It may seem like a tired, over the top movie trope– but it will take an alien emissary landing in the rose garden, sauntering up to the White House to make the world believe.
This may come as a shock to those familiar with the subject. After all, a study reported in US News shows that 80% of Americans believe the government has kept information about aliens secret. The Daily Mail has also chipped in on the topic saying that over a third of Americans believe in Aliens.
Then again, one in five Americans also believes that the sun revolves around the earth, so we really can’t let opinion polls determine the reality behind scientific truth. But if a third of Americans believe that there is Alien life, there is a sizable percentage who aren’t so readily convinced. If you look at the march of “progress” we’ve made in determining the validity of extraterrestrial life, you can’t really blame them. It’s utterly depressing.
- H.G. Wells wrote a classic science fiction tale called War of the Worlds. In it, he described a civilization of Martians grown tired of their dying rust-colored planet. The world was captivated by the possibility. In 1976, the Viking probes came back with the first color images of Mars. It was completely barren.
- In 1961, the Drake Equation posited the total number of intelligent civilizations in the universe. Optimistic interpretations of the formula has led people to conclude that intelligent life is a statistical certainty. In the five decades since its creation, we haven’t seen any intelligent life on any foreign world.
- The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) began official operations in 1985. Since then, there have been zero confirmed contacts with, or identifications of, alien life.
- The year 2000 had a glut of disheartening theories and events. Peter Ward insisted that simple life may well evolve easily enough, but complex life requires an unlikely combination of events ranging from meteors to plate tectonics. Ray Norris and Allen Tough argued that gamma-ray bursts could be frequent enough to utterly sterilize entire regions of space.
We have been spoiled by new possibilities regularly. Then we are quickly reminded of the disheartening reality of the situation. Right now science can tell us that one in six stars have earth-like planets orbiting them. Then it comes right back around and says that intelligent life is unverified at best.
For the life of me, I can’t remember who said it– but I once read a quote saying:
“Saying Aliens don’t exist [from what we’ve seen of the cosmos] is like taking a glass, dipping it in the ocean, then saying the ocean has no life because we didn’t find any fish.”
Any rational mind would agree with that. However, the quote fails to really grasp the reality of the situation. What’s really happening is that we’re dipping cup after cup after cup into the tide– and we’re not even seeing microbial life under a microscope. It’s still way to early to determine whether or not life exists in the interstellar ocean, but it’s easy to see why people become so jaded.
Then we have the direct false hopes. The world has been force fed articles and studies claiming to have found “fossilized” evidence of life from meteorites. Like clockwork, these studies have been being pushed out every year or so, and most tend to originate from the Journal of Cosmology. Surprise, surprise: they found “evidence” of once-living organisms just before new-year’s. The link to the article was posted to the popular news site Reddit. Then the comment section completely exploded (warning: Reddit’s comments aren’t edited for profanity or content. Read at your own risk).
The journal has repeatedly been under attack by the scientific community. In response, the Journal of Cosmology released a statement insinuating that those who disagreed were “terrorists” and further equates them to the inquisition. The link on Reddit was quickly deleted and deemed (their word, not mine) “Bullshit.”
What surprises me the most isn’t that the comments often contain cursing and overt sarcasm. It’s the level of apathy. People are quick to dismiss the study. In this case, for good reason. But one commenter made one of the most irrefutably poignant comments in the thread: “…When we do finally find something, nobody will believe it for decades.”
We’re surrounded by hope and hope-shattering information. New studies that should be greeted by cautious optimism are now met with resounding apathy and negativity. Unfortunately, this is how it is going to remain because this is what we’ve been surrounded by for years. At this point, the only way the entire world will rally around the verified existence of ET is if he pays the president a well-publicized visit.
Peter Licari is a Science Fiction writer and author of the novel The Dimensional Constant. He can be reached by his website www.thequillanddagger.com