26 April 2010

Are aliens as cruel as matadors? An answer to Hawking's warning

I don't know if it was the bacteria found in outer space that did it but many years ago I saw a long astronomy special on PBS with a panel of astrophysicists and all participants claimed any form of life out there to be "unlikely".

As time went by, I found more and more astronomers quoted as saying intelligent life out there was "possible". Setting aside the unlikelihood that both aliens and we would be able to come across one another within our same life times using radio signals (or other signs of life which might allow us to notice one another), Stephen Hawking says we should be wary.

"Aliens almost certainly exist but humans should avoid making contact", Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.

I've been thinking this the entire time. We're bobbing up and down and screaming and waving our arms madly to attract the attention of the likes of Darth Vader, the Vs and Daleks.

"[Hawking] warned that aliens might simply raid Earth for resources, then move on. 'If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans,' he said."

Damn right! Hasn't anybody over at SETI, or any other alien enthusiast, seen "Signs" and every other movie in which aliens come to harvest our resources? And, no, I am not only talking about Escalade-driving Americans.

You'll say some aliens are nice, just look at E.T. and my answer to this is first of all that E.T.'s compadres were taking samples from Earth and who knows what their motives were. And then we're supposed to think E.T. is left there by mistake. And he's sweet and empathic. All these heartening tidbits can be explained in two words: "recon mission". Note E.T.'s marked interest in our botany.

I'm just glad Hawking is using his influence to remind us, like Jack Nicholson in that movie, humanity, this life is probably "as good as it gets". Non-humans could be worse than Sarah Palin. Aliens could be more cruel than matadors who, thank God, are fallible enough to get gored once in a while. Aliens could be worse than those human beings who put other human beings in gas chamber. Worse than human beings who lynch other human beings. The worst of alien life could be more cruel and lethal than the worst of human life.

Or maybe we just think that because the sickest part of our imagination is very sick indeed. Who knows what the universe holds. I know one thing for sure: when I see Sarah Palin and her chances at becoming President and mass murderers, I think of Scotty and wish he was real and wish I could take my chances somewhere else. Human beings are great at imagining horror. We can't even come up with a purely benevolent God. I'm no Hawking, maybe he has a scientific basis for what he says. But I think we associate the amount of energy and determination required for space travel and/or space communication with potential because our human experience shows so much technological advancement in war time. Surely, curiosity ties in with success in our evolution and there is as much chance that the same can be said for aliens.

I'm going to re-edit this blog later today because I've got an astrophysicist coming over for tea and I'll ask her the name of that craft we sent into space with Glenn Gould's recording of the Goldberg Variations, with Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and data about who we are in case there is intelligent life out there to appreciate it. When people speak of it, they light up. Imagine the aliens' surprise at hearing Bach (and Gould annoyingly/charmingly humming over bits of it). I'm not a scientist but if I'm right about curiosity and the energy and determination it can garner, then we have little to fear. I just don't believe we should project our darkness onto creatures we know nothing about, creatures we haven't even met yet. After all, the only non-humans we know are animals and the better we are at knowing them, the more intelligent we realise they are -- and animals remain utterly without evil.



  1. Vis a vis the absence of evil in the animal world, let me again remind you about the how utterly non-evil a ravenous shark is..

  2. But a shark wouldn't build a space ship. We're talking about being with free will here.

    Voyager. The probe with all the human stuff was called Voyager. I always forget.