this is in response to

Karl Schroeder link here

and Charlie Stross here

Here’s a problem with thinking that self replicating probes is the answer: Just because you like the idea doesn’t make it less or more probable, we have no data. Here let me give you an alternative explanation for why there is no report of alien life outside the earth and you tell me how likely it is:

We all know how evolution works but we have a pretty poor understanding of evolution at a cultural level. First of all the genes themselves are immortals, and they are the ones who control everything, sex, life, death. Individuals are merely a passing body they occupy. It seems so weird to think that these little bits of DNA reached out from inside their spirals . . . and then created language. Yet that is exactly what happened! When a bird of paradise creates an incredibly intricate bower in order to attract a mate, is it the birds who have decided, no it is the genes who have reached out from inside the DNA of the bird to do this. What is more, the genes not only reach out and change the way the bird looks, they affect the environment itself. When the bird creates its bower, or when the plants of the earth created an atmosphere of oxygen, this is the doing of the genes inside the animals controlling the process. They do not think. They do not plan. They merely react to evolutionary pressures, yet it is from these pressures that they can change the entire environment of the earth itself, and it is not humans which self directed their own evolution and decided to create language, but the genes in response to evolutionary pressures which created language.

On a geological time scale, evolution acts incredibly quickly on the order of millions of years. Now it is true that cultural evolution is much faster it acts on a time scale of tens of years, but if you pit cultural evolution against biological evolution who wins? Cultural evolution is a lot more fragile and faster, it is the hare, while biological evolution is the tortoise, slow but impossible to stop.

Now if you assume that humans at some point achieve the ability of space flight, and from time to time send biological units out, assume 99% of the time we send out these self replicating probes, but 1% (or less) of the time we send out biological units, and these biological units send out other biological units, what is the evolutionary pressure there? Let’s not think in terms of our cultural history but in terms of millions of years, in terms of geological time. The evolutionary pressure is to create a system where the genes disseminate themselves. It is not intelligence of the self replicating probes which is important but that the payload of the probes whose purpose is to disseminate the DNA throughout the universe. Doesn’t it seem that intelligence itself is a detriment to the process?

Thus the evolutionary pressure would strive to decrease intelligence of the probes and the biological units that are being sent out, because over geological time, cultural and technological advances do not promote the dissemination of genes, but inhibit it, as the biological and self replicating probes have motives which can oppose the evolutionary pressure of the genes to disseminate. If you look at the history of the earth, evolution wins every time in this battle between genes and intelligence. If a brain is too large for an animal it is decreased. It doesn’t matter how much the animal wants to remain intelligent.

And thus the pressure of evolution has caused all intelligent life in the universe to be reduced to probes merely spreading genes.

Now you tell me how likely is this scenario? What’s the equation? That’s why I say, we just have one data point, none of this speculation makes sense. No matter how you tweak the drake equation you are not getting anywhere.