Monday, August 07, 2006

The UFO Topic

I find it fascinating that humanity always sees things so egocentrically. “The heavens and the earth” is one of the most arrogant phrases in history − as if the universe were divided into two parts: Our little speck of dust as one part, and everything else as the other. The very word “aliens” is incredibly obnoxious by itself, because it defines any intelligent life elsewhere in the vastness of space, simply as being “not us.” This is a level of arrogance the Bush administration can only dream about.
First, I believe the idea of intelligent life elsewhere approaches a mathematical certainty. We can’t prove it, but the notion that all these galaxies are dead is simply absurd. The idea that the universe is just a backdrop for humanity strains even our intense vanity to the breaking point.
Yet, I also believe that most people haven’t accepted the idea of intelligent life elsewhere with their rational minds, much less their emotions. Despite all the evidence of billions of galaxies, this is still the toughest jump for people to make.
Once that leap is made, however, things change. What if there are hundreds of thousands of intelligent life forms in the known universe? What if the ones that are as smart as humans, are just 100 years ahead? Think of how far we’ve come in hundred years. Now imagine if they’re 10 times as smart as we are, and 10,000 years ahead. What does that technology look like?
When people argue that UFO travel to this planet is impossible, I always look for the part where we project our existence onto the situation. We have quite a track record for doing that.
So let’s completely rule out time travel, other dimensions, and all the far-out stuff, and just look at space travel under the speed of light.
Are we to assume that all the other creatures in the universe live around 100 earth years because that’s our current life span? By the way, ours has gone up decades in just my lifetime, so how can we assume that some creatures somewhere haven’t cured their medical problems to the point where they’re virtually immortal?
What if some creatures somewhere have completely eliminated medical problems? At the rate our life spans are increasing, it would be mathematically astounding if something out there hadn’t beaten the aging process and achieved virtual immortality. We might achieve it ourselves someday.
Next, are we to assume that while we live like a plant on planet earth, that all these other species are just as rooted to home planets of their own? Why couldn’t they be slowly sweeping through space in a nomadic fashion − spreading like dandelions on a lawn? Maybe even encountering other species coming the other way? In July of 1969, we landed on the moon. Does that mean other creatures have only been one other place off their home planet, too?
Finally, we have the heart of the argument: Time. UFO skeptics always say, “It would be impossible for anything to visit here because it would take too long to travel through the vastness of space.”
When, I was a child, I had to go to Mass once a week, and I swear that one hour as a kid took longer than whole months do now. I remember watching my parents put away Christmas decorations and thinking, “Why save them? A year is an impossibly long time. Surely, they’ll crumble into dust by then.” Now the years go by so fast that I can almost snap my fingers to the beat.
Why should we assume that our relationship to the passage of time, is a universal standard, especially since I’ve seen it change so much already in my lifetime? Maybe there are creatures that experience one hundred years at the rate we experience an hour. I occasionally get so deep in thought while walking that I can’t believe I’ve arrived somewhere so fast. It almost feels instantaneous. What if there are creatures 100,000 times smarter than humans, that are so deep in thought that an earth century would feel like a minute?
Finally, we throw the light year numbers around. “UFOs are impossible. This star is 100,000 light years away. Assuming they traveled at the speed of light, which they can’t, it would take them 100,000 years to get here from there.” Okay, but on what basis are you completely ruling out the possibility that they’ve been traveling for 100,001 years? Aren’t we really just saying it would be impossible for us?
There is no reason that we should compare our experience in say, a trip on Amtrak from Portland to Los Angeles and back, to their feelings about travel. Maybe they thrive on it. Maybe it sustains them.
What if they’ve been migrating though space for a billion years? Hopping through the universe the way we used to island jump in the Pacific during World War 2? If that’s impossible, why? They’re living by the same laws of physics we are, but they’re not us.
Even Big Bang believers think the universe is 13 billion years old. If someone believes the universe has an infinite past and future, then the amount of time it takes to accomplish something isn’t a factor. Dandelions can spread across the biggest lawn, if they have enough time.
Once we make the leap of admitting that there is a way for the UFO-alien scenario to happen, it behooves us to look at the evidence a little differently. The cloak of impossibility has been removed.

22 Comments:

At 10:39 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Your musings remind me of Clark's statement that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

What would the great Spanish explorers have done with a GPS unit? Or what would people only a hundred years ago have thought about being able to send pictures almost instantaneously from one pocket device to another halfway around the world?

The excuse that no one, ever, could travel between stars isn't valid. Just because we can't doesn't mean much.

 
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