Monday, September 24, 2012

Extraterrestrial Contact: Debunking Hollywood

Hollywood is probably an easy target when it comes to criticism about extraterrestrial themes. They’re in the business to entertain and these days that means special effects, whether it is giant battling robots or the destruction of cities. Hollywood digs blowing stuff up. So, George Michael taking on Hollywood themes in Skeptic Magazine is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.
I salute Skeptic Magazine for not dismissing extraterrestrial considerations automatically, but rather applying logical thought and scientific knowledge to questions. Michael runs through a gamut of popular Hollywood themes and asks if those themes could one day be a reality. The first argument, and one that is a thread throughout the article, is how energy and time consuming space travel would be- even for an advanced civilization. Thus, the idea that aliens might want to plunder Earth for our natural resources is rather ridiculous, considering that the same elements would be available to aliens much closer to their home. The same could be said of aliens wanting to inhabit our home. It seems likely that there would be inhabitable planets closer to their original home. It might also be easier to transform a marginal planet then to destroy human civilization to take our planet.
How about the old chestnut plot line of aliens wanting to eat us? Michael points out that interstellar travel would entail a high degree of engineering skill and bioengineering would most likely be included in that skill set. So, why wouldn’t aliens just create their own snack farm of human-like creatures, rather than spending the time and energy to travel here?
Michael sums up the article with a call for a more concerted consideration of possible alien motivations and our response to such motivations. There could be plenty of complicated scenarios that might seem positive at first and then lead to trouble. I have said for some time now that perhaps we shouldn’t be so worried about the aliens and be more concerned with how humans will react. While surveys show that individuals will be able to handle extraterrestrial First Contact, institutions and fringe groups are another matter entirely. We could very well be our own worst enemy.
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