Speculating what first contact with alien life would mean for the human race has always been a huge part of science fiction and even mainstream science debate. Would we accept an alien species? Fear them? Or, would they be so advanced that we would be unable to perceive them? Christianity teaches that there is one God and we were made in that diety’s image. What would it mean to that religion if we encountered a species so completely different that it couldn’t be classified as humanoid? Conversely, what would it mean if aliens looked exactly like us? Would that prove God? Or would it merely suggest parameters exist for sentient life to thrive? Personally, it’s hard to believe that humanity is the most efficient build of life in the universe.
Assuming an advanced alien civilization came to Earth with peaceful intentions, I have always questioned what that would mean to our civilization from a cultural perspective. Obviously, the answer would differ from culture to culture and even person to person. Our reaction as a collective, however, would be dictated by the world’s governments. Ultimately, would such a discovery usher in a new age of human awareness or cause complete chaos? Perhaps, the answer lies in between.
If and when we do discover extraterrestrial life, we will become part of community so vast it defies comprehension. What we do know is, presently, humanity is not technologically advanced enough to join a galactic community; if one actually exists. I also don’t think we are a mature enough species to deal with such a prospect. Unfortunately, we have a difficult enough time living in our own global village. It shocks me, countries still consider war an option; nations hoard food and resources while others suffer with poverty and hunger. We can barely agree on ways to reduce how much we pollute, despite evidence that climate change might be one of the greatest threats in human history. If we cannot accept each other, imagine how we would handle a people of another world; another species.
Are there set rules for how intelligent life evolves in the universe? If you’re not religious, as I am not, then science hypothesizes (see the Drake equation) what conditions would lead to a sentient society and the prevalence of such a phenomenon. There are flaws in the theory, mainly the factors in the equation are guesses. As well, more avenues to life than what we see on Earth might exist. If sentient beings can evolve and survive in harsher environments outside the region commonly called the Goldilocks Zone then the likelihood of alien civilizations grows. And, that is increasingly becoming the case as proven by the discovery of microbes called etremophiles. As well, scientists have begun theorizing methane-based life on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Maybe alien life does exist. Maybe other species already know about us and Earth but see us as too primitive to approach. Honestly, I don’t think space is a frontier that will accept us, until we can work together as a species.
If I was of a people advanced enough to travel the stars; I might look at Earth as a place where semi-intelligent life evolved, but would ultimately – due to chronic intolerance and megalomania – be unable to survive. I’d take a picture and sail off into the galaxy