Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Say no to aliens

The contacting of aliens seems like a topic that is very science fiction, but there are many scientific programs and machines readily made for this very contact. In fact, the promise or threat, of alien contact is so real to some that they feel the need to warn against contacting aliens.

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One such person is British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who went on a new Discovery Channel documentary to warn people that contacting aliens would be a threat to Earth. He is quoted to say, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”

His quote shows how based on his not-so-high opinion of the kindness of intelligent life on Earth , i.e. humans, (he says nothing of dolphins) he makes the theoretical conclusion that meeting intelligent life in other galaxies will not bode so well for humans on Earth. Hawking does not want us to contact aliens.

Hawking? Hawking!? Hawking is considered one of the most brilliant men alive, and if one of the most brilliant men alive tells me to not do something, I won’t do it. While his theory of why alien contact should not be pursued is more from a sociological standpoint, which is not his field of study, this man is a smart man. If Hawking told me that in 2035 we need to start buying aluminum foil in order to protect ourselves from alien thought penetration, you can safely assume that I am going to Shaw’s and buying out all of the foil.

The reason I fully support Hawking’s idea, though, is not just because he is brilliant, but also because I agree with his sociological perspective. Looking at it from an ethnographer’s point of view, it is easy to see why interaction with an alien species would most likely be threatening to human life.

Ethnographers are people who go to other cultures and subcultures and take down data about the culture. This can be anything from their economy, class systems, gender roles, how they feed themselves, how they rule themselves, etc. They get this information through interviews and by participating in rituals of the daily lives of the culture they are studying.

The difference comes when the ethnographer is not one person, but a group of people, or aliens – we can safely assume that a life form with any sort of intelligence will not go to another planet alone. So these groups of aliens have come, they have observed the culture of human life, and maybe they landed on Earth and participated – which means they have observed one or two cultures out of the vast amount of cultures on the planet, or they have used some sort of alien invention with the power to see all over the Earth – and they managed to take in the different cultures of the planet all at once.

What ends up happening in these observations, which is what ends up happening when you study any person or a group of people, is that the observer learns of the group’s strengths and weaknesses, whether it be leadership or their economy.

What would it be like if a highly intelligent species came to Earth? In these same observations, the alien observer may want what humans have. These life forms may be imperialistic, and those with an imperialistic nature are less giving than they are greedy. Aliens, seeing something that they want, may not think twice before obliterating the culture that has what they want and then leaving, or taking over the area in which the culture resided. They may also integrate themselves into the culture, as ethnographers are known to do, on the pretense of wanting to know more about the culture, and then “accidentally” unleash an illness for which the human body has not yet developed an antibody, causing an epidemic, and wipe out a good portion of the human race.

The idea of these things happening for us from alien intelligent life forms is not far-fetched when you think about how intelligent life forms on Earth have treated those they consider foreign. With this idea in mind, it is not hard to follow Hawking’s thinking.

This may seem like a topic that’s too into the future to worry about currently. The center for Search for Extraterrestrial Life research has been using their devices to look for signals for over 40 years and so far has found nothing. What one must keep in mind, though, is that signals may take years to reach Earth if they are coming from galaxies that are 1,000 light-years away. While the signals haven’t found their way to Earth as of yet, it does not mean that they are not on their way.

Hawking is worried about this possibility, and if Hawking is worried about the threat of alien contact, then we should be, too.

Stephanie Ambroise is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

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  • M

    masonMar 23, 2012 at 12:54 am

    This is and the pokemon article are making me have serious questions about our study body.

  • R

    R. LawsonMar 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I think we should explore space and attempt to locate other life (hopefully human life), but recognize inherent dangers.

    There are enormous risks; if the life we discover is more advanced than us they will probably view us the same way we view cattle.

    I’m hoping the vast distance across space will make contact something that happens on a very limited scale. Hopefully we meet a small number of space travelers – not a military planning on a conquest.

    I believe there are probably many more inhabited planets somewhere – very very far away. I don’t care what type of life is out there, the distance to reach the Earth will require time and resources. Even if they know we are here and have advanced technology, they probably have politicians just like ours – and going to Earth is probably too expensive to justify the return.

  • D

    DavidMar 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Hawking is totally wrong. We can not judge aliens and their motives based on our own selfishness and acquisitiveness. Aliens in general are friendly and harmless. They do not believe in war and conquests and will only be here to help and advise. In this regard they are quite unlike human beings. See for more info.

  • J

    JakeMar 4, 2012 at 10:43 am

    You miss quoted Hawking it’s “I imagine such interactions could be ” not “would be like” as he only says its logical that aliens would want to consume our resources similar to that of when Columbus landed. However using this same logic, it stands to reason why wouldn’t we expect to meet aliens with peaceful intentions if we ourselves pursued such intelligent life with the same intentions? If intelligent life evolved in a similar fashion to us then it would stand to reason that a peaceful relationship is well within the realm of possibility.

    The post above is extremely misinformed…his work on gravitational singularities sparked a revolution in theoretical physics.

  • S

    Stephanie AmbroiseMar 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    I happen to think he’s a pretty brilliant guy, but that’s sort of besides the point. I don’t know if aliens exist, or if they don’t, but if you notice in any records of people finding out about tribes that are isolated among themselves, and them some curious searcher finds them, what ends up happening is that their entire way of living is altered. It doesn’t mean destroyed, it just changes. And people aren’t good with change, and death often occurs in some cases. Take the colonization of Native American tribes. They weren’t without troubles of their own, but once an outsider came into their cultural bubble, even if no harm was meant, their way of life shifted, which is what I think he means. I’m not seeing death rays blown at humans, but I’m saying that if a being of a different planet were to come to Earth, or if Earth were to contact them, it would change things a lot, which is what I think Hawking means by “threat”.

  • W

    WilsonCMar 3, 2012 at 1:02 am

    The 1,000 light year, ‘vast distance away’ idealogue, is only but one possible scenario we’re dealing with. The other rests in ‘interdimensional’ beings which have crossed over boundaries of ‘dimension’ not great distance, to interact with us. The benevolence we seem to think rests there, the “they would have already destroyed us” excuse, is but that. An excuse. That rhetoric does not match the abduction experiences which are now so prevelent though our society. Nobody ever comes back taking about a ‘nice coffee chat and doughnuts’ having returned. The vast majority of abductees talk about painful, demoralizing, embarassing, demeaning, ever outright terror filled experiences, when describing their encounters. Putting out his crap about how ‘wonderful’ they are, is but wishful thinking at best.

    As for our ‘social/societal stupidity’, if not immaturity, all one has to do, is, go back to the American people’s reaction to the Orson Wells raido play, “War of The Worlds”, when originally broadcast. If you want to see Americans in full terror, which turned out not to be such a pretty sight, go back and review the newspaper clippings from that time. We’re about a brilliant as a sack of hammers. No Mr.H: I’m with you. We cannot naively assume they’re so nice…and no, contact is not in our best interests. THEY have proven that…A quick watch of ‘The Fourth Kind’ will prove that in spades.

    We need to mature and grow up about the subject, realizing that we only extend the benefit of the doubt WHEN EARNED. Until then: Who the F are you, and what do you want? If they want to know us, and they want our trust, they can earn it. We’ve already made that mistake once before…its time for us to grow up. Funny how we’ll teach our kids: “Don’t talk to stragers” and we’ll ignore same, and smile. We’re idiots.

  • J

    JohKenMar 2, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Hawking is just a puppet spouting predefined propaganda at the bequest of the power elite who want the world to believe aliens are a threat to humanity. One would think that a civilization that could traverse the stars would have overcome their desire/tendency to annihilate each other as a race, or due to any conquest of what would be an alien culture to themselves. Hawking erroneously projects our inherent need to destroy that which seems alien to us, upon any life form that should desire human interaction. If any alien visitors wanted to destroy us for whatever reason, they would have done it long ago. Hawking is not as brilliant as you would think…he just has a great publicist.