You’re absolutely right—I hadn’t considered the statistical angle, but it does seem rather odd to be making theories based on only a single known sample.
Another big question in reports like this is the question of what is meant by "intelligent life". Even defining the word "intelligence" is difficult enough, let alone considering the possibilities of alien life having evolved with entirely different environmental and perhaps social conditions. If intelligence means using tools, there’s plenty of other life forms on Earth that use tools. If it’s confined to use of language, we know that dolphins and whales use very sophisticated forms of communication. Heck, even insects can communicate their condition and needs to each other.
I read a short-story about a group of aliens that captured some humans (rendered naked by an extreme environment) and treated them like animals, until one of the humans caught a mouse in his cell, and put it in a wicker cage—the moral of the story is that only intelligent life forms put other life forms in cages. But then, spiders and house cats and all sorts of predators trap other animals for food and amusement all the time, so even making cages isn’t limited to human-like intelligence…
And who knows what any potential aliens would measure intelligence by—the ability to travel faster than light, or maybe the ability to detect and predict solar storms or eat with your toes, or maybe shapeshift or some other strange thing.
In the end, I think we have to remain agnostic about extraterrestrial life—it may or may not exist, but we’re really in no position to decide how likely it is, or what it will even look like if we encounter it. The odds of finding people that look and behave like we do seems pretty unlikely, but life in general? Who knows? Not Mr. Watson.
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