Top Bottom Home Site Map Topic Previous Next Top
home \ essays & papers \ by topic \ philosophy \ general discussion, page 1


Section Index

  1. Relevance
  2. Existence of Intelligent Life
  3. Religious Aspects
  4. Paranoia
  5. SF Scenarios
  6. Awareness
    Interlude: A Personal Outlook
  1. The UFO Phenomenon
  2. Aliens in History?
  3. A Matter of Technology
  4. A Matter of Time
  5. A Matter of Survival
  6. Diversity

  What's Related  
  Subseq. Pages - Essays & Papers  

caveat: As can be inferred from the date of publication, this article may no longer represent my current views and style. It remains here for archival purposes to provide a sense of documentation and should be treated as such.

1: Relevance

gas clouds in Cartwheel Galaxy
Source: Hubble / NASA

This site being dedicated to the unexplained, it has to face the question of extraterrestrial life. But not only because of this 'necessity' is this topic being discussed here, no, it is being discussed because the question itself is relevant for our culture, relevant for our future. This might be a topic very often dealt with in sf, but this doesn't mean it could not influence the lives of everyone on this planet. This is about the very possibility of extraterrestrial life, about this possibility coming true, and about us facing it.

There have been a lot of approaches towards this topic during the last decades, which may be due to the fact that we have mostly uncovered the face of the earth, our desire to discover something new being in need of something else to explore. Space seems to be the ideal place to look for such a thing. The myths of the past mostly gone, banned into the realm of fairytales or The X-Files, we are constantly looking for strange new things. Why? Because of curiosity, because of the 'thrill' itself - but of course this thrill is usually originating from a tv-set, a moviescreen or 'just' a book and us comfortably nestled into an armchair or sitting on a couch.

Are extraterrestrials just an invention of our imagination? Strange new worlds just existing in our minds? Endless streams of possibilities just originating from our brains, 'poisoning' our thinking, diverting us from 'real' life? But apart from all this sf stuff, don't we at least have to accept the very idea, the very chance that there might be extraterrestrial life?

This might be the final piece of the deconstruction of our anthropocentric and geocentric views, the final deconstruction of our ego. Us being the only and most advanced form of intelligent life in the universe (besides God, of course, but, who knows, some philosophers even managed to declare Him dead) - this thesis being finally destroyed is supposed to have a massive influence on the acceptance of the idea of life off this planet.

So this page will focus on different aspects associated with the topic of extraterrestrial life, it is seen as an introductory example for further essays on the General Discussion Pages. So I chose to put this page at the beginning, with The Fabric of Reality following.

June 17th, 1998

2: The Existence of Intelligent Life

gas clouds in Cartwheel Galaxy
Source: Hubble / NASA

The question of whether or not intelligent life exists in the universe seems to need some explanation of what exactly this term wants to describe. More precisely, there is a typical sf question: Is there even intelligent life on this planet Earth? As dumb as this question might sound, there are even some points to it: The word 'intelligence' is derived from the Latin verb intellegere, which means to understand, to capture a sense in sth. Basically it has nothing to do with extensive knowledge; intelligence means that one is able to acquire knowledge for a certain purpose and to use it. So is there intelligent life on this planet? Yes, there is. Humans are very clearly an intelligent species. Over millennia we have learned how to survive on this planet, we have shaped the planet to serve our needs, we have developed technologies to assist us, and we have even set our goals to colonize other planets like Mars. Yet does the fact that we are endangering our environment make us less intelligent? Well, it makes us at least seem less advanced, less experienced. One should be able to see that we have been endangering nature mostly because we didn't know we were doing so, and after this fact seemed clear, we have often been much too lazy to do something about it. Such a fact does question our intelligence, that is without doubt, but there are a lot of people who have recognized it and who fight for nature. Let us not condemn the common human being for the sins of those who pollute and destroy nature consciously because of profit.

There are two basic approaches to sf concerning this topic: Mankind did or did not make it. The result of this are either shows like Star Trek or Babylon 5, or films like 'Waterworld' or 'Mad Max'. But mankind has survived this far, it has thrived and grown. There is a "Vulcan" proverb that says that every culture that has survived the Nuclear Age will prosper. I want to believe that this is true.

If there is life on other planets, can it be intelligent? Aside from the religious aspect that I will mention later, this seems to be natural. There is nothing like a single incidence in the infinity of the universe (or better: the multiverses). There is no reason why life on Earth should have developed while this should not have been possible on all the other planets in all the other solar systems in all the galaxies in all the universes. This would be scientific nonsense. And as science is always trying to escape the necessity of a deity, the fact that only on Earth there should be life would strongly demand an Act of God. There would not be another scientific explanation. Science is a science of multiplicity.

Every scientific process happens with a certain probability. What probability would make it possible to state that nowhere in the universe should be life except on Earth? There is just one universe possible where this could happen: A universe in which Earth is surrounded by spheres that are circling around it and onto which the stars and planets are attached like small pictures. I thought we would have overcome this rubbish. But those who are trying to state that there could never be extraterrestrial life in the universe seem to be the ones who really are indulging in fantasies and science fiction. But that's just my humble opinion.

The fight of whether there is or is not extraterrestrial life is not a fight of arguments, it is a fight of old versus new ideas. And perhaps it is even easier for politics to say that we are alone, because if they would state that we were not, then we would have a much larger responsibility. And I can understand that some people could be afraid of that. Just look at those monster or alien invasion films which are doing just one thing: Creating xenophobia. There seem to be certain interests in keeping the global philosophy the same and letting people stay unaware of other possibilities. But I'm sure that one day those attempts will fail - they will fail when there will be proof undeniable. However, the most sincere act of maintaining the current world view, apart from any conspiracy theories, would still be just a state of blindness and narrow-mindedness.

March 2nd, 1998

3: Religious Aspects

Jupiter's moon Europa
Source: Hubble / NASA

Are there arguments based on (Christian) religion against the fact that there could be extraterrestrial life? This question arises because a lot of people try to argue against such possibilities with citing Genesis. Basically, it is said by some people that when there is no reference to life off this planet it does not exist. Earth would be the only place where life could exist. I will now focus on the Judeo-Christian belief, as this is the one mostly referred to concerning this topic.

The Book of Genesis tells the tale of the creation of the world in six days: of the heaven and the earth, of light and darkness, day and night (1), the firmament (2), the dry land, plants (3), sun and moon and the stars in the firmament (4), animal life in water and on land and in the air (5), and human beings (6). The seventh day He rested.

This is just but one description of creation in the bible. Chapters two and three again describe the creation of man and tell the story of Eden. Comparable stories are those of Noah and of the Tower of Babel. Nowadays, it's generally accepted within the Catholic Church that those stories are not to be considered historic evidence but theological parables. The creation of the world is described in a way that reflects the knowledge of the people at this time, and the basic facts that one could think of would be:

  1. The world has been created by God. This process can contain an initial creation, setting the variables for an evolution and from time to time some adjustments - creation would be an ongoing development.

  2. Intelligent life was initially part of God, until it separated from the Initium to lead a physical life, to become independent, to discover the truth on its own.

  3. In the ancient world it has been a tradition for a nation to "prove" that it has a noble heritage. This was Aeneas for Rome, Abraham, Moses and David for Judaea, basically Adam and Eve for all mankind. But anthropology and biology seem to prove (or indicate) that this would not be true - evolution looks like a variation of the trial-and-error game (Just imagine, if the dinosaurs had proven to be the right choice for earth, we - in case we would even have developed as species - would be living in a giant Jurassic Park now). Entertainment come true. So the Genesis genealogy seems to be more of a poetic type, unless Courtney Brown is right (who states that Adam and Eve might have been either aliens or humanoids from the future:

    "It seems that these folks formerly operated actively on Earth with a genetics program. These are scientists and technicians. They are now observing to see how work proceeds, but they are not allowed to intervene. They have been caught up in an Earth project for a long while."[1]

    Well, whatever, according to the parable character of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, it doesn't seem to be necessarily true to assume that the story of Adam and Eve is meant as part of the history of mankind on earth - it could describe the situation of God and creation (I will come to that in another article).

  4. The stories of the Flood and the Tower of Bable as well that of Adam and Eve illustrate the paradoxon Heisenberg described within his Uncertainty Theory: The more we try to know, to discover, the less definite the answer will be - a larger knowledge can very much produce frustration and confusion. That would mean that the knowledge of physical entities is and will always be restricted. If he tries otherwise, he will be destroyed or thrown back or just arrive at a dead end - a punishment not of God, but a consequence of one's own actions.

I've just noticed that I'm doing just what I've described some sentences ago, so I'll try to concentrate my writing efforts on the given topic and expand certain ideas somewhere else. Let's try to arrive at a conclusion, and don't feel disappointed when I haven't found the world formula yet.

Religions don't want to give statements on history, science or astronomy. They focus on ethics and spiritual life, and it is often misleading to assume any other answers than those. I could be clinging to Catholic belief and still accept evolution as a concept of creation. The fact that evolution exists doesn't disproof the existence of God. The fact that there are other intelligent species or races in the universes doesn't diminish the worth of mankind. It is not even necessary to have an empty grave to belief in the resurrection of Christ. Who are we to dictate God his possibilities? "Deus semper maior" - God is always greater.

So why does it seem that we haven't learnt from history? I'm tired of reciting this chain of events, but I will do it anywhere: Forests - plains - villages - agriculture - towns - nations - empires - age of discoveries - steam engine - aircrafts - nuclear energy - computers - space flight - moonlanding - internet - Mars - etc. This is the way of history to tell us that we are evolving into a future that might not be predictable. It is the realm of science fiction that might become reality one time, and it is the nature of religions to always be up-to-date. Human nature hasn't changed much, we just have got more options than in the past, and a larger knowledge that lacks faith or belief is unproductive. This belief can also be in science or in abstract ideas or in the future or in love or anything that makes us better human beings. Religions help us to recognize and survive and fight the battle of darkness and light that is basically being fought within ourselves. Religion and science - both in unison - open our minds to possibilities that we couldn't imagine otherwise, and without them there would be no progress.

May 24th, 1998

4: Paranoia

Source: NASA

Not everything goes well within history. Not seldom humans are on a search for scapegoats if something goes wrong; not seldom enemies are being created by politics and economy to stir up governmental business. War is a kind of business, and business is a kind of war. They differ in methods, in the actual acts of war. But both rely on some sort of social Darwinism: The weak will perish. The creation of enemies and the support of concepts of an enemy serve politics; nations and states were created to separate and guard oneself.

This is a time where armed conflicts happen to occur not anymore within the Western world but much more in instable systems outside the Western community, what of course would not mean that the Western economy wouldn't make any economic profit out of these wars. The selling of weapons into the Middle East for instance contributed to the very problem of the Gulf crisis. Sometimes enemies are really created, sometimes they are being nurtured, and separation and manipulation attempts could very well lead to disaster.

Conventional thinking would need an enemy to defend against. That was the major error of 'Independence day': To create a unity of nations under the threat of war is not something one should be proud of; it would be a short-lived phenomenon, the motives would not be quite honest. So this way of thinking is unproductive; it has always been unproductive. Such alliances might work out in the future, but not without severe problems. The United States made it, but not without a bloody Civil War. The USSR didn't make it, and Yugoslavia obviously didn't either. Territorial expansion and integration of the conquered parts is also not an option: One will always create enemies, best example is the entire history of Europe, beginning with Rome, and it took two millenia to get something like a European Union based upon cooperation and friendship. Aggression and domination have always been and will always be problematic. But still we think in those categories, still there is no peace on Earth. Why would we worry about alien aggressors? I'm quite sure that - judging from our history - they would be afraid of us.

And even those countries having peace and kind of a stable system are bound to paranoia. There is a difference between precautions and paranoia, for precautions are not entirely based on fear but paranoia is. The human kind of paranoia manifested itself in the fear of the unknown, the fear of the other, of the different - each kinds of -phobiae can count to that category of paranoia.

Somehow this is a 'natural' process - every one of us, no matter how hard one tries, would have feared or disliked something or someone just because of the appearance - that's why television and movies and all of fiction can rely on the effect of monsters, and even if it were just a small, even harmless spider: There would always be someone afraid of that tiny little creature, which would be much more afraid of us than we should be of it. With such reactions to the unknown that is situated on Earth, how could we possibly hope to react in another, less paranoid way if official first contact with an extraterrestrial race would be made?

August 6th, 1998

5: SF Scenarios

Supernova 1987A
Source: Hubble / NASA

Science Fiction has worked with several scenarios concerning first contact, it has somehow created a fictional database of classical mistakes and of ways to arrive at a positive outcome. The first encounter with someone unknown before carries within it always a moment of decisive importance. Most conflicts occur out of some silly behavior or out of ignorance. Another problem is the lack of communication - most conflicts could be solved by merely talking to each other; that holds true for both private and political problems. Some conflicts might not be solved that easily, but then this might be due to some omissions of the past.

The first Babylon 5 movie, 'In the Beginning', shows the drastic consequences of ignorance, misinterpretation and a lack of communication. The Minbari refuse to investigate Earth culture and customs, and when an Earth vessel enters Minbari space it is confused about Minbari technology, and as the Minbari usually arm their weapons during contact as a sign of respect, the Earth vessels interpret this as an aggressive action and fire. The result is a long-lasting and bloody war which will go on and on as the Minbari, out of pride, refuse to talk to the Humans. Ignorance, misinterpretation, lack of communication.

Another example is that of Space: Above and Beyond. A human enterprise purposely ignores the warnings of an alien race and starts a war just out of profit. However, the best description could perhaps be that of The X-Files: different groups of interest and influence on both sides, the enemy is not just an alien aggressor or aggressive humans. Perhaps an advanced race like the Borg could defeat one single planet without the help of its inhabitants, but usually an aggressor would need cooperation and collaboration from within, as well as the collaborators from the target area would have to have contact with the oppressors.

The best way to get around such problems would be Star Trek's Prime Directive of Starfleet: No intervention in the internal business of a race not associated with the Federation, and no contact with an alien race if that race would technologically not be advanced enough to develop warp technology and the possibility to investigate other star systems; but if such a case would arise, contact would have to be made to prevent further conflicts. The basis for that process would be the secret observation of an alien race to determine what procedures to take and to investigate its culture if that action would not interfere with the usual and natural development and evolution of that race.

In reality, we cannot assume that we are the most advanced species in our galactical vicinity; and we should not judge other planets' technology by our capabilities. This entire discussion about whether other species would have the technology of fast space travel or of travel exceeding the speed of light is quite preposterous. Who are we to determine what would be possible with science? Our own scientific history has proven that there can be leaps within science, leaps unimaginable before, and they can happen very fast. Just consider today's possibilities in contrast to what was possible a decade, a century, a millennium ago. What would have been called witchcraft or tales of madness is today's reality; why couldn't today's science fiction be tomorrow's future?

August 6th, 1998

6: Awareness

M100 galactic nucleus
Source: Hubble / NASA

There might exist the question of what should be the connection between this and the following essays; and why I prefer to put this one in front position. Wouldn't it have been a bit more logical to first try to build up a topic via different approaches and then include an example? Well, this obviously would have been the obvious and usual choice if I intended to really discuss the topic of extraterrestrial life. I do discuss this topic, but I do it as an example leading into a certain direction: To prepare the ground, so to say, or to create a certain awareness and anticipation.

Awareness - what do I mean by that? Awareness would lead to a certain direction, awareness is a positive, creative feature of the mind, it is either knowing or similar to knowing; and it is closely related to belief. But what awareness? One can be aware of a lot of things: of time, of still undone work, of one's need for sleep - awareness regarding to things that are known and common. That is sort of easy or simple awareness, much more linked to knowledge and planning than to belief and hope and - of course - fear.

The topic of extraterrestrial life is a topic of awareness. First of all, I prefer the term 'extraterrestrial' to the much more general and sometimes misleading term 'alien'. On one hand, 'aliens' can also be humans, foreigners, unknown persons; on the other hand the word 'alien' has a certain connotaion of something very different from the compared word, something very different and even strange. 'Alien' focusses on so many different factors while 'extraterrestrial' just points to the deciding point: The question of origin. A neutral term without implying anything else except perhaps common connotations or general xenophobia; but from my point of view much less than 'alien'.

The awareness concerning extraterrestrial life could firstly even be the plain thought that it would be quite illogical and - seen from the point of evolution - contradictory if extraterrestrial life did not exist. Please feel free to have another opinion, but please do also accept mine. This is the point where awareness will be the decisive element: Awareness not only of a concrete thing or matter but of a very theoretical and abstract concept: Awareness of the unexplained, awareness of still unknown possibilities, of a truth that is out there.

Awareness is in a way a weak form of belief. Belief somehow contains the element of trust, of relying on something or someone, of a more definite and much more demanding intention and consequence. Awareness is the acceptance of a possibility; belief is the next step. Belief and awareness are always intermixed; there can be nothing like 'pure' belief or 'pure' awareness. Belief also includes elements of tradition, elements of ceremony, of dogma perhaps, while awareness is never fixed, much more personal than even personal belief. There are certain stages of believing; even a skeptic could be aware of the possibility of extraterrestrial life without believing in it.

August 16th, 1998

Interlude: A Personal Outlook

M100 galactic nucleus
Source: Hubble / NASA

I will use this interlude for an excursion into my own and personal view of extraterrestrial life. Please note that I'm pretty sure I've never had contact with ET life, never have seen a UFO (well, perhaps ...), never have been abducted by aliens, never have seen any definite proof. What I've seen and heard is what everyone else with access to a television set and to print media would have heard: Stories, theories, rumors, lies, perhaps truths, but nothing definite. What's following now is my piece of fiction and estimate; if it's true this would be just per chance.

I strongly reject the thesis that life would exist only on Earth. My personal view is much too much dominated by a religious perspective which would imply a sense for everything. Why would the universe exist if not for life to populate and enjoy and discover it? What is a picture without someone who's looking at it? What is a text without a reader? What is music without a listener? - There would be three classes of intelligent life in the universe: older and more advanced species, younger and less advanced species, and species that would form the element of comparison. This element would perhaps be a certain technological advance or a certain level of technology, and it would include travelling faster than the speed of light and perhaps even technologies like particle transmission (beaming) and basic time travel options. To use a common example, that could be the technology Star Trek's 23rd/24th century United Federation of Planets would have. By this calculation, 20th century mankind would belong to the younger species (to use a Star Trek term: pre-warp civilization).

There is this saying that every spacefaring nation would be bound to peace. I don't think so. Why would technology all of a sudden eliminate all previous problems? The quarrel between light and darkness is not just over with the extension of range; on the contrary. Once enabled with space travel suitable for colonization and warfare, a period of aggression would inevitably follow like it followed the European discovery of American, African, Asian and Australian territories incipiant in the 15th century. The previous balance of power will be disturbed just as it was being disturbed at that time; the phase of interstellar aggression could even lead to civil wars between colonies and homeland (or home planet). Assuming that other nations in the universe would share basic human properties, there will be both peaceful and aggressive species out there comparable to our own species. Personally, I count humans among the aggressive ones. That doesn't imply that we wouldn't want or have peace, but our business and history is nothing else than war in one form or another.

So there is the possibility and probability that we are being watched from outer space by both peaceful species (which would look for trade and discovery and alliance to protect against aggressors) and warring species (which would look for control, colonization and termination). Those species would probably belong to the 'middle aged' species for younger species wouldn't be able and older species wouldn't be interested in dealing with progressed resp. inferior species. Anyway, we would have no chance against an aggressive older species who possessed a much more progressed technology and perhaps would not even any more consist of corporeal beings. So we would have to worry about species very much similar to us concerning thinking and feeling, ranging from anything between peaceful settlers like Star Trek's Bajorans to ruthless conquerors like Star Trek's Borg. The method to colonize an alien planet would be a method of either gaining control of the planetary government(s) through some kind of infiltration, conspiration and deception (the X-Filean way) or an open military conquest (the Klingon way). The first way would need cooperation and collaboration from within the goverment(s), the second one (if in-advance knowledge of an imminent attack were existent) would rather require 'usual' clandestine approaches of secret diplomacy and prevention of mass hysteria. A successful conquest of an alien planet would perhaps require a combination of both ways. But then, every such attempt to seize control of a planet like Earth would have to face the problems of resistance, guerilla fighting and rebellion. An alien oppressor couldn't be much more successful than a human one; the reign of a tyrant is always limited (Extraterrestrials interested in conquest or aggressive colonization of Earth should consider this fact very seriously).

The existence of extraterrestrial life on Earth at the very moment of speaking is both possible and probable. ET activities would concentrate on the discovering and studying of our culture, science, beliefs, military capabilities and of our sights regarding extraterrestrial life. They could even try to save parts of our ecosystem in order to enable future repairs of present-day caused damage by humans; such an aim could very well include abduction and fertilization and cataloging of Terran life. Such abductions would be able to serve both a scientific and military purpose. If there was something like a Roswell incident, and if there is something like an avid technology exchange between ETs and humans leading to advances like stealth technology and the internet or any other kind of technology, we could be pretty sure that the ETs dealing with us are peaceful, just avoiding official detection and contact to increase the awareness of life off this planet, to reduce xenophobia and to prepare humans for future contact (such a progress could be made via the media, i.e. Hollywood, esp. Star Trek). There could be a second reason: To provide us with technology and create a future alliance while facing a common enemy. There also could be a war already going on with warring ET nations both looking for support within different groups on Earth[2]. The time for official contact would depend on various variables and I wouldn't dare to make a guess. So all we have is - again - speculation.

August 16th, 1998

7: The UFO Phenomenon

core of galaxy NGC4261
Source: Hubble / NASA

The very basic and very common association appearing with the notion of extraterrestrials is the UFO phenomenon. And what would be more natural than to assume that if there are extraterrestrials possibly present on this planet or otherwise watching us or even sharing their expertise and technology with governmental branches, that they would leave some traces visible to us? Perfect cover up is an illusion, so might not there be some chance that the UFOs allegedly observed may be alien spacecrafts?

The question of whether we are being visited by extraterrestrial life forms cannot be answered until definite proof exists. Perhaps it is a matter of probability - does the possibility exist that there are extraterrestrial civilizations out there which are interested in Earth and mankind? Why should they be interested in us? I've tried to make some estimates about that in the previous part; but all of that is nothing more than speculation. There is no definite proof accessible to all of us; if there were it would perhaps been made public by now. Is it possible to hide such (supposed) facts for such a long time? How efficient is the global intelligence network?

There are certain problems with UFO sightings and abduction stories: There are always impostors, people who try to make money out of anything or who just want to appear on the tv screen. The average material UFO research gets is mostly fake; but does that mean that the rest that doesn't look like a fake is real or in any way proof; it could be just a better fake. But could it really be that such a large movement, such a long lasting and widespread phenomenon is just an illusion, just a mass deception? Woulnd't there be the need of some truth behind, of some initiating element? Not necessarily; it could very well be sufficient to create belief; to create it through a campaign of misinformation and misinterpretation à la The X-Files.

However, if there is no proof or no proof accessible, that does not mean that all of the UFO stories are false. One just has to remain a bit skeptical to be able to differenciate between liars and believers. The interesting part would be the ways to deal with the topic. Surely it is no adequate solution to treat UFO believers as if they were idiots. Surely they are outsiders as their statements and their beliefs differ from the common perspective. Their awareness of certain possibilities has materialized into belief, into believing in personal pieces of proof and truth; truths so difficult to investigate that they cannot be understood in an objective and strictly scientific way.

How to maintain objectivity concerning such a topic? With different stories all telling of very similar events and similar sightings, the typical characteristics could be either so typical because they are true or because they have been told so many times by so many people. Perhaps the easiest way is to accept UFOs as what they are - unidentified flying objects, nothing more. Unidentified doesn't necessarily mean extraterrestrial, although the ET touch always remains with the term UFO somehow. The link between fiction and reality is much stronger with the UFO phenomenon, it is a discourse difficult and perhaps even impossible to grasp and define.

August 17th, 1998

8: Aliens in History?

Earth from Space
Source: Apollo / NASA

One of the speculations regarding extraterrestrial life is the possibility of ET influence in our history; that extraterrestrial biological entities might have influenced history or even changed the course of evolution by causing certain changes or by even introducing alien DNA; that even we humans could be the offsprings of alien colonization, of an attempt to spread life throughout the galaxy. Such theories prevail throughout science fiction[3].

Apart from theories about relatively modern influence (Roswell, Mars) there are theories speculating about alien influence on ancient cultures like the Egyptians or Latin American Natives. Such theories are mostly 'based' upon extraordinary scientific and architectonical advances (like the Pyramids of both cultures mentioned or the calendar of the Maya). Such theories are very common, playing with unknown elements of history, misusing the evident inability of science to fully explain such phenomena. Wherever there is little evidence, there is always a great opportunity of tampering with facts and letting imagination take the role of the scientific method.

The flaw within this approach is that the facts are being bended (consciously or unconsciously) to arrive at a 'truth' - it is like solving a puzzle with hammering the pieces into the positon not where they belong to (and which would be unknown) but into the position where they would be assumed to belong to. There are great producers of fiction like the German author Erich von Däniken who are masters of this technique. Although entertaining and in a certain way even interesting and not entirely implausible, those theories come too fast, looking for the easiest piece of explanation instead of looking for another way. The phrase 'It must have been extraterrestrials' could always be explained in another way. For example, there is a certain problem with the timeframe within an Egyptian pyramid was being built. But instead of speculating about the accuracy of the given period of time, extraterrestrial influence is seen as the only explanation. But maybe the time needed to build the pyramid was being understated on purpose, to impress other cultures with this as a piece of propaganda. There are a lot of such exaggerations to be found in ancient history, ranging from overstated lifetime durations of some persons to the size of armies and things like that.

There are also theories that certain wonders within religious books and ideas may have had extraterrestrial origin; like that of Sodom and Gomorra being the victims of a nuclear bomb or some strange sightings being alien spacecrafts. Apart from such statements perhaps insulting people's religious beliefs, I don't see any point in that. Writings like the Bible are mostly no historic accounts but allegoric writings with a moral and religious message. The basic underlying frame might fit into actual historic events, but that's not important.

Generally, I would not really be opposed to theories about extraterrestrial influence on Earth history, but the common theories are mostly based upon circular argumentation and legends, giving as little proof as the scientific theories. Although a certain probability would exist that some of those findings could have some truth within, they are not entirely convincing (but neither are the scientific arguments). All of this is nothing but speculation, nice pieces of fiction modelled around incomplete facts and fragments, easily arranged and easily deconstructed; but a solution has not yet been found, by neither approach. The file remains open, so to say.

August 18th, 1998

9: A Matter of Technology

Earth from Space
Source: Apollo / NASA

There are some 'classic' arguments regarding extraterrestrial life on Earth. The most common one cites the vast distances in space and the need for travel speed exceeding the speed of light in one way or another. Somehow this argument seems to fit: For travels slower than the speed of light, the distances in space could allow only unmanned space travel or space travel with the crew hibernating or dedicating their whole lives and that of their children to the voyage. That's not only inconvenient, but also highly impractical.

The argument lacks a certain logic: It is true that our current knowledge of the universe sets the speed of light as the ultimate and maximum speed. But isn't it somehow arrogant to assume that our knowledge would be the whole truth? Such restricting theories have been proven wrong or incomplete throughout our entire history. Why dictating space rules we do not have understood completely (see Part 5)? For species actively monitoring or influencing other planets, they would need a much more advanced technology. How else should it be done? To control operations from a distant base with the knowledge that the orders will be performed just in decades or centuries? That makes no sense. An alien civilization would either have to have a colony very nearby (e.g. on Mars, on asteroids or on moons of the outer planets; or even on Earth) or advanced technology allowing access to speeds exceeding the speed of light or using wormholes or things like that.

Even the support of a colony in our Solar system would imply advanced technologies and a progressed economic and social structure. Sometimes I wonder how human projects like the colonization of Mars and the moon are going to be realized. With governments - grossly negligently - cutting down technology and space research budgets, with mankind still fighting poverty and hunger - how to create the future when the future is not really included into planning?

Technology is not the solution for any problems; but it isn't our enemy either. Technology is like a tool - it presents us possibilities and enlarges our capabilities; but it still has to be applied by human beings. Technology has increased our life span, created societies and civilizations greater than everything in history, linked mankind together as never before. Technology is a step towards globalization and unity - applied in the right way, it includes different cultures and opinions. The dangers of technology begin when it is applied against diversity, against mankind itself. But technology is not to blame for today's problems nor are the scientists who have created it.

The same problems our cultures have would occur within extraterrestrial cultures as well. Their way of solving those problems could once help us with ours. But such help only should be of minor character; it is important to solve one's own problems by oneself. What we have now as a danger for the environment, created by technology applied by humans, can also be averted with technology.

August 25th, 1998

10: A Matter of Time

Life on the Moon
Source: Apollo / NASA

When thinking about the possibility of an extraterrestrial species visiting Earth, the time frame we are used to doesn't have to hold true concerning other species. What we have experienced as history has shaped our abilities, our state of technological progress and our state of mind and society. We are what we are because of our history; history has shaped our very existence either in a direct way (by dictating the circumstances) or in an indirect way (by being artificially resurrected or even manipulated by tradition). The history of evolution and the history of mankind we have experienced as a species and as individuals set the frame for our progression into space. But that doesn't necessarily have to mean that other spacefaring races in the universe have to share this basic timeframe. Their technology could have developed much faster or slower than ours.

The speed of development consists of basically two factors: The speed of evolution (defining how fast a solar system with its planets had developed and how early and in which manner life was possible on a planet or moon or asteroid within this solar system; as well as how biological evolution progressed and intelligent life could prosper) and the speed of civilization (how fast early civilizations developed and spread over the continents, how supporting or hindering their religions were concerning the construction of a working and just social order and concerning science and progress; as well as how severe the military confrontations and the endangering of the ecosystem would have been).

Another variable connected with the speed of evolution is the speed and frequency of confrontations like natural disasters or other instable elements of surprise in the equation of evolution. For instance the fate of the Earth would have looked much different if there hadn't been the collision with the asteroid that caused the end of the dinosaur era. Other examples, now taken from history, would be the death of Alexander the Great and the victory of Rome over Carthage - crucial points in history that could change all following events[4].

Would a comparison between our history and that of another species be possible or logical? Can one compare different species on a level so much depending on the local conditions and on the mentality of the people? Well, what we have on Earth is something like a universe in itself - there is no unified or assimilated Earth culture; there is no single Earth history - there are as many perspectives and cultures and mentalities and local/temporal factors as there are people. So why would we be afraid of an extraterrestrial race? Of something new? Mankind has always been a race of explorers; our past can present us lessons to understand our future.

A matter of time - time for a certain evolution or development, time for solving certain situations and problems - time is always something we don't really have. But then there are several constant factors within history, factors not subjected to change by time[5]. Cooperation and charity are universal; will never cease. Those constants remaining constant throughout Earth history, might not they remain constant within other species' history and culture?

August 28th, 1998

11: A Matter of Survival

gas clouds in Cartwheel Galaxy
Source: Hubble / NASA

Whatever rules the universe was shaped by, what we now perceive as a driving force behind virtually everything is evolution. Evolution is everywhere around us; evolution means change, evolution defies all static and all attempts to bring order into the chaos. Evolution is chaos - a force that's self-structuring but only difficult or even impossible to predict. Evolution is without mercy; but evolution is beyond categories of Good or Evil. Evolution is the test of time, the final judgement of the material world; judging not by itself but merely allowing the things to develop by themselves. Evolution does not dictate the survivors; it does not eliminate or terminate players or plays: Evolution is not social Darwinism but just the fact that we have free will. It is our decisions which judge themselves.

Within history evolutionary steps can be seen; steps which appear as a transition onto another level of awareness, of existence, of evolution. As we evolve, as individuals or as a species or even as a planet, we discover new paths and new options and new matters of survival; we push the limits a bit farther each time we make such a step. Evolutionary steps ensure the survival; first of the individual, then of the group, then of the species, then of an alliance or federation. Those steps included leaving the woods, building houses, discover farming, discovering other continents and cultures, reaching out to our solar system and to the stars.

Those evolutionary steps ensure our survival as a species by spreading our genetic material; if a village is lost, the species survives; if a continent gets lost, the species survives; if the planet gets lost, the species survives. We cannot for ever depend on Earth; there might be wars or catastrophes endangering life on Earth. Space travel and space colonization are another evolutionary step, both ensuring spreading and survival as well as helping us to explore new territories and new cultures and to learn from them and to share our knowledge with them. Contact with others is always a benefit; peace and bilateral cooperation are the basis for maintaining it that way.

Cooperation is the key to both space exploration and making contact with other, extraterrestrial species. Space travel is not an additional option, it is the next logical step. The development of new technologies like nuclear fission, optical computers, bionics, perhaps even particle transmission and travel faster than the speed of light cannot be pursued without global cooperation. Competition has to be different from war; but that seems to be a lesson which will be learned only very slowly.

The existence of extraterrestrial life for us would mean the same as the existence of terrestrial life for extraterrestrials. We are all in the same position; perhaps our technology and culture is different; but nevertheless that doesn't mean that we wouldn't belong together. If everything is connected and nothing really seperate, this statement doesn't just belong to quantum physics and chaos theory and meta-fiction theories of post-structuralism; it is foremost the realization of the necessity of cooperation and peace.

August 28th, 1998

12: Diversity

M100 Galaxy
Source: JPL / NASA

The main topic of science fiction is to think about possibilities coming true. One of the possibilities and probabilities I've discussed in this essay was the existence of extraterrestrial life; an issue which is often being derided and not adequately discussed by science. This might also be the result of several fake UFO stories as well as of some person's very obsessive interpretation of historic events as being influenced by extraterrestrials. But amidst all paranoia and all fiction and all attempts to approach the topic in several ways and with several attitudes towards it, this would not eliminate the possibility and would not hinder it from coming true.

Facing the unexplained is always a difficult process as it needs much more than just dealing with old concepts and established ideas. But do we have a choice? Charting new frontiers has always been a primary subject of research; fueled both by our curiosity and by the necessity to deal with new situations.

But then there are no definite answers, just some main fragments of ideas, guidelines, so to say, personal outlooks of people who tried to deal with the topic to enable others to deal with it too. This is the character of any philosophy and religion: Any thought has to be approved and investigated and deconstructed personally, there is no one who could give the answers. Accepting other ideas would not be an option, it would only make us dependent on thoughts that are not our own. Realization is the personal responsibility of each individual.

Dealing with the unknown, dealing with the future is a necessity if we want to be prepared for what awaits us. Some things concerning the future are quite predictable, quite logical. The existence of extraterrestrial life is such a logical and probable thing; I have found no argument that would be so convincing to make me believe that the existence of extraterrestrial life would not be possible. There is no proof to it either; so all that remains is belief or not.

If one does not believe that there is extraterrestrial life, one would not need to take part in a discussion which tries to deal with the topic of extraterrestrials. A quite convenient way of thinking, but the problems or opportunities that await us will not disappear by not thinking about them. But of course, until there is proof undeniable, the discussion about extraterrestrial life remains a thought experiment, a distant possibility. The case remains open.

August 28th, 1998

(The entire essay was minimally reworked by January 15th 2001, concerning spelling and minor corrections, while the substance of it was left intact.)


[2] The X-Filean example or a situation like that of Star Trek's Classic episodes 2.11 'Friday's Child' or 2.19 'A Private Little War'
[3] species like Star Trek's Preservers [TNG ep. 6.20 'The Chase']
[4] see my short essay The Roman Factor

For a bibliography, please check the Selected Bibliography page.

© Phil John Kneis. all rights reserved   · - internet diary · poetry · serial photography
The Arts Circle