Intelligent Life, ETIs, Aliens, and UFOs Part 4

About the prospect of intelligent life, ETIs, aliens, and UFOs, history of arguments, possibility of life in this or other solar system, current theories.

Is there intelligent life on other planets?

Man's curiosity is limited almost exclusively to his own species. Relatively few Homo sapiens seek out lower forms of intelligence to study. Only in recent decades, for example, has any serious attempt been made to communicate with dolphins, one of the most intelligent creatures on earth. Worse yet, another intelligent animal, the whale, is being systematically slaughtered. If ETI has any interest in visiting earth, it may be only to survey our resources or collect specimens for a zoo.

One theory currently in vogue is that visitation occurred sometime in the earth's distant past when humans were too primitive to understand it, except as a supernatural event. Evidence of this, goes the theory, can be found in legends, artifacts, and early forms of art. It's even possible, if you accept this view, that man is an experiment of ETI, implanted on earth like rats put in a cage.

While few scientists flatly reject the idea of ancient visitation, few are rushing to take it up. The main problem is the ambiguity of archaeological evidence, which must be viewed against a backdrop of religious belief, superstition, and differences in cultural expression. The range of styles in ancient art is such that many interpretations are possible for a particular image or object. What will archaeologists think in 1,000 year when they dig up the artifacts of American society and find a Frisbee?

As for the intriguing question of what ETI looks like, prepare yourself for a shock: If we find it, it won't look like us. "The Late Late Show" notwithstanding, human beings are the peculiar result of many random evolutionary events--which are not likely to occur again in the same order under the same conditions on another planet. As Carl Sagan explains: "Start the earth over again; you won't get human beings." Ironically, then, science fiction writers who depict ETI as humanoid robots or giant gorillas suffer not from too much imagination but from too little. ETI--produced in environments not yet conceived on earth--will be stranger and more functional than these. Our fantasies, alas, fall short of reality, which is indeed more bizarre than we know.

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