Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hawking says, Let's hide in the universe

Stephen Hawking is a very smart man, much more intelligent than me, and I respect his scientific mind. But I don't think he's right on this point.

THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.


Alien life ... is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.


Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

(from TimesOnline)

I don't mean that Hawking is wrong in believing in alien life forms (I don't find that hard to believe at all), I think he's wrong to suggest that we should avoid all contact with alien species forever. And the Native American analogy is wrong-headed.

Look, bad things happened to the Indians (who, by the way, weren't very saintly to begin with; they are human beings, after all) at the hands of some Europeans, but consider this: There are some peoples in South America that, to this day, have avoided contact with the outside world, and there is a sentiment that we should leave them alone. That's well and good, but will they ever advance as a society? Will they achieve great things, invent the light bulb, explore space all on their own, become more as human beings? I doubt it.

To go along with Hawking, we should be as the tribes in South America, hiding in the jungle of our solar system and eschewing contact with other peoples (aliens) on the outside chance they may enslave us. That may be well and good, and the aliens may even respect our wishes, but if we do that, will we continue to advance as a species? Will we achieve greater things, invent new energy sources, continue to explore space, and become more as a species? I don't think so.

I think we will stagnate if we don't continue to explore the universe. Not now, not in a thousand years, but eventually. And if that exploration means that we run up against another intelligent species eventually, then so be it. We will just have to deal with that situation when it comes up. It may not be easy, and I'm not advocating recklessness on the part of humanity, but I don't think we should run away from the challenge before it ever presents itself.

My respects to Hawking, but it's odd that such a bold mind is promoting such timidity.

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