Aliens, intent on conquering planet Earth! Or are they? The stuff of science fiction recently got a sheen of dignity from Professor Stephen Hawking as he discusses the perils of peering into space, with an out-stretched hand. But if those aliens have walked any path similar to our own, history and humility will halt human hostility dead in its tracks…
We live. We learn. Now as a civilization, we do so collectively and on a colossal scale. Despite short-sighted nationalism, political intransigence and the insanity of religion, we are gradually working towards erasing the errors of our past and halting the ones we are making right now.
Although we have yet to fully come to terms with the greater problems our species has created for itself (those being our over abundance as well as our take-for-granted attitude towards the environment, and the most practical way of dealing with these issues), we are making progress. We now recognize our mistakes.
And before we can consider the practical problems of venturing forth into space, we must finally set aside our racial and political differences, and work together as never before. Such progress is many decades away. And the world we will see at that time will be vastly different to the one we know now.
We will have reconciled our indifferent attitudes towards our planet and aligned our wants with the needs of the Earth and her many other children, those other species we are inextricably related to.
Be in no doubt, this will happen. Our greatest story has yet to be told.
And as sure as the Earth would be a different, cleaner and richer place for fewer of man’s offspring, our mindset and our goals will have changed, too. We will not be marching forth into the black abyss of the greater universe with a mind to set place flags in dust amidst colourless skies, laying claim to worlds that are no more ours than the Moon or the Earth, but to learn and ensure the survival of our kind and others by finding new worlds to live on.
We will have evolved in ways that we only see in science fiction, those lofty ideas of idealists will be a reality for our grandchildren and their children. Those first footfalls onto alien worlds will come from people with eyes wide open, as wide as their minds and their hearts history and humility being their teachers.
The angry alien assumption
Speaking of sci-fi, why do we imagine alien races to be undesirable, angry and all-conquering? We do so because it is always easier to assume the same of others as we expect of ourselves.
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the American Indians.”
Which is the view of eminent Professor Stephen Hawking, discussing the possibility of sentient alien life. However, I don’t agree with his sweeping assumptions here. As smart as he is, Stephen Hawking’s thoughts are written in painfully straight lines, when in reality, the future is a very curly thing indeed.
He’s assumed that they, like us, will have gone through a period where one or more of their civilizations experienced rapid growth, perhaps at the expense of all others. That I do not contest. But then he’s skipped the part where they, like us, absolutely would have to make that transition to something greater than what they were, if they are to make the greatest voyages of their entire history, out into space.
After all, it was Stephen Hawking himself who speculated that we may be at a crucial point in our evolution where our next decisions could precipitate a sequence of events that leads to our own extinction. That I do not contest and in fact agree with. My belief is, this transitional period is either the making or the breaking of a species. What emerges at the other side is one that has learned from and paid the price of their relatively rapid growth.
Those of you who are regulars here will recall my two part exploration of the possibility of alien life. You may also recall my thoughts in the second installment on the number of life-bearing planets compared to the number of planets playing host to intelligent life.
To assume that a species would venture forth with the same hostility and indifference to life they had centuries previously simply doesn’t make any sense. They, like us would have gotten to a point where they realized that their own existence was imperiled as their natural resources dwindled. A change of heart and mind would be thrust upon them for them to embrace or else expire, simultaneously choking on their own filth and starving to death.
A wealth of resources beyond Earth
With that in mind, why on Earth would any such alien race come here? Knowing of their own veracious appetite for natural resources, they would know only too well that a civilization of our size would have used a substantial portion of our own resources, leaving them with very little to fight us for.
Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 billion tons. Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter has on its surface many dozens of lakes filled not with water or even water in the form of ice, but of liquid methane and ethane, each of which individually having at least as much energy as our own proven reserves.
Rich in iron, nickel and water ice, the Oort Cloud, a truly immense loosely spherical mass of pre-planetary material surrounding the solar system is estimated to contain as much material as all the planets and the Sun itself combined. And that doesn’t take into account the vast Kuiper Belt, or the asteroid belt beyond Mars.
Any sufficiently advanced species would have no problem scavenging from similar moons and the structures of other planetary systems, with little or no need to venture further in, impeding the growth and stymying the development of any lesser species like the human race.
If you’re an ardent reader, then more recently, you will have read my thoughts on life and how it may well be the reason the universe itself exists. Why should our notions on the nature of the universe differ so greatly from those of other intelligent species?
As we acquire greater and more detailed knowledge of the universe, we remove more and more of the indistinct mysteries and interpretive ideas, such as the manifold devicive vagaries of religion and replace them with a more finite and absolute understanding (quantum theory not withstanding), and it is this refined understanding that we will share with those other species.
Of course, this being such an unimaginably vast universe, it is entirely possible that all possibilities exist in unison. However, if we assume the worst of those that have worked so hard to make that leap into space, what do we say about ourselves and our own ambitions and agendas?
If we are at least as predatory as those aliens Stephen Hawking’s forewarns us of, an untimely end to our tenure on Earth might be the saviour of those with of less hostile intent lying deep within the limitless reaches of space…