Sorry folks…somewhat of a rant coming on in 3…2…1…
One argument against alien visitation that comes up often, and always makes me twitch a bit, goes something like this: Any alien civilization advanced enough to travel the vast distances in space to get from wherever they are to Earth would have to be so intellectually and technologically superior to us that they wouldn’t bother to visit us dumb ol’ humans to begin with. It would be a waste of their time. Assuming they slowed down long enough on the way to their ultimate destination (which surely would not be Earth, of course) to catch a glimpse of us lowly humans blowing each other up and watching reality TV they would simply shake their heads and keep zipping along.
I have a problem with this assessment, because humans do the exact opposite of this. Sure, we blow each other up and watch reality TV, but what I mean is that we are the most intelligent and advanced species on this planet – having launched satellites into deep space and even dropped humans off on the moon – and yet we still take an interest in things that are “beneath” our superior level of cerebral brilliance. We have entire fields of study, replete with any number of prestigious academic degrees, dedicated to the study and understanding of insects and plankton. To say that superior intelligence means a lack of interest in small, “insignificant”” things is simply not true and, frankly, insulting to those who posses such a level of intelligence. In fact, I would presume the opposite: That one gains and sustains superior intelligence only by continually learning about everything everywhere no matter its size, shape, configuration, or level of cosmic maturation.
Furthermore, were I an advanced alien species passing by the Earth – a dead planet, I might presume based on the shear bulk of uninhabited planets out there – and suddenly started bumping into satellites and space junk, it might make me hit the brakes and see what’s going on. And then if I just happened to see a few nuclear explosions blossom on this blue planet’s surface – these being usually confined to only a few areas of the planet – my curiosity may be further piqued still. Piqued why? Because I’m an advanced race of being with not only advanced intellect but advanced curiosity. I might think, “Wow, there’s some beings down there who appear to be where we were a few thousand years ago! How fascinating!” I might also think, after seeing some of these nuclear explosions and, upon closer inspection, many more smaller explosions resulting in the deaths of the very beings who created the means of explosions, to perish, “Hmm. I’m not so sure about these guys. I should definitely keep an eye on them.” Of course, you could also make the argument in this case that an alien species would say to itself, “These morons are blowing themselves up with such abandon and force that I’m getting the hell out of here and never coming back!” However, I don’t think that would be the conclusion, because of advanced morality.
We always talk about aliens being intellectually and technologically more advanced than us, but surely (I would hope) that with an advance in intellect and technology there comes with it an advance in morality and compassion and whatever you might consider “spirituality” for other beings. Honestly – personally – I don’t want to advance intellectually or technologically if it doesn’t come with a side order of a better understanding of, and appreciation for, all forms of life wherever it might crawl up from the stony ground. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think so. And, yes, morality is somewhat of a double edged sword. There may be some aliens whose advanced morality prompts them to help us get a better grip on things so that we can join the larger community before obliterating ourselves. However, there may be others whose advanced morality prompts them to protect their own and others in the galactic community from the bombastic, warring ways we humans tend to find a guilty pleasure in. There may certainly be aliens visiting us only to keep us in check so that we don’t obliterate our own planet. It is moral for a conservationist to protect a rattle snake, but it is also moral for a farmer to protect his family from the same rattle snake by killing it. The outcomes are quite dissimilar but both are morally driven.
I think we tend to personify aliens as having a Mr. Spock personality. They are so smart that they only interface with the universe in an algorithmic rote process that yields only yes/no results and poses no emotion or genuine interest in anything. Perhaps this is true for some, but I think this is wrong and insulting. Insulting to us little ol’ humans and aliens.
It’s really, actually, quite a bit telling for the scientists who assert that super intelligent beings wouldn’t bother with us to then, themselves, proclaim that the advancement of science here on Earth is so important. Does this mean that if I want to endorse humanity’s pursuit of science that I should expect that once we’ve reached a certain level of “scientific enlightenment” that we should also smugly fold our arms and chortle at beings lesser than us? Or that I should not consider their primitive gropes in the dark at understanding similar to our own?
Image: Copyright Royce Bair via Flickr