any reason it wouldn’t; but the question affects the idea of whether humans are intended to take care of all material Creation, or just a local area. If we are, then it would seem that all of Creation did in fact fall with Adam and start to get remade in Christ, and we have to get our butts in gear to help our fallen interstellar brethren.(And this would seem to make more sense.)

          But if our vocation is just a local thing, as in Lewis’ Outer Space trilogy, then you get unfallen beings and unfallen worlds.

          Blish’s Day After Judgment duology deals with the problem of getting it wrong — of encountering beings who seem to be unfallen, and not realizing the theological errors they’re spreading until it’s almost too late.

      • Of course, at the moment, the evidence is small, but it all does point to “we are alone.”

        (And not in the small fiction sense:
        http://theoatmeal.com/comics/oracle)

  11. Three Body Problem and the Dark Forest was a pretty good look at the Fermi Paradox.

    There’s also the idea that human civilizations are protected by a Veil aka Prime Directive, where free will must be respected which means tech transfer and answering people’s questions has a penalty associated with it.

    • “…tech transfer and answering people’s questions has a penalty associated with it.”

      Which is another way of saying the people are stupid and have to be controlled. If the monkeys get a machinegun they’ll surely make a mess.
      Big Brother by any other name is still Big Brother, and its no surprise a Chinese author had that one as a basic premise.

      He also had “humans are vermin” in there, which I refuse to read anymore. Rod Serling finished that run in Twilight Zone.

      • The Prime Directive came from the creator of Star Trek. That would be a Westerner. R somebody, I forgot. The other variants would be an offshoot of response to the Drake equation or Fermi’s Paradox.

        Which is another way of saying the people are stupid and have to be controlled.

        That wasn’t the perspective of Genesis Six or 1st Enoch and various other texts such as the Sumerian histories. There are dramatically different viewpoints concerning intervention from higher level existences to lower level ones. Some people saw it as a problem. Others saw it as a blessing and benefit.

        For example, GMO and vaccines are in the cultural highlights again. Only a highly civilized nation can start using corn to power their cars instead of feeding their people. From the perspective of starving nations, that’s a waste, but they find it hard to refuse the cash payout.

        • “There are dramatically different viewpoints concerning intervention from higher level existences to lower level ones.”

          Indeed. One such, which I rarely see expressed in SFF, is that the big kids should stay at their end of the playground with their football games, and leave the little kids alone with their Hotwheels and Barbies. Much more usual is the teacher coming around and making everyone play nice.

          I hate that one. I wrote a story where the “teacher” gets a hot reception. More my speed.

          • Much more usual is the teacher coming around and making everyone play nice.

            That is why the author of Three Body Problem created a more Berserker like, less idealistic, story. I can see why it gained cult classic status in China, although I didn’t figure that out until years after I finished the trilogy. The author didn’t particularly resonate with, agree with, or like the various Chinese sci stories that talked about humans being children and all the ETs being great spiritual teachers here to help humanity unlearn.

            The Left thinks of humans as vermin. Look up the Georgia Guidestones (in the state). I think putting antagonists into a story of such a nature merely brings out the visceral state of our conflicts and interpersonal issues.

  12. One thought I’ve had, that I would use as the basis for a 4X video game, is to assume that FTL physics can be derived from the behavior of a series of gravity waves that pulse out from the center of the galaxy every several thousand years. They aren’t deadly, you won’t even notice them without the right kinds of instruments, but the way they behave illuminates peculiarities of interstellar space that permit effective FTL.

    Furthermore, in the interests of ‘game balance’, a civilization that doesn’t figure out advanced spacetime manipulation tends to plateau their technology at levels that we would tend to consider ‘hard’ sci-fi, no more than a few hundred years away from our early 21st century technology.

    As a result, ‘young’ civilizations tend to erupt out into the rest of the galaxy in a periodic cycle, and they tend to be within shouting distance of each other technologically.

    (Another balancing idea might be that lower-tech civs tend to have more interest in risky exploration, so there are more warm bodies available for taking those risks away from the comforts of home.)

    Oh, and since bodies get more massive as they approach lightspeed, a kinetic strike moving too fast to allow for electromagnetic forewarning will create (very weak) gravity waves that once again illuminate the potential for interstellar FTL. A star system with a proper detection array in place can therefore watch for long-range bombardment and have years to prepare countermeasures.

    -Albert

  13. What about the berserkers that are already here? *looking askance at members of my family 🙂

  14. (Goes to shelves, picks out a Roger Zelazny title…)

  15. James Alan Gardner has an elegant method of dealing with the “no killing” issue in his Expendables series. One of the background elements of those books are races of aliens so far advanced that they’re basically god-like, and they have one rule: Don’t kill sapient beings. (Their method of enforcement is lethal.) However, the distinction is that any thinking creature that deliberately murders another is therefore classified as “dangerous non-sapient.” So self-defense is allowable, as is “pirate hunting”—though the latter can be fraught, as this is all about intentions, so if you drop dead on the trip back, those around you know that you’d gotten to the point where you were perhaps enjoying it a bit too much.

    As with any restriction, this leads to more potential storylines than it gets rid of.

    • Many, many, many years ago I recall a short story* collection somewhat addressing that concept. First Contact had happened at a small New England village and while the town was awaiting the arrival of National Personages the town’s official vermin-killer walked up and blasted the alien. After much debate about what ought be done the townsfolk decided that any(body/thing) wantonly killing sentient life met the definition of “vermin” and replaced and executed their vermin killer.

      *Harry Harrison would be my first go-to to check, as it seems I was working my way through his anthologies at the time (circa 1971) but there are several others about as likely.

      • James Schmitz did something like that. Maybe do a search on his stories to see if one of them matches your memory.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        “The Exterminator” by Keith Laumer. It’s in the Baen Collection titled The Lighter Side.

        • Laumer seems likely – I would read anything of his I found. Of course, back in those dark days the SF sections at bookstores offered very limited selection. I eventually resorted to sending for publisher’s monthly catalogs and buying directly.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Since I have the e-version, I know what story it was. 😉

            Now, you may have seen it in a different collection. 😀

        • Originally published as “A Bad Day for Vermin” in Galaxy, February 1964.

          The entire run of Galaxy is on archive.org, in various formats including jpg, epub, .pdf, and OCR text.

          https://archive.org/details/Galaxy_v22n03_1964-02

          The feature story in that issue is the last half of Jack Vance’s “The Star King”, first of his Demon Princes series. And the science column was written by Willy Ley.

          Magazines don’t print stuff like that any more…

  16. Perhaps WE are the first. Although I recollect Isaac Asimov doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations and coming up with a distance between civilizations of 600 light years. Owning all the habitable worlds within 80 parsecs or so is a decent amount of space. Especially when you consider that any race advanced enough for a starship will be controlling their population for sheer cost reasons. I suspect an interstellar imperium would count its worlds on the fingers of one hand, two at most.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Universe has to start.

      What ranges of chemical species can be used to form life?
      If pure hydrogen life is possible, that’s one thing. But if life needs second, third gen or later stars to fuse elements and blow up to create and distribute a necessary element, that there is another delay built in.

      It might take a long time for intelligent life to develop.

      It might take a long time for intelligent life to become civilized. (Because space travel would seem to require the ability to concentrate resources.)

      We’ve had civilization and agriculture to some degree for a long time. They may be fairly stable situations that don’t necessarily advance rapidly.

      The paradox was first formulated back before we knew some of the things we are discovering about deep prehistory. Does it survive a suitably pessimistic set of assumptions based on some of the more recent discoveries and speculation?

      And cost may not be a reason to control population. It may be that wealth, in absence of socialism, can be a function of population size.
      Are any of the following necessary prerequisites for us getting where we are? Rome, Judaism, Christianity, the Reformation, Capitalism, and the apparent failure of Marxism-Leninism to permanently entrench itself? America?

      Perhaps we are in a sweet spot between cripplingly slow technological development and development of mad self-destructive technocratic fetishes.

  17. Christopher M. Chupik

    We should also consider that some intelligent species could be limited by their environment. James Cambias’s A Darkling Sea features a species who live in the volcanically-warmed seas of a frozen planet. They not only lack the ability to use fire, they can only “see” by echolocation and until they are visited by a group of human and alien explorers, they have no concept of lies beyond the ice.

  18. When I was out for dinner yesterday I saw many indications of ongoing human expansion.

  19. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I remember reading a statistical argument about this.

    Basically, how many standard deviations is Earth from the mean? The various distributions of factors involved will average out to a normal distribution. This was before we were discovering so many planets, and in hindsight seems to have correctly predicted a lot of earth like planets.

    I think this averaging might not apply to the time aspect. Normal has an equal chance of positive and negative. Time distributions have no negative, because negative time makes no sense in most contexts.

    Time seems to be applicable here. Both ’cause big bang as t=0, and because we probably have to wait a few stellar lifetimes from that until life can form. What distribution is the time dependence? What can we estimate about the time dependence of intelligent life in the universal population from the time dependence of our own measurement?

    Given the social factors I discussed upthread, it is perhaps plausible that we are an extreme outlier time wise, and that we are some distance from the nearest equally early outlier.

    But the important question is “What is the best position to troll from?” Prehistoric High Crusade with Great Old Ones. Humans are widespread, but the civilizations they had when they crossed the stars have decayed, because they were not built to last. We have a duty to travel to the stars, kill most of the other humans, and spread the good news of Christ to the survivors.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Another thing to think about if we’re consider the possibility of intelligent species using high tech, is the age of the star.

      From my understanding of how elements come into being, the first stars would have only hydrogen with helium & other lighter elements (as a by produce of the “nuclear” process).

      The heavier elements like iron are created in super-novas.

      Many of the earliest star systems won’t have the elements that are the basis of our earliest high-tech.

      Life might develop in those early star systems including intelligent life but the intelligent tool users might be stuck in the “stone age”.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I think I actually mention that way up thread.

        One of the questions, variables, we don’t have a firm conclusion for is the ranges of chemical species that can support life.

        What is the fewest number of elements from which a intelligence supporting system of biology can be derived? We have one example.

        What is the heaviest necessary element for such a system? Then there is the issue of having the elements in close enough proximity. Which may imply even heavier denser elements causing the heaviest biologically necessary element to float enough to be available on the planet surface.

        I dunno.

      • kenashimame

        If I remember my stellar lifetimes correctly, red giants will fuse something into iron at the end of its lifetime; however not only are supernovae necessary to fuse anything heavier than iron, you need the supernova explosion to get all the elements created in a star out into the universe where they can coalesce into planets where theoretical life can find them.

  20. An old friend of mine and I used to get into huge arguments about the existence of Intelligent Alien life. He was one of those who thought of science as his religion. He was of the opinion that a) if there was int. life out there, SETI would have picked up on something by now, and b) even if there WAS someone out there, FTL is impossible (he believed that it is scientifically PROVEN that nothing can exceed the speed of light), so even IF there was intelligent life out there, we’ll never meet them because they can’t get here, and we can’t get to where they are.

    He would get SO MAD when I would tell him that FTL isn’t impossible, because NOTHING is impossible. Sure there are things we can’t currently do, but that’s because we haven’t figured out HOW to do them… YET!

    • The interesting thing about some religion is that people become too fanatical without realizing it. For example, if it is not in the Bible, then it must be evil or of the devil or somehow bad. I could bring up airplanes and modern medicine but that’d be too easy, so I bring up all the books in the bible that the Ecumenical Councils took out of the biblical canon. There’s stuff missing, like 1st Enoch. Is 1st Enoch also of the devil? Probably, would be one reaction.

      So for science, if it isn’t accepted as the current status quo consensus and dogma, then it is hard for some people to look outside the box.

      • I agree. Same friend had completely bought into the church of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change to the point where ANY new research was raged against. You know, since it was already proven science and all (The Obama (pbuh) said so after all).

        The argument when I posited that everything in science is a theory. NOTHING is beyond question, even the “LAWS” of science like gravity should be questioned. WOW did he blow his lid. Especially when I “borrowed” a line from Phoebe (Friends) and said “I don’t know, lately I get the feeling that I’m not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed!” (needless to say, he didn’t notice the reference) LOL!!!

        Anyone who uses the words “Proven Science” is a very poor scientist!

  21. presbypoet

    The universe is a very dangerous place. Asimov’s Foundation series had the capital of the galactic empire in the center of the galaxy. He didn’t know about the dangerous black hole that makes any civilization within 10,000 light years impossible. We now know about gamma ray bursters, Dangerous. So many ways to die. What other dangerous things don’t we know about? All this before any Berserkers.

    We have a stable orbit in the galaxy, that does not get too close to the killer black hole. We are not so far out there are too few “metals”. Our star is stable, many are not. It is long lived. Giants die too soon. Smaller stars are stable, but the habitable zone is too close to the star. It is hard on life when your planet is locked to the star. So many important limits to life in the galaxy. This is not a complete list.

    We live in a relatively quiet solar system. Jupiter has tossed most killer rocks out of the system. Imagine if we had killer comets every million years. Saturn seems to have kept Jupiter from becoming a “hot” Jupiter, and wiping us out in the process.

    We have a moon to promote a stable rotation. The large moon produces tides that helped life move onto land. We have plate tectonics that created that land, and likely the place where life started in the white smokers, in the spreading centers. Not too big, not too small, just the right size as a planet.

    The improbable mixing of two types of bacteria that created multi-cellular life is a major limiting factor. We will likely to find single cell life, but there has not been enough time for other places to invent multi-cellular life.

    We are likely the only intelligence in a dangerous universe. Brought into being in a universe designed for free will, designed for life. Here for a purpose, by someone who loves us. This seems the most probable. God not only plays dice with the universe, He plays with loaded dice.

    BTW David Weber’s Safehold series is about a last fragment of the human race that hides from galaxy killers on a distant planet. A religion imposes limits on any technology that might alert the killers.