I'm frequently asked, Do you believe there's extraterrestrial intelligence? I give the standard arguments- there are a lot of places out there, the molecules of life are everywhere, I use the word billions, and so on. Then I say it would be astonishing to me if there weren't extraterrestrial intelligence, but of course there is as yet no compelling evidence for it.Often, I'm asked next, What do you really think?I say, I just told you what I really think.Yes, but what's your gut feeling?But I try not to think with my gut. If I'm serious about understanding the world, thinking with anything besides my brain, as tempting as that might be, is likely to get me into trouble. Really, it's okay to reserve judgment until the evidence is in.
A wonderful area for speculative academic work is the unknowable. These days religious subjects are in disfavor, but there are still plenty of good topics. The nature of consciousness, the workings of the brain, the origin of aggression, the origin of language, the origin of life on earth, SETI and life on other worlds...this is all great stuff. Wonderful stuff. You can argue it interminably. But it can't be contradicted, because nobody knows the answer to any of these topics.
Casting a curious gaze down on planet Earth, extra-terrestrial beings could well be forgiven for assuming that we humans are programmed in every move we make, by a palm-sized, oblong, slab of glass. More perplexing than that, who on earth could convince them otherwise ?
You have to think if we've been visited by extraterrestrial life, it was like a zookeeper walking into the chimp enclosure: He looks around, takes some pictures, then leaves without interacting significantly with the environment. Meanwhile the chimps have no idea what the fuck just happened.
The modern belief that highly advanced civilizations from other planets are visiting the Earth via spacecraft is a ruse. If real, they are beings created apart from the procreative processes established for life on Earth (Gen. 1). And since they are not direct creations of God Himself, their origins must be sought from other sources.
It amazes me how people can close their minds off to the size of the Universe. With billions of stars, millions of galaxies, and possibly a googol of planets, how can it be that human beings are the only thinking animal in creation?
In very different ways, the possibility that the universe is teeming with life, and the opposite possibility that we are totally alone, are equally exciting. Either way, the urge to know more about the universe seems to me irresistible, and I cannot imagine that anybody of truly poetic sensibility could disagree.
All we know for sure is that if some astronomer turned a telescope to a far-off star cluster tonight and found incontrovertible evidence of life, even microbial scavengers, it would be the most important discovery ever—proof that human beings are not so special after all. Except that we exist, too, and can understand and make such discoveries.