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Thread: Is Humanity Ready for the Discovery of Alien Life?

  1. #1

    Is Humanity Ready for the Discovery of Alien Life?

    When ‘Oumuamua, a mysterious interstellar object, swept through our solar system last October, it elicited breathless news stories all asking the obvious question—is it a spaceship? There were no signs it was—although many people seemed to hope otherwise.

    Throughout history most strange new cosmic phenomena have made us wonder: Could this be it, the moment we first face alien life? The expectation isn’t necessarily outlandish—many scientists can and do make elaborate, evidence-based arguments that we will eventually discover life beyond the bounds of our planet. To true believers, what may be more uncertain is whether or not such news would cause global panic—which depends on how our minds, so greatly influenced by our Earthly environment and society, would perceive the potential threat of something utterly outside our familiar context.

    “There’s this feeling amongst the public—a very large fraction of the public—that the discovery of intelligent life at least would be kept secret by the government because otherwise everybody would just go bonkers,” says Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute who was not involved with the study. Perhaps it might make sense for our brains—tuned by millions of years of evolution to be wary of predators—to freak out over immensely powerful alien beings arriving on our cosmic doorstep from parts unknown.

    But let’s say the situation hasn’t gone full “alien invasion” yet and malevolent starships aren’t sailing toward Earth, but rather we have read news of a definitive discovery of extraterrestrial life. How might we react then? Psychologists at Arizona State University (A.S.U.) used language-analyzing software to gauge feelings associated with 15 news articles about past discoveries that could have potentially been attributed to extraterrestrial life—reports covering items such as newfound Earth-like planets, mysterious astrophysical phenomena and possible life found on Mars. The articles used more positive and reward-oriented words than negative and risk-oriented ones, they report in a study published in January in Frontiers in Psychology. Although not in the paper, the team later similarly found articles about ‘Oumuamua skewed positive. They will report those results on Saturday in Austin, Texas, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    “I think we’re generally sort of positively predisposed to novelty, unless we have strong reason to suspect it could harm us,” says Michael Varnum, a psychologist at A.S.U. Tempe and the study’s senior author. “Of course, I’m not saying that if we got news that there were a bunch of large alien warships on their way towards Earth that we would be happy about it.”

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  3. #2
    There is definitely life on other planets. Did anyone freak out?

    Wake me up when they are coming to kill us and take the planet, that is cause to freak out.
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  4. #3
    No, I don't believe so. Especially life that is more intelligent than we are. As we know all too well, that rarely works out for the inferior culture.

  5. #4
    The reality is that any lifeforms capable of reaching us would more than likely be millions of years more advanced than we are that it would be like comparing a human being to a bug in terms of intellectual capability.

    Meaning that if other lifeforms have visited us we wouldn't know about it because they would be able to conceal themselves from our knowledge.

    And then of course there is the other side of that that any other life is millions of years less advanced than us too.
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  6. #5
    A "prime directive" like proposed in the Star Trek series, is a logical mandate for a civilization that is benevolent.

    Prime Directive: In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive (also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or General Order 1) is a guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets prohibiting the protagonists from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.

  7. #6
    Varnum and his colleagues found that people’s reactions to detections of alien life, both hypothetically and to the famously false announcement of microbial fossils from Mars, are generally quite positive.

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Marjorie Lattimore View Post
    Varnum and his colleagues found that people’s reactions to detections of alien life, both hypothetically and to the famously false announcement of microbial fossils from Mars, are generally quite positive.
    Of course, they didn't exactly do the same experiment that Orson Welles did.
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