The author critiques Stephen Hawking’s fear of aliens. A brief look at human history leads to the conclusion that if aliens were ever capable of reaching Earth, they would more likely come as friends rather than as predators.
I read that Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist, fears aliens, so much so that he has hinted that we stop looking for them, stop sending out signals to keep our existence a secret, less the aliens discover us and come here to wipe us out. This article will discuss whether this viewpoint has any merit.
The North American Indians, the South American Indians, the Africans and others, all had something very real to fear when the Europeans came to their land, so it is understandable that earthlings, like Hawking, might fear aliens coming to this planet. This fear stems mainly from superimposing human mentality on the aliens, not to mention watching too many Star Trek and Star War movies.
There is a noticeable distinction between Europe and the other continents on the one hand, and between an alien planet and Earth on the other. The distinction is distance. To reach the other continents, the Europeans only needed some relatively primitive sailboats. But for the aliens to reach Earth, dozens or hundreds of light years away, they would need quite sophisticated spacecraft. The critical question, therefore, is: Can a barbarous civilization develop higher technology?
Human history does not support the notion that it is possible for a barbarous civilization to achieve higher technology. The two most barbarous epochs in human history were 1) the tens of thousands of years preceding the dawn of civilization, and 2) the thousand-year period following the fall of the Roman empire. In both epochs, technological progress was virtually nil. Only when human civilization became less barbarous, with the demise of royalty, with the demise of slavery, and so forth, do we begin to see technological progress.
For sure, there may be barbarous civilizations in deep space but they are nothing to fear because it is unlikely that they will ever be able to leave their own planet. Evil empires with high technology exist in the movies, but we should not allow this to delude us. Science fiction writers need to create them to make an interesting story. In real life, aliens traveling through space are far more likely to have the morals of the crew of the starship Enterprise than the morals of the crew of a Cleon vessel.
Now another question arises: Are friendly aliens something to fear?
Some have suggested that contact with aliens would cause a dramatic upheaval in human society. My opinion on this is: Not really, not at this stage in human history. We’ve been through a lot and, in some ways, alien contact would be just another news event. As for the “upheaval,” I can think of three things that might happen:
1) The armaments industry could be affected. In the knowledge that alien civilizations exist, it is likely that humans will want to bind together as a species and will stop killing each other. If communications from the aliens are minimal, the armaments industry may turn toward space defenses in case the aliens become hostile. If communications from the aliens are abundant, friendly, and helpful, the armaments industry will likely be severely damaged.
2) Disparities between developed countries and the third world may start to melt away along with other inequities in human society. We are likely to see more attention to education, technology, and space exploration.
3) Organized religions could be affected. Fundamentalist concepts like creation may get pushed into the background, but overall, religions should become stronger as people look for consolation and moral guidance.
Hawking acknowledges that aliens may have extremely advanced technology. The major flaw in his thinking is not realizing that such technology can be used to find ways for self-sustenance not including the barbaric plunder of inhabited planets. Unless you are directly or indirectly connected with the armaments industry, alien contact is nothing to fear, maybe even something to welcome.
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