Drake Equation for Spiritual Encounters

In xenobiology (Shut up! It’s a legitimate(ish) branch of study!) there is a concept called the Drake Equation. In a nutshell, it attempts to estimate the odds of humanity encountering intelligent extraterrestrial life. It essentially breaks down the major milestones in the development of detectable signals into probabilities: Probability of a planet forming; probability of that planet being able to support life; probability that life develops; probability they get smart enough to build radios; probability that they actually build radios; etc. Then that all gets multiplied across the average lifespan of such a civilization.

Of course, we only have one data point for this so far (Earth: it has life that releases radio signals!) So any numbers that we assign are pretty speculative.

So what happens if we apply this kind of logic to the idea of spiritual encounters. A lot of people claim to have had run-ins with the supernatural. These generally don’t hold up to peer-reviewable scrutiny. But maybe it’s a similar case where we just don’t have a lot of data points.

So here’s my take on it. The Drake Equation for spiritual encounters:

N = P * R * t * (1-E) * (1-L) * T


  • N = Total number of reported miracles in a period that are actually supernatural events

  • P = Population of the world (7.some billion now)

  • R = Rate of Miraculous events a person experiences (turns out, it’s about 1 per month)

  • t = time

  • E = proportion of Excitable people who will report mundane events as not being such

  • L = proportion of Liars who will also report mundane events as miracles, but for worse reasons.

  • T = proportion of Talkative people who will actually report on what happened to them.

I don’t know what T is, but it’s probably easy enough to figure out. Now we just need to figure out the values for E and L to figure out how long it will take before an actual supernatural event occurs!

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