Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aliens are Everywhere

You can barely click through the cable TV channels without running into an alien or two. Whether it’s another Roswell documentary on the History Channel or an explosion laddened Hollywood spectacular it does seem that aliens are everywhere these days. So, has the discussion of extraterrestrial First Contact been growing? Well, as most of these popular media offerings will reveal, there is not necessarily a substantive discussion occurring. For that you would need to look at the work of SETI scientists and groups like Contact. And those science based examinations have been in the media quite a bit in recent years, thanks to NASA scientists willing to consider the issue and science writers daring to venture out a bit. I even walked into the bathroom of the local coffee shop where I am writing this and found, what else, cartoon aliens on the wall in an amusing caffeine inspired mural.

The extraterrestrial issue has received mass attention in the past. The Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast was perhaps the most dramatic example. Stories of canals on Mars and creatures living on the moon have appeared in the media going back to the 1800’s. Still, the sheer numbers of popular renderings of alien stories must be at an all time high, especially given how many outlets we have spewing all sorts of fiction and fiction as fact (thank you History Channel).

Would this situation be encouraging to extraterrestrials considering First Contact with planet Earth? Perhaps. You could argue that such popular media helps to prepare people for a real First Contact event. The number of different scenarios may be enough to keep people from associating any one fictional outcome with real life (which could be dangerous if the public is fixated on the invading aliens of “War of the Worlds” and “Independence Day”). The result would then be a more open human public, less likely to be surprised and frightened to a degree that produced a harmful reaction.

Polls have shown an increased public acceptance of the idea of extraterrestrial life, and with it plenty of challenges. In 2002 Roper did a poll for the Sci Fi Channel. It showed that 72 percent of respondents thought that the U.S. Government is not telling everything it knows about extraterrestrials and UFOs. This of course could be the truth and if so there will be plenty of questions to answer after First Contact. However, the more likely reality is that the government doesn’t know anything about extraterrestrials and there is just a high level of mistrust in the United States. This would be a serious issue to consider in First Contact. How do you start a positive new relationship with such emotional baggage attached? It would seem an open and forthright First Contact would have to address these concerns, whether the worries are true or not.

In the end there are probably bigger issues for extraterrestrials to consider when it comes to making a decision about First Contact. Is the United Nations prepared to lead the world response in the aftermath of First Contact? Is there any other body that could take the place of the United Nations? How will diplomacy start and under what conditions? Do nations on Earth have the willingness to join together to face the challenges of First Contact? Will governments react in a sober, peaceful way or respond with military action?

Are we ready? That won’t be for us to judge. Let’s just hope they make a good decision.

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