from JournalofCosmology Website
According to Hawking:
According to Hawking aliens,
John Menninger, Ph.D., Department of Biology, University of Iowa
2. Darwinism and Hawking's Aliens
Blair Csuti, Ph.D., Research Associate, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University
Professor Hawking’s trepidation about
the wisdom of overtly seeking contact with them is well-founded. We
have no way of discerning the intent of alien visitors except
after-the-fact. The Darwinian concept of natural selection supports
the assumption that aliens visiting newly discovered planets, like
Earth, would place their own interests above those of
unsophisticated indigenous residents.
Therefore, another statistical premise
is that there will be lots of more advanced alien civilizations in
the older, more distant reaches of the universe. All of this bodes
ill for the outcome of any encounter with space aliens.
It’s no coincidence that every science fiction narrative of interstellar travel includes some currently undiscovered system that allows travel many times faster than the speed of light. In real science, however, Einstein’s relativity theories seem to have held up on one point: no particle or wave exceeds the speed of light.
First, this means that the wave front of Earth’s first electromagnetic transmissions to the rest of the universe is barely more than 100 light-years distant. It could well be tens of millions of years before our unintended radio and television calling cards are noticed by the first avaricious aliens. Then, racing to Earth at near-light speed, it will take our would-be exploiters tens of millions more years to turn up on our doorstep.
Unless they have very long life-spans,
that would require a generational space ship with little prospect of
returning to their home planet with whatever booty that they
considered valuable enough to undertake a long and expensive
Earth’s only hope will be that the laws of physics apply throughout the universe and place constraints on the types and power of possible weaponry that could be used against humans…and that by the time the invaders arrive, humans themselves will have discovered and deployed similar defense systems that would allow Earth to hold its own.
Speculation about the future is by
definition, fiction, but it sounds as if our most imaginative
science fiction may turn out to be closer to the truth than we would
Robert Ehrlich, Ph.D., Professor of
Physics, George Mason University
But after a little thought one’s second reaction might be “how could it be otherwise?”
Given the obstacles to alien life
evolving beyond the microbial stage in our own solar system, one
presumes that alien visitors would come to us from other star
systems - the other possibility being that microbial aliens might
hitch a ride on a meteorite blasted off from a planet within our own
My own guess is that number 2 would be
the most likely, but with all these choices it would be a safe guess
that if these space-journeying aliens exist, their technology is
light-years ahead of ours, and that they are almost certainly the
preeminent species on their home planet.
Certainly, intelligence is a factor, but one can always imagine unintelligent species winning out. For example, it is not out of the realm of possibility that intelligent humans could be wiped out by lowly microbes.
Nevertheless, all our experiences on
Earth suggest that when a more technologically advanced species or
group of humans encounters another and competes for the same
resources, the result is always conflict, with the more advanced
group emerging victorious - the movie Avatar notwithstanding. Being
a member of a species generally means you value the lives of your
own members above those of other species, even if you might not wish
to see them die needlessly.
Given the probability that the gap in
intelligence between alien visitors and humans would be far greater
than that between humans and our close relatives on Earth, how could
they not think of us as a very lowly life form, certainly not worthy
of treating as equals?
This seems highly doubtful, because
interstellar communication would seem to be the far easier course of
action in that case. Of course, there is the limit of the speed of
light to consider, which makes interstellar communication a rather
prolonged affair. However, if we have already allowed
faster-than-light travel, there is no reason to exclude
faster-than-light communication, using tachyons perhaps, which
incidentally are not entirely excluded based on experimental
searches to date.
One might argue that we should make no attempt to communicate with intelligent aliens by broadcasting signals. The temptation to do so could become quite strong if SETI ever detects an unambiguously positive signal. On the other hand, such communication would be quite pointless should the signal be from a star 500 light years away, given that the beings who we will have likely evolved into (or who replace us) in 500 years will bear little resemblance to those of us who sent the message.
Moreover, given the difficulties we now
have in even taking simple actions to save the planet from manmade
environmental catastrophe, one can only imagine the debate in the
halls of Congress and United Nations as to how to reply to alien
attempts at communication.
B.G. Sidharth, Ph.D. International
Institute For Applicable Mathematics & Information Sciences B.M.
Birla Science Centre Adarshnagar, Hyderabad, India
However, even if Hawking's were correct, the greatest danger may not be technically advanced aliens looking for world's to conquer, but the diseases and micro-oganisms which might journey with them.
Findings in recent years support the view that life in the universe may be widespread, and most likely, much of that life probably consists of bacteria, archae, and the viruses typically associated with them. There are already tantalizing clues suggestive of past and even present life on Mars.
Life may have also taken hold on Europa, Titan, and other moons and planets in this solar system (see Journal of Cosmology, Vol 5). The French satellite CoRoT has just discovered a planet, called CoRoT-9b far beyond the Solar System, 1500 light years away. What makes this finding dramatic is that this could well be the first temperate planet similar to the planets of our Solar System.
The new planet has a size roughly that
of Jupiter with an orbit similar to Mercury. Unlike the four hundred
other suspected exo-planets, is neither extremely hot nor extremely
cold. Its surface temperature is estimated to be between minus 20
degrees and 160 degrees Celsius, similar to Mars. Extremeophiles
could certainly live under these conditions.
Similar findings have been determined
for the planet HD189733b.
This would make the formation of life an
improbable event. However, a number of scientists, including the
present author (Sidharth, 2009, Journal of Cosmology Vol 1, Vol 10.)
have been arguing for a dual mode origin of life, that is key
ingredients like amino acids, but not yet fully formed life had
reached Earth from outer space and chemically interacted with other
ingredients present to form life. As similar conditions could have
taken place on other planets, this would mean that the formation and
evolution of life may be far more probable than thought earlier,
particularly on planets located in habitable zones.
Observations with telescopes,
spectroscopes, radio telescopes and even orbiting observatories have
confirmed the presence of molecules like methyl cyanide, water
vapour, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol and even the potable ethyl
alcohol. Clearly there are several organic molecules in the cool
dust clouds spread across outer space.
Meteorites have shown nucleo basis, ketones, quinines, carboxylic acids, amines and amides. In fact as many as eight of the twenty amino acids involved in life processes have been identified besides some sixty others.
Recently, NASA announced that an
analysis of data from its Stardust mission revealed, for the first
time the presence of the amino acid glycine in an icy comet.
However in life processes, the left
handed molecules predominate over the right handed molecules.
Interestingly in the amino acids found on meteorites, we have
exactly this preponderance of left handed amino acid molecules! This
is the crucial trigger, and with chemical self organization leads to
animate processes like photosynthesis.
Alien life may have evolved beyond the
stage of modern Earth-based humans billions of years ago. Given the
nature of life on Earth is competition for resources, and as
technically advanced civilizations typically conquer those less
developed, then Hawking's concern about the dangers of alien
contact, should be take seriously.
Therefore it could be argued that the greatest threat is not from alien conquistadors. It is exposure to alien microorganisms which might prove disastrous to the inhabitants of Earth.
Randy D. Allen, Ph.D., Department of
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma State University
I guess that it is equally likely that extraterrestrial life does not exist either because it never arose or, if it did arise, was soon eliminated. Another possibility is that some sort of primitive photosynthetic or chemosynthetic organisms exist elsewhere in the Universe.
If, as on Earth, the primary form of energy available on other planets is radiation from a nearby star, it seems likely that, as on Earth, photosynthetic organisms must predominate. It follows that consumers of these producers may well have also evolved.
However, life that exists away from Earth will not necessarily use the same chemistry. If, as we generally assume, water is required for life, then the range of possible chemistries is constrained but there is absolutely no reason to assume that anything remotely close to plants or animals, much less humans, exists elsewhere.
Although dissimilarities in chemistry
could limit our ability to analyze or even detect extraterrestrials,
it could also protect us from harm. An alien organism without
proteins, for example, may have a difficult time digesting us. If,
on the other hand, we were to encounter alien life forms that
ravenously consume all of the energy containing chemical compounds
that they can get their ”hands” on, it would indeed be tragic for
us, but a good meal for them.
Humans have existed as a species for less than a million years and we are, as far as we know, the only species on Earth that has even the vaguest notion of physics. We only discovered the atom and learned to unleash its power within the last century.
Our understanding of quantum mechanics is rudimentary, at best, yet we are on the verge of developing practical quantum computers that promise virtually unlimited computational power. It is conceivable that, in the billions of years since the Big Bang, other organisms evolved at some time and some place that have already mastered quantum mechanics.
Let’s say that intelligent, social, organisms with chemically-based metabolism, fundamentally not unlike ourselves, evolved on a planet somewhere in the universe. Their unquenchable curiosity about the universe (or, like us, their unquenchable desire to exploit it) led them to develop efficient quantum computers. They realized that, with such computers, the whole of their existence could be computerized, all memories and life experiences, all emotions and motivations, could be transferred to a collective “quantum brain”. In effect, their “species”, though biologically extinct, could become immortal.
No more inefficient metabolism requiring huge energy input, no chemically derived bodies to wear out, no reproduction, no death, no taxes.
Just supermassively parallel collective
consciousness with unlimited capabilities. Perhaps, through super
symmetry or entanglement, they can “see” or “feel” the entire
universe. Maybe, they’ve gained the ability to manipulate elementary
particles and can control its evolution and its fate. They would
have become, by any human definition, Gods.
Maybe they are aware of our existence
but don’t care about us, much as we ignore most of the “lower”
organisms that surround us. Alternatively, perhaps they have noted
our biological, social and technological evolution and realize that
we humans may well join their ranks someday and become quantum
Then there is the possibility we might
simply lose our scientific impetus through loss of political support
for basic research and let our chance for immortality slip away.
Chandra Wickramasinghe, Ph.D., Centre
for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, UK
Every niche in every habitable planet in the galaxy would then be colonized with unity probability thus leading to the widespread occurrence of microbial life.
The fraction that eventually evolves into higher life is debatable, but with identical genetic structures delivered to a multitude of similar environments and planetary niches self-similar patterns of evolution and a convergence of evolution could be expected. In terrestrial life for instance, the evolution of the eye is achieved independently at least thrice. Intelligence of the kind humans process may be argued to have some measure of survival advantage in that a greater capacity to understand our environment would lead to greater skills at manipulating it to our advantage.
On this basis high levels of
intelligence could be understood as a cosmic evolutionary
imperative. It is also unwise to regard ourselves - homo sapiens
sapiens - as the culmination of this evolutionary process. With just
a million years or so of human evolution towards it would seem that
the experiment of intelligence has scarcely begun on Earth. Thus
creatures endowed with higher levels of intelligence could well be
commonplace in the Universe.
Most of the planets that have been
observed, however, are of Jupiter mass, and a large fraction orbit
stars in a binary pair. It is difficult to estimate the number of
planets that are in non-binary systems and therefore in stable
orbits. It is only in such cases that one could expect evolution
that leads to higher life and eventually intelligence. At a
reasonable guess one might expect to find billion such planets
corresponding to - 1% of main sequence stars.
Here n is the total number of habitable planets in the galaxy, L is the average lifetime in years of an intelligent civilization, and t is the main sequence age of a star.
With t ≈ 5 x 109 yr and n ≈ 109 we then have:
The prospects for visitations from ETI, benign or otherwise, depends on the value of L we choose for the lifetime of intelligent or superintelligent life on a planet. An upper limit would of course be defined by a main sequence lifetime, ~ 109 yr, but more realistically it will be shorter.
Our human experience on Earth over the past century does not give much confidence in choosing much higher values of L than say 500 yr. In this case we have N = 100 as the steady-state grand total of advanced intelligent civilizations throughout the galaxy.
Such pessimism is based on the simple fact that today’s nuclear arsenals of the world have enough fire power to extinguish all life on the planet, and it is difficult to imagine that this would not be an eventual outcome of unbridled human greed for power and control. However, if the next stage in the evolution of intelligence is to adopt a strategy of non-violent co-existence, then it could be that L will be much higher.
For argument’s sake, taking L to have an
optimistically high value of ~108 years, the number of
planets endowed with intelligent life becomes 2x107 and
their mean separation in the galactic disc ~ 10pc. If we are
thinking of space-faring intelligent aliens being optimistically
able to travel at a tenth of the speed of light, the average
crossing time between adjacent civilizations will be ~ 300yr.
If to the crossing time (at one tenth the speed of light) of 300 years we add a recuperation time of say ~ 700 years, each step in the expanding wavefront would take ~ 1000 years, and to cross the entire galaxy would take a few million years. (This is a variant of the argument used earlier by Enrico Fermi to argue that if intelligent life exists elsewhere we should have been colonized already.)
This argument, however, is based on the
assumption that the behavior of superintelligent space colonizers
could be modeled on predator-prey relationships found in lower life
on the Earth, as well as on the history of our own colonization and
conquest of more primitive tribes.
No example exists on Earth where this
model applies, either naturally in the living world, or in a
sociological context. Indeed our modern politicians find it
difficult to plan for the well-being of society beyond even a few
electoral terms of office!
The spread across the galaxy would then be greatly facilitated. No expensive rocket system is needed. The genetic packages are of the right sizes for their propulsion by the radiation pressure of starlight to be guaranteed (Wickramasinghe and Wickramasinghe, 2003; Wickramasinghe, Wickramasinghe & Napier, 2010).
Although a large fraction of such space
travelling genes will perish in transit, the reassembly of surviving
genes on habitable planets would lead indirectly to galactic
Despite criticisms that have often been made against this concept the basic arguments remain cogent to the present day (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010).
With increasing evidence to support the view that life could not have arisen indigenously on the Earth, the idea that the evolution of life is modulated by genes arriving from comets has acquired a new significance. Darwinian evolution operates in an open system where new genes continue to be added from a cosmic source. Pandemics of viral and bacterial disease become an inevitable part of this thesis.
One could argue that if not for such genetic additions from outside, evolution would have come to a standstill a long time ago (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1982; Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). In this context it should be noted that the human genome has recently been found to contain more than 50 percent of its content in the form of well defined inert viral genes. It is possible to understand this data if our ancestral line of descent over a few million years had suffered a succession of near-culling events following outbreaks of viral pandemics (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010).
On each such occasion only a small breeding group survived the members of which had assimilated the virus into their reproductive line.
of galactic colonization.
Hoyle and the present author have cited numerous instances from the history of medicine where outbreaks of pandemic disease could be elegantly explained in terms of space incident viruses.
Even the modern scourge of influenza is
likely to be driven by periodic injections of genetic components
from space. Aspects of the epidemiology of influenza otherwise
remains difficult to explain (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1979, 1991).
Pushkar Ganesh Vaidya, Indian
Astrobiology Research Centre, Mumbai - 400103, Maharashtra, India.
It states that,
In short, it would be ‘wise’ of a civilization to ensure that it does not play host to any advanced alien race. Interestingly though, even if we are not too keen to announce our presence, aliens can still find us.
We are already detectable within 50
light-years, courtesy our transmissions and everyday a new stellar
system is exposed to signals from Earth (Shostak 2003).
Richard Dawkins writes in The Blind Watchmaker,
A similar speculation is made by John Maynard Smith in his The Theory of Evolution
Just as the laws of physics have been found to hold universally; it has been speculated that the Darwinian natural selection will hold universally and so would the famous “survival of the fittest” concept.
Thus, we have good reason to believe that aggressive instincts will be present in aliens as well. To what extent aliens can curb their aggressive instincts (or else they will possibly self-destruct) is anybody’s guess.
Will aliens be proactively aggressive,
reactively aggressive or practitioners of Gandhian non-violence?
We are doing well on Earth today because we are the most intelligent and technologically advanced of all the Earthly creatures.
For us to do well in the universe and be safe, we will have to be the most technologically advanced creatures in the universe or be wise enough to not get subjugated by a more technologically advanced alien civilization.
If we thought the struggle for existence
was over then we must think again.
GianCarlo Ghirardi, Ph.D., Dept. of
Physics, University of Trieste, the Abdus Salam ICTP, Trieste, Italy
Yet why should they wish to target and destroy the inhabited planets of the universe? To better focus the general issue let us take into account that our existence on Earth is surely quite limited on cosmological time scales, modern humans have existed for less than an eye-blink of cosmological time, and that the cosmos has a radius of various billions of light years, as well as the fact that nothing can travel faster than light.
Therefore, if these hypothetical alien
beings have lived in a similar time span, then the probability that
by endless travel they might reach us now or in any reasonable time
interval from now, is infinitesimally small. So it seems to me that
Hawking's hypothesis is not unreasonable but is more in the realm of
science fiction than a realistic scenario.
If an alien civilization has been able to build giant spaceships which can travel through space for many many light years and have built destructive devices which would allow them to conquer, enslave, destroy and colonize the terrestrials of Earth, then their civilization must surely be more advanced, from a scientific and technological point of view, than ours. This point of view makes also me inclined to believe that these aliens could not be like microbes or insects, at least to the extent in which we attach a precise meaning, based on our experience, to these terms.
There is no evidence that microbes or
insects look to the heavens and ponder questions such as "are we
alone", nor is there any suggestion they would be interested in
space travel. These are "human" attributes which we must not impart
upon hypothetical aliens.
And if life is everywhere, then it might
be expected that these alien wanderers would not only see it as
pointless to destroy life, but might develop a respect for all the
living creatures they would have met in their endless travel.
Curiosity and the desire to acquire knowledge does not equate a
desire to conquer and destroy.
However, this again presents us with the problem of time. The time needed to journey to Earth from the nearest solar system in which intelligent life might have been evolved, is enormous, and probably comparable to the total period of existence of the considered intelligent species.
Then, which would be the purpose of sending robots to such far away regions of the cosmos that the time necessary for these robots to send back the information concerning what they have discovered would bypass the probable period of existence of the aliens of the home planety who have sent them around? Accordingly, it also seems reasonable to assume that Hawking's giant spaceship would contain both robots and their intelligent builders.
Therefore, they might take their
civilization with them. However, unless they have discovered the
secret of eternal life and cannot evolve or change, they again might
change their minds before they reach Earth, and decide not to
conquer or destroy. So, there is the possibility they could come in
peace and also the one that they change their minds during the many
lights years such a journey would take.
I believe that action must be preceded
by knowledge and reflection even in the case in which this might
imply serious risks of destruction.
Stephen Freeland, Ph.D., University
of Hawaii NASA Astrobiology Institute, Institute for Astronomy,
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
The remarkable scientific successes that have brought professor Hawking well-deserved fame (and thus a voice that the public wants to hear) also bring a responsibility to clearly distinguish these two different types of information when commenting on the potential dangers of an encounter with extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Listeners are otherwise led to one of two incorrect inferences: that scientific knowledge exists where it does not, or that speculation is the best that science can currently offer. Both perceptions undermine the emerging and vibrant science of astrobiology.
No one has yet come up with a scientific test for Hawking’s specific claim (and that is precisely what makes his comments unscientific) but thousands are applying their ingenuity and expertise to find ways in which science can approach aspects of the bigger questions of life’s origin(s), evolution, distribution, and future in the universe (see: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/about-astrobiology).
Ironically, on the same evening that Hawking’s opinions were aired on U.S. television, hundreds of astrobiologists were converging in League City, Texas for the annual Astriobology Science Convention - the largest such conference in the world. Presenters include representatives from the SETI Institute, whose science focuses on the question of what science can infer regarding communications with an intelligent alien species.
I doubt that any of them will be opining
about the origin and early evolution of the universe as if professor
Hawking’s field of science did not exist (and if they did, this
would be quickly addressed by the criticisms of colleagues in the
frank exchange of knowledge that marks a healthy science).
Scientific inquiry represents just one of several approaches by which we humans form our beliefs: alternatives include pure reasoning, “arguments from authority” and instinct. Science is distinguished from these alternatives only by its focus on what can be tested empirically. Even the most brilliant minds can perceive truths that seem rational (logical) and perhaps even obvious - but which fail when formulated as testable propositions and measured against empirical observations.
Aristotle’s famously erroneous philosophy that women possess fewer teeth than men (Mayhew 2004) could have been transformed into a foundation for scientific inquiry by the simple expedient of recording careful measurements in the good-humored company of one of his wives.
The problem was not that Aristotle failed to notice this possibility -indeed, he may have started with observations for all we know (Mayhew 2004)- but his sub-culture held logical reasoning superior to the information of the senses, so no supporting empirical data were offered and it was left for later investigators to find that his reasoning had failed him.
Subsequent generations have worked hard to disentangle the strengths and weaknesses of Greek rational philosophy, sometimes finding that specific assertions possessed no more solid foundation than the authority of a famous voice. The emergence of modern science is largely the story of its invention and runaway success as a tool for distinguishing between good and bad ideas of 'natural philosophy'. This success has gone on to shape a culture that now values empirical evidence above reason: the information of our senses, properly channeled into scientific tests, is widely held as the ultimate arbiter of truth
(Evidence for this widespread cultural perspective is seen, for example, in the popularity of crime-related entertainment where detectives follow the empirical clues to confound prejudice and common-sense; the recent trend for forensic science to play a central role merely emphasizes this point).
In this context, it undermines the very
notion that science has brought us progress if we now turn and blur
the distinction between scientist and science.
Although most evolutionary scientists utterly reject the “Hoyle Fallacy” as a trivial error (e.g. Dawkins 1986), Hoyle's opinions still routinely appear four decades later in anti-evolutionary literature as evidence that eminent scientists have found fundamental flaws in the theory of evolution ( Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/243/).
Thus, when Stephen Hawking (or any other scientist) find themselves speaking as a scientist on the likely nature of visiting aliens, they have a responsibility to defend the integrity of science by either demonstrating the scientific basis (empirical tests) for what is being said, or clearly explaining the other (non-scientific) credentials for their information.
Failure to do so can hardly help the
growing problem of scientific illiteracy in the USA and elsewhere
(California Academy of Sciences 2009).
Arpita Roy, Ph.D.1, James D. Wells,
Ph.D.2,3, 1Department of Anthropology, University of California,
Berkeley Berkeley, CA USA, 2CERN, Theory Group 385 Route de Meyrin
CH-1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland, 3 Department of Physics, University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI USA
This stimulates the other dog to respond by a growl. The most interesting aspects of this encounter are the signs and the stimulus given off, the absence of any verbal communication, and the sizing-up prowl of the animals. The mere sighting of the “other” is not inherently dangerous, but the subsequent engagement can be if one views it in his best interest to fight for whatever reason.
Hawking’s comment on the dangers of seeking out aliens (Hawking, 2010) provokes us to think not so much on whether aliens exist or not but on our capacity to imagine what they could be like if they were to exist, the scenarios of possible interaction, and the pragmatics of contact. Engagement with the extraterrestrial has three stages: discovery, monitoring, and contact. Discovery can be safe -- we passively look for signals of alien activity from afar. There is no reason not to do that. We would be imprudent even not to.
America spies on Canada, to name just
one other hyper-careful act. On the other hand, it is not prudent to
send out probes into the cosmos with a plaque bearing our return
address as was the case with the Pioneer 10 and 11 space crafts,
launched in 1972 and 1973.
Contact is even more risky, with the
prospect of malevolent beings colonizing and plundering us, or even
benevolent or dispassionate beings unwittingly spreading diseases or
agents that would destroy us. Hawking mentions the aftermath of
Columbus' discovery, but it was not guns and superior technology
which destroyed the Aztec civilization, but the microbes, viruses,
and disease which the would be conquerors carried with them.
Is there a purpose to life, or is it all a cruel cosmic joke?
Christians might ask:
Others might ask:
Humans look to the heavens for answers, and we might assume that what might bind us to aliens of other worlds is our desire to know more.
Hawking tells us that our curiosity may
kill the cat, that looking to space for others of our kind may lead
to the extinction of the human race. But this search for answers is
also what makes us. We must know, even if it spells our doom, just
as the male Black Widow spider must mate even though it spells his
Contemplation of alien life has moved up from popular films to peer reviewed journals,
Experimental studies and computer simulations suggest (Xie et al., 2010) that the cosmos is brimming with life-friendly Earth-like planets in the near cosmos. NASA and other space agencies have an ambitious program for the discovery of living planets under the name PlanetQuest (NASA, 2010).
These include the current Kepler
Mission, which has already launched and achieved data (Borucki et
al., 2010), and the future Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, which
is slated for launch in the near future. We are making serious
scientific efforts to discover if aliens exist, what they may be
like, and on what planets might they live.
History has taught us there may be a price for the search for knowledge.
And the anthropological record is
replete with deadly encounters which led to the demise of those who
were not prepared or equal to the challenge, such as the
Neanderthals’ encounter with modern humans 30,000 years ago.
However, we see no reason why we should be more afraid or less
afraid this time than in the past.
It has been said that we are defined by what we are, and what we are not. Otherness, what is alien, can also be a mirror that leads to self-discovery.
Unresolved questions of our own origin and development may be fruitfully explored while working on shadowy aliens. The trope of alterity that the alien offers is a bona fide muse (Mack, 1994). Albee’s masterpiece "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a story replete with symbolism which speaks to the illusions which bind human relationships, but which are destroyed by the discovery of a son’s existence.
The "discovery" leaves them devastated -
the original believers and nonbelievers alike. So too might the
discovery of alien life devastate believers and non-believers alike.
This is a price that throughout history, humans have been willing to
pay, and it is this search which defines us and distinguishes us, as
Even if aliens are nonexistent or there
is no hope of contact, may the illusion continue - it serves us
Harold A. Geller, Ph.D., George Mason
As detailed in the Abstract to these commentaries, Hawking is quoted as saying that “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 Native Americans.” It should be noted immediately that there are several flaws in the Hawking analogy to the invasion by White men of the Americas.
The motives of the invading Whites would
be nothing like those of aliens who might contact Earth.
Humans killing humans poses a decidedly
moral dilemma (Washburn, 1957). Aliens killing humans, or humans
killing aliens may also pose a moral dilemma, but then it may not.
Would Hawking's aliens also use ATP as
their cellular energy transfer molecule? Although this is not a
determinable likelihood, but if not, then it can be assumed that
Hawking's aliens would not be interested in preying upon and
consuming humans or other animals or vegetable matter as an energy
source. Why would an alien species bother with our cellular bodies?
However, if Hawking's aliens are
sufficiently intelligent to exploit all sources of energy, including
from their sun, wouldn't they also be intelligent or wise enough to
plan ahead for the future so they do not consume all their energy
sources? And if they did not plan ahead, how is it then they would
have enough energy available to supply a fleet of giant space ships
to travel across interstellar space to far away and distant planets?
While this may be analogous to the colonization of the Americas here on Earth, the time required to cross interstellar space is not analogous to the time required to cross the Atlantic Ocean, even in 1492.
This appears to lead to a circular
reason for any space travel by such a civilization, and it ignores
the energy requirements of space travel itself, which have long been
known (McNutt et al., 2002).
Such energy efficient mechanisms for propelling space craft interstellar distances would likely be fueled by some form of hydrogen or one of its isotopes. This leads one to believe that the largest requirement of an interstellar alien species would be hydrogen or some isotope thereof.
Why go to another star system just for hydrogen, the most abundant chemical element in the universe?
It is simply not reasonable that such aliens would traipse about the galaxy just to pilfer the puny resources of a tiny planet laden with such heavy elements when it is the lightest most abundant gasses they would most likely require. As to the possibility Hawking's aliens might desire heavy metal elements such as would be found on a planet like Earth, these same elements could be produced as the byproduct of a fusion engine, the very source of energy which may be used by any space faring alien civilization (Crawford, 1990).
In fact, as far back as 1986, Michael
Harris of the University of Texas suggested that gamma-ray
telescopes could be used to search the skies for the exhaust of
interstellar spacecraft, as the exhaust would most definitely
include gamma-ray radiation (Harris, 1986).
Also, it is way too late for any ban on communications which might be intercepted by extraterrestrial intelligences. This planet has emanated radio frequency electromagnetic radiation in all directions for the better part of a century. If there were an alien species listening within 50 light years or so, and if they were capable, they will be here soon enough.
And if they are able to make the voyage,
they won’t do so to get a natural resource that they can easily
produce from nearby stars, hydrogen gas, or the very engines that
bring them to this planet.
Peter Sturrock, Ph.D., Emeritus
Professor of Applied Physics, Stanford University, Standord, CA,
However, he does not begin at the
beginning: Hawking neglects to ask whether the Earth has already
received such visitors. This is a question that I have thought about
for some time, and I find that it does not admit of a simple,
definitive answer. One can find evidence that is suggestive of
visitation, but hard evidence is either elusive or non-existent.
Arthur C. Clarke’s third law is that,
So maybe we need to deliberately seek
out phenomena that do not make sense, and are incompatible with our
current scientific knowledge. No one said that revolutionary science
should be easy.
Most respondents replied positively to
the first question, and 5 percent responded positively to the second
question. (For details, see Sturrock 2009).
The review panel was understandably and appropriately cautious in formulating their conclusions, but they made the following observations:
The panel also offered the following comment concerning the highly influential “Condon Report” (1969).
Condon had asserted that,
The Rockefeller Panel agreed with the first conclusion, but not with the second, writing:
Which may perhaps - with some license -
be paraphrased as “Aliens or no aliens, we have a problem on our
Any species that has a secure and happy home may well have a benevolent attitude towards our adolescent civilization on Earth, but any species that is on a dying planet, and is desperately trying to find somewhere else to live, may not have our best interests at heart. To look on the bright side - advanced civilizations may have a code of ethics that would give us some protection.
But - to look on the dark side - they
may not. If we do still have a choice of trying to make contact with
alien civilizations (wherever they may be) or keeping quiet, my
personal recommendation would be the latter.
However, we should also reflect
carefully on his basic but unstated assumption that Earth has not
already received uninvited guests.
Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D. -Emeritus, Brain
Research Laboratory, Northern California.
In 1972 and 1973, NASA attached a pair of gold anodized aluminum plaques to the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft, in the hope they would be intercepted by aliens.
The plaques featured a nude male and
female, along with several symbols designed to tell
extraterrestrials about humans and the location of the Earth.
If "aliens" are anything like humans,
then perhaps we should be afraid, very afraid.... for the likelihood
is they would conquer, destroy, exploit, and enslave.
Others such as Beer, King, Livio, and Pringle, propose that life in the universe is rare. Nobel Laureates Svante Arrhenius and Francis Crick, and esteemed scientists including Lord Kelvin, Hermann von Helmholtz, Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, are of the opinion that life may be pervasive throughout the cosmos.
This is also the view of this author:
the genetic seeds of life swarm throughout the cosmos and life
arrived on the early Earth buried in planetary debris; the possible
remnants of the parent star which gave birth to our own (Joseph
2009a,b; Joseph and Schild 2010a,b).
If the history of the Earth were a
24-hour clock, fully modern humans have been on this planet for only
15 seconds. Unlike other animals, humans flirt with species-wide
mass suicide and mutual self-destruction. The human animal can also
become extinct. Maybe this is what the future has in store.
If that is the case, it might be asked,
then why don't they announce themselves and open up lines of
Regardless of differences in physical
appearance, some advanced alien species - at least those who have
evolved from mammal-like creatures - would likely behave, feel, and
think in a manner grossly similar to human earthlings.
Some aliens might be expected to behave
in an irrational and destructive manner, whereas yet others would be
seekers of knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual growth.
The ancient Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mayans, and peoples of India, and so on, developed science, culture, religion, and created monumental buildings, temples, and empires - all without the benefit of radio, TV or vehicles which could propel them through space.
The failure to detect electronic
transmissions or space craft from other planets does not mean we are
The direct line leading to hominids may
have been killed off due, perhaps, to that planet's unique
environment, climate, atmosphere, gravity, and distance from the
sun, and/or because the planet passed through a viral cloud of
contagion or was struck by massive debris which chopped off the
branch that would lead to primates just before that branch began to
EVOLUTION IN THE ANCIENT CORNERS OF THE COSMOS
If science marches on, and given advances in genetic engineering, the creation of designer babies, designer babies designing their own superior babies, future humans which genetically engineer their own brains and bodies... and imagine the nature of human life 1000 years from now.
What of humans a million years from now? Or a hundred million? Or a billion?
Then what of those planets which shine
in the darkness of night which were formed billions of years before
the Earth became a twinkle in god's eye. If life evolved on these
ancient worlds, what might they be capable of as compared to the
humans of Earth?
Indeed, even the "gods" may have "gods"
who have "gods", and if some of these "gods" are devils and if they
ever set their alien eyes on planet Earth, Hawking's nightmare
vision could become a hellish reality.