If humans came into contact with aliens, how would it impact humankind?
Many scientists strongly believe that it is a question of “when” and not “if”
-one reason for this is because of the speed of new discorveries
-for example, planets outside our solar system: in 2000, scientists knew of 50 “exoplanets”. By 2013, they knew of 850, located in over 800 “planetary systems”. David Weintraub, professor of astronomy, says that number may reach 1 million by 2040
-of the exoplanets discovered so far, over 20 are Earth-sized and exist in a “habitable zone” around their star
-the more we are exploring space, the more sure scientists are becoming that ours isn’t the only sustainable planet
Now, there was a false alarm by SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) in 1997 that they had found intelligent alien life. This news was “blown out of proportion” by the New York Times. After that infamous incident, there were protocols that were put into place for astronomers who think they’ve discovered alien life to make sure that doesn’t happen again. If an astronomer did in fact make a legitimate discovery, the news would “break” the internet, and would be difficult to keep a secret for long due to social media. Scientists would likely be optimistic about the longevity of human civilization, as the news of other advanced technological civilizations surviving is a good sign for human civilization. The reactions of people in general could range from “paranoia to jubilation to despair”, according to Paul Ziolo (prof. Of psychology at University of Liverpool)
There are many possibilities as to how human would react to the discovery of intelligent life in space, and each emotional reaction would obviously depend on the individual’s opinions. But how would it change our lives and humanity as a whole?
Dr. Carl Sagan, SETI, wrote a book. Within this, he talks about the possibilities of what would happen if aliens were to contact us.
-would there would still be political conflicts? Would the discovery unite humans or divide us even more?
-most likely, there would be a sense of the human species-nations may stop their fighting if they are faced with a nonhuman civilization of “vastly greater capabilities”
-Sagan states that it would reduce our “obstinate and ego-driven political conflicts to little more than unreasonable disputes among siblings, and ushering in a newfound spirit of cooperation and peacemaking”
His conclusion was that it would unite us
There is another question: how would religions react?
Science and religion often conflict with each other. How would this discovery impact faith?
-as Carl Sagan (again) said in his book the Cosmic Question, “space exploration leads directly to religious and philosophical questions”.
-some issues intelligent extraterrestrial life may bring up include:
-the uniqueness of human beings
-the principle that everything that is possible will be realized
-the idea that there is nothing special about Earth’s status in the universe-this may challenge major Abrahamic religions that believe human beings are “purposely created by God” and are in a “privileged position in comparison to other creatures”
The discovery of alien life may lead to humans feeling insignificant, and as a result, questioning their faith.
The cultural impact would strongly depend on, if we had received a message from aliens, for example, what it says. It would also depend on how far away the civilization is
-Historical examples show that the greater the distance, the less we would see it as a threat
-contact occurring within our solar system, if negative, would be the most disruptive from humanity
It also depends on whether the civilization would be hostile or friendly, which is obviously unpredictable.
The way our lives would change with the discovery of extraterrestrial life is obviously hard to predict. However, former astronomer and historian Steven Dick looked at examples of first contact between people such as the Fur Traders n Canada and the Native Americans. In some cases, cultures spread and intertwined successfully and peacefully, while at others there was only violence and fighting. Though both sides may be trying to make communication work, there are often barriers, though not impossible to overcome. Dick gives the example: “The Jesuits had contact with Native Americans. Certain concepts were difficult, like when they tried to get across the ideas of the soul and immortality.” There is also the possibility that whatever form the communication from aliens comes in, we would not be able to interpret their language! Dick also talks about what he refers to as “astro-ethics”-how do you treat alien life? What is te moral status of non-humans, in relation to the animals on earth and their relation/status compared to us.
Overall, the discovery of intelligent extraterrestrial life would greatly impact humanity, possibly both negatively and positively, and may even change the way we live. There is constantly progress being made in the exploration of our universe, but there is no guarantee that there is intelligent life out there at all, though discoveries are being made all the time-only time will tell if and when we would come into contact with these aliens, and what the outcome would be.