What would you say to an alien? April 3, 2014Posted by oktyabr in personal.
I’ve read many answers to this question over the years and the one I always remember, my favorite, is by American writer and humorist Steve Allen, when posed the question by OMNI magazine, January 1995:
To Our Visitors:
We have translated the key part of your recent message as, “We are peaceful, and we’re dropping by for a visit.”
If ours were a largely rational universe, your statement could be taken at face value. But our own judgment, on Planet Earth, must inevitably be conditioned by long centuries of experience, and it has been our finding that such protestations, when made by Earthlings, have often been lies. If you are indeed peaceful you are unlikely to consider us warlike. This is not because of any innate decency on our part but rather because we fear you, and this largely because we know practically nothing about you.
We assume that because you have managed to reach our part of space, you far exceed our own competence in matters scientific. This, in turn, suggests that you intelligence is superior to our own. Unfortunately, there has been no necessary connection, at least on our planet, between intelligence and virtue, so as regards your either short-term or ultimate intentions, we can do little more, for the present, than hope for the best. But I must issue a warning, and it is one that I hope you will take seriously. In saying this I intend no threat; I do not warn against acting on such aggressive tendencies as you might harbor but rather of our own long habituation to the most bloodthirsty behavior. There is scarcely a page of our history that is not stained with blood.
Secondly you should be aware, for your own protection, that of all the hundreds of thousands of living creatures you will find on our planet, we humans are, beyond the slightest question, the most dangerous. It is true that there are other creatures that can inflict harm, but they do so purely in self-defense or in accordance with their own nature, to satisfy their hunger. That fearful creature known among humans as the man-eating shark, for example, knows nothing of the human emotion of viciousness. He is simply dangerous to other creatures when he is hungry. The aggression of animals, therefore, is entirely understandable. The more ominous aggression of humans has a large component of irrationality to it. You will not even be able to depend on our acting in self-interest, for if that were our only concern we would scarcely ever have initiated a war. And yet wars have not only sporadically broken out to separate long periods of peace: it has rather been the other way around. War seems to be our natural state, times of peace come about because of either emotional, physical, or economic exhaustion. Except for a few of us–who are often harshly criticized–we humans do not seem to have any natural aptitude for peace whatever, partly, perhaps, because peace is a blank, a negative, an absence of something, whereas war is concrete, definite, and active. You will find that we humans are remarkably gifted at waging war, whereas we are clumsy amateurs when maintaining a peace.
There is a certain amount of grim humor, I suppose, in the possibility that, although we have traditionally, historically been embroiled in tribal rivalries, your unexpected coming may serve to bring us together by forcing us to realize that we are, after all, one human family. But whether this happy outcome results or not, I would suggest that you do not long turn your backs on us.
And yet–such is the mystery of life in our peculiar corner of the universe that many of us are also capable of the most exquisitely tender concern for our fellow creatures, an ability to love that extends even to the lesser animals. It is from this primary, primitive emotion, I suspect, that there comes our sometimes astonishing ability to create beauty, whether that attribute takes the form of painting, music, sculpture, poetry, drama, or any other art.
Perhaps the greatest favor you can bestow on us is to share your opinion of the purpose of life, for we have never known what it is. There is no shortage of theories, of course, but they are legion and many are mutually exclusive. It is tragic, in fact, that some of our most savage wars have been among groups that differed in regard to this one basic question. Most of us, in the total absence of an ability to explain either the physical universe or the reason for its existence in the first place, simply assume that there is some all-powerful spirit that has created literally everything. But even our most intuitive theologians have always been at a loss to explain why a benevolent deity would create poisonous snakes and spiders, deadly plants, and billions of bacteria and viruses that daily kill millions all over our planet. It follows, therefore, that if you are in a position to enlighten us on such age-old questions, we will be profoundly grateful.