A few days ago, I stumbled upon an article with the headline, “Astronaut who walked on the moon: ‘why I know aliens haven’t visited Earth’.” In that article, Megan Palin interviewed astronaut Alan Bean, the 4th man to walk on the mokn and one of only 12 people to do so.
While Mr. Bean definitely believes in the probability of alien life due to the size of the universe, he does not believe that life has visited the Earth.
“I do not believe that anyone from outer space has ever visited the Earth. One of reasons I don’t believe they have been here is that civilisations that are more advanced are more altruistic and friendly — like Earth, which is better than it used to be — so they would have landed and said ‘we come in peace and we know from our studies you have cancer that kills people, we solved that problem 50 years ago, here’s the gadget we put on a person’s chest that will cure it, we will show you how to make it’.
“Just like some day, say 1000 years from now, when we can go to another star and see a planet, that’s what we would do because we will know how to cure cancer, cure birth defects, so we would teach them.”
I admire his optimism, but I don’t necessarily agree with him. His belief in benevolent aliens is based on the idea that mankind is better now than it once was; he believes that any sufficiently advanced species would feel compelled to come to another’s aid.
There are two problems with this premise.
Firstly, his optimism doesn’t mirror the reality of the news feeds. The idea that man is more altruistic now than he once was is hard to defend. In his essay, “Religion and Rocketry,” CS Lewis suggested that perhaps the reason we saw no evidence of alien life is because the vast distances of space are a quarantine measure.
“I therefore fear the practical, not the theoretical, problems which will arise if ever we meet rational creatures which are not human. Against them we shall, if we can, commit all the crimes we have already committed against creatures certainly human but differing from us in features and pigmentation; and the starry heavens will become an object to which good men can look up only with feelings of intolerable guilt, agonized pity, and burning shame.”
We should also point out that if he’s considering the claims of the modern UFO phenomenon, he has to take into account the traumatizing nature of abductions, which do not fit his concept of benevolent aliens in the slightest!
Secondly, even if it were true that we’ve grown more altruistic over time, that state would not necessarily be analogous to the progress of extraterrestrial life. Stephen Hawking has warned more than once that if aliens visit us, we might find ourselves in the role of the Native Americans at the arrival of Columbus in the New World. And let’s face it: From a Christian perspective, any truly benevolent aliens are unlikely to visit us in our Fallen state.
The most probable reason for a species to visit our planet is the very same reason we seek to colonize our solar system: resources. Despite Mr. Bean’s belief that we would provide an extraterrestrial race with the cure for cancer if we had it, history teaches that mankind is far more mercenary in our dealings with new cultures. We tend to give trinkets and keep the truly good stuff for ourselves. If we did provide such a benefit to aliens, you can pretty much guarantee that it’s because we’re getting something of greater benefit to us in return.
With all due respect to Mr. Bean, his belief that aliens haven’t visited this planet because they would’ve felt compelled to fix our problems simply doesn’t follow.