Are we ready for first contact?

November 17, 2016 by Astronomy   Opinion  

This post was originally inspired by a post written by Michael Wall from in which he mostly focusses on protocols / procedures that are in place (or rather not in place) if first contact were to happen tomorrow -  I am however interested in a much deeper discussion.

Confused? What is this "first contact", I am referring to?

The preceding movie clip is from the 1996 Star Trek movie First Contact, in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard is forced to travel back in time to stop the Borg in their attempt to stop Earth's first contact with an alien species (Vulcans).

This historical moment (in the Trek universe), represents a pivotal moment in the history of humanity, to quote Commander Deanna Troi.

It unites humanity in a way no one ever thought possible. When they realize they're not alone in the universe, poverty, disease, war - they'll all be gone within the next fifty years. 

Gene Roddenberry had a very positive outlook towards the future (one I mostly share), and throughout Star Trek canon we see a set of very simplistic "instructions / rules" when engaging in first contact, the main driver being a prerequisite that the alien species developed faster than light travel.

The best we can currently achieve (theoretically at least), is 20% the speed of light using a microwave sail.

Current technological limitations aside, where are we? To put it bluntly, would an alien civilization be interested in making first contact with us, but more importantly, are we ready to meet other civilizations?

There are quite a number of ways to approach this question, but in this post, I want to focus on human morality as my measurement tool.

As key indicators, I believe politics and religion represents an uncensored reflection of our morality, now please don't bomb my inbox with hate mail - people claim to be tolerant, but only until they're put under a microscope themselves (respect my right to have an opinion).

a) Politics

Never mind a completely different genepool, if we can't accept someone based on the colour of their skin, respect their dreams of making a better life for themselves elsewhere, respect their sexual orientation, what chance does an extra terrestrial alien lifeform have on Earth? 

Have a look at my examples:

  1. South Africa


    In recent years my home country has been plagued by xenophobic violence.

    Never mind the hate feelings towards foreigners, my family's been living here for about 400 years now, but yet (like in Zimbabwe) a growing number of people feel I am not welcome here either (based on my race) something that might escalate in the near future.

    This is unfortunately not something that is restricted to my small insignificant backwards little country.

  2. Brexit


    Correct me if I am wrong, the top reason behind the recent brexit vote in the UK  was immigrant related?

  3. President Elect Donald Trump


    Don't even get me started on the recent American elections, yes, yes, I know I know, you're tired of people calling the president elect, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, islamaphobic - a lot of people seem to think its a media conspiracy against Donald Trump?

    But consider this (as a very basic example), we are often judged by the company we keep, the recent appointment of Steve Bannon (point and case).

    Our politics is a clear indication of how, racist, homophobic, islamophobic, sexist, xenophobic and intolerant we truly are.

    That said, what happens though when we tolerate the intolerant? We might find ourselves overrun with terrorists, fine line?

b) Religion 

Religion lives at the heart of majority of households on this planet, and is often abused and use as a tool to control the hearts and minds of the masses. Be it justifying slavery, homophobia, murder, you name it, somewhere, somehow someone's got a Biblical verse or Quranic ayah they interpret / reinterpret to justify whichever agenda.

Now I don't want to get involved in a theological debate and receive "you will burn in hell" emails brimming with "love", but what is the general consensus about aliens among the adherents of the largest religion on the planet?


Christianity is deeply divided on a lot of subjects, including this one, there is however three basic opinions you will get on the subject if you look around a bit.

  1. They are welcome in the church, lets baptise them, who are we to turn them away?


    Pope Francis says he would baptise aliens: 'Who are we to close doors?'

    Probably the most progressive attitude towards the question.

    Pope Francis bases his opinion on the Apostle Peter that brought non-Jews into the church.

  2. They are not the seed of Adam, without souls, like animals.

    You can find this opinion in numerous sources around the web, shared among Catholics and Protestants, you will hear the name "Nephilim" - some cite it as evidence for aliens in the bible.


    Well, this kinda feels, uhm. racist, spiecist? This is exactly the same opinion a lot of people used to have about black Africans back in the day (some unfortunately still do).

    Try telling a sentient being, likely a million times more intelligent than you can ever hope to be, that they're an animal? Unworthy and without a soul (church is divided on what a soul is exactly as well)?

  3. They are not really Aliens, but demonic forces.


    A view mostly found among Charismatic / Pentecostals, a rather frightening view to hold don't you think?

    I just travelled a thousand light years and you're basically telling me I am the worst thing imaginable, the source of all evil and need to be abolished as soon as possible?


Are we ready to meet other civilizations?

Quite frankly, I am not even sure that the Americas, Africa etc were ready to meet Europe?

End of the day, regardless of our phobias, biases, hate you name it, none if it stopped Columbus to travel to the new world, none of it prevented Spain, Portugal, France the Dutch, to colonize Africa, Americas, Australasia etc.

If they're out there and we're within their reach (and the price of petroleum favourable), nothing will stop them (unless they've got some kind of prime directive), ready or not, here they come (perhaps, maybe).

I leave you with this final thought.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot - Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

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