A simple way to frame the Fermi paradox is as a contraction between our theoretical expectation for intelligent life in the galaxy (based on probability arguments) and our observation that none is observed. When reading different peoples views about the Fermi Paradox the proposed explanations have a pessimistic and an optimistic extreme

The traditional chauvinism arguments that prevail in the scientific community were advanced by Martin & Bond [1]. Drake-Sagan chauvinism essentially advocates a crowded galaxy [2, 3] and arguably the extreme viewpoint of this constitutes an acceptance of alien abduction as a real phenomenon. Hart-Viewing chauvinism advocates that our species is probably the first intelligence life to arise in the galaxy [4, 5, 6], and arguably the extreme view point of this constitutes a belief in a deity (religious) who created only mankind and none others – Mankind is unique.

There are many other potential solutions proposed to explain the Fermi paradox other than the two extremes argued above. Such as the galaxy is too big to allow interaction within our civilization time, or that we are being deliberately quarantined from other more peaceful species in a so called Zoo hypothesis. It may also be the case that advanced intelligent probes are or have been here but our limited technology is not capable of detecting them. Another favourite is that civilizations reach a critical point in their technological development where they either flourish or destroy themselves in a nuclear war. Large scale natural catastrophes will also impact the number of civilizations in the galaxy and thereby the probability of interaction. 

The Fermi Paradox is really a conflict of two ideas. Idea one: the universe is teaming with life. Idea two: the universe is empty. Yet our observations currently seem incapable of resolving these two philosophical perspectives. These are framed within the question of comparing our theoretical expectations with our experimental observations – the fact that they are in conflict implies one is incorrect. Either our theoretical expectation is wrong or based on a false premise. Alternatively, our experimental observations are flawed, limited or looking in the wrong regime. How do we resolve these ‘facts in conflict’ – through logic. The first point of our reasoning must be that this is not in fact a paradox but merely a logical contradiction.

We can define a paradox as a statement that apparently contradicts itself, such as a logical paradox which is an invalid argument. A paradox will often have revealed errors in definitions that are assumed to be rigorous. Because of this, I do not see the Fermi problem as a logical paradox, but more of a logical contradiction in terms. That is to say, that in classical logic, a contradiction consists of a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. It occurs when two conclusions which form the logical, usually opposite inversions of each other. Hence I like to reformulate the Fermi Paradox as the Fermi problem.

Instead, it is better to look at the Fermi problem, from the standpoint of a mathematical axiom. An axiomatic system is any set of axioms from which some or all axioms can be used in conjunction to logically derive theorems. A mathematical theory consists of an axiomatic system and all its derived theorems. So with the Fermi problem, any statement which asserts the presents of intelligent life in the galaxy is a theorem, which must derive from the axiom that the galaxy is capable of hosting intelligent life in the first place. We know that this this axiom is true, because we are here, and so we represent the manifest evidence for the starting point of reasoning, to be accepted as true without controversy. Given that we exist, we are left to ask do others exist?

This then leads to the development of a hypothesis as a proposed explanation for the phenomenon. And in the Fermi problem there are two forms of hypothesis that are proposed. The first hypothesis is that the galaxy is capable of hosting more than one intelligent life form on separate worlds around other stars. The second hypothesis is that we have the technological capability to measure the presence of such intelligent life should it exist. But these are not logical paradoxes, merely mutually exclusive and independent hypothesis which can be tested, in order to develop full theorems.

Today many debate the different arguments of the so called Fermi Paradox, but there are numerous issues with our handling of it which make reasonable progress not sensible, due to the logical fallacy of the questions and how they are framed. When we forget the fundamental rules of reasoning and how to construct and deconstruct logical arguments as taught to us by the classical Trivium, we are bound to lead ourselves astray and destined to not answer the questions that our curiosity drives us towards.


[1] Martin, A.R & A.Bond, “Is Mankind Unique? – The Lack of Evidence For Extraterrestrial Intelligence”, JBIS, 36, pp.223-225, 1983.

[2] Shklovskii, I.S & C.Sagan, “Intelligent Life in the Universe”, Holden Day, 1966.

[3] Sagan, C & F.Drake, “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”, Sci.Am.,232,80, May 1975.

[4] Viewing, D, “Directly Interacting Extraterrestrial Technological Communities”, JBIS, 28, 735, 1975.

[5] Hart, M, “An Explanation for the Absence of Extraterrestrials on Earth”, QJRAS, 16, 128, 1975.

[6] Tipler, F.J, “Extraterrestrial Intelligent Beings Do Not Exist”, QJRAS, 21, 267, 1980.