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Man, His World and the Universe
Friday, 11 April 2008
Preparing for "First Contact"

Hundreds of extrasolar planets have now been found around most of the closest stars to us.  A few of them appear to fall into the "life-friendly" zones around their parent stars in which water, temperature and light levels would be within the narrow limits to allow the chemical processes thought to have created and supplied energy for life on earth to occur elsewhere. 

Spectra taken in many wavelengths has demonstrated oxygen, water, ammonia, methane, hydrogen and other organic molecules pervade not only interstellar space of our own galaxy but even in other galaxies. 

Chemically speaking, the same catalytically active minerals that are found on earth are found on the moon, Mars, satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, asteroids, comets and meteorites.  What we find on earth is found everywhere else in the known universe.  Our expectations are now high that we will find virtually the same range of elements, naturally-occurring molecules and reaction conditions throughout the universe and it will be with rather high frequency rather than with astronomically low odds.  

The amount of such evidence that has accumulated and been reported in the last dozen years is breath-taking.  Only religionists and the illiterati continue to resist and deny such liklihoods and maintain their attacks on science, reason and common sense. 

It should not then surprise anyone that we should now open the discussion on the topic of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and begin addressing the question of what we should do to plan for a first contact. 

Even if we expect some of those alien worlds to only have living systems in their most primitive levels, earth's history teaches us that life always evolves to survive the ever-changing conditions of a dynamic world.  Part of that evolutionary imperative is for primitive unicellular life forms to become more cooperative, colony-like, synergistic, multicellular and ultimately complex and differentiated in structure to increase the survival potential of life as a whole.  As structural complexity increases, organs that increase survival potential evolve.  Sense organs for vision, chemoreceptors, sensation, temperature and defense/food-seeking are logical paths for development on any world.  And when a multicellular organism follows such a biological plan, it must develop something like a nervous system to collect, process and store this plethora of information that is flowing into it through those environmental receptors.  So it is very likely in my estimation that not only life, but intelligent life of some kind is likely within 100 light years of earth and some may be headed our way at this moment.

There is no reason to panic.  But there is every reason to make an effort to plan for this eventuality and start that now.  If we wait around and get caught with our heads in the sand, first contact is likely to be disasterous for one or both of us.  Failure should not be an option.  We have many things to concern ourselves with that present challenges and threats to us but we have been proactively dealing with them for centuries.  Now its time to add this to our "to do" list.

--Joseph H. Guth PhD-- 

Posted by jhguth1942 at 6:00 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 April 2008 1:10 AM EDT
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
"The Calf-Path"

One day through the primeval wood, A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew, A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled, And I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail, And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day, By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell–wether sheep, Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too, As good bell–wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade, Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out, And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath, Because 'twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed – do not laugh - The first migrations of that calf,
And though this winding wood-way stalked, Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane, That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road, Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun, And traveled some three miles in one,

And thus a century and a half, They trod the footsteps of that calf.,

The years passed on in swiftness fleet, The road became a village street;

And this, before men were aware, A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this, Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half, Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout, Followed this zigzag calf about
And o'er his crooked journey went, The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led, By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way, And lost one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent, To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach, Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind, Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun, To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track, And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue, To keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove, Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh, Who saw the first primeval calf.
Ah, many things this tale might teach — But I am not ordained to preach.


--Sam Walter Foss--

Posted by jhguth1942 at 11:04 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 April 2008 11:06 PM EDT
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
When Aliens Call

Regarding the subject of whether an alien message received by a governmental research project would be released to the world's peoples, none in the current SETI blog discussions (http://www.universetoday.com/2008/04/07/if-et-calls-would-we-be-told/) has addressed the more likely possibility that the message could be one that alerts us to the fact that the aliens themselves are of an aggressive or militant nature or simply looking to conquer new worlds for food sources, additional living space or other needed resources.  This has been the most common theme of science fiction since it began over a century ago with H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. 


Life in all its earthly forms possesses and is defined by several fundamental characteristics.  Two of those characteristics are the instinct to survive adverse conditions and threats plus the instinct to propagate.  If a civilization is compelled to develop interstellar space flight, it has an instinct to survive and propagate.  This likely means that it has had to overcome life-threatening circumstances in its own evolution and development.  This would imply it was successful in avoidance of becoming the prey of a different predatorial species and probably developing the means and learning how to feed and defend itself in a proactive fashion.  If it has those instincts, then it could have developed both defensive and offensive weapons, tools and tactical knowledge just as Man and other life forms on earth have done.  Military tactics, conquering new living space and taking resources from other species is not a purely human quality.  On earth we see it in the behavior of colonizing species such as army ants, killer bees, and locusts and the contagious infectivity of pathogenic microorganisms. 


Darwinism should be at work anywhere in the universe.  If that were the case, naivety and moral purity is not enough in terms of a “first contact” event.  Not only survival of Humanity is at stake.  The entire world’s biosphere survival would be on the line.  We should be holding our right hand out in friendship and reserving our left hand for possible defense with a very big stick. 


In any case, it has been very imprudent of us to have been broadcasting our presence to the universe over the last 100 or so years through the radio and microwave spectrum and through nuclear explosions that emit in all directions high energy particles with well-defined patterns without considering and preparing for this possibility.  We should now be watching for any potential alien explorers or conquistadors from a well-concealed location.  If they ever visit us, we have to see what their real intentions are before we attempt to contact them.  Only after assurances that they are benign and not bringing any alien infection with them should we actually establish communications and contact with them.  Otherwise our world’s civilizations should adopt a global camouflage and stealth defense and become invisible to the rest of the universe.


It is true that most governments would have more reasons not to share such information with their populations than reasons to actually do "the right thing".  But when have governments ever done the very best for those who live under them?  Never. 


It would be foolish in the extreme if the peoples of the world continued to think that national identities, national boundaries, national economies, national histories, ethnicities, languages, racial differences, organized religions and other human constructs and social issues that keep us divided, at odds and pitted against each other would continue to exist unchanged into the indefinite future.  The world is finally crowded enough like a Malthusian overgrown Petri dish for globalization to bring down all of these dividers one way or the other.  And one of the overriding ideas and desires that most people intrinsically feel is a need to have themselves respected, recognized and their voices heard.  That is human nature.  That is the underlying psychological reason for the idea of a pure democracy.  All that is needed beyond that is a will to make one’s own well-thought out decisions with minimal uncertainty and the self-assurance that you can survive independently of others’ influences and commands.  But all this must be tempered with a further realization that one’s self interests must be measured against the interests of others.  A balance point must be found by each person if a cooperative and constructive social framework is to develop between all of these participating individuals.


When a group of people come together to live in close cooperation, ground rules must be established.  Those ground rules are like Rousseau and Locke's Social Contract.  Each gives up some of their own power of self determination in exchange for a harmonious and just way of working together, enjoying the rewards of joint efforts and balancing their own self-interests against the interests of the greater good.  Outlaws and outliers are “culled from the herd” through law enforcement and judicial review.  In such a Utopia, all finally gain the maximum benefit of being a part of the greater group’s efforts. Each can specialize in their work and contributions and have access to the same from all others.  That is where globalization, education and economic development is directing us to evolve.  Wars and mass conflicts will cease once the benefits of peace outweigh the short term gains of continued competition, conflict and conquest.  The efforts of the majority would be constructive rather than the historical sad mix of constructive and destructive cycles. 


Population control will be mandated to keep everything in balance with our energy and resource supplies, and with our ability to perform end-product recycling.  It will keep Man in balance with his finite living space.  But that will only happen if either all of those divisional institutions fall or are cast by the wayside or if a strong enough uniting reason comes from elsewhere.  Space is unimaginably immense.  Most stars are now thought to have material bodies and planets revolving about them.  The laws of probability counsel us to expect that life, and in particular, intelligent life will have sprung up in uncountable numbers of places.  The currently developing future-view is that there are limitless numbers of alien races out there and not all of them are friendly.  Thus it behooves us to begin working on getting rid of those dividing institutions as quickly as possible to clear the way to our next stage of development, a democratically-run society based on one-world identity, one-world government and one-world economy.  National currencies will be replaced by a single world currency that will eliminate the instability of money-changing.  Trade between different regions would allow unfettered access to all the world’s different regional needs to be fulfilled.  Worldscale projects like freshwater redistribution systems would eliminate droughts, crop failures, and bring industrial development and improved living conditions to the entire planet.  We would actually be able for the first time to terraform our own planet with a single development plan.  This would teach us how to accomplish that ultimate feat for the time we have to emigrate and colonize new and pristine worlds.  


Knowledge breeds success.  Fear and ignorance breeds failure.  Education and rational philosophical doctrine are the delivery systems and a peaceful world with the ability to survive, prosper and defend itself from external threats is the prize.  It is time we all began to prepare for this eventuality.


-- Joseph H Guth PhD -- 

Posted by jhguth1942 at 2:04 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 9 April 2008 10:59 PM EDT

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