JOURNAL OF COSMOLOGY, VOL. 7, MAGGIO 2010 Contents 1. Hawkings Aliens Squawkings, John Menninger, Ph.D. 2. Darwinism and Hawkings Aliens, Blair Csuti, Ph.D. 3. Alien Conquistadors? Hawking is Right, Robert Ehrlich, Ph.D. 4. Hawkings Alien Invaders Might Be Microorganisms, B.G. Sidharth, Ph.D. 5. Alien Life and Quantum Consciousness, Randy D. Allen, Ph.D. 6. Fear of Fanatics... Ruediger Vaas 7. Are Intelligent Aliens a Threat to Humanity? Diseases From Space. C. N. Wickramasinghe, Ph.D. 8. Aliens and Stephen Hawking: The Wisdom Principle. Pushkar Ganesh Vaidya. 9. Why Should Hawkings Aliens Wish To Destroy? GianCarlo Ghirardi, Ph.D. 10. The Dangers of Anti-Science: Stephen Hawking’s Fear of Dangerous Aliens. Stephen Freeland, Ph.D. 11. Who’s Afraid of Hawking’s Aliens? Arpita Roy, Ph.D., James D. Wells, Ph.D. 12. Stephen Hawking Is Wrong. Earth Would Not Be A Target For Alien Conquest. Harold A. Geller, Ph.D. 13. Uninvited Guests, Peter Sturrock, Ph.D. 14. Evolution and Alien Visitors From the Stars, Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.
1. Hawkings Aliens Squawkings, John Menninger, Ph.D.,Department of Biology, University of Iowa.Aliens, as perceived by HawkingCould soon visit Earth for some gawking. They might do good, but Oy!, They might wish to destroy!Well more likely be bored by their talking. (-- with apologies to E. Lear)2. Darwinism and Hawkings Aliens, Blair Csuti, Ph.D., ResearchAssociate, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, OregonState University.First, one must grant the premise that by sheer laws of probability, many advanced aliencivilizations exist throughout the universe. Professor Hawking’s trepidation about the wisdom ofovertly seeking contact with them is well-founded. We have no way of discerning the intent of alienvisitors except after-the-fact. The Darwinian concept of natural selection supports the assumptionthat aliens visiting newly discovered planets, like Earth, would place their own interests above thoseof unsophisticated indigenous residents.If the rate of evolution observed on Earth from the first records of single-celled organisms to thecurrent state of hominid achievement is any indication, one can expect that alien civilizations willachieve a similar level of technological development in 5 or 6 billion years. Our best estimates ofthe age of the universe range in excess of 13 billion years. Therefore, another statistical premise isthat there will be lots of more advanced alien civilizations in the older, more distant reaches of theuniverse. All of this bodes ill for the outcome of any encounter with space aliens.However, the one bright spot in this ominous conclusion are the constraints that light, time, andspace place on both matter and energy (that means both us and our potential alien invaders). It’s nocoincidence that every science fiction narrative of interstellar travel includes some currentlyundiscovered system that allows travel many times faster than the speed of light. In real science,however, Einstein’s relativity theories seem to have held up on one point: no particle or waveexceeds the speed of light. First, this means that the wave front of Earth’s first electromagnetictransmissions to the rest of the universe is barely more than 100 light-years distant. It could well betens of millions of years before our unintended radio and television calling cards are noticed by thefirst avaricious aliens. Then, racing to Earth at near-light speed, it will take our would-be exploiterstens of millions more years to turn up on our doorstep. Unless they have very long life-spans, thatwould require a generational space ship with little prospect of returning to their home planet withwhatever booty that they considered valuable enough to undertake a long and expensive expedition.The only motivation for alien space plunders to visit Earth then, as Hawking suggested, would be tosend out one-way colonists to expand the size and distribution of their race. Given sufficient time,that scenario is likely to play out multiple times. This is not so different, strange to say, fromhuman’s own aspirations for space travel. Earth’s only hope will be that the laws of physics applythroughout the universe and place constraints on the types and power of possible weaponry thatcould be used against humans…and that by the time the invaders arrive, humans themselves willhave discovered and deployed similar defense systems that would allow Earth to hold its own.Speculation about the future is by definition, fiction, but it sounds as if our most imaginativescience fiction may turn out to be closer to the truth than we would like.
3. Alien Conquistadors? Hawking is Right, Robert Ehrlich, Ph.D.,Professor of Physics, George Mason University.It is easy for one’s initial reaction to Stephen Hawking’s assertion about predatory alien visitors tobe dismissive, since while he is perhaps our greatest living physicist, he has no more expertise inthe area of alien motives than anyone else – assuming that intelligent aliens even exist. But after alittle thought one’s second reaction might be “how could it be otherwise?” Given the obstacles toalien life evolving beyond the microbial stage in our own solar system, one presumes that alienvisitors would come to us from other star systems – the other possibility being that microbial aliensmight hitch a ride on a meteorite blasted off from a planet within our own solar system.Alien visitors from the stars would fall into one of four categories, i.e., they (1) have mastered thetechnology of faster-than-light travel (if that is even possible), (2) be adaptable robots whose mentalprocesses reflect those of their senders, (3) have such long lifetimes that interstellar voyages arepossible, or (4) have lived for many generations aboard their ships. My own guess is that number 2would be the most likely, but with all these choices it would be a safe guess that if these space-journeying aliens exist, their technology is light-years ahead of ours, and that they are almostcertainly the preeminent species on their home planet.How would a species attain that favored status? Certainly, intelligence is a factor, but one canalways imagine unintelligent species winning out. For example, it is not out of the realm ofpossibility that intelligent humans could be wiped out by lowly microbes. Nevertheless, all ourexperiences on Earth suggest that when a more technologically advanced species or group ofhumans encounters another and competes for the same resources, the result is always conflict, withthe more advanced group emerging victorious – the movie Avatar notwithstanding. Being a memberof a species generally means you value the lives of your own members above those of other species,even if you might not wish to see them die needlessly.On Earth our recognition of the deep mental and emotional lives of some of our fellow passengerson the planet has come exceedingly slowly – with Rene Descartes even holding that animals aresimply robots having no thoughts or feelings. Given the probability that the gap in intelligencebetween alien visitors and humans would be far greater than that between humans and our closerelatives on Earth, how could they not think of us as a very lowly life form, certainly not worthy oftreating as equals?One also needs to ask what motives aliens would have for taking the trouble to travel across thestars. Could it be simple curiosity, and a desire to have us join the “Galactic Federation?” Thisseems highly doubtful, because interstellar communication would seem to be the far easier courseof action in that case. Of course, there is the limit of the speed of light to consider, which makesinterstellar communication a rather prolonged affair. However, if we have already allowed faster-than-light travel, there is no reason to exclude faster-than-light communication, using tachyonsperhaps, which incidentally are not entirely excluded based on experimental searches to date.Let’s assume Stephen Hawking is correct then, and proceed to the next step – what should we do?One might argue that we should make no attempt to communicate with intelligent aliens bybroadcasting signals. The temptation to do so could become quite strong if SETI ever detects anunambiguously positive signal. On the other hand, such communication would be quite pointlessshould the signal be from a star 500 light years away, given that the beings who we will have likelyevolved into (or who replace us) in 500 years will bear little resemblance to those of us who sent themessage. Moreover, given the difficulties we now have in even taking simple actions to save theplanet from manmade environmental catastrophe, one can only imagine the debate in the halls ofCongress and United Nations as to how to reply to alien attempts at communication.
4. Hawkings Alien Invaders Might Be Microorganisms, B.G.Sidharth, Ph.D. International Institute For Applicable Mathematics &Information Sciences B.M. Birla Science Centre Adarshnagar,Hyderabad, IndiaProfessor Stephen Hawking’s latest much publicized views about the existence of aliens and thethreat his imagined aliens pose to mankind are somewhat naïve though not absurd, as these arebased on the probability that such events may happen, given that there are so many stars andplanets. However, even if Hawkings were correct, the greatest danger may not be technicallyadvanced aliens looking for worlds to conquer, but the diseases and microoganisms which mightjourney with them. Findings in recent years support the view that life in the universe may bewidespread, and most likely, much of that life probably consists of bacteria, archae, and the virusestypically associated with them. There are already tantalizing clues suggestive of past and evenpresent life on Mars. Life may have also taken hold on Europa, Titan, and other moons and planetsin this solar system (see Journal of Cosmology, Vol 5). The French satellite CoRoT has justdiscovered a planet, called CoRoT-9b far beyond the Solar System, 1500 light years away. Whatmakes this finding dramatic is that this could well be the first temperate planet similar to the planetsof our Solar System. The new planet has a size roughly that of Jupiter with an orbit similar toMercury. Unlike the four hundred other suspected exo planets, is neither extremely hot norextremely cold. Its surface temperature is estimated to be between minus 20 degrees and 160degrees Celsius, similar to Mars. Extremeophiles could certainly live under these conditions.Very recently too NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena has discovered a planet welloutside the Solar System which has traces of organic molecules, the building blocks of life. Theplanet HD209458b has yielded traces of water, methane and carbon dioxide as detected by theHubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Telescope. Similar findings have been determined for theplanet HD189733b.These particular findings do not prove that life itself would be widespread, because it would be veryimprobable for life to develop, even if all the ingredients were present. But in the light of relativelyrecent work by Joseph, Schild, Gibson, Wickramasinghe, Sharov (see Journal of CosmologyVolume 5, ), and others, all this would lead to the dramatic conclusion that life may be abundantand wide spread throughout the universe (Joseph and Schild 2010a,b).For several decades it has been believed that life originated on the earth billions of years ago insoups of water and chemicals which interacted with energy from the Sun. This would make theformation of life an improbable event. However, a number of scientists, including the present author(Sidharth, 2009, Journal of Cosmology Vol 1, Vol 10.) have been arguing for a dual mode origin oflife, that is key ingredients like amino acids, but not yet fully formed life had reached Earth fromouter space and chemically interacted with other ingredients present to form life. As similarconditions could have taken place on other planets, this would mean that the formation andevolution of life may be far more probable than thought earlier, particularly on planets located inhabitable zones.For example, complex molecules have been discovered in interstellar space, for example, in thecool dust clouds of the Orion Nebula and in the constellation of Sagittarius. Observations withtelescopes, spectroscopes, radio telescopes and even orbiting observatories have confirmed thepresence of molecules like methyl cyanide, water vapour, formaldehyde, methyl alcohol and eventhe potable ethyl alcohol. Clearly there are several organic molecules in the cool dust clouds spreadacross outer space.This apart the space crafts Giotto and Vega which flew by Comet Halley glimpsed carbon richmolecules while space based observations revealed the presence of Ethane and Methane in CometsHyakutake and Hale Bopp. Space dust reveals organic carbon. Interestingly some thirty tons of suchcarbon is brought down to the earth each day by the interstellar dust. Meteorites have shown nucleo
basis, ketones, quinines, carboxylic acids, amines and amides. In fact as many as eight of the twentyamino acids involved in life processes have been identified besides some sixty others. Recently,NASA announced that an analysis of data from its Stardust mission revealed, for the first time thepresence of the amino acid glycine in an icy comet.The all important amino acids in nature come as left handed molecules and also right handedmolecules reminiscent of a right handed spiral conch shell and a left handed spiral conch. Theamino acids produced in the laboratory show equal quantities of the left handed and right handedvarieties. There are no interactions involving light in such molecules. However in life processes, theleft handed molecules predominate over the right handed molecules. Interestingly in the aminoacids found on meteorites, we have exactly this preponderance of left handed amino acidmolecules! This is the crucial trigger, and with chemical self organization leads to animateprocesses like photosynthesis.It appears that amino acids, quinons, amphibilic molecules and the like were transported to the earthby meteoritic dust or cometary fragments. These could well have kick started the first life processeson the earth. Very recently, Amino acids were again observed in comets.This also means that life would be well spread out in the universe and is not unique to Earth. As onEarth, microorganisms are probably the most abundant form of life on other planets. As argued byJoseph and Schild (2010; Journal of Cosmology Vol 5), given a habitable planet within a habitablezone, and if these microorganisms have genomes consisting of DNA, then life may evolve inpatterns similar to those on Earth. Alien life may have evolved beyond the stage of modern Earth-based humans billions of years ago. Given the nature of life on Earth is competition for resources,and as technically advanced civilizations typically conquer those less developed, then Hawkingsconcern about the dangers of alien contact, should be take seriously.However, it is probably not technologically advanced aliens, but alien microorganisms which posethe greatest danger to life on Earth (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). When Columbus wasfollowed by the Spanish conquistadors, it was not advanced weaponry which destroyed the nativecivilizations, but disease. The Spanish soldiers and monks carried diseases the natives had neverbefore encountered and they died in vast numbers. Therefore it could be argued that the greatestthreat is not from alien conquistadors. It is exposure to alien microorganisms which might provedisastrous to the inhabitants of Earth.ReferencesJoseph R., and Schild, R. (2010a). Origins, Evolution, and Distribution of Life in the Cosmos:Panspermia, Genetics, Microbes, and Viral Visitors From the Stars. Journal of Cosmology, 2010,Vol 7, IN PRESSJoseph R., and Schild, R. (2010b). Biological Cosmology and the Origins of Life in the Universe.Journal of Cosmology, 5, 1040-1090.Joseph, R., and Wickramasinghe, C. (2010). Comets and contagion: Evolution and diseases fromspace. ournal of Cosmology, 7. In press.Sidharth, B. G. (2009). In Defense of Abiogenesis, Journal of Cosmology, 2009, 1, 73-755. Alien Life and Quantum Consciousness, Randy D. Allen, Ph.D.,Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Oklahoma StateUniversity.Dr. Steven Hawking argues that alien life almost surely exists and warns that human encounterswith aliens could well end badly for us. In the absence of actual evidence for the presence ofextraterrestrial life, much less for its intentions, I would say that Dr. Hawking’s guesses are as goodas anyone else’s. I guess that it is equally likely that extraterrestrial life does not exist either because
it never arose or, if it did arise, was soon eliminated. Another possibility is that some sort ofprimitive photosynthetic or chemosynthetic organisms exist elsewhere in the Universe. If, as onEarth, the primary form of energy available on other planets is radiation from a nearby star, it seemslikely that, as on Earth, photosynthetic organisms must predominate. It follows that consumers ofthese producers may well have also evolved. However, life that exists away from Earth will notnecessarily use the same chemistry. If, as we generally assume, water is required for life, then therange of possible chemistries is constrained but there is absolutely no reason to assume thatanything remotely close to plants or animals, much less humans, exists elsewhere. Althoughdissimilarities in chemistry could limit our ability to analyze or even detect extraterrestrials, it couldalso protect us from harm. An alien organism without proteins, for example, may have a difficulttime digesting us. If, on the other hand, we were to encounter alien life forms that ravenouslyconsume all of the energy containing chemical compounds that they can get their ”hands” on, itwould indeed be tragic for us, but a good meal for them.Life as we know it is based on chemistry but, what if life elsewhere is based, not on chemistrybut on quantum mechanics? Imagine alien life forms that can manipulate subatomic particleslike our cells manipulate chemical compounds. Humans have existed as a species for less thana million years and we are, as far as we know, the only species on Earth that has even thevaguest notion of physics. We only discovered the atom and learned to unleash its powerwithin the last century. Our understanding of quantum mechanics is rudimentary, at best, yetwe are on the verge of developing practical quantum computers that promise virtuallyunlimited computational power. It is conceivable that, in the billions of years since the BigBang, other organisms evolved at some time and some place that have already masteredquantum mechanics. Let’s say that intelligent, social, organisms with chemically-basedmetabolism, fundamentally not unlike ourselves, evolved on a planet somewhere in theuniverse. Their unquenchable curiosity about the universe (or, like us, their unquenchabledesire to exploit it) led them to develop efficient quantum computers. They realized that, withsuch computers, the whole of their existence could be computerized, all memories and lifeexperiences, all emotions and motivations, could be transferred to a collective “quantumbrain”. In effect, their “species”, though biologically extinct, could become immortal. No moreinefficient metabolism requiring huge energy input, no chemically derived bodies to wear out,no reproduction, no death, no taxes. Just supermassively parallel collective consciousness withunlimited capabilities. Perhaps, through super symmetry or entanglement, they can “see” or“feel” the entire universe. Maybe, they’ve gained the ability to manipulate elementaryparticles and can control its evolution and its fate. They would have become, by any humandefinition, Gods.It’s conceivable that quantum capabilities evolved multiple times throughout the universe,each new member of the quantum club bringing a novel dimension of consciousness, alongwith a few billion additional “neighbors” to get to know. With no need to compete forresources, quantum beings are probably peaceful and only want the best for the Universe andits inhabitants. Maybe they are aware of our existence but don’t care about us, much as weignore most of the “lower” organisms that surround us. Alternatively, perhaps they havenoted our biological, social and technological evolution and realize that we humans may welljoin their ranks someday and become quantum beings ourselves.The possibility of evolving a quantum consciousness of course, depends on numerousvariables, and requires that we are not first exterminated by an asteroid impact, a nearbysupernova, or gigantic volcanic eruptions, or our civilization is not decimated by globalwarfare over resource scarcity exacerbated by climate change. Then there is the possibility wemight simply lose our scientific impetus through loss of political support for basic researchand let our chance for immortality slip away.
6.Fear of Fanatics: Why Stephen Hawking is Right, And We ShouldNot Contact Intelligent Extraterrestrials. Rüdiger Vaas,Center for Philosophy and Foundations of Science, University ofGiessen, GermanyAbstractStephen Hawking worries about extraterrestrials (ETs) conquering Earth if we try to contact them.These concerns are indeed justified – though not primarily because of possible colonization in orderto exploit Earths resources or enslave humans. There is another and more pernicious motivation,namely ideological – especially religious – delusion. If ETs were to visit earth, it is likely that theywould be fanatical fundamentalists wanting to proselytize. If religious delusion is widespread,demographically expanding and perhaps even of evolutionary advantage, it is a threat to all peacefulsentient beings. This might even offer a solution to Fermis paradox: ETs are not here, because ifthey were, we wouldnt be. 1. Why Worry?Stephen Hawking has repeatedly warned against transmitting messages into the sky with a view tocontacting extraterrestrial civilizations (Hawking 2002, p. 65; Hawking 2010). And he oncepresumed that the first contact, if it had happened, would have been recognized easily because of itssimilarity not with the movie E.T. but withIndependence Day (Hawking 2001, p. 179). Though nota specialist in these issues, Hawking is an eminent cosmologist and one of the most famousscientists of the 21st century (Vaas 2005a, 2008a), thus his influential opinion makes a difference. Itis praiseworthy that he brought up again a worry about a possible contact with extraterrestrials(ETs), though his opinion should not be confused with – and was not meant as – a scientificstatement. Such a contact, although eagerly awaited by some, could turn out to be a disaster inhuman history. "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop intosomething we wouldnt want to meet," Hawking (2010) said. "If aliens ever visit us, I think theoutcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didnt turnout very well for the American Indians."But is this worry justified, and in what respects? Why should extraterrestrial civilizations want toconquer Earth? 2. Escape or ExtinctionOf course it is an open issue whether extraterrestrial life (Cosmovici, Bowyer & Werthimer 1997;Goldsmith & Owen 2001; Horneck & Baumstark-Kahn 2001; Ward & Brownlee 2000) and inparticular extraterrestrial intelligence (Drake & Sobel 1992; Shostak 2003a; Vaas 1993, 2003),exists in the Milky Way or in the entire cosmos. But if it does, it is still a matter of controversywhether extraterrestrial civilizations would be numerous, motivated and advanced enough tocommunicate with us, let alone to meet us (Vaas 2002a; Zaun 2010). They might well be isolated inspace and time, and because of the finite velocity of light it would be barely possible to start adialogue even with our closest neighbors in the course of a human lifetime, let alone to chat.Moreover, if there is no feasible way to travel faster than light, via wormholes for instance (Visser1996, Vaas 2005a), a flying visit seems rather unlikely. But nevertheless generation ships, stillmostly a topic of science fiction, are technologically possible in principle and might travel throughspace for millennia (Savage 1992). And because both planetary resources and the lifetime of stars
are limited, any advanced civilization is condemned someday either to die out or to leave its homeplanet – i.e. to settle in outer space or to move to other, younger stars and planets. This is a kind ofcosmic imperative. On Earth, for example, we anticipate only another 500 to 1500 million years ofmoderate temperatures, i.e. a much shorter time than that until our sun blows up to become a redgiant star, engulfing Earth in 7.6 billion years (Vaas 2007a; Schroeder & Smith 2008). Thus,planetary escape might very well be underway already, with extraterrestrial civilizations colonizingthe galaxy right now (Ulmschneider 2003)."I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their homeplanet," Hawking speculated. "Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking toconquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach." This is certainly possible. But there areprobably millions of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way (e.g. Franck et al. 2001; von Bloh et al.2009), and many more planets, dwarf planets, and asteroids to exploit. Thus, if ETs don’t needEarth to survive, if they respect complex, self-conscious life, and if they are not onlytechnologically but also ethically advanced, they would not wipe us out. Nor is it likely that theywould just come to eat us and other terrestrial animals, because even if they could digest us it wouldbe much less effort to breed their food, for example in space colonies, than to travel dozens orhundreds of light-years. Equally, cosmic slavery is improbable, for technologically superiorintelligences would create robots to deal with hard and stupid work.So perhaps we should calm down and relax. But this does not imply that we should be trying toestablish contact. Firstly, it is much too early and too costly right now, and secondly there are otherrisks. 3. Already Discovered?Without a doubt, trying to be silent is only approximately possible – it is a matter of quantity, notquality. And for a simple reason: Earth has already spoken to the stars. This happened not primarilyby intention, and the couple of radio messages containing symbols that were transmitted into outerspace – the first consisting of 1679 binary digits sent with the power of 1000 kilowatt-hours fromthe Arecibo observatory on November 16, 1974 in the direction of the globular cluster M13 in theconstellation of Hercules – are negligible. But radio was invented at the end of the 19th century, andlarge-scale broadcasting began in the 1920s. These early transmissions, however, were of lowpower and at low frequency, thus had difficulty making it into space because they were reflected byEarths ionosphere. But as early as in the 1930s amateur radio, radio, and television programsstarted leaking into outer space. These were augmented later by radar signals for both for terrestrialand astronomical purposes. Thus Earth has been broadcasting for decades, and if there is anybodyout there, those extraterrestrial civilizations may soon discover signs of our technological existenceor have already done so. And perhaps they concluded that there is no intelligent life on earth,judging from TV soap operas, advertisements, and speeches of politicians like the madman openingthe Olympics in Berlin 1936, as so powerfully visualized by Robert Zemeckis in his film adaptationof Carl Sagans novel Contact in 1997.This should not be overestimated, however. A modern TV transmitter can put out a megawatt ofpower. It is not very tightly focused, so even though much of the broadcast energy spills into space,it’s fairly weak by the time it reaches another star system. Seth Shostak (2003b) put it inperspective: "Consider one of our early TV programs just washing over a planet thats 50 light-yearsaway. To detect the "carrier" signal from this broadcast in a few minutes time would require about3,000 acres of rooftop antennas connected to a sensitive receiver. That’s a lot of antennas, and anunsightly concept. But it’s not hard to build, and the aliens could conceivably do it. If theextraterrestrials were unwise enough to actually want to see the program, then they’d need anantenna about 30,000 times greater in area (roughly the size of Colorado). Ambitious, but possible."But their chances dropped since the invention of cable TV.
A rather easier task would be the detection of military radars. The bigger ones typically boast amegawatt of power, and they are focused into beams 1 or 2 degree across. There are enough suchradars that they cover about 1 percent of the sky at any given time. "The signal from the mostpowerful of these could be found at 50 light-years distance in a few minutes time with a receivingantenna 1,000 feet in diameter", Shostak (2003b) estimates. "These military radars are the onlysignals routinely transmitted from Earth that are intense enough to be detectable at interstellardistances with setups equivalent to our own SETI experiments. With radio technology slightly moreadvanced than our own, Homo sapiens is detectable out to a distance of roughly 50 light-years.Within that distance are about 5,000 stars, all of which have had the enviable pleasure of receivingterrestrial television. And each day, a fresh stellar system is exposed to signals from Earth." On theother hand it seems quite unlikely that another civilization exists within only 50 or 100 light-years.But this does not mean that Earth is not within the focus of alien observers. "Were no doubt listedin some alien grad students data tables as a world with life, but without the footnoteindicatingintelligent life", Shostak (2003b) joked. "We are the new kids on the block, and so far it’sa safe bet that none of the other kids know were here." But they would know that Earth is alivebecause it displays a great many biological indicators, for example atmospheric spectral signaturesindicating that there is organic activity on the planet (oxygen, methane etc.). In that respect,advanced civilizations could have known for up to 2 to 3 billion years that Earth is a habitableplanet. So there are expanding cultures out there, why didnt they visited or colonized Earthalready?This is one of the reasons for asking: Where are they? Why, if they are common, haven’t any ETscontacted or visited us already? (There is a vast literature on this issue, known as the Fermi Paradoxafter Enrico Fermis famous question "Where are they?" in 1950, cf. e.g. Zuckerman & Hart 1995;Webb 2002; Vaas 2010a.) So do they have no interest, or are they not able to come, or are theysimply not out there? In view of these questions, Hawkings worries might appear greatlyexaggerated. This is not the case, however, because there are other things that may attract ETs apartfrom colonization needs. Here one of these shall be briefly sketched, thereby giving a genuinereason to fear an invasion from outer space and another justification for Stephen Hawkings worry. 4. Interstellar ProselytizationIt is important to keep in mind that an active attempt to contact ETs, CETI (Communication withExtraterrestrial Intelligence) instead of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), is not thesame as the passive and involuntary signs of Earths biological activities: First the signals would(have to) be much stronger, and second they indicate our willingness to meet the aliens. This makesa difference, because exactly this can motivate some ETs to visit us – if they are eager to exploit notour resources but our minds: The most severe danger is not that ETs want our planet or our bodies –but that they want our souls.Though it is unlikely that souls exist as entities ontologically distinct from bodies, for instance asghostly Cartesian egos (Vaas 1999a & 2002b), it remains likely that there are intelligent beings whobelieve in the existence of such entities, just as many of our fellow humans still do. On Earth quasi-schizoid attitude systems such as hightech engineering abilities going hand-in-hand with old-fashioned belief in creationism are relatively common too, even in technologically advancedcivilizations like the United States of America.Thus it is a real possibility that alien astronauts would like to visit us for reasons of interstellarproselytization; and no belief in Cartesian dualism is necessary for this, of course – the ETs mighthold convictions we can hardly imagine. This sounds like science fiction, but there is already somescientific evidence right here on Earth, i.e. some examples and arguments from evolutionarypsychology and sociology. 4.1. Extraterrestrial Theologies – and Religions as Cosmic Universals?
Though there were some considerations about theological implications of ET contacts (cf., e.g.,Dick 2005, Kather 2004), speculations about the opposite, extraterrestrial theologies, are quite rare.Of course there is no reason to assume that religious belief is a psychological necessity of and forintelligent beings. Even if humans are "born believers", and this is what some scientists claim(Kelemen & DiYanni 2005; Bulbulia 2007) though the validity of the idea is disputed, and even ifreligiosity is an evolutionary by-product of an adaptive trait (cf. Boyer 2008; Pyysiäinen & Hauser2010; Sosis 2009; Vaas 2009bc, 2010c), such circumstances would not imply that every sentient,selfconscious being is affected by these urges of transcendence. Most ETs might never havedeveloped naïve belief systems or simply skipped such forms of psychological projections, wishfulthinking, and subtle manipulation, especially due to scientific and social progress, secularizationand enlightenment. But, on the other hand, there remains the possibility that there are some ultra-religious aliens out there. Religion might not be a cosmic universal – whether or not it is a humanuniversal (Antweiler 2007; Brown 1991) – but a few devout populations might be enough to fill notthe heavens but the sky. 4.2. The Great TemptationIt is rather speculative to think about the future of civilizations, especially extraterrestrial ones, yet aconsideration of their underlying psychological, biological, and cultural constraints may beilluminating. Perhaps technologically advanced intelligence has a tendency to be self-limiting, evenself-exterminating – either due to its owners’ evolutionary inheritance (becoming maladaptivebecause of the radically changed environment and dangerous technical abilities) or because ofecological and social problems. Furthermore, advanced civilizations, though they might not blowthemselves up, could become trapped in diverse kinds of stagnation, for instance spirituality oraddiction to entertainment, thus losing interest in space exploration. This is what Geoffrey Miller(2006) conjectured from the perspective of evolutionary psychology: "They forget to send radiosignals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-realitynarcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just aswe are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose thecosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to itsbrain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, whichfeels … ever so good."Evolution cannot anticipate novel environments. Modern society is such a novel environment. But itis possible for brains to evolve short-cuts: fitness-promoting tricks, cons, recipes and heuristics thatwork, more often than not, and under different conditions. Adapted to ancestral ecological andsocial environments, these short-cuts can go astray however. Evolved minds, such as those ofhigher primates, pay attention to indirect signs of biological fitness rather than tracking fitnessitself. Thus, although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness – as measured bynumbers of great-grandchildren, for instance, not just direct offspring –, no brain capacity sufficesto do so under every possible circumstance, because this would be computationally intractable. Andhere comes the problem: Modern society can fool the adapted minds and brains because fitness-faking technology tends to evolve much faster than the psychological resistance to it.Geoffrey Miller (2006) argued, "that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable afterany intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species – to shapetheir subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without thesubstance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time andresources to their pleasures, and less to their children. They eventually die out when the gamebehind all games – the Game of Life – says ‘Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot toreproduce.’"
Thus there might be a bottleneck in social evolution if reproduction falls below a certain threshold –though the other extreme, exponential population increase, seems a more imminent and much moreserious threat, so this must be brought under control first. Civilizations overcoming thosebottleneck(s) will solve the fitnessfaking problems. This might happen not only sociologically, butperhaps even biologically.Miller (2006) speculated about the latter: "Heritable variation in personality might allow somelineages to resist the Great Temptation and last longer. Some individuals and families may startwith an "irrational" Luddite abhorrence of entertainment technology, and they may evolve evermore self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtualentertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work,delayed gratification, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the familyvalues of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left. [...] Thosepractical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a fewother planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers andgame-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other onsurviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox." 4.3. Explosive Ideologies and Population ExplosionBut this sounds much too optimistic, even for Xbox abstainers. If reproductive outnumbering iswhat counts in evolution, ecological sustainability can hardly be maintained. Moreover,reproductive surplus is usually at the expense of others of the same, or other species. So it isdoubtful whether such a meeting of "super-parents" would happen peacefully with mutualcongratulations. Furthermore, it is not necessary that the resistance to the "Great Temptation"should be inherited, certainly not directly. Cultural habits and social pressures might be sufficient topreserve it. In any case, unbounded reproductive priorities will shape the course of civilizations, andthey accompany or are intended by ideological superstructures, especially religious ones. On Earth,at least, this is clearly the case. Here adherents of fundamentalist religions have, on the average,more children than moderate religious and secular people (reviews in Vaas & Blume 2009,Kaufmann 2010), welfare and educational levels considered. If these additional offspringcontinually outnumber those turning away from the religion, the fraction of fundamentalist peoplewould steadily increase, in spite of secularization – especially if levels of social injustice, correlatedwith religiosity and perhaps even abetted by it (Vaas 2010d), are high. Thus fundamentalistideologies, especially self-immunized religious ones, are likely to sustain population growth despitefitness-faking distractions. If so, expansionist extraterrestrial civilizations are probably religioushardliners.Their ecological challenges, of course, remain. But here fundamentalist religious doctrines mightalso be relevant. There are some indications that they foster and strengthen cooperation due tosocial control, diminishing the influence of free riders (who always undermine reciprocal altruisticcooperation), and thus at least partly solve problems such as the "Tragedy of the Commons" (cf.Irons 2001; Sosis 2004 & 2005; Vaas 2007bc; Schloss 2008).Thus, one might even put religiosity into a broader perspective. Though religious beliefs seem notto be true (there are powerful arguments that they are wrong, see e.g. Blackford & Schüklenk 2009;Everitt 2004; Martin 2007; Stenger 2007) and even confused mind and brain states (Brüne 2009;Persinger 1987; Urgesi et al. 2010) or just emotions and projections (Epley et al. 2009; Harris et al.2009; Vaas 2005bc, 2010b) or overactive pattern recognition mechanisms leading to superstition(Hood 2009), they have effects. And these effects could be a by-product of adaptive traits(obedience to authority, pseudo-explanations, superstition) or even have a more direct evolutionaryadvantage with regard to natural selection by fostering cooperation or improving health, or inrelation to sexual selection (see Vaas 2006a, 2009bc; Bulbulia 2008; Vaas & Blume 2009; Voland& Schiefenhövel 2009 for detailed critical reviews and discussion).
Furthermore, many fundamentalist religions are expansionist. As the Pilgrim Fathers, the Mormonsand many others on Earth explored and populated new and even harsh environments, religious ETsmight also be colonizing outer space to cope with their population increase. And they most likelyfeel themselves called upon to "spread the word" if they are able – perhaps even beyond their ownspecies. Thus if they happen to receive contact calls from Earth, they might soon visit us in searchof new followers and believers. And if we do not follow and believe, they might bring us their"truth" with fire and sword… 4.4. Shall the Religious Inherit the Milky Way?Of course, no single step in this sketch of extraterrestrial cultural development is necessary and self-evident. But if it were to take place it might be self-sustaining and self-enforcing, leading to socialand perhaps even biological selective advantages. The latter, depending on genetic constraints, aremore controversial (cf. Vaas 2005d for spirituality), but need not to imply specific genes "forreligiosity" – religiosity might simply be a by-product or "parasitic meme" based on other traitssuch as obedience to authority (Bouchard 2009, Vaas 2010d).Summing up, fundamentalist belief-systems could be a driving force for cultural proliferation,interstellar expansion included. If such fundamentalist doctrines are successful, and as an object ofcultural (or memetic) selection (Dawkins 1993) they very well could be, then they even might crossthe borders of species. Thus one can imagine expanding extraterrestrial civilizations that are drivenby religious doctrines and occupied with a cosmic kind of evangelization – the extreme case beingthat invaded inferior civilizations either subscribe to those doctrines or simply get eradicated.Such a scenario is not that speculative. On Earth there are many small-scale examples of it. (Ofcourse religion is not the only such driving force.) Indeed the colonization and subjugation of theAmericas, which Stephen Hawking also mentioned, was driven by a complex interplay ofeconomical, political, military and religious factors. And this is just one example. Furthermore, suchstruggles are continuing globally, and future clashes of civilizations are probable. Reproductionrates of fundamentalists such as Christian Pentecostals, radical Muslims, orthodox Jews and alsolesser known, much more peaceful groups such as the Amish and the Hutterites are high. Thereforeperhaps this "breeding for God", as Stuart Kaufmann (2006 & 2010) calls it, implies that "thereligious shall inherit the Earth". This tendency can be combined with Geoffrey Miller’s view. Hepointed out (2006) that "Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activistsalready understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulatethemselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patientlyfor our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct."Religious convictions might not be psychologically necessary. But, on the other hand, neither is it anecessity that all advanced civilizations abandon strange, non-verifiable beliefs in transcendententities. Just a few of them would be enough to conquer the galaxy if sufficiently motivated. Andmore peaceful, wiser secular civilizations might be completely at the mercy of their spiritual andaccompanying military attacks. An obviously increasing threat here on Earth too.In conclusion, it is likely that if ETs visit Earth, interstellar proselytization will come with them.Thus they might force us to make a choice between complete subjugation or becoming extinct. (Itwould be a galactic version of the "cuius region, eius religio" rule: "whose realm, his religion".) It isalso possible and even more alarming that the dominant fundamentalist doctrine may be based on auniqueness dogma claiming superiority of the adherents and a dualistic good / evil scheme: acosmic Armageddon. So if these devotional civilizations spread "successfully" in this manner,mankind, standing in their way, will simply be thrown aside from the road of salvation, like alldissenters. The winner takes it all.4.5. The Hazard of FaithAll these considerations might appear far-fetched. But they arent. We have these same problemsand hazards right here on Earth at present, albeit on smaller scales. But if we cannot and will not
hold the ideologists at bay, they will sooner or later devastate our own planet or at least the fruits ofour scientific and philosophical cultures long before frenzied aliens will do.Religiosity and religions are not always, and not in every case, devastating, of course. But becauseof their inherent tendency to claim infallible truth and even absolute relevation, in the extremeimmunity to any criticism, they carry the evil seeds of intolerance (Dawkins 2006a; Grayling 2007;Hitchens 2007; Persinger 1997). This may go as far as condoning killing of all non-believers – or atleast opening the door for such (mis)use by fanatics, and allowing those greedy for power to exploitthem for their own purposes.Even if religion was useful or advantageous in the past, it might be harmful and detrimentalnowadays or in the future. The main problem is that ideological dogmas – and there are not onlyreligious ones! –, claiming to own absolute, infallible truths, can and often did motivate people todehumanize and debase others. As Steven Weinberg (2001, p. 174) once wrote: "with or withoutreligion, good people would tend to behave well and bad people would do evil things, but thepeculiar contribution of religion throughout history has been to allow good people do evil things."It is religious ideology or, according to people like Richard Dawkins (2006a), religious delusion,i.e. madness, which provides a strong motivation for galactic colonization and the concomitantcosmic dangers. In certain social contexts, religious doctrines (i.e. mind or brain states, not free-floating ideas) can act as powerful motivational forces (meant as a heuristic description withoutontological implications or connotations); this should not be underestimated or considered onlywith respect to Earthly circumstances. And that seems also to be the main justification for, andapplicability of Stephen Hawkings warning. It is interstellar proselytization, combined with avariceand inclemency, which we should fear most – and for which there are numerous examples in humanhistory. As Richard Dawkins once wrote (2006b, p. 330 f): "Faith cannot move mountains (thoughgenerations of children are solemnly told the contrary and believe it). But it is capable of drivingpeople to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness. It leadspeople to believe in whatever it is so strongly that in extreme cases they are prepared to kill and diefor it without the need for further justification. […] Faith is powerful enough to immunize peopleagainst all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them againstfear, if they honestly believe that a martyrs death will send them straight to heaven. What aweapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an evenfooting with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb." – Why shouldextraterrestrial faith be any better in these respects? 5. DiscussionIt is not claimed here that ETs who inhabit the Milky Way and want to contact or visit us arenecessarily malevolent. On the contrary, there are also arguments suggesting that advancedcivilizations should be peaceful and wise, otherwise they would have blown up themselves beforecolonizing space (cf. von Hoerner 2003). Thus there could be a kind of self-deselection ofaggressive, destructive character traits. But this is not necessarily the case. Even if there is only onespecies, or just a small minority, its individuals, driven by strong ideological motivation, these alienbeings might spread out across the whole galaxy if nobody can or wants to stop them. 5.1. SETI Yes, CETI NoSo Stephen Hawkings worries are justified: We should indeed not actively try to contact ETsbecause the risks are still much higher than the potential gains, and we have a lot to lose. However,this does not mean we should abandon the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. On the contrary,SETI gains a further justification. It is not only basic research that might help us to betterunderstand life and our place in the universe. It is also pre-emptive defense. If there are ETs in ourneighborhood, already detectable within the limits of our current technology, we had better watch
out and be prepared for contact, however and whenever it comes. At the moment it is certainlybetter to stay silent.If ETs are out there, they have probably spotted us already, or will soon do so. And they should betechnologically more advanced (otherwise there is no need to fear them). Because of this, it shouldbe much easier and cheaper for them to contact us. Direct messages are far more effective than all-sky transmissions. And we do not know where to send our messages.In any case it is much too early to broadcast. We know almost nothing about what is going on inouter space (if anything); we have just begun to explore radio frequencies and only recently startedsome searches for optical (i.e. laser) signals; but ETs might use completely different and much moreeffective channels like neutrinos, axions, or gravitational waves, which are still completely beyondour reach. Thus, until SETI, in its listening mode, is much more advanced than today and until wehave scanned most of the sky at many different wavelengths, it is not only to early but alsodownright naïve to beam messages into the sky. Searching, i.e. listening, is good and important, butcalling for contact, i.e. transmitting, is not. By the way this is also Stephen Hawkings position(2002, p. 65). 5.2. Accidental ExistenceOne of the most remarkable developments in human cultural history was the recognition of our tinyplace in the vast universe (or perhaps multiverse), and that we are not obviously meant to be here.The overcoming of a naïve and infantile anthropocentrism, that the universe is there for us, and,strangely connected, that an all-compassing god is there for us too (and vice versa) was one ofmans great – and still not fully accomplished – achievements: an "emergence from his self-incurredimmaturity" (Immanuel Kant). Darwinian theory of evolution suggested that man, and indeed lifeitself, was not ingeniously designed, but a result of self-organizing processes, a "fruit of chance andnecessity", as Jacques Monod (1970) used to cite Democritus. Astrophysics, big bang theory and,finally, the still speculative scenarios of quantum cosmology (cf. Vaas 2009a, 2010ef) taught thesame lesson albeit on much larger scales: The emergence of intelligence was more or less anaccident, not meant to be there in a universe that is indifferent to lifes concerns, goals and values.However, in intelligent, self-conscious beings like humans the universe at least became partly awareof itself, poetically speaking.But self- and I-consciousness also revealed the absurdity of life in the face of chance, futility andmisery (Vaas 1995, 2006b & 2008b). The shirking of belief in transcendent creators or in analmighty, omnibenevolent god, though perhaps consolatory for some, cannot surmount absurditybecause misery, injustice and death would be even more scandalous, thus antitheism should be thenatural reaction (Vaas 1999b). Anyway, it is hard to accept for intentional, goal-oriented beings toregard the sometimes sophisticated structures of nature as the result of "blind" self-organizedprocesses. Although exactly this is the scientific approach casting out any exigencies for designassumptions or teleological explanations, psychological resistance might prevent ETs fromaccepting it – as it is common here on Earth too.5.3. Another Solution for Fermis ParadoxOne might object that interstellar proselytization would be no danger but a kind of cosmic first aid –perhaps even saving us from self-destruction. Or taking ancient astronaut theories more seriouslythan they deserve, one might even speculate that extraterrestrial mission has already been tried onEarth. For example in their book Intelligent Life in the Universe Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskii andCarl Sagan (1966) devote a chapter to the suggestion that historians and scientists should take intoaccount the possibility that extraterrestrial contact occurred during prehistory or recorded history.Shklovskii and Sagan stressed that these ideas were entirely unproven. But it is not absolutelyimpossible that cosmic Evangelists have already appeared and seeded Earth with "viruses of themind", as Richard Dawkins (1991) characterized religious ideas.
Such considerations, however, are beyond the scope of this argument. Under certain conditionsreligions and proselytization might or might not be beneficial. But as aggressive ideologies theywould not. And this is the threat Hawking worries about – a threat nobody should deny orminimize. After all mankinds history has many examples of missionaries, the Crusades, theConquistadors, the Inquisitions, and so on, being sent to convert other people or to kill them if theydo not comply with the ideology (cf., e.g., Burman 2004; Holt 2005, Innes 2002; Schwerhoff 2004).One can also object that interstellar proselytization might threaten our freedom, but not our lives –because dead bodies cannot be converted – but who knows…? However, this could be provedwrong, not only by cosmic Armageddon doctrines – restricting freedom is necessarily life-threatening, at least for some people. And even if interstellar Evangelists chose not to kill or enslaveus, do we really want to be brainwashed once more by obscure doctrines, as has happened alreadythroughout much of human history and still happens today? We should resist false promises,metaphysical shirking and cowardice. And we should stand up for a secular naturalism includingthe ultimate absurdity of life and tragic individualism (Vaas 2008b); it might sound uncomfortable,but at least it seems honorable, honest, and true.If we take the idea of potentially life-threatening interstellar missionaries seriously, and it wasargued here that we should, this idea could even offer a (weak-anthropic-principle- like) solution(cf. Vaas 2004) to Fermis paradox: ETs are not here, because if they were, we wouldnt be.Acknowledgments and dedication: It is a pleasure and honor to thank Angela Lahee for very helpfuland timely comments and suggestions. Thanks also to Jill Tarter and Frank Drake for an inspiringcontact years ago, to Jenny Wagner for discussion, and to André Spiegel for an important reference.– This paper is dedicated in memoriam to Sebastian von Hoerner, though he probably would havebeen skeptical about parts of it; for me it was always a pleasure to discuss with him and to learnfrom him as well as sharing the experience of radio astronomy, especially at the Green BankObservatory.ReferencesAntweiler, C. (2007). Was ist den Menschen gemeinsam? Darmstadt: WissenschaftlicheBuchgesellschaft.Blackford, R., Schüklenk, U. (eds.) (2009). 50 Voices of Disbelief. Chichester: Wiley- Blackwell.Bouchard, T. J. (2009). Authoritarianism, Religiousness, and Conservatism. In: Voland, E.,Schiefenhövel, W. (eds.) (2009). The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior.Heidelberg: Springer, 165-180.Boyer, P. (2008). Being Human. Nature 455, 1038-1039.Brown, D. E. (1991). Human Universals. New York: Temple University Press.Brüne, M. (2009). On Shared Psychological Mechanisms of Religiousness and Delusional Beliefs.In: Voland, E., Schiefenhövel, W. (eds.) (2009). The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind andBehavior. Heidelberg: Springer, 217-228.Bulbulia, J. A. (2007). The evolution of religion. In: Dunbar, R. I. M., Barrett, L. (eds.) (2007). TheOxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 621- 637.Bulbulia, J. et al. (eds.) (2008). The Evolution of Religion. Santa Margarita: Collins FoundationPress.Burman, E. (2004). The Inquisition: Gloustershire: Sutton.Cosmovici, C.-B., Bowyer, S., Werthimer, D. (eds.) (1997). Bioastronomy. Bologna: EditriceCompositori.Dawkins, R. (1993). Viruses of the Mind. In: Dahlbom, B. (ed.). Dennett and his critics. Oxford:Blackwell, 13-27.Dawkins, R. (2006a). The God Delusion. London: Bantam Press.Dawkins, R. (2006b). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 330 fDick, S. J. (2005). Kosmoltheologie – neu betrachtet. In: Wabbel, T. D. (ed.) (2005). Leben im All.Düsseldorf: Patmos, 156-172.Drake, F., Sobel, D. (1992). Is Anyone Out There? New York: Delacorte.
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Visser, M. (1996). Lorentzian Wormholes. Woodbury: American Institute of Physics Press.Voland, E., Schiefenhövel, W. (eds.) (2009). The Biological Evolution of Religious Mind andBehavior. Heidelberg: Springer.von Bloh, W. et al. (2009). Habitability of Super-Earth Planets around Other Suns: Modelsincluding Red Giant Branch Evolution. Astrobiology 9, 593-602; arXiv:0812.1027von Hoerner, S. (2003). Sind wir allein? München: Beck.Ward, P. D. Brownlee, D. (2000). Rare Earth. New York: Copernicus.Webb, S. (2002). If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? New York:Copernicus Books.Weinberg, S. (2001). A Universe with No Designer. In: Miller, J. B. (ed.) (2001). CosmicQuestions. New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 169-174.Zaun, H. (2010). SETI – Die wissenschaftliche Suche nach außerirdischen Zivilisationen.Hannover: Heise.Zuckerman, B., Hart, M. H. (eds.) (1995). Extraterrestrials: Where Are They? Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.7. Are Intelligent Aliens a Threat to Humanity? Diseases (Viruses,Bacteria) From Space. Chandra Wickramasinghe, Ph.D., Centre forAstrobiology, Cardiff University, UKAbstract: The idea that intelligent aliens could be a threat to humanity is reviewed. It is shown thatthe arrival of intelligent aliens on Earth is neither likely nor indeed potentially threatening. Viralinvaders from space are likely to pose the most significant and recurrent threat in the future.On the panspermia hypothesis the genetic components that led to life on Earth are omnipresent inthe galaxy, so the same or similar genes that arrived here would also arrive at the surfaces of otherplanets (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1982; Joseph, 2009; Joseph and Schild 2010). Every niche inevery habitable planet in the galaxy would then be colonized with unity probability thus leading tothe widespread occurrence of microbial life. The fraction that eventually evolves into higher life isdebatable, but with identical genetic structures delivered to a multitude of similar environments andplanetary niches self-similar patterns of evolution and a convergence of evolution could beexpected. In terrestrial life for instance, the evolution of the eye is achieved independently at leastthrice. Intelligence of the kind humans process may be argued to have some measure of survivaladvantage in that a greater capacity to understand our environment would lead to greater skills atmanipulating it to our advantage. On this basis high levels of intelligence could be understood as acosmic evolutionary imperative. It is also unwise to regard ourselves – homo sapiens sapiens – asthe culmination of this evolutionary process. With just a million years or so of human evolutiontowards it would seem that the experiment of intelligence has scarcely begun on Earth. Thuscreatures endowed with higher levels of intelligence could well be commonplace in the Universe.Let us next estimate the number of habitable planets in our Galaxy. With about 500 exoplanetsdiscovered thus far mostly within ~ 30 pc of us, it would be reasonable to conjecture that about 25%of main sequence stars are endowed with planets. Most of the planets that have been observed,however, are of Jupiter mass, and a large fraction orbit stars in a binary pair. It is difficult toestimate the number of planets that are in non-binary systems and therefore in stable orbits. It isonly in such cases that one could expect evolution that leads to higher life and eventuallyintelligence. At a reasonable guess one might expect to find billion such planets corresponding to –1% of main sequence stars.The number of planets N carrying intelligent life in the Galaxy could now be derived from asimplified form of Drake’s equation:
N≈n L(yr)/t(yr)Here n is the total number of habitable planets in the galaxy, L is the average lifetime in years of anintelligent civilization, and t is the main sequence age of a star. With t ≈ 5 x 109 yr and n ≈ 109 wethen haveN≈15L (yr)The prospects for visitations from ETI, benign or otherwise, depends on the value of L we choosefor the lifetime of intelligent or superintelligent life on a planet. An upper limit would of course bedefined by a main sequence lifetime, ~ 109 yr, but more realistically it will be shorter. Our humanexperience on Earth over the past century does not give much confidence in choosing much highervalues of L than say 500 yr. In this case we have N = 100 as the steady-state grand total ofadvanced intelligent civilizations throughout the galaxy. Such pessimism is based on the simple factthat today’s nuclear arsenals of the world have enough fire power to extinguish all life on the planet,and it is difficult to imagine that this would not be an eventual outcome of unbridled human greedfor power and control. However, if the next stage in the evolution of intelligence is to adopt astrategy of non-violent co-existence, then it could be that L will be much higher. For argument’ssake, taking L to have an optimistically high value of ~108years, the number of planets endowedwith intelligent life becomes 2x107 and their mean separation in the galactic disc ~ 10pc. If we arethinking of space-faring intelligent aliens being optimistically able to travel at a tenth of the speedof light, the average crossing time between adjacent civilizations will be ~ 300yr.If one now considers the expansion of a single power-hungry civilization, colonization mightproceed in an expanding wavefront across the set of habitable planets as shown in Fig. 1. If to thecrossing time (at one tenth the speed of light) of 300 years we add a recuperation time of say ~ 700years, each step in the expanding wavefront would take ~ 1000 years, and to cross the entire galaxywould take a few million years. (This is a variant of the argument used earlier by Enrico Fermi toargue that if intelligent life exists elsewhere we should have been colonized already.) Thisargument, however, is based on the assumption that the behavior of superintelligent spacecolonizers could be modeled on predator-prey relationships found in lower life on the Earth, as wellas on the history of our own colonization and conquest of more primitive tribes.Even with the most favourable set of assumptions the model is suspect however. With the numericalvalues chosen in this example, our space colonisers would need to have biological generation time(mean life-span) considerably in excess of ours. Otherwise, we have to posit that the potentialpredator embarks on a space voyage that benefits not its own generation but several generations intothe future. No example exists on Earth where this model applies, either naturally in the living world,or in a sociological context. Indeed our modern politicians find it difficult to plan for the well-beingof society beyond even a few electoral terms of office!Colonisation of a galaxy via the process of directed panspermia (Crick and Orgel, 1973) offers amuch better prospect. An advanced technological civilization facing the prospect of imminentextinction may well decide to package its genetic heritage within microbes, including viruses, andlaunch them out into space. They might even consider targeting comets of their own planetarysystem as a first staging post, where gene packages might become amplified in vast numbers. Thespread across the galaxy would then be greatly facilitated. No expensive rocket system is needed.The genetic packages are of the right sizes for their propulsion by the radiation pressure of starlightto be guaranteed (Wickramasinghe and Wickramasinghe, 2003; Wickramasinghe, Wickramasinghe& Napier, 2010). Although a large fraction of such space travelling genes will perish in transit, thereassembly of surviving genes on habitable planets would lead indirectly to galactic colonization.The real risk to humanity of alien life may be in the form of viral and bacterial genomes arriving atthe Earth which are sometimes pathogenic (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). Fred Hoyle and thepresent author have argued the thesis of “Diseases from Space” over several decades (Hoyle andWickramasinghe, 1979, 1982, 1990; Hoyle et al, 1985; Wickramasinghe et al, 2003). Despitecriticisms that have often been made against this concept the basic arguments remain cogent to thepresent day (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). With increasing evidence to support the view that
life could not have arisen indigenously on the Earth, the idea that the evolution of life is modulatedby genes arriving from comets has acquired a new significance. Darwinian evolution operates in anopen system where new genes continue to be added from a cosmic source. Pandemics of viral andbacterial disease become an inevitable part of this thesis. One could argue that if not for suchgenetic additions from outside, evolution would have come to a standstill a long time ago (Hoyleand Wickramasinghe, 1982; Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). In this context it should be notedthat the human genome has recently been found to contain more than 50 percent of its content in theform of well defined inert viral genes. It is possible to understand this data if our ancestral line ofdescent over a few million years had suffered a succession of near-culling events followingoutbreaks of viral pandemics (Joseph and Wickramasinghe 2010). On each such occasion only asmall breeding group survived the members of which had assimilated the virus into theirreproductive line.Expanding wavefront of galactic colonisation.Hoyle and the present author have cited numerous instances from the history of medicine whereoutbreaks of pandemic disease could be elegantly explained in terms of space incident viruses. Eventhe modern scourge of influenza is likely to be driven by periodic injections of genetic componentsfrom space. Aspects of the epidemiology of influenza otherwise remains difficult to explain (Hoyleand Wickramasinghe, 1979, 1991).In conclusion, we note that the aliens we have to fear are not superintelligent creatures arriving inspace ships and intending to conquer and subdue us, but sub-micron sized viral invaders that maythreaten the very existence of our species.ReferencesCrick, F. H. C. and Orgel, L. E. (1973). Directed Panspermia, Icarus, 19, pp. 341-346.Hoyle F., Wickramasinghe N.C.(1979). Diseases from Space (J.M. Dent, Lond).Hoyle F., Wickramasinghe N.C.(1982). Proofs that Life is Cosmic. Mem. Inst. Fund. Studies SriLanka, No. 1 (www.panspermia.org/proofslifeiscosmic.pdf).Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, N.C., (1990) Influenza - evidence against contagion: discussion paper,J.Roy.Soc.Med., 83, 258.Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, N.C. (1986) Viruses from Space (Univ. Coll. Cardiff Press, 1986).Hoyle, F., Wickramasinghe, N.C., Watkins, J., (1985). Legionnaires’ Disease: Seeking a widercause, The Lancet, 25 May 1985, p.1216.Joseph R. (2009). The evolution of life from other planets. Journal of Cosmology, 1, 100-200.Joseph, R. and Schild, R. (2010). Origins, evolution, and distribution of life in the cosmos:Panspermia, genetics, microbes, and viral visitors from the stars. Journal of Cosmology, 7. In press.
Joseph, R., and Wickramasinghe, C. (2010). Comets and contagion: Evolution and diseases fromspace. ournal of Cosmology, 7. In press.Wickramasinghe, C., Wainwright, M., Narlikar, J., (2003), SARS - a clue to its origins, Lancet,Vol. 361, May 24, p.1832.Wickramasinghe N.C., Wickramasinghe J.T. (2003). Radiation pressure on bacterial clumps in thesolar vicinity and their survival between interstellar transits. Astrophys. Space Sci. 286, 453 -- 459.Wickramasinghe J., Wickramasinghe N.C., Napier W.M. (2010). Comets and the Origin of Life.World Scientific, Singapore.8. Aliens and Stephen Hawking: The Wisdom Principle. PushkarGanesh Vaidya, Indian Astrobiology Research Centre, Mumbai –400103, Maharashtra, India.THE WISDOM PRINCIPLESubjugation by aliens is a clear danger. It can be military subjugation, cultural subjugation or evenmisguided attempts to uplift Human civilization and in the process destroying the very nature of theHuman civilization (Dick and Harrison 2000).Dr. Hawking’s assertion is analogous to what is known as the “The Wisdom Principle". It states that“Any advanced civilization in the universe does not want to be visited ‘first’ by any other moreadvanced civilization” (Vaidya 2002). In short, it would be ‘wise’ of a civilization to ensure that itdoes not play host to any advanced alien race.Interestingly though, even if we are not too keen to announce our presence, aliens can still find us.We are already detectable within 50 light-years, courtesy our transmissions and everyday a newstellar system is exposed to signals from Earth (Shostak 2003).ALIENS AND NATURAL SELECTIONIt has been speculated that life anywhere in the universe will be underpinned by Natural Selection.Richard Dawkins writes in The Blind Watchmaker “One way to dramatize this point is to make aprediction. I predict that, if a form of life is ever discovered in another part of the universe, howeveroutlandish and weirdly alien that form of life may be in detail, it will be found to resemble life onearth in one key respect: it will have evolved by some kind of Darwinian natural selection”(Dawkins 1996).A similar speculation is made by John Maynard Smith in his The Theory of Evolution “Darwinstheory of evolution by natural selection is the only workable explanation that has ever beenproposed for the remarkable fact of our own existence, indeed the existence of all life wherever itmay turn up in the universe. It is the only known explanation for the rich diversity of animals, pants,fungi and bacteria” (Maynard Smith 2000).Just as the laws of physics have been found to hold universally; it has been speculated that theDarwinian natural selection will hold universally and so would the famous “survival of the fittest”concept. Thus, we have good reason to believe that aggressive instincts will be present in aliens aswell. To what extent aliens can curb their aggressive instincts (or else they will possibly self-destruct) is anybody’s guess. Will aliens be proactively aggressive, reactively aggressive orpractitioners of Gandhian non-violence?ALIENS: A WORD OF CAUTION
The premise of Dr. Stephen Hawkings’s recent warning and that of the Wisdom Principle is that ofcaution. Do we really want technologically advanced aliens to visit us first? What would become ofthe human race if alien visitations became a reality?We are doing well on Earth today because we are the most intelligent and technologically advancedof all the Earthly creatures. For us to do well in the universe and be safe, we will have to be themost technologically advanced creatures in the universe or be wise enough to not get subjugated bya more technologically advanced alien civilization. If we thought the struggle for existence wasover then we must think again.REFERENCESVaidya, P.G. (2002). The Wisdom Principle. Akash Darpan, Jan-Feb 2002, pp.17-18.Dick, S., Harrison, A. (2000) Contact: Long-term Implications for Humanity. In: When SETISucceeds: The Impact of High-Information Contact. The Foundation For the Future, Washington,pp.20.Dawkins, R. (1996). Doomed Rivals. In: The Blind Watchmaker. Norton & Company, Inc, NewYork, pp.288.Maynard Smith, J. (2000). Foreword to the Canto Edition. In: The Theory of Evolution, CambridgeUniversity Press, U.K, pp. xv.Shostak, S. (2003). Can Aliens Find Us? Retrieved 12:48, April 28, 2010, fromhttp://www.seti.org/Page.aspx?pid=7519. Why Should Hawkings Aliens Wish To Destroy? GianCarloGhirardi, Ph.D., Dept. of Physics, University of Trieste, the AbdusSalam ICTP, Trieste, Italy.It is my firm conviction that, in principle, there are no reasons to exclude that there might be livingcreatures on other planets or celestial bodies in the cosmos. Yet why should they wish to target anddestroy the inhabited planets of the universe? To better focus the general issue let us take intoaccount that our existence on Earth is surely quite limited on cosmological time scales, modernhumans have existed for less than an eye-blink of cosmological time, and that the cosmos has aradius of various billions of light years, as well as the fact that nothing can travel faster than light.Therefore, if these hypothetical alien beings have lived in a similar time span, then the probabilitythat by endless travel they might reach us now or in any reasonable time interval from now, isinfinitesimally small. So it seems to me that Hawkings hypothesis is not unreasonable but is morein the realm of science fiction than a realistic scenario.Hawking has raised several issues which appear to me to be rather obscure and confusing. If aliensare microbes or human, why would these aliens wish to destroy human life? If an alien civilizationhas been able to build giant spaceships which can travel through space for many many light yearsand have built destructive devices which would allow them to conquer, enslave, destroy andcolonize the terrestrials of Earth, then their civilization must surely be more advanced, from ascientific and technological point of view, than ours. This point of view makes also me inclined tobelieve that these aliens could not be like microbes or insects, at least to the extent in which weattach a precise meaning, based on our experience, to these terms. There is no evidence thatmicrobes or insects look to the heavens and ponder questions such as "are we alone", nor is thereany suggestion they would be interested in space travel. These are "human" attributes which wemust not impart upon hypothetical aliens.And if Hawkings aliens are anything like humans, then I am optimistic, in a certain sense, that theirscientific development should be accompained also by an ethical development, and might value life.
Certainly these beings would realize that there is life on the earth, and would not be motivated toauthomatically enslave or destroy other living beeings, as these are rather primitive, unthinking,reactions, and not the mark of what we might expect of a higher culture and ethics. And if life iseverywhere, then it might be expected that these alien wanderers would not only see it as pointlessto destroy life, but might develop a respect for all the living creatures they would have met in theirendless travel. Curiosity and the desire to acquire knowledge does not equate a desire to conquerand destroy.The first "aliens" we encounter may not even be alive. I believe that a civilization which hasdeveloped robots is a civilizations of intelligent beings. Accordingly, they might very well sendrobots to explore the cosmos. However, this again presents us with the problem of time. The timeneeded to journey to Earth from the nearest solar system in which intelligent life might have beenevolved, is enormous, and probably comparable to the total period of existence of the consideredintelligent species. Then, which would be the purpose of sending robots to such far away regions ofthe cosmos that the time necessary for these robots to send back the information concerning whatthey have discovered would bypass the probable period of existence of the aliens of the homeplanety who have sent them around? Accordingly, it also seems reasonable to assume thatHawkings giant spaceship would contain both robots and their intelligent builders. Therefore, theymight take their civilization with them. However, unless they have discovered the secret of eternallife and cannot evolve or change, they again might change their minds before they reach Earth, anddecide not to conquer or destroy. So, there is the possibility they could come in peace and also theone that they change their minds during the many lights years such a journey would take.I am perfectly aware of the fact that I am tackling the problem by assuming a perspective thatreflects, to a great extent, our present knowledge of the cosmos and of the natural and biologicallaws. An easy objection would be to configure the development of hybernation techniques allowingto preserve a living being for billions of years or to suggest that presently unknown topologicalstructure of the cosmos would allow faster than light travels.And then there is the idea of "shoot first and ask questions later", a view which I do not endorse. Ibelieve that action must be preceded by knowledge and reflection even in the case in which thismight imply serious risks of destruction.10. The Dangers of Anti-Science: Stephen Hawking’s Fear ofDangerous Aliens. Stephen Freeland, Ph.D., University of HawaiiNASA Astrobiology Institute, Institute for Astronomy, Honolulu,Hawaii, USAScientific knowledge is quite different from the authoritatively-voiced opinions of a famousscientist. The remarkable scientific successes that have brought professor Hawking well-deservedfame (and thus a voice that the public wants to hear) also bring a responsibility to clearlydistinguish these two different types of information when commenting on the potential dangers ofan encounter with extra-terrestrial intelligence. Listeners are otherwise led to one of two incorrectinferences: that scientific knowledge exists where it does not, or that speculation is the best thatscience can currently offer. Both perceptions undermine the emerging and vibrant science ofastrobiology. No one has yet come up with a scientific test for Hawking’s specific claim (and thatis precisely what makes his comments unscientific) but thousands are applying their ingenuity andexpertise to find ways in which science can approach aspects of the bigger questions of life’sorigin(s), evolution, distribution, and future in the universe (see: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/about-astrobiology). Ironically, on the same evening that Hawking’s opinions were aired on U.S.television, hundreds of astrobiologists were converging in League City, Texas for the annual
Astriobology Science Convention-- the largest such conference in the world. Presenters includerepresentatives from the SETI Institute, whose science focuses on the question of what science caninfer regarding communications with an intelligent alien species. I doubt that any of them will beopining about the origin and early evolution of the universe as if professor Hawking’s field ofscience did not exist (and if they did, this would be quickly addressed by the criticisms ofcolleagues in the frank exchange of knowledge that marks a healthy science).But a deeper, underlying problem is that supposedly science-friendly mass media are actuallyweakening public understanding of what constitutes science when they replace scientificinformation with the opinions of a famous scientist. Scientific inquiry represents just one of severalapproaches by which we humans form our beliefs: alternatives include pure reasoning, “argumentsfrom authority” and instinct. Science is distinguished from these alternatives only by its focus onwhat can be tested empirically. Even the most brilliant minds can perceive truths that seem rational(logical) and perhaps even obvious - but which fail when formulated as testable propositions andmeasured against empirical observations. Aristotle’s famously erroneous philosophy that womenpossess fewer teeth than men (Mayhew 2004) could have been transformed into a foundation forscientific inquiry by the simple expedient of recording careful measurements in the good-humoredcompany of one of his wives. The problem was not that Aristotle failed to notice this possibility -indeed, he may have started with observations for all we know (Mayhew 2004)- but his sub-cultureheld logical reasoning superior to the information of the senses, so no supporting empirical datawere offered and it was left for later investigators to find that his reasoning had failed him.Subsequent generations have worked hard to disentangle the strengths and weaknesses of Greekrational philosophy, sometimes finding that specific assertions possessed no more solid foundationthan the authority of a famous voice. The emergence of modern science is largely the story of itsinvention and runaway success as a tool for distinguishing between good and bad ideas of naturalphilosophy. This success has gone on to shape a culture that now values empirical evidence abovereason: the information of our senses, properly channeled into scientific tests, is widely held as theultimate arbiter of truth (Evidence for this widespread cultural perspective is seen, for example, inthe popularity of crime-related entertainment where detectives follow the empirical clues toconfound prejudice and common-sense; the recent trend for forensic science to play a central rolemerely emphasizes this point). In this context, it undermines the very notion that science hasbrought us progress if we now turn and blur the distinction between scientist and science.Scientists, like rational philosophers, are humans and prone to the same range of belief-formingtendencies as the rest of us whenever they are not actively practicing their science: even the mostextraordinary achievements in one dimension of scientific inquiry do not imbue a scientist’s beliefswith automatic credibility on any other topic. One example of direct relevance to the theme ofpanspermia concerns sir Fred Hoyle’s infamous statements for disbelieving conventional science ofbiological evolution (Hoyle 1981). Although most evolutionary scientists utterly reject the “HoyleFallacy” as a trivial error (e.g. Dawkins 1986), Hoyles opinions still routinely appear four decadeslater in anti-evolutionary literature as evidence that eminent scientists have found fundamentalflaws in the theory of evolution ( Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/243/).Thus, when Stephen Hawking (or any other scientist) find themselves speaking as a scientist on thelikely nature of visiting aliens, they have a responsibility to defend the integrity of science by eitherdemonstrating the scientific basis (empirical tests) for what is being said, or clearly explaining theother (non-scientific) credentials for their information. Failure to do so can hardly help the growingproblem of scientific illiteracy in the USA and elsewhere (California Academy of Sciences 2009).ReferencesCalifornia Academy of Sciences (2009). American Adults Flunk Basic Science. ScienceDaily.Retrieved April 29, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/03/090312115133.htmDawkins R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. Harlow: Longman Scientific & Technical.Hoyle, F. (1981). In "Hoyle on Evolution", Nature, 294, 105.
Mayhew, R. (2004). The Female in Aristotles Biology. Reason or Rationalization. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2004. Pp. x, 128. ISBN 0-226-51200-2.11. Who’s Afraid of Hawking’s Aliens? Arpita Roy, Ph.D.1, James D.Wells, Ph.D.2,3, 1Department of Anthropology, University ofCalifornia, Berkeley Berkeley, CA USA, 2CERN, Theory Group 385Route de Meyrin CH-1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland, 3 Department ofPhysics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI USAA dog discovers another dog at a garbage dump. The first dog bares its teeth. This stimulates theother dog to respond by a growl. The most interesting aspects of this encounter are the signs and thestimulus given off, the absence of any verbal communication, and the sizing-up prowl of theanimals. The mere sighting of the “other” is not inherently dangerous, but the subsequentengagement can be if one views it in his best interest to fight for whatever reason. Hawking’scomment on the dangers of seeking out aliens (Hawking, 2010) provokes us to think not so muchon whether aliens exist or not but on our capacity to imagine what they could be like if they were toexist, the scenarios of possible interaction, and the pragmatics of contact. Engagement with theextraterrestrial has three stages: discovery, monitoring, and contact. Discovery can be safe -- wepassively look for signals of alien activity from afar. There is no reason not to do that. We would beimprudent even not to. America spies on Canada, to name just one other hyper-careful act. On theother hand, it is not prudent to send out probes into the cosmos with a plaque bearing our returnaddress as was the case with the Pioneer 10 and 11 space crafts, launched in 1972 and 1973.Monitoring leads to risks as we may wish to utilize interventionist technologies to find out more, orsimply approach to study the phenomenon at close range, thus provoking a reaction. Here extremecaution should be displayed, and contingencies envisioning all possible consequences should beformulated. Contact is even more risky, with the prospect of malevolent beings colonizing andplundering us, or even benevolent or dispassionate beings unwittingly spreading diseases or agentsthat would destroy us. Hawking mentions the aftermath of Columbus discovery, but it was not gunsand superior technology which destroyed the Aztec civilization, but the microbes, viruses, anddisease which the would be conquerers carried with them.If aliens exist, it is inevitable that someday there will be contact. We are fully engaged in thediscovery phase now, and our curiosity will inevitably lead us to contact, if they exist. They mightgive us insight into the origin of life and our place in the universe. Is there a purpose to life, or is itall a cruel cosmic joke? Christians might ask: "Did Christ die on the cross for them?" Others mightask: "Do they believe in god"? Humans look to the heavens for answers, and we might assume thatwhat might bind us to aliens of other worlds is our desire to know more. Hawking tells us that ourcuriosity may kill the cat, that looking to space for others of our kind may lead to the extinction ofthe human race. But this search for answers is also what makes us. We must know, even if it spellsour doom, just as the male Black Widow spider must mate even though it spells his doom.Be it radio and TV signals beamed into space, gold anodized plaques with our return addressattached, or the many government and non-government programs designed to search the heavensfor signs of life, if there is intelligent alien life, then someday contact will happen.Despite Hawking’s warnings, the search continues. Contemplation of alien life has moved up frompopular films to peer reviewed journals, “one of the sacred pillars of the scientific edifice”(Goodstein, 2000). Experimental studies and computer simulations suggest (Xie et al., 2010) thatthe cosmos is brimming with life-friendly Earth-like planets in the near cosmos. NASA and otherspace agencies have an ambitious program for the discovery of living planets under the name