“The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of ’em has ever tried to contact us.” – Bill Watterson, creator of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’
Aliens. ET. Species. Predator. UFO. Area 51.
Vampires. Whoa! That one nearly crashed the party but if you are laboring under the misapprehension, green men abducting white men or giant bugs laying cities to waste is creative taradiddle, you may wish to reassess.
Goldilocks, as you know, is about a little girl who lost in a forest wanders into a house of three bears while they are away and starts trying out what she fancies is right for her but almost caught when the bears return. This is where fact meets fiction as Goldilocks Zone in astrobiology is the right spot for a planet, not too hot or cold from a parent star, therefore habitable with a possibility of intelligent life and chances for potential contact.
Today no scientist worth his salt questions the existence of other civilizations. Drake’s equation surmising the probability of extraterrestrial life is simply too high to ignore so the only thing, scientists may disagree upon is their actual number. What, everyone does agree on is they are not too sure what to do, if one of them does bother to respond to us.
David Brin in ‘The Great Silence’, warns us, Active SETI or aggressive efforts to signal to anyone out there, is asking for trouble as maybe the reason, civilizations similar to us (in shared sense of bonhomie) have chosen to stay quiet is because they have wised up to a fact, that we have not…that there seems to be hostile life in the cold depths of space that unknowingly or not has zero tolerance or compatibility with any other forms of life.
Astronomer Robert Jastrow, musing on consequences of possible contact with alien life, asserts he sees no reason for optimism. Astronomer Ronald Bracewell further warns that other species will place a premium on caution and weaponry; an alien ship headed our way is likely to be armed. Astronomer Eric Chaisson argues that physical contact could lead to a neo-Darwinian dominance of our race by theirs. Astronomer Zdenek Kopal was specific: ‘Should we ever hear the space-phone ringing, for God’s sake let us not answer but make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible to avoid attracting attention!’
Other scientists have also warned of potential dangers. Biologist Michael Archer states any creature we contact would have had to claw its way up the evolutionary ladder and will be every bit as nasty as we are. It is more likely than not to be extremely adaptable, incredibly aggressive; a super predator! Physicist George Baldwin predicts any effort to communicate with extraterrestrials is fraught with grave danger as they may not hesitate to show contempt for humans. Astronomer Bob Rood likens the civilization that blurts out its existence on interstellar beacons at first chance, to an early hominid descending from trees, calling ‘here, kitty’ to a saber-toothed tiger.
Consider the wary views of SETIs’ own astronomers. Seth Shostak wrote that we can no better guess the motivations of alien intelligence than goldfish can guess ours. Jill Tarter asked rhetorically: who knows what values might drive an alien culture? Aliens may not have the same motives that we do. Douglas Vakoch wrote that we should not assume that the ethics of extraterrestrials will be like our own…
That said, are we not being too paranoid, for if you look at other creatures on the planet, we actually witness the opposite? The lion and gazelle, predator and prey, shift naturally from stress of the chase back into a peaceful state. There is no carryover of resentment, embarrassment or concern for future. Everything is allowed to pass. Why is a dolphin so content in the sea? The deer at home in the forest or an eagle, the master of skies? Why is tranquility a rule than exception in nature?
The answer is one of the great wonders of life and strategic to the laws of nature: Most creatures are all made for what happens to them so civilizations that ‘make it’ realize a state of peaceful coexistence is key to lasting life. There is seemingly more harmony in heavens than in our relationships and it explains why we can’t help but assume they are going to be just as bad!
Let’s explore a perspective unchallenged by anyone, living or dead. I refer to the oldest scriptures, as a point to resolve this paradox. Still, if it challenges your most cherished assumptions, indulge me in ‘good faith’.
All creation, states the Bhagvad Gita, is a mixture of three basic abilities. The lowest is the darkening ability followed by the stimulating ability and finally, spiritually uplifting ability insomuch that creation everywhere manifests one ability or another. Enlightened sages across ages have hinted that entire galaxies manifest primarily one or another of this ability. There are galaxies, for example where the lowest ability rules. Inhabitants of planets of those galaxies are the most part brutish and incapable of aspiring to spiritual heights. Fierce animals roam there with cannibalism abound with inhabitants in constant war and conflict. Lust, animal pleasure is considered all life can offer.
Then there are galaxies where the next ability is pronounced, planets where self-aware beings live and whose primary concern is one of aggrandizement and self-importance. Milky Way is such a galaxy. Finally, galaxies that veritably resemble ‘Gardens of Eden’ where the populace can telepathically communicate with transdimensional beings and harmony and beauty abound everywhere. Earth, as it is on the outskirts of Milky Way, receives less ‘spiritual power’ than at center (yet man seems to be moving to a plane of higher understanding and sensitivity though mental evolution is more cyclic than linear than hitherto believed) that brave, new age physicists like Nassim Haramein explain as a continuous expulsion of exotic energy from black holes at galactic cores that ripples out and washes over planetary bodies with a magnitude in inverse proportion from distance to the center so we receive either more or less, based on our sun’s own relative motion!
From a technological standpoint, it is thought we are, at present, a 0.7 Type civilization, where Type 1 can harness the entire resources of the planet, Type 2, of the solar system and Type 3, of a galaxy. Type 4, can make baby universes and Type 5 – your guess is as good as mine – although technological progress is not necessarily a sign of an advanced race who may have overcome material goals and embarked on a subtler, spiritual quest.
This brings us back to the whole debate on ‘official contact’ despite enough reports that this happens informally all the time (well, you weren’t exactly hoping aliens to land on the White House lawn, waving limbs at shutterbugs, were you?) Skeptics will say, given our laughable prowess we are sitting ducks for a cunning predator but no cultural revolution ever took place by hiding inside the cupboard either. Surely, we did not step out of the primordial soup as there was nothing to eat us alive but to greet our own destiny. Ask, is it the strongest of species that survive or the more intelligent or the one most responsive to change? If we don’t reach out to the stars in fear of being found out, are we not already dead men waving from ports of a sunken ship when danger comes to greet us? Besides, how can we even hope to contact a benevolent race if we are scared to ask? History proves that mankind was born to survive and thrive, be it the timely demise of the dinos or evolutionary kick in our pants. Sure there may be setbacks but with time, we would be greater than we ever imagined possible and ‘when the risk it takes to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom’, we shall break the bonds of earth and touch the sky and go out into the night at the speed of light.
Per aspera ad astra