The Other I

August 23, 2010

Another comeuppance for us

The Kepler space telescope is out there looking for intelligent life on another planet.  I’m not sure we want to find it.  If it has evolved with a drive for survival anything like ours, both we and they will shoot first and ask questions later.  In which case, the meeting may be as deadly as the meetings have been that have occurred between humans reintroducing themselves to each other in the last 500 years.  And these meetings were simply between various groups of human beings separated for as little as ten thousands years.

Religious groups won’t like it either.  Dealing with the discovery that we humans are not at the centre of all things  was hard enough when Galileo convinced the world that the earth revolves around the sun.  Darwin’s theory of evolution dealt another blow to our uniqueness, and continues apace with our recent creation of new life forms in a laboratory.   Many people already dislike the idea that plants and animals are intelligent in a way akin to human intelligence, and discovering that there are whole groups of intelligent beings out there seems intolerable to some who believe that their god could only love us Homo sapiens if we are not at the top of the tree.

Some people look forward to discovering that we are not alone.  But what exactly “not alone” means is unclear.  Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Seti Institute, suggests we need to think about the possibility that what we might find in outer space is not an intelligent biological organism, but intelligent machines.

Well, if we did, it would certainly shed light on the mind-body problem.


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