Sunday, June 7, 2009

Meat Eating Brutes

Differences offer inspire conflict. At least, that’s been the case here on Earth. But what of extraterrestrial visitors? Would the differences between our civilization and theirs inspire conflict?

An easy scenario to examine is one I’ve talked about a couple of times in this blog. What if extraterrestrial visitors have a serious problem with how we treat animals? They might consider animal husbandry to be crude and eating animals offensive. We would be known as the meat eating brutes. Would that impact what they think of us and how they would relate to us? If a difference is dramatic and the issue is important to whom they are and their life philosophy we could be in for a troubled relationship. Imagine extraterrestrials landing and then saying “we’d like to be your friends, but first you need to stop eating meat.” They would find allies here on Earth. There would most likely be a huge global debate. It is unlikely though, that billions of people are going to change dietary habits overnight. It might not even be possible from a fundamental food production basis, even if that many people wanted to become vegetarians immediately.

Ultimately the entire planet may be headed in a vegetarian direction, but it could take hundreds or thousands of years to get there. Why would one think that extraterrestrials might be vegetarian? Omnivores on planet earth are the most intelligent species. And the diet makes sense: the more things you can eat, and the more protein you can ingest, means that you will develop and thrive. So, many intelligent life forms could start as omnivores. Down the road things may change in a civilization. You develop the technology to easily make vegetarian food products. Does that eventually lead to a vegetarian society? If eating meat is offensive to some of us, it could very well be offensive to extraterrestrials. Does that technological and ethical leap come as a natural part of the development of intelligent beings? That might be the big issue in the vegetarian debate. If the extraterrestrial visitors have always been vegetarian it might be hard for them to relate to us. But if it’s a natural part of their evolution they might be able to cut us some slack, simply by remembering their own history of development.

That understanding is important: if they understand us and can see themselves in our evolutionary development then perhaps they will be understanding and allow us to develop naturally. I think it would be unwise for humans to adopt any great, radical changes overnight. Our civilization, like our sciences, needs to be able to grow with deep roots and a solid foundation. Sudden seismic changes of any sort would be dangerous.

Another area of concern is religion. I think many science fiction writers assume that advanced civilizations shed traditional religion for some greater understanding of the universe. Who is to say we won’t be contacted by a group of religious zealots, intent on converting us? That scenario certainly describes a good portion of human First Contact throughout history.

We probably need to hope that the extraterrestrials have some “hands-off” policy regarding human development. Certainly we would need to demand such, as a starting point for any First Contact. We are who we are, and we have a right to develop how we wish. We don’t have to be like them or they like us, but everyone needs to appreciate those differences and the right to self-development.

First Contact Extraterrestrial Alien Proposal Idea Hello Introduction Space Visitors

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