Adventures in Ethics and Science

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Despite the crush of the closing weeks of the semester, I found a little time to follow the conversation about whether Earthicans ought to welcome a meeting with whatever extraterrestrial life might be out there to meet us, or whether we’d be better off hiding under the bed.

Although the Free-Ride offspring have not followed the point and counterpoint on the best alien life action plan, they’re generally more enthusiastic futurists than I am. So, I asked them to dig deep into their imaginations and give us their visions of first contact.

It should surprise no one that the elder and younger Free-Ride offspring have very different visions of this event.

Before they started drawing, they brainstormed a bit about what forms extraterrestrial life might take. Maybe you’d find your classic Star Trek humanoids, or comic book little green men. But why couldn’t alien life be mostly plants, or fungi?

Maybe we’ll be negotiating intergalactic treaties with microbes? (I’m thinking people might be less cavalier about skipping vaccinations if that’s how things play out.)

In any case, here are the pictures of first contact they came up with.

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I don’t know when the younger Free-Ride offspring has been reading Pharyngula (unless PZ also has space now on the Nickelodeon website), but this seemingly benevolent alien is pretty clearly squiddy. (If you count carefully, you will notice ten digits on each hand.) The alien also seems to be wearing a diaper.

Anyway, the younger offspring thinks contact with alien life will be groovy.

As shown above, the elder Free-Ride offspring envisions our first extraterrestrial as a caterpillar-like creature. A wee little caterpillar in the gloved hand of a space suit-clad Earthling.

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But I guess where there are wee little caterpillar-like creatures, there are sometimes big, scary, hungry caterpillar-like creatures.

Which I guess means that it’s the second contact that may get us.

Comments

  1. #1 SR
    April 30, 2010

    With all due respect to Hawking and the fear of aliens that he has generated lately, I wish we could somehow conquer our fear of other, close by, aliens that some politicians are trying so hard to instill in us.

  2. #2 HP
    April 30, 2010

    Elder Offspring’s vision reminds of the classic Wyllis Cooper radio play “Northern Lights,” from the 1949 season of Quiet, Please.

    “A sound, a humming, a crackling somewhere inside your head. And there are times when you’d swear it’s a voice talking to you — talking in some kind of strange language you can almost understand, filling your whole being with a kind of desperate, inescapable terror.”

    The alien invasion of earth begins in the form of a little, black-and-brown caterpillar that sings like an angel. You can download a free, legal .mp3 here, but I gotta warn you, for a 1940s Sci-Fi story about singing caterpillars, it may be too scary for the sprogs.

  3. #3 Dario Ringach
    May 1, 2010

    I doubt the forces of natural selection are limited to our planet.
    I’d rather find them than the other way around — curiosity killed the cat?

  4. #4 padraig
    May 3, 2010

    I read an essay on this years ago that was more or less in line with Hawkings’ views that succinctly expressed the writer’s views in the title, “Kill Them and Eat Them.”

    He recommended that when aliens show up, kill them and hide the bodies very well. If another ship shows up looking for them, act stupid.

    I also vaguely remember a sci-fi story where human & alien ships meet up for the first time out in deep space. They wind up sitting there stalemated because neither wants to have the other one follow them home. Can’t remember how that one turned out…

  5. #5 Jim Thomerson
    May 4, 2010

    There was a science fiction story where the aliens arrive. They are cordial and friendly, but they are really here to meet with the dolphins.

  6. #6 Prof.Pedant
    May 6, 2010

    I also vaguely remember a sci-fi story where human & alien ships meet up for the first time out in deep space. They wind up sitting there stalemated because neither wants to have the other one follow them home. Can’t remember how that one turned out…

    The story is by Murray Leinster, and is titled ‘First Contact’. An audio copy is available here. It is thought that this story is the first use of the phrase ‘first contact’ to refer to the first contact between humans and intelligent aliens. The two crews ultimately ended up giving each other the same ultimatum and finding out how the other species laughs.

  7. #7 Alex Wild
    May 6, 2010

    I wonder what The Monster Engine would do to those drawings.

  8. #8 padraig
    May 7, 2010

    Thanks Prof P. I knew somebody on this blog would be old and nerdy enough to remember that one. Besides me. ;)

  9. #9 Jim Thomerson
    May 8, 2010

    In reference to the rabbit post above, what was the name of the SF movie about the giant rampaging rabbits? I can almost remember the title, one word I think.

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