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Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous, Just Hear Me Out

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  • In this case, that is my bias: I enjoy the spaciousness of mystery. Evidence that there is intelligent extraterrestrial life, and it has been here, would upend how humanity understands itself and our place in the cosmos. Even if you think all discussion of aliens is ridiculous, it’s fun to let the mind roam over the implications.
  • The question, then, would be who could impose meaning on such an event. “Instead of a land grab, it would be a narrative grab,” Diana Pasulka, author of “American Cosmic: U.F.O.s, Religion, Technology,” told me. There would be enormous power — and money — in shaping the story humanity told itself.
  • Steven Dick, the former chief historian for NASA, has argued that indirect contact with aliens — a radio signal, for instance — would be more like past scientific revolutions than past civilizational collisions. The correct analogy, he suggests, would be the realization that we share our world with bacteria, or that the earth orbits the sun, or that life is shaped by natural selection. These upheavals in our understanding of the universe we inhabit changed the course of human science and culture, and perhaps this would, too.
  • “There are times in science when just knowing that a thing is possible motivates an effort to get there,”
  • There’s a school of thought that says interplanetary ambitions are ridiculous when we have so many terrestrial crises. I disagree. I believe our unsolved problems reflect a lack of unifying goals more than a surfeit of them. America made it to the moon in the same decade it created Medicare and Medicaid and passed the Civil Rights Act, and I don’t believe that to be coincidence.
  • “I guess my preferred reaction would be for the knowledge that someone was watching to inspire us to be the best examples of intelligent life that we could be.”
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