Humans and ETs: Who's Hostile, and Why?

An article in The New Republic, “How Would Humans React to Extraterrestrials,” reminds me of a Quaker friend’s comment the other day, when I told her that in my view, ETs are helping to clean up the radiation at Fukushima. She said, ” I don’t want to believe in ETs, because I’m afraid that if they exist, they would be like us!”

Excerpt from that article:

In a paper originally presented at the 48th International Astronautical Congress in 1997, Douglas Vakoch of SETI and Yuh-Shiaow Lee of National Chung Cheng University in Taiwansurveyed groups of American and Chinese undergraduate students in an attempt to “to predict beliefs about [extraterrestrial intelligence] based on personal characteristics and beliefs of the respondents…[including] a person’s religious beliefs, level of optimism, level of alienation and degree of anthropocentrism.” (The first sentence of the abstract–“If we ever receive a message from extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), the societal impact may be significant.”–wins this week’s award for excellence in the field of understatement.) Vakoch and Lee found, among other results, that “less religious Americans” were not only more likely to believe in extraterrestrials, but were also “more likely to think that ETI would be benevolent and that we should reply.” In addition, “it was unusual for Americans to see ETI as simultaneously ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys'”; the impact was either seen as positive or negative, while Chinese students were more likely to think of contact with ETI as both a positive and a negative. In both cultures, “more alienated subjects were more likely to think that ETI would be hostile.”

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