He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
– from Don’t Talk to Aliens Warns Stephen Hawking, The Sunday Times
I assume this is mainly a way to spice up and draw attention to his documentary, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, and as such, it has worked very well.
But in terms of content, it is pure silliness. We don’t need to deliberately try to contact aliens. Any sufficiently advanced civilization in our galaxy will be able to detect that Earth is a living planet, and they will – in time – detect our civilization through changes in the atmosphere, artificial lighting on the night side, and radio and tv signals broadcasted to the galaxy.
It is questionable if direct contact will ever happen. The distances between solar systems are huge, and the distances between solar systems with life must be far greater. Even with technologies far beyond what we can realistically imagine today, it would take generations for such travel. It is of course possible that there are loopholes in physics that allows for faster travel, but perhaps not likely.
It is also highly unlikely anyone would ever come here for resources. The resources required for travel will probably far exceed what they could gain from it. An advanced civilization should easily be able to generate and grow what they need for themselves. It would be very surprising if anything here on Earth would be of such value to them, considering that life elsewhere would be quite different. And an advanced civilization will most likely have learned to manage their resources and growth well. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have survived the earlier phases in their development.
He does make one valid point. If the human experience is typical, it doesn’t go well for the least advanced civilization when two civilizations meet. Even if intentions are the best, it is disruptive and sometimes devastating for the least advanced civilization. But considering the most likely scenario for contact – a slow exchange of information over generations – it is likely that we will be able to absorb and deal with it quite well. It will be portioned out, and we will have time to adjust.
So Stephen Hawking is silly. He is obviously very knowledgeable and insightful in some areas of physics. He – or at least the producers of the documentary – have a good grasp on publicity. And he does have a point that first contact is something we need to discuss and prepare for. But he is still very silly in some of the things he says or lends his name to.
That is good. It is a reminder that we all say and do silly things sometimes. We misinterpret. Misunderstand. Talk about things we don’t know much about.
And we always come from limited insights, experience and perspectives.
That’s true for all of us, even the most respected, insightful, experienced and knowledgeable among us.
And it is true for spiritual teachers. If they come from awakening, they know only one thing for sure: what they are. Everything else is limited by their limited insights, experience, knowledge and familiarity with various terrains. And they too misunderstand, misinterpret and talk about things they don’t know much about.
Just as we all do.
We are all mirrors for each other here. We are all in the same boat.
- part of being human
- misinterpret, talk about things we haven’t thought/felt through or don’t know much about or have much experience with
- always come from limited insights and experiences
- hawking, good example
- and the same for all of us, including experts/teachers of any type (anyone in authority role)
- and not the least, spiritual teachers
- they too talk about things they don’t know enough about
- they misinterpret
- they come from limited insights/experiences/knowledge
- good to notice
- part of being human
This is a story from some months ago, and I am finally getting around to it.
I assume this is mainly a marketing ploy for the documentary Stephen Hawking’s Universe, and as such, it worked very well.
But in terms of content, it is pure silliness. The most obvious is the “trying to make contact with aliens” bit.