Alien Astronaut of the Andes


By Morten St. George

The four articles on this page concern philosophical and psychological considerations regarding the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).


In a period of less than one hundred years, humankind advanced from traveling by horse and buggy to making a trip to its planet's satellite. Just imagine what the humans might be able to accomplish over the course of the next ten thousand years! That is possibly enough time to develop techniques for long-term human hibernation, to build extremely fast spaceships, and to explore every planet within a thousand light years.

Around the middle of the last century, the famous physicist Enrico Fermi was asked if he believed in aliens, and he replied: Where are they? Fermi makes a strong point. Stars in our galaxy range up to ten billion years or more in age though our own planet has less than five billion years of history. Within such time scales, ten thousand years is hardly the blink of an eye. Indeed, there were even intelligent humans ten thousand years ago, and what if the alien civilizations have been progressing for even longer, maybe even for millions of years? Aliens, if they exist, should be visiting us on a regular basis, and without any visible signs of alien visitation, Fermi concluded that we are alone.

Fermi's logic, however, relies on a couple of underlying assumptions that have yet to be proven. First, it assumes that alien technology is no more advanced that what we can imagine for ourselves in the future. Second, it assumes that the alien visitors, once they got here, would want to immediately and directly announce themselves. In other words, it is possible (even likely) that aliens have been here and we just do not know it.

Carl Sagan once estimated that there could be as many as one million extraterrestrial civilizations exploring our galaxy. It is somewhat naïve of people to believe that not one of them has been capable of finding us. However, it does not take a million civilizations to find us. It only takes one civilization with a million spaceships to find us. That's why, even by skeptical estimates, ancient astronauts are a done deal.

The moral of this story is that the quickest road to finding aliens might come from looking into our past rather than looking into deep space. Every plausible sign of alien contact needs to be investigated. Of course, it is now well-known that the Egyptians did not need alien help to build the pyramids and so forth, but other phenomena are not so easy to explain. Among these stand the mysterious drawings on the desert floor near Nazca, Peru, drawings that were clearly intended to be viewed by an intelligent creature from the sky.

Scientists have determined, via radiocarbon dating of wooden stakes used to mark out the drawings, that the Nazca Lines date from around 600 CE, but science has made little progress on determining why the people of Nazca drew those lines. Dozens of explanations to counter alien notions have been put forth but none are convincing.

Sadly, even the late Carl Sagan, one of the great proponents of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), felt compelled to join the debunking effort, suggesting that they merely worshiped the Moon and made those drawings to entertain their god. I think it unlikely that Sagan, even with his powerful telescopes, found eyes of the Moon and so it is highly doubtful that the people of Nazca, with the naked eye, were able to see eyes on the Moon. As anyone who has studied the ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle would know, humankind has acquired a lot of knowledge over the years but we remain no more intelligent than our ancestors.

By no means does evidence of alien visitation have to be exclusively archaeological in nature. If the aliens are far advanced (it seems likely that their technology would exceed the mere ability to travel across the galaxy), they could easily assimilate the basics of the our mentality and absorb our spoken languages. In general, therefore, every major instance of supernatural phenomena in past history needs to be carefully scrutinized for signs of alien involvement. One such instance in post-mythological times was Muhammad's encounter with the archangel Gabriel, which produced far more than what could be attributed to hallucinations. I'm sure almost everyone in the world (who is not a Muslim) would instantly write Muhammad off as a quack, but let's be careful. From the other side of the world we see another sign of potential alien contact, namely, the Nazca Lines, arising during Muhammad's lifetime.

More than four hundred years have passed since the Inquisition burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for his belief in extraterrestrial life, but one must not assume that Bruno was successful because the Inquisition is no longer burning people at the stake. To the contrary, the anti-alien mentality of the Inquisition has now engulfed the entire planet, irrespective of religious beliefs. That statement is easy to prove: It has been calculated that there are more than 8 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, and despite this, there is not a scientist in the world capable of imagining that the Nazca Lines could be connected with an alien. Even Carl Sagan refused to consider such a notion.


Some fifty years ago scientists calculated that there could be millions of advanced civilizations in our galaxy, and a search for them, called Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), began in earnest. Fifty years of failure followed. Politicians, having no liking for perpetual failure, cut off funding, and the astronomers recoiled in embarrassment, blaming it all on the vastness of space. There may or may not be other intelligent life out there, but, so it would seem, the aliens are not as abundant as originally predicted.

Meanwhile, our early radio broadcasts have yet to travel outwards a mere hundred light years. Astronomers claim, however, that it is possible to detect life-bearing planets at vast distances across the galaxy. This is done via atmospheric analysis (detection of oxygen, smog, whatever) of the exoplanets, and it is already possible for us --still in the primitive stage of technological development-- to perform such analysis. No, we are not currently performing this analysis on faraway planets, but our scientists say that the hold-up is only due to a lack of funding for a really huge space-based telescope, and not to a lack of scientific know-how.

Consequently, advanced aliens living at great distances from us would have known, many thousands of years ago, that there was abundant life on our planet. That is plenty of time (thousands of years of travel time) to send out a probe to investigate up close. Stationed in our solar system or nearby, the probe would be quick to pick up our radio broadcasts, and earlier, telescopically, might have detected intelligent life on this planet via sighting of the Great Wall of China, the Nazca Lines, or, still earlier, Nile-river irrigation in ancient Egypt.

The probe, of course, would alert any alien spaceship --that happened to be in our sector of the galaxy-- of the presence of intelligent life on this planet, whereupon the aliens could decide to pay us a personal visit. Alien arrival during historic or contemporary times is fully plausible, more plausible than at any time in the distant past because the emergence of intelligent life on a planet acts like a magnet, attracting the attention of curious aliens.

One of the arguments that scientists use to debunk UFO sightings is that our planet has been around for more than four billion years, so the odds are extremely small that the aliens would just happen to arrive here during the few decades that we have technology. As we have just seen, that is bad thinking. With countless billions of planets out there, it is far more sensible to visit only the planets where probes have already detected the presence of intelligent life. Scientists, however, also have valid objections to UFOs, so none of the above should be taken as permission to suspect that one or another UFO might be a real alien spaceship.

Regardless of whether we have been visited or merely detected, the approach currently taken by our astronomers is illogical. The very premise on which SETI astronomy is based --an abundance of intelligent life in the universe-- implies that the aliens know we are here given that their planet is likely to be a lot older than our relatively young planet. Thus, the prolonged failure to pick up an alien signal becomes attributable to nothing more than the aliens wanting to leave us alone, and for the same reason there may never be a random signal coming our way. Instead of passive listening, an outward search for the tell-tale signs of a super-civilization might be a better strategy.


Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist, has 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. This article will discuss whether 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. The possibility that SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) will eventually pick up an alien signal is nothing to fear and, to the contrary, may even be something to welcome.


I have always been a strong proponent of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Like the late Carl Sagan, I wanted an answer to the question Are We Alone? Like Sagan, I felt that informational and cultural exchanges with extraterrestrials could be of great benefit to humankind.

Consequently, I was somewhat dismayed a few years ago when I read that Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest living scientist, fears aliens. He suggests that we stop sending out signals because if the aliens find out we exist, they will come here to plunder our planet. He surmises that the aliens have already exhausted all the resources of their home planet, so now they are looking for fresh planets to exploit.

More recently, I was even more dismayed when I heard that Michio Kaku, another of our great scientists, 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.

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 into the Americas. Columbus risked death crossing the Atlantic. The Polynesians risked death crossing a vast ocean to populate the Pacific islands.

Now, all of a sudden, our great scientists, Hawking and Kaku, come along and 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 need to know something: 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 we acquire from alien contact.

Back in the year 2003, Kaku's thinking was quite different. Back then, he argued that the only way the intelligent life of a primitive Type 0 civilization (contemporary planet Earth) could reach the Type 1 level was by learning to control their aggressive instincts. He further argued that advancing from Type 1 to Type 2 and then on to Type 3 would necessitate eliminating those aggressive instincts altogether. Thus, he concluded that the Type 3 aliens -- the ones whose advanced technology would make them capable of reaching planet Earth -- were more likely than not to be benevolent.

This sharp reversal of opinion, from benevolent to vicious predator, is difficult to explain because no flaw in his earlier logic has become apparent. Consequently, we are forced to suspect that Kaku, and Hawking too for that matter, are being pressured -- or paid -- by agents of the US government to promote the fear of aliens, presumably to discourage private funding and donations for SETI projects.

I made those preceding remarks only half-cynically. It is imperative that our great minds be able to resist the anti-alien brainwashing that afflicts most people.