I am an occasional listener to Where Did the Road Go?, a podcast that covers a variety of paranormal/Fortean topics and which often features very interesting guests. In the linked podcast, Seriah Azkath, the host of the show, is discussing the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) with author Joshua Cutchin, writer of the fascinating A Trojan Feast, a book that explores food in faery, UFO and Sasquatch legends. The interview itself is quite interesting but it got me thinking about why I am not a huge fan of the ETH either.
I think that there are some huge barriers to the ETH and the first of these is the assumption that aliens are rather like us and have similar motivations. Ask the man on the street what an alien looks like and, chances are, the image of the grey alien from the cover of Communion will pop into most people’s minds. In most science fiction, aliens are depicted as organisms with two arms, two legs and a head. The writers and movie makers may make them look insectoid or reptilian to make them strange but they are still basically modeled on the human frame. Given the vastness of the universe, I think it entirely likely that life may have evolved in a variety of forms, some which we would not recognize or even, possibly, be able to perceive. Being a person who saw every one of the original Star Trek episodes multiple times when I was young, I am minded of the episode “The Devil in the Dark” where the Enterprise crew encounters a silicon based life form. The being was certainly intelligent but it was in no way space faring and had no desire to be.
In line with the above idea, intelligence does not equal the desire to explore the galaxy or even make one’s presence known. I think it entirely likely that an advanced civilization could evolve with a decidedly isolationist bent. Even if they were aware of other beings out in space, their culture might be such that they had no desire or interest in contact or in seeking those other beings out. We saw a classic example of this here on Earth with the Japanese. Until Commodore Perry and the forced entry of the West into Japan, the Japanese were quite happy to keep their country to themselves. Foreigners were welcome to trade but were kept strictly in port cities and Japanese society and culture developed during this time with very little input from the outside world. No one would argue that the Japanese are not an intelligent people; they chose, as some alien cultures might, to keep to themselves.
Now, let us say, for the sake of argument that an advanced civilization develops out in the depths of space and that they are interested in exploring deep space. The next huge hurtle that we have to overcome is distance. Even traveling near the speed of light, it would take inordinate amounts of time to travel from point A to point B in this galaxy alone. Even if the aliens were capable of some technological feat that allowed them to travel faster than light (something our physics does not seem to allow, at this time), there would still be a considerable investment of time, resources, energy, etc. in such travel.
Why on earth would these technologically advanced aliens be coming to a backwater planet inhabited by hairless bipedal apes that are intent on destroying not only themselves but also the planet they live on? Why would they want to have anything to do with a species so barbaric that it slays intelligent beings living in the sea because it is more profitable to allow their deaths than to take precautions to save the intelligent creatures (dolphins for those who missed it)? Why would these aliens not simply do a quick scan of our planet and take themselves elsewhere, assuming that they bothered to visit at all? There is no guarantee, after all, that a space faring race would be using ‘space lanes’ close enough to Earth for them to even notice us.
The ‘space brother’ sector of believers in the ETH would have us believe that the aliens are visiting to help us, to guide us to a more peaceful existence and awareness of our place in the cosmic interweave. This is a nice thought, but it seems to me that, if the space brothers wanted to do this, they certainly, with their tech, could have found a better way to get their message out than sending a few half-mad channelers out to announce the good news. All in all, the space brother concept smacks of wishful thinking derived from the beginnings of the Atomic Age.
Other ETH supporters put forth the the idea that the aliens want something from us and, in the abduction scenario, it often seems that the aliens are engaged in some type of genetic experimentation. Again, a race with the technological sophistication to bridge interstellar space would, I think, be quite capable of taking whatever they want from us. If it happened to be mineral wealth of some kind, I am sure that they would have developed the tech to do basic mining. If they had decided to do genetic work with us, I doubt seriously that they would have the need to repeatedly kidnap people, perform painful procedures on them with brutal instrumentation, impregnate them and then steal the fetuses as some have claimed they do. It might be a bit of a logical jump, but I suspect that a race capable of bridging the stars would have the medical tech to perform their experiments with minimal invasiveness and absolutely no awareness on the part of the test subject.
Now, as I have said repeatedly in these pages, something is happening to abductees but I do not think we really have a clue what that something is and I doubt seriously that it has anything to do with extra-terrestrials. Before we look to an outer space solution for this complex of issues, I think we need to look hard at explanations ranging from the possibility of beings existing on our planet that we can not perceive with our senses (the theory of plasma beings, for example) to the possibility (probability in my mind) of inter-dimensional beings coming through to our world.