Is SETI Dangerous?
In this June 2011 issue of Scientific American, Michael Shermer takes on a
comment made by Stephen Hawking about contacting aliens (page 89).
In short, Hawking looks at historical culture clashes, like the European and
American colonialism, as bad for the indigenous peoples, and inviting aliens
for tea might be the end of Earth as we know it.
Of course, that assumes they can actually arrive here.
Any message that we send will take many years to arrive at a receptive
destination, but by the time the aliens could physically follow, the
Earth as we know it will have already expired. The best-case scenario
(that is still possible) is that many, many years in the future, we'll
receive a response.
My guess, is that the response will not be decipherable, and the only
meaning will be proof that someone was intelligent enough to respond.
Most likely, we will simply notice that signs of life on possible, life-hospitable planets.
But I wonder more about how most people's philosophy would change with such knowledge.
Some think that this will prove that life arose sponanteously here and
throughout the cosmos, and that life is an expected chemical reaction.
They'd be wrong to assume that everyone would agree.
Life on multiple planets doesn't exclude intervention, for any external
direction would persumably have the power to cross the galaxy as well.
Sure, medieval churchmen assumed that Earth was unique, but Galileo's
telescope only changed their details.
Proof of life across the galaxy may change a bit of doctrine,
it will not diminish human's ego-craving specialness.
In other words, don't kid yourself into thinking that humans will some
day get to a point where we only accept what we can see and not
pre-posit meaning. We just haven't evolve enough.
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