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ALIEN THEORY #3: REFLECTIONS ON THE FEAR OF ALIEN ASTRONAUTS


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The late Stephen Hawking, a renowned physicist, once expressed a deep personal fear of aliens, so much so that he hinted that we should stop looking for them, stop sending out signals to keep our existence a secret, less the aliens discover us and come here to wipe us out. It could be worthwhile to discuss whether or not this viewpoint has any merit.

The North American Indians, the South American Indians, the Africans and others, all had something very real to fear when the Europeans came to their land, so it is understandable that earthlings, like Hawking, might fear aliens coming to this planet. This fear stems mainly from superimposing human mentality on the aliens, not to mention watching too many Star Trek and Star War movies. Needless to say, it is pretty much mandatory for Hollywood to turn the aliens into man-eating predators for purely business reasons: carnivorous aliens sell more theater tickets than benevolent aliens.

There is, however, a noticeable distinction between Europe and the other continents on the one hand, and between an alien planet and Earth on the other. The distinction is distance. To reach the other continents, the Europeans only needed some relatively primitive sailboats. But for the aliens to reach Earth, dozens or hundreds of light years away, they would need quite sophisticated spacecraft. The critical question, therefore, is: Can a barbarous civilization develop higher technology?

Human history does not support the notion that it is possible for barbarians to achieve higher technology. The two most barbarous epochs in human history were a) the tens of thousands of years preceding the dawn of civilization, and b) the thousand-year period following the fall of the Roman empire. In both epochs, technological progress was virtually nil. Only when human civilization became less barbarous, with the demise of rule by hereditary delinquents known as royalty, with the demise of slavery, with the spread of education to the masses, and so forth, do we begin to see technological progress.

For sure, there may be complete degenerates out in space but they should be nothing to fear because it is unlikely that they will ever be able to leave their own planet let alone survive the nuclear weapons stage if they ever get that far. Technological barbarians, like the Klingons of Star Trek, may only exist in Hollywood and nowhere else. Now another question arises: Are friendly aliens something to fear?

Some have suggested that contact with aliens would cause a dramatic upheaval in human society. My opinion on this is: Not really. Perhaps decades ago there would have been some commotion but not today. More than sixty years of ancient astronaut and UFO propaganda has produced a world in which alien contact may turn out to be just another news event. As for the "upheaval," I can think of three things that might happen:

1) The armaments industry could be affected. In the knowledge that advanced alien civilizations exist, it is likely that humans will want to bind together as a species and will stop killing each other. Indeed, it seems virtually certain that wars between humans will come to an end, and the countries of the Middle East will finally make peace. Jobs in the armaments industry would have to be transferred to infrastructure, space exploration, and consumer-related industries.

2) Social structures could be affected. Disparities between the developed world and the third world may start to melt away along with other inequities in human society. We will likely see higher taxes on the rich and more attention to education, technological development, and the colonization of outer space.

3) Organized religions could be affected. Fundamentalist concepts like creation are likely to be pushed into the background, but overall, religions may continue to proliferate as a mechanism for consolation and moral guidance.

Hawking acknowledges that aliens may have extremely advanced technology. The major flaw in his thinking is not realizing that such technology can be used to find ways of self-sustenance not including the barbaric plundering of inhabited planets.

More recently, I became even more dismayed when I heard that Michio Kaku, another of our great physicists, echoed Hawking's fear of aliens in a radio interview. Kaku stated that Sagan made a huge mistake sending a disk out into deep space because that disk tells the aliens (on the infinitesimal chance that anyone will ever find it) where we are located, and presumably they (the aliens) will promptly come here to wipe us out.

Kaku goes on to declare that, like Bambi fighting Godzilla, we would be helpless against the aliens because predators (man-eating aliens) are always more intelligent than the prey (us humans). But he is not completely pessimistic; he notes that because of DNA differences between us and the aliens, the aliens might not want to eat us for dinner.

 

17th-century depiction of alien malice

 

My opinion on this is: It is absurd to believe that a civilization with technology so advanced that it can travel across the galaxy would be unable to find a way to manufacture its own food supply. Even the Star Trek crew could do that. Besides food, minerals are also found on Earth, but many if not most of these minerals can also found on every other planet in our solar system and also on billions of other planets in our galaxy, inhabited with life or not. And please note that the obvious choice for energy resources would be stars rather than planets. Aliens would have no necessity at all to plunder planet Earth.

One of the manifestations of human intelligence is our pioneering spirit. Only the apes remained in the trees. The humans ventured out to populate the entire planet. The Asians risked death crossing the Bering Strait to enter the Americas. Columbus risked death crossing the Atlantic. The Polynesians risked death crossing a vast ocean to populate the Pacific islands.

And then, all of a sudden, our great scientists, Hawking and Kaku, came along to tell us that we should become a race of cowards, that we should cuddle up in fear, and hide. For my part, I feel that it would be better for us to do the opposite: to revitalize our pioneering spirit by reaching out into space. Indeed, in view of the limited lifespan of our Sun and planet, there can be no doubt that the long-term survival of humans depends upon our moving out into space. And if the aliens do wipe us out, at least we will go out as a proud species, true to our heritage.

Hawking and Kaku needed to know something that apparently escaped them: the greatest threat to the short-term survival of humankind are not man-eating aliens, but rather the thousands of nuclear weapons that we have accumulated and refuse to eliminate. Those weapons are a ticking time bomb that could terminate our existence at any time. And guess what might be the best assurance that those weapons will never be used for self-destruction: the sanity that we would acquire from alien contact!


 

 

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