Suddenly everyone is yelling about having found, or how likely we are to find, alien life forms. For instance, complex organic molecules were recently discovered about 455 light years away, hiding behind some bushes. These molecules are the building blocks of life which, if they come together just right, can form large, multicolored amusement parks.
Closer to home, a NASA scientist named Ellen Stofan has stated unequivocally that we’ll locate life right in our own Solar System within a decade. You’re not going to have to worry about these neighbors putting up really garish Christmas decorations, though; anything we find is probably going to be microbes and such–the type of stuff you can “discover” on any hotel bed.
In other words, we’re not any more likely to find intelligent life in space than we would at a Texas school board meeting. But, of course, we’ll keep trying, as we have for decades. You know those SETI satellite dishes that have been searching for radio signals or some such thing? I believe all they’ve received so far are staticky episodes of Lux Radio Theater from 1947.
Nevertheless, it seems like an inescapable conclusion that there is life out there.
I’m not prepared to refute that kind of logic. But I am ready to state that we’ve been asking the wrong question. The query that should be on our minds isn’t “Is there extraterrestrial life?” It’s “Why in the world are we looking for it?”
I mean, think about it. Half of the humans on this planet immediately reach for a weapon if they see a member of the other half of the humans on this planet. Considering the hoopla in America over illegal aliens, what would happen if we met up with the other kind of aliens? We can’t even deal with people of different skin colors, religions or sexual orientations; how are we going to deal with people of different arm quantities or head configurations?
And even if alien life forms turn out not to be any more sophisticated than microbes, why do we want to find those? Why do we spend so much time pouring Purell on ourselves if scientists are going out of their ways to find more germs? And haven’t we watched enough science fiction movies to know that when space bacteria are found, they’re going to somehow be brought back to Earth and wipe us out with some horrifying, flesh-eating disease?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against space exploration. I firmly believe our federal research dollars would be much better spent on that than say, videotaping mountain lions on treadmills or practicing Swedish massage on rabbits (both of which were real studies totaling well over a million dollars).
All I’m saying is let’s not go looking for trouble. Our bodies (and our computer systems) are very vulnerable to foreign viruses, and we also seem to have a low tolerance for new and/or different ideas such as gun control and non-carbon-based life.
So, all you astronomers, if you ever do find something or somebody out there, you probably shouldn’t tell us about it.
Just keep it all in Area 51.
See you soon.