Monday, April 14, 2008

Us as Extraterrestrials

I was listening to an interview with a college student who's working on projects to help the environment.  She noted that she works not simply from an environmental motive but also from a sense of justice since the few in rich nations affect by their excesses the lives of the many in poorer nations.

It reminded me of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where a man's house is destroyed by an uncaring governmental bureaucracy just before a planet (ours) is destroyed by an uncaring intergallactic bureaucracy -- both just happened to be in the way of progress.

I took the impact of those statements seriously.  We in the rich nations truly are hurting others by our actions and we can do something about it.  Eating less meat (the production of which contributes more to global warming than even our cars), driving more responsibly, reducing, etcetera.  All important things to keep in mind as we approach Earth Day.

But then my thoughts took another, more whimsical turn.  What if there is no intergallactic bureaucracy?  What if there aren't going to be any extraterrestrial visitors any time soon -- not because there aren't other life forms out there, even intelligent ones, but because they just aren't intelligent enough.  Not yet anyway.  What if we are the most advanced world out there?  What if we're as good as it gets?

Kind of frightening, isn't it?  

It begs several questions.  For example, will we ever visit the others?  How will we find them?  Why will we go?  

More importantly, what would we do when we got there?  Would we do to their worlds what we've done to our own?  Wouldn't it be better, in that case, to stay home in quarantine?  

I imagine Native Americans might think that, as well -- why didn't you guys just stay home?  But if we travelled, would we be wiser this time?  Would we be more respectful?

I would hate to think we would come in thinking we know better and try to make them believe the way we do -- God will have probably already spoken to them in God's on and inimitable way.

Either way, as far as we know, we're as good as it gets on this earth -- so we would do well to be respectful and wise right here and right now.