Oh no, it’s an alien invasion! Earth is surrounded by intergalactic warships bent on world domination, and our plucky band of heroes is outmatched. How are we all going to survive? Okay, not really; this is all hypothetical. But let’s say there were an intelligent civilization capable of space travel, and they decided to attack us. What would we be able to do about it? Not much, it turns out.
You see, what makes for an interesting sci-fi action film is seldom what makes for good science. The reality of the situation is often far more boring. To start with, there are few real motivations for conquering a planet like Earth. It has fewer resources than outer space, making extraction off-world far more efficient. That’s why our society is tentatively working out plans to mine the moon or asteroids for materials. And keep in mind that this efficiency is determined under the best of conditions. Imagine having to fight a war to control the planet, when you could farm celestial objects that no one’s laying claim to. Suddenly, an invasion just got less likely.
But let’s say they wanted to invade anyway. Perhaps it’s ideological, and they have some vague prophecy of doom that humans will one day rise up to rule the universe. Well, if it came to a direct confrontation, it wouldn’t be much of a fight. Any civilization capable of interstellar travel should be easily able to wreck a medium sized planet, and there would, quite simply, be no manner of recourse. Orbital nukes, chemical agents, kinetic bombardment, meteorological warfare; their methods of mayhem are manifold. All they would need to do is disrupt the life-bearing properties of our ecosystem or directly destroy our industrial and military installations, both of which could be easily accomplished by giving the planet a quick plunge into nuclear winter. In layman’s terms. we’d be utterly screwed.
I suppose Predator got it right. The only chance we’d have of fighting back would be if they were sandbagging us for some kind of sport. A terrifying thought, and actually somewhat plausible. That would explain why the aliens haven’t made public contact; since when did humans ask gazelles to take us to their leader? This could be going on right under our noses, and we might never even know about it. Just think of how many people might have been hunted like this already. The answer is probably zero…probably.
While we’re on the subject, I suppose I could touch on the possibility of encountering an alien beast, much like in the beloved film Alien. This is sensible, as an animal that evolved on some other planet would potentially predate humans given the chance, under the condition that it was chemically similar enough to digest human tissue. Sensible, then, but how likely? The simple answer is that we don’t really know, but my personal guess is that the odds are infinitesimal.
I want to start with a disclaimer that Sporkless Entertainment is committed to a policy of neutrality when it comes to personal beliefs. The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sporkless Entertainment…blah, blah , blah. Just stay respectful and be nice to everyone, okay? I don’t want to upset anyone, but some people can get a little heated when it comes to evolution and aliens, and too often things dissolve into a mess of insults and defamatory remarks. Let’s try to get along, and keep disagreements polite. I believe in you guys.
Okay, so what’s the mainstream opinion? While there is nothing like a consensus, popular opinions often revolve around the Drake Equation, or similar calculations. Many scientists estimate that the likelihood of life developing in some form is rather high, with multicellular life being a real possibility, and maybe there could even be some aliens that resemble us. Criticism often centers around the variables of such calculations, rendering the likelihood of abiogenesis as less likely to occur, or arguing that we can’t accurately predict its likelihood. Another tack is to argue with the timeframe, and posit that such may develop significantly far into the future, but probably isn’t around yet.
I would take something of a different tack, and argue that life is unlikely to occur randomly at all. Barring panspermia, this would leave little reason to suppose alien creatures exist, or would naturally develop in the foreseeable future. A minority of scientists argue, convincingly in my opinion, that the Neo-Darwinian conception of abiogenesis is untenable. Some take the approach that the theory of evolution is incorrect entirely, but I find that to be unlikely. While macroevolution has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it is, in my opinion, part of an incredibly strong theory with much supporting evidence. Instead, I tend to lend credence to platonic theories of evolution, and a natural history which does not depend upon random chance. Obviously, the idea that the universe is intelligently designed is a controversial concept, and many take to that line of theory based on some prior religious stance, but I myself simply find those scientific arguments most convincing.
So, in my humble opinion, I would estimate the chances of encountering alien life to be infinitesimal, even if we did manage to work out space travel. And, for technological and practical concerns, I don’t think that’s likely to happen very soon, if ever. Unlike most people, I think that’s a good thing. I feel quite at home on this planet, and I reckon leaving it to be nothing short of hubris. Perhaps it’s just my cynical nature and paranoia, but I don’t think space travel is likely to end well.
So, for as cool as it would be to encounter xenomorphs in real life, it probably isn’t going to happen, and I feel safer for it. It’s not the alien beasts that I'm afraid of, so much as space travel itself. It’s dangerous, difficult, and likely to disrupt how our very lives and societies function, and I’m not too keen on that. And, as before, if intelligent aliens do exist, we’d best hope they mean us well, because there’s nothing we can do to stop them. It doesn’t matter if you make it back to the helicopter; they can destroy the whole planet anyway.