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The Royal Society’s report on alien life

January 10, 2011Comments One comment

As I wrote last Thursday, the Royal Society has today published their report on extraterrestrial life and the implications of finding it.

You can read the full report here and download the PDF here.

I have quickly skimmed through it, and it’s quite interesting. I find the parts about the societal relevance of finding extraterrestrial life the most intriguing. One thing in particular caught my attention — the report addresses the way science fiction movies and literature have given the general public a way to approach the prospect of finding aliens.

Various scenarios of encounters with extra-terrestrial life have already been portrayed in the science-fiction literature and films, some of these being more scientific, others more fictional. Imagination, however, must not be underestimated as a valuable means to advance knowledge towards new frontiers, and is not at all an unscientific concept. It is also valuable that a broad public has been given the opportunity to reflect on this topic.

Some people have recently pointed out that a lot of UFO/alien movies have been released in the last couple of years and that the media seem to be warming up to the idea of extraterrestrials. This has led to speculation that we’re gradually being prepared for the truth about aliens and UFOs, whatever that may be.

What about the outlook for finding extraterrestrial life then? As expected, the report takes a very scientific approach.

So far, there is no scientific evidence for or against the existence of life beyond Earth. All arguments about whether life is common and universal or whether we live in a unique place in the cosmos are rather based on philosophical beliefs and assumptions. Consequently, there is no way of predicting the outcomes of searches for extra-terrestrial life.

Still, the scientists behind the report say it’s time for a coordinated effort to put supra-Earth affairs on the agenda, and propose the United Nations to be in charge of handling the overarching framework. Makes sense to me.

These were some quick thoughts on the subject. Have a look through the report yourself and share your thoughts in the comments below. Or jump directly to the last paragraph and take a few minutes to ponder the truth behind it:

For the first time in human history, living generations are now given a realistic chance to find out whether we are alone in the Universe. Should an answer be found one day, we will still be left with deeper questions to be answered: where do we come from, why are we here and where will we be going?

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One comment

  1. An interesting read. It seems whenever two civilizations collide, the largest impacts are of a Societal/Cultural nature, at least that seems the case with human civilizations. The Societal/Cultural impact is felt long after the technological impact has faded. One only has to look at the continuing results of 19th Century imperialism to form an idea of possible outcomes of ET contact.

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