The problem of getting into the frame of mind where you want to gore sacred cows is that sooner or later you’re going to run onto the fields of your childhood and gore Betsy, the cow who let you pet her when you were really little.
What I mean is that having started to doubt pretty much all ideas of the seventies and beyond, I find myself doubting some of the ideas that thrilled me to the core when I was an embryonic geek aged twelve or so.
Take for example the search for extraterrestrial life…
I remember how impressed I was when I found something about Voyager and what we’d sent our potential playfellows in space. It seemed like a wonderful idea. I mean – we wanted to talk to these people in space, so surely they’d want to talk to us?
Think of the wonderful scientific and philosophical exchange, the things we could never learn while locked in our symmetrical, bi-gender, ape-based bodies. I mean, we could talk to ammonia-based aliens, reptile-like aliens, or things we couldn’t even imagine, but who would be intelligent and have wonderful secrets to reveal.
Then the seventies came to an end, and the effluvium of drugs saturating western culture receded a little, and we looked down at ourselves and saw that we were wearing bellbottoms and ran to cover them up with fig leaves.
What I mean is, I – alas – grew up and, like many ideas that seemed perfectly wonderful in the seventies, I started having serious doubts about the way we’d gone about searching for extra-terrestrial life.
I wasn’t so jaded, mind, that a few years ago I DIDN’T install SETI on my computer. (I had to remove it, it made my old laptop very slow.)
But last night the guys and I were discussing the idea of search for extraterrestrial life and I realized how bass ackwards it is to be sending them all this information about us.
I’m, of course, not the first one to come up with this. One of the reasons I love Independence Day was that the whole movie is a denial of a character’s optimistic statement that “They didn’t come all this way looking for a fight.”
This hooks up with the whole idea of Robert A. Heinlein that serious space exploration will only be undertaken for colonization or hope of colonization and that if some species has survived and become the strongest in the world they are not lotus eaters who like to pet furry bunnies.
More likely, like us, they’re bunny eaters, red in teeth and claw. And if they are more advanced than us, they might very well also be stronger, meaner and more determined.
The whole idea of aliens being more enlightened, purer, less interested doesn’t seem to be supported by “how species survive.”
Oh, sure, if we really were created by a superior intelligence, who worked directly – and not through natural laws – with the clay of the universe, perhaps some of those beings out there, really are like onto angels. (Although in at least one telling, angels come in two varieties. And in others angels range from bloodthirsty to unimaginably vile. Keep that in mind. If you have A LOT of time to waste, buy yourself a Dictionary of Angels. Reading one gave me the idea of an eternal life with bureaucracy no one can understand, not even the angels. No, I’m not writing it.)
BUT if we’re going with scientific principles, chances are that the aliens in Puppet Masters are cuddly and friendly as a puppy compared to the creatures that wait us in space.
So what on Earth possessed us to send them a whole heap of information about ourselves? And to still look so hard for them with SETI?
… I got nothing. Judging from the history of Earth, while the Aliens might have a lot to teach us, the most likely for us to learn it is by reading their entrails after we kill them all. Sadly, that might be the best thing, because otherwise they’ll be reading ours.
Our sending that stuff out to the cosmos might in fact mark us as the “special” class of the cosmos.
Short of the massive force of Independence Day, which at least would make us feel important (as we died) here are some of the more dispiriting messages we could receive back, (and these would be written in English unless otherwise marked.)
– Okay. Whatevs.
– How precious. Is that the best you can do Buttercup?
– You call that a civilization? My kids can build better on a weekend in the backyard.
– Riiiiiiiight. Why don’t you stop trolling? Your supposed information is internally contradictory and no one would be stupid enough to send the key to their civilization to us.
– Ah! Funny.
– We have filed a restraining order with the Galactic tribunal. Please cease your transmissions.
– (this one would be in some alien language and it would take us years to decipher to find it says) The over-under on conquering your sorry planet is three minutes. We’ve sent our invincible armada your way.
– (This one too, after incredible effort, we’d manage to read and it would say: ) Another one? Another one? Why is it that every species that hits this state of development sends out one of these? And they all think they’re so special! It’s a good thing we have some morals and don’t eat children, or you’d be gone. PS – Take off those bell bottoms and find some fig leaves. Have you looked at yourselves in the mirror?