Will this be the year we make contact with reality about space aliens?
|January 2, 2014||Posted by News under Extraterrestrial life, Intelligent Design, News|
Pondering what lies ahead in 2014, science writer Michael Hanlon asks, “Could this be the year we make contact with aliens?”:
The longest shot of all, and there is no reason to believe that it is any more likely to happen in 2014 than the year after or indeed a thousand years hence. But that said, the more we learn about the universe the more, not less, curious it seems that we are apparently alone. When scientists including Enrico Fermi and Frank Drake first started seriously speculating about the possibility of extraterrestrial civilisations more than half a century ago, astronomers knew of only one solar system in the whole of the cosmos – ours. Now we know of more than a thousand, several containing apparently Earthlike planets, a handful of which may lie in their stars’ “habitable zone”, an orbit in which it is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.
All this raises the question: where the heck is everybody? Given that we have the technology today (but not as yet the money) to build telescopes big enough to spot signs of life spectroscopically on nearby “Earth analogues”, if intelligent life is as common as some suspect then it is certain that by now the aliens have used their telescopes to detect us. Maybe a signal is overdue. Or maybe someone is on their way. Or, of course, there is simply no one out there. The wonderful thing is that any of these possibilities is equally awe-inspiring.
Let’s look at those last four short sentences again. One of them is misleading.
1. Maybe a signal is overdue.
2. Or maybe someone is on their way.
3. Or, of course, there is simply no one out there.
4. The wonderful thing is that any of these possibilities is equally awe-inspiring.
The fourth sentence is misleading, but I doubt there was any intent to mislead. For over a century, science writers have had to approach ET as not only plausible but perhaps inevitable, and Hanlon is only doing his job. Just as Bigfoot must be implausible, ET must be superplausible.
Remember, the space alien is only assumed to exist because of the principle that Earth is not unusual. That is an assumption, not a finding. But it is routinely treated as a finding-to-be, the way chickens are counted before they hatch.
And it has given us some wonderful popular culture. So did the legend of the Round Table. Cultural power gives imaginary beings every type of life except the biological kind.
If we concluded that ET wasn’t really out there (the way we might give up any fruitless search), it could only be because of a massive cultural change. And all without a scrap of evidence one way or the other.
Our current chatterati would be traumatized by the idea that life on Earth is unique, so all other possibilities will be pursued indefinitely, no matter how disconnected they are from reality. More on disconnections from reality in a moment.
See also: Science Fictions