Thoughts on Alien visitations to this humble planet
I suppose I take a somewhat scientific approach when asked if I believe in aliens having been here; either directly/physically here, or just passing by for a look. The question makes me think about how, ideally, we humans might approach a planet that we’d detected intelligent life on. (generously assuming that our alien friends deem us intelligent)
I believe that we would have a multi-stage plan of study, well before we ever got to the actual contact part of things. It seems wise to gather as much scientific information as we possibly can before we ever would make the decision to reveal our own presence to that newly discovered populace. Starting with basic chemistry and biology, learning about their planet, their physiology, the natural environment they live in, their foods, rituals, religions, and everything else cultural that we could study.
So many questions would have to be answered before we could even consider making contact with them. What if we found out that they believed they were the only beings in the universe, and that tenet was a strong part of their shared religious belief system? Simply by revealing ourselves we would send their populace into a state of panic with such a dramatic paradigm shift from what was once a concrete belief. Further, what if, at the very beginning of our studies, we discover their atmosphere is toxic to us? Or, the biology of the flora & fauna of their planet is intolerable to human philology? Would we call-off the study? No, I think we wouldn’t go that far, but it might weigh heavily on our decision to ever make contact with them.
Even culturally, if their social mores and folkways were quite different than ours, it could take a great deal of study to understand them enough to even design an approach strategy. I think back to stories I’d read of the first Western Europeans trying to deal with the Native American tribes back in the 1500’s. The newcomers were so used to a hierarchical system of leaders, they could not deal with the natives always sending different representatives to negotiate. The settlers were always looking to speak to the person ‘in charge’ – the Chief (some still debate that we Westerners invented that moniker for whomever was deemed to be the leader of a tribe, but many groups were quite consensus-based, and led by a large group of experienced elders – any of whom were able to speak for the entire tribe)
We certainly wouldn’t want to repeat those same mistakes, so many centuries gone by, would we? Yet, even after long periods of careful study, I think there would still be heated and rightful debates on whether to make actual contact with another alien race. So much to consider before a good rational decision could be reached, it might take decades to come to a proper conclusion.
Now, applying all of that to the considerations of aliens making contact with us, I’d be comfortable in saying that they’re not just going to land in your front yard, step out of their ship and greet you with a warm handshake. It seems far more likely that they would do much as I’ve outlined above… long and careful studies of this very odd and complicated species of beings. How long would it take them to realize that we didn’t even all speak a common language? Have you ever read a science-fiction novel where the aliens of a planet speak several different languages among themselves? Or, have well defined racial, cultural and political divisions all over their planet?
Even if our alien observers were twice our intelligence, I think it would take a very long time for them to even begin to say that they understood humans well enough to approach them in-person. In fact, I think the better they understood us, the less likely they would be to choose to reveal themselves to us, at this stage of our global evolution anyway. They would presumably already understand what a cultural shock wave they would be unleashing on all of us were they to do so. Add to that, the political maneuverings, greed-based power seeking, and otherwise darker side of man coming out… well, you get my drift. The smarter they are, the more they would know about how the planet Earth would react to their presence. Sadly, even now, we’re all just about two steps outside that cave our ancestors first lived in.