In the Telegraph, Michael Hanlon advises,
The Universe is big. Huge. But we’re so alone. Get used to it
If we find life of any kind out there – whether it be Martian microbes (we have several probes prodding the Martian surface and observing it from orbit) or a signal from super-intelligent (or even mildly brainy) aliens – it will change everything. ET will force us to confront a deep truth; that humans are not the only game in town, that we live in a possibly crowded (and quite probably threatening) universe.
But here’s the thing. What if they don’t find anything? What if, 10 years, a 100 years, a 1,000 years hence, endless sky-surveys, proddings and pokings of Mars and elsewhere, turn up nothing, save rocks, gas, ice and vacuum. We had better be prepared for this because, I am beginning to believe, this seems to be the most likely result.
If we decide that humans are probably alone, this will actually be a far more amazing finding than a galaxy teeming with life. And very disquieting. I am sure we could cope with the philosophical trauma of finding aliens on Kepler 452b. But the cold revelation that our small planet may be the most important thing in the entire universe, and our existence almost impossibly lonely, may be something we find very hard to face up to. More.
Well, let’s think about this for a minute: Why should we believe that the SETI Institute (now in receipt of $100 million from a Russian source; see link) would stop looking? No matter how bad the odds?
Also, let’s say the rest of us quietly gave up on the century of film space aliens being a reality, as opposed to stimulating entertainment? Why would that be hard to face up to?
For most of human history, we had just assumed we were alone, apart from gods, demi-gods, fairies, talking animals, etc., all of whom were creatures in this frame of reference, like ourselves.* For that, see:Imagine a world of religions that naturalism might indeed be able to explain
So, question: Was the space alien what happened when people stopped believing in fairies?
See also: Why the space alien must exist in an infinite number of universes.
* Except for God. Now that was a new concept. But no clever person supposed that God lived on a particular planet or would ask anyone to take him to “our leader.”
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