Alien Intelligence: What Can We Know?

Let me start by saying this isn’t actually going to be a discussion of what the aliens’ IQs might be. This is going to be a discussion about what we can deduce and learn about their values, culture, goals, personalities. But before we discuss what we can possibly deduce about alien intelligence, I’d like to share some facts with you in the ongoing scientific debate about the probability of there being intelligent life on other planets. If you’ve listened to my radio broadcasts about aliens, you’ll know that my personal opinion is that the phenomena that people on Earth are seeing in our skies fairly regularly can be grouped this way: 90% earth science that they (and in some cases even scientists) don’t understand, 8% either the US military or other countries’ military experiments, and 2% that is unexplainable and could very well be signs of aliens operating in our world.

Are They Out There?

SETI scientists use what they call a Drake Equation to formulate the probability of intelligent life being on other planets.  In that equation, Frank Drake gives the factor known as “ the probability that life will arise on another planet  that has water, atmosphere, and rocky surfaces similar to Earth” a value of 100%. Given that optimistic value, the SETI scientists feel that they’ll pick up transmissions from one or more of these intelligent civilizations within the next twenty or so years.

Other scientists, however, aren’t convinced, and I believe they make a very good case. Princeton University’s astrophysicists David Spiegel and Edwin Turner ran the numbers differently. First, they used another statistical method called the Bayesian Reasoning, rather than the Drake Equation.

Bayesian Reasoning leads them to consider that we’re assuming life ALWAYS evolves under conditions similar to Earth – water, atmosphere, rocky surfaces (presumably for microbes to cling to?), etc. But life may have developed here on Earth in a freakish unlikely turn of events.

These scientists also remind us that life evolved on Earth quickly if you can call the first “few hundred million years” of this planet quick. Well, in cosmic time, that is quick. The scientists also remind us that once life began it took 3.5 Billion years to evolve into intelligent life.  Again in cosmic time, that’s kind of quick, and we had an advantage from getting started right in the “beginning” of the Earth’s lifecycle.

So the bottom line here, in the argument between the two schools of thought, is that we humans are making assumptions about life on other planets based on when and how we evolved on Earth.  And that’s a no-no in the statistical and scientific world. The Bayesian scientists are NOT saying there aren’t any other intelligent beings out in our universe, only that our predictions are skewed to our own assumptions and prejudices about how we evolved.

So what does that have to do with our discussion about alien intelligence. Only this (and it’s a biggie), we have to be VERY careful not to assume things about them based on how we live our lives and the things we value, and the things we need to survive, and the things we desire or set as goals for ourselves and our civilization.

Universal Values

This topic is loaded. There are thousands of works on this topic, each making their case about what’s important or valued by all (or at least most) humans. No one can come to any consensus and we’re only just talking about humans.  So how can we possibly start to guess what aliens may value or want/need out of life?  The task is daunting. Let’s start by looking at what some philosophers and psychologists say about universal values.

Wikipedia gives a messy explanation of what a universal value is because they are all over the place, trying to give a comprehensive answer to something that really has no answer. Their basic definition is this, “Something is a universal value if it has the same value or worth for all, or almost all, people.”

Ok, let’s look at that. At our basest level, pretty much all human beings need:

  • To Eat
  • To Breathe
  • To Sleep
  • To Drink 6-8 cups of water per day
  • Shelter
  • Clothing to protect us from the elements
  • To Move and exercise our bodies, at least in the course of our day to day lives

Then we add some factors that enhance our well-being, but are not essential to the survival of the individual.

  • Sex and reproduction
  • Social interaction with a community

Evolutionists tell us that sex is essential for the continuation of the species, and of course, that’s true.  BUT, it’s also been my observation throughout the modern world that people are pretty much looking after themselves and their own self interests, so it’s hard to gauge if they care if the human species dies out or not.

Let’s look at China, which, for the last 20 or 30 years, has aborted baby girls consistently because baby boys are much more preferred and valued. Well now they have a huge group of young men with no one to marry and they are NOT happy. This kind of idiotic behavior doesn’t seem to fit into any logical scheme, much less an evolutionary one.

I think what it tells us is that despite what individuals may value, there’s always a danger that an outside force can step in and alter the lifestyle of the individuals, whether they agree with it or not (in the case of the Chinese – it was Communism). And that cautionary tale may be important too, when considering what aliens value/desire.

A Simpler View

I read about Jeremy Bentham who is referred to as a “utilitarian”, whatever that really means. But his viewpoint on universal values is strikingly simple. He believes that everything in life is valued for either its pleasure or its pain. So in his view, eating would be a universal value because it brings pleasure to a person. Working out regularly in a gym may not be a universal value because it often brings pain.  Based on this simplistic scheme, then, we’ll never come to an accepted list of universal values because everyone’s idea of pleasure and pain is different. How about someone who loves diving into cold water for a quick, brisk swim? Other people might scream at the thought of how painful that would be. Some people will say sex definitely is pleasurable so it’s definitely on their list of universal values. Tell that to the victim of a sadomasochist.

Simple, yes, but perhaps a bit too simplistic.

Psychological View

Psychologist S.H. Schwartz has studied whether universal values exist, and if they do, what they might be. He and his colleagues have spent quite a bit of time on it. According to a Wiki blurb, Schwartz, “hypothesized that universal values would relate to three different types of human need: biological needs, social coordination needs, and needs related to the welfare and survival of groups. Based on that criteria, he created a list of value types and all the values he believes are associated with those types.

They are:

 

Power: authority; leadership; and dominance

Achievement: success; capability; ambition; influence; intelligence; self-respect

Hedonisms: pleasure; enjoying life

Stimulation: daring activities; varied life; exciting life

Self-direction: creativity; freedom; independence; curiosity; choosing your own goals

Universalism: broadmindedness; wisdom; social justice; equality; a world at peace; a world of beauty; unity with nature; protecting the environment; inner harmony.

Benevolence: helpfulness; honesty; forgiveness; loyalty; responsibility; friendship

Tradition: accepting one’s portion in life; humility; devoutness; respect for tradition; moderation

Conformity: self-discipline; obedience

Security: cleanliness, family security; national security; stability of social order; reciprocation of favors; health ; sense of belonging.”

He certainly seems to cover the whole gamut of existence, but still, would everyone on the planet agree with this list? Probably not.

What’s this got to do with Aliens?

If we here on Earth are as conflicted and varied in our accounts of what our own universal values are, how can we possibly begin to understand how aliens think or what they value?

I’ll begin this segment with a quote from Stephen Hawking, renowned theoretical physicist, “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach. If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

My fears exactly. So how can we prepare ourselves? How can we try to understand the potential threat?

Let’s consider the basic needs I mentioned at the beginning of this article: eating, sleeping, breathing, shelter, clothing, etc. Those needs are born of the fact we are mammals on Earth, requiring a more or less temperate temperature range to live in, certain types of food to nourish us, and oxygen to breath. We sleep about 8 hours a night, more or less in alignment with the sun and moon phases around the world.

So what if an alien came from a dark planet, or one that is or was a watery world. Based on our understanding of evolution, they’d develop very large eyes to make the most of what dim light was available.

If it was a watery world, how do they breath? Did they once breath air, but then developed a different method, adapting to their planet?

Do they even eat? Maybe they absorb nutrients from the air, or water, or something else?

Remember the Star Trek episode (original series), where they found that rock (the Horta) that was only trying to save its babies? Hence the comment that we’re not all carbon based life-forms.  Could be true for any alien. Why?  Because our knowledge and understanding of the universe is severely limited. We look at the universe through the lens of our limited understanding, making analogies, drawing hypotheses.

Now I’m not saying that’s bad because that is precisely how we humans have learned over the millennia. We theorize, learn, and correct ourselves, theorize, learn, and correct ourselves.  It’s just that IF these creatures are visiting the planet, we can hardly get near them (except perhaps for the few unlucky ones who claim to have been abducted) to study, much less talk to them.

How did Jane Goodall become the expert she is in mountain gorilla behavior? By spending YEARS in the field watching them, interacting with them, studying their behaviors.

So how can we possibly get to know these aliens.  Well, this is what I think:

I don’t think they’re all that interested in getting to know us, much less have a communal, give and take relationship, if you will. I think they are all about themselves.

What do we have that they want? I don’t think “we” have anything, I think our planet is the draw. Some have speculated they are here for gold, others have said they seem to need regular contact with water. Could it be iron ore from deep within our planet?

Maybe they ARE harvesting DNA from ranch animals and humans. Why? Again, people speculate it’s because they’ve evolved to the point that they can no longer reproduce. It could just be they’re growing hybrids to harvest organs, or to become a slave race for one of their planets. Maybe they sell the slaves to other “intelligent”  life –forms as a business venture.

Are they hostile? Well, I think if they were, we’d know by now. I’d characterize the lack of interaction between them and us as simply disinterest on their side. They may find us amusing if they even have a sense of humor, or they may find us fascinating from a historical perspective, “Look at what the barbarian earthlings are doing with those rockets!” But again, I think it’s all about them.

Because we don’t know what kind of planet they’re from, or IF they’re from a planet, much less what their homeworld looked like, it’s nearly impossible to tell or predict how they think and what they’re like as creatures.

Putting Earthly attributes on them, such as intelligent races won’t hurt younger civilizations, is a mistake. That’s how WE see things, not necessarily how THEY see things.

How to Proceed

The only thing we can do is study any of their behavior that comes from reputable sources – that 2% of encounters I mentioned at the start of this article, that seem to really involve aliens.

We’ve gotten through thousands of years by watching, observing, and learning that way. As much as we can experiment we do, and that brings us to revelations that further our knowledge.

I think that’s what has to happen here. When we look for descriptions of alien encounters pay particular attention to any action or non-action on their part. Compare it to other sightings and encounters, what can you deduce from that?

It’s best to base your observations on cold hard facts, not emotions or feelings, but like in a court of law, just the facts ma’am!

Then let’s start to collect your observations here, in the comments section. If you prefer, you can add them to CryptoVille’s Facebook page. I’ll eventually collect them all up into another blog post and we’ll see what everyone has to say and if there’s anything we can deduce from your observations.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open and your cameras charged and handy!

Til the next time!

3 comments

  1. I feel that intelligent life may be much rarer than many people think. I’m not saying that there is no other life on distant planets, but that all the elements that have brought us to the place we are now may not exist in that many places. Even the many great extinctions in the past have had an influence. What if the earliest of our ancestors had been wiped out by some natural disaster? What if the dinosaurs had survived? So many ifs, ands, or buts!!
    I have also learned that just being a rocky planet with water and at the perfect distance from it’s sun may not be enough. Our earth is “unique” in our own solar system because of it’s molten iron center and it’s single moon. The iron core has kept us in a protective “cocoon” of magnetic fields that deflect most of the dangerous radiation and solar winds which would strip away our atmosphere and pretty much destroy or, at least, mutate living cells.
    Our moon, which we usually don’t pay much attention to, may be the reason we exist at all. The earth’s spinning motion has been stabilized by the moon’s gravitational pull which also has kept our planet’s tides and it’s core in motion and “alive”.
    Another thing that actually awes me are the distances involved in space travel and the unbelievable numbers of planets, stars and galaxies in the universe. Our earth is only a speck even when seen from some of our own outer planets. Why aliens would expend so much energy to get here from unimaginable lightyears away and not plunder our resources or make contact with us is puzzling. Of course, who knows what they may think or care about if they do exist. Every different species on our planet has it’s own essential needs that it can’t survive without yet may not be important for our own survival.
    Well, I guess I’ve rambled enough. Are there aliens visiting us?? The jury is still out on that one. Don’t know if I believe all the reports of sightings, but so far I’m not convinced.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ella! There’s really no telling until if and when we’re able to get “out there” and really start exploring the universe, a la Star Trek style. There are so many unknowns and nuances to everything in life, that no one can predict anything for sure.

      I feel something strange is happening, and that people are seeing things, particularly when the military are involved in the sightings and reporting. But that doesn’t mean they are “extra” terrestrials. They may live in our oceans because that’s where they most often seen entering and exiting.

      The ocean is another mystery we have yet to conquer. Who the heck knows what’s down there. I think one thing is sure, though, and that is the voyage of discovery is bound to be exciting!!

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