Pirates of the Milky Way
With Super Heroes in town for Ottawa’s Comiccon last week, our thoughts turned to science fiction and things cosmological . . . such as contact with an alien civilization. Now that the search for exoplanets, habitable worlds, is making progress, another debate heats up: should we really be shouting our presence out into the universe?
Many scientists have weighed in, including Stephen Hawking no less, who feels it would be a mistake to broadcast our location without knowing whom we are alerting of our existence. First contact has never been a happy affair for humanity – the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, Africa, and Australia likely wish they had never been “discovered” by the advanced West. Might we Earthlings all feel that way if our signals are picked up by some particularly unpleasant race?
But we have the other side, claiming that contact with a more advanced society could leap-frog us over so many of our current problems and dead-locks, from climate change and nuclear threat to cancer and systemic poverty.
Whom to believe? There’s plenty at stake (as the Beothuks have already told us). So, what if we looked at the possibilities from a different angle? That is to say, what if we were to find in future explorations not merely other civilizations out there, but what if we found only destroyed civilizations? One after the other, with none leaving any historical hints, none giving us any way to research the cause of these depredations. We find only ruin.
Wouldn’t we have no choice but to conclude that there are pirates – or even Vikings of a sort – loose in our galaxy, destroying and pillaging. Exactly what we’ve learned from our own terrestrial history so far.
And if this happened, wouldn’t we then spend the rest of our history anticipating monumental attacks?
Wouldn’t we begin preparing and re-structuring our defences, and, given the galactic context, wouldn’t those preparations be incredibly expensive and cause a massive re-orientation of our civilization towards military might?
History assures us, guarantees us, that superior invaders are not kind, not respectful of others. It shows us there are no disinterested or benevolent “invaders”, even if they should call themselves some sort of religion. These religious front lines are really the edge of a coming invasion, as North American aboriginal cultures were to learn too late. So if the first space ship arrives with beings in robes, carrying mysterious symbols, and claiming they come in some god’s work . . . we’re in trouble!
It seems clear that SETI – the search for extra terrestrial intelligence, as the pro-advertisers call themselves – might just end us all up in a new form of galactic Residential Schools. And with no truth and reconciliation, even as window-dressing.