Is There Intelligent Life in the Universe?
Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? While there is no definite scientific proof, the numbers suggest that it is likely. There are, as noted astronomer Carl Sagan was fond of saying “billions upon billions of stars”. If each of those stars had a few planets orbiting them, it is possible that intelligent life exists on at least a few planets. And if you factor in the fact that the age of the universe is between 12 and 14 billion years old, thousands of intelligent races may have come and gone in the past.
In polls taken over the last few years, Americans overwhelmingly believe that intelligent life exists elsewhere. In fact I would guess that many people wish it were true. The existence of intelligent alien life is a very popular staple in our pop culture. From the earliest alien characters in science fiction literature through the cheesy characters in 1950s and 1960s TV shows and movies to the highly detailed CG animation of today, intelligent aliens remain very popular. Of course the way they have been depicted would lead us to believe that they are very much like us. In the early days of TV, aliens were often depicted as humanoid characters with strange costumes and large heads who were always evil. Later characters like Spock (Star Trek) came along and told us that aliens can actually be our allies while Star Wars told us that they could be exactly like us. E.T. and Alf showed us they could be cute and lovable. Independence Day and the Men in Black trilogy depicted them as hideous, lizard like monsters. If we ever were to come in contact with them (the chances of this are slim, I‘ll talk about that later in this Hub) we might find that they are not at all what we thought we thought they would be.
What Would They be Like?
Of course this is all speculation, but in my research, I have seen 2 schools of thought. First, it is believed that biology is similar all through the universe. So intelligent creatures may be similar to us in many ways. They may have 2 or 4 legs (any more would be too much) and they would evolve just like we did. Because they would evolve in a different world, with different challenges than human’s had on earth, they would be much different from us. But we would recognize them as a carbon based life form.
The second opinion is that life may not be “carbon based”. So we may not recognize it as life at all. Of course the universe is vast and these two forms may exist as well as others.
Would They Be Hostile or Friendly?
A common early pop culture depiction of aliens was they would only come to earth to conquer or kill us. Movies like War of the Worlds and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers depicts aliens as evil beings bent on our destruction. The aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET are depicted as friendly. I believe they would be friendly. In order to have the ability to come to earth, they would have to develop the technology. They must have the ambition to explore and have grown out of the instinct for destruction. The question may not be “Would They Be Hostile or Friendly?”, but “Would we react to their presence with acceptance or violence?”
Have They Ever Visited Earth?
Our pop culture suggests that extra terrestrial beings have been visiting us since ancient times and they have continued to come to earth through the present day. Flying saucer and alien abduction stories abound today. And Swiss author Erik Von Danikan has written about aliens who came to earth several thousands of years ago.. He cites large construction projects in the ancient world and believes humans lacked the technology to build them. He believes the “ancient astronauts” helped.
The purpose of this Hub is not to debate the pseudoscience that suggests that aliens have been in constant contact with us. But there is no real proof of flying saucers and von Danikan’s theories have been debunked by many including Carl Sagan who called the author’s thinking “careless” and “an object lesson in sloppy thinking”. Sagan also said he “knew of no current book [Chariots of the Gods?] so riddled with logical and factual errors”
I don’t believe they have ever come to earth. There is one simple reason: In the vastness of space, how would they find us? There would have to be some kind of a signal sent out announcing our presence. Over the last 40 or so years, scientists have been sending out radio waves and monitoring incoming signals for any sign of communications with extraterrestrials beings. There has been no definitive contact. In addition for the last 90 or so years, man has been broadcasting, first by radio then by TV. These waves have been escaping earth constantly over that period and now the oldest of them are about 90 light years away from us. It is conceivable aliens could lock on to an old broadcast of Leave it to Beaver or Milton Berle in a dress and visit us. But when would they get here? Unless they had solved the problem of fast interstellar travel, they might arrive well after we are gone. In addition 90 light years only covers a small corner of the universe. It’s possible these signals haven’t been picked up. It’s also conceivable these signals would pass unnoticed by a intelligent society that has not yet developed the technology to pick up these signals.
As I said above, for the last 40 or so years we have been attempting to contact extra terrestrials by sending radio waves out into space. We have not gotten anything back that tells us that we have made contact. But we are still trying and if contact is made, I believe this is the way it will be.
In 1977 Voyager 1 and 2 were launched. The purpose of these probes were to examine the planets in our solar system. However they had a secondary purpose. As of June 2012, Voyager 1 completed it’s examination of the planets and became the first man made object to leave our solar system. On the 2 probes is a phonograph record that has many of earth’s sounds on it. On the outside, are pictures on how to play it. In addition, other probes have been launched that contain messages from us to a future society. The chances of these probes being discovered by aliens are infinitely slim. It’s like throwing a message in a bottle into an ocean several trillion times bigger than any on earth.
If they ever contacted us and came to earth to visit, I believe mankind would be forever changed. There would be a huge upheaval in religious thought. Also, would we come together as a species? And how would we react to them. Would we welcome them or respond to them with violence? Would they physically affect us? When Europeans first came to the new world, they exposed the natives North Americans to germs they had never been exposed to. Many became sick and died. Would we be exposed to some kind of a space plague? Luckily, since extraterrestrial contact is unlikely, these questions are moot.
The idea of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is fascinating and makes for very good fiction. But I afraid that although numbers suggest that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, the chances of past or future physical contact with aliens is slim. While we may be able to communicate with them, the idea of being able to meet them is slim.