Aliens might be bug-eyed monsters after all
A nervous astronomer from the UK's Royal Observatory in Greenwich warns that we should be jolly careful about contacting extra-terrestrials because they could turn out to be more Alien than ET.
Marek Kukula from the Royal Observatory was speaking ahead of a conference being held at the Royal Society in London this week, titled 'The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society.'
According to Kukula, "Part of me is with the enthusiasts and I would like us to try to make proactive contact with a wiser, more peaceful civilisation. We might like to assume that if there is intelligent life out there it is wise and benevolent, but of course we have no evidence for this. Given the consequences of contact may not be what we initially hoped for, then we need governments and the UN to get involved in any discussions."
Of course, while the rather paranoid Kukula is correct in saying we have no evidence that aliens will completely fail to bleed acid or leap rather impolitely from our chests at the dinner table, it is also true that we have no evidence at all about what they will be like.
We could assume they would be like us, in which case we should probably run screaming, or we could assume they will be hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional shades of the color blue. We could assume many things, but in this instance, the only safe thing to assume is that Kukula is trying to hype up interest in his conference.
Professor Simon Conway Morris, a Cambridge University evolutionary biologist, is also presenting a paper to the Royal Society on 'Predicting what extra-terrestrial life will be like – and preparing for the worst.'
Conway Morris reckons that because Darwinian evolution should be universal, it is inevitable that intelligent life will have developed elsewhere in the universe and that many of them will have developed space travelling technology.
He also argues that if he were in their position, he wouldn't have answered the phone after receiving radio and TV transmissions from Earth, especially if what they saw included world wars, Seinfeld and, indeed, most SF movies ever produced. Transmissions from Earth will now have reached star systems more than 100 light years away.
"My basic argument is that, contrary to most neo-Darwinian thinking at the moment, evolution is much more predictable than people think," he says.
"In particular, I would argue that the emergence, by evolution, of intelligence, cognitive capacity and all that stuff is inevitability. I think we can argue some intelligence must emerge in a biosphere. If that is correct - and it applies to manipulative skill - then that suggests there should be alien technologies."
But amidst all the paranoia surrounding hostile aliens, surely logic dictates that any civilization capable of developing interstellar flight has first to pass through other deadly technologies such as atomic bombs, nerve gas, country and western music and the suspension systems of US automobiles.
If they've survived stuff like that, they should be mature enough to at least give us the benefit of the doubt rather than breaking out the zap guns when they arrive. If not, we can always upload a virus to their plug-compatible Apple mainframes.
Presumably there's an app for that already.