TPV regular djchefron brought this bit of news to my attention:
"LL," I hear you harumphing. "What does this have to do with stopping the Orange Fascist??"
A lot, actually.
For the entirety of human civilization, we've been alone in the universe. All of our mythologies have posited that humanity is a unique creation, the only sentient life in the cosmos. We are the acme of life, to be found nowhere else.
This presumed uniqueness has warped our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe. If we are the repository of intelligence in all we can observe, that does tend to inflate one's sense of self. One becomes disconnected from the web of creation which surrounds us. Much like Western conceptions of God place Him outside of his creation, humanity itself somewhat occupies the same space. From climate change to species extinction, we can see the consequences of that real time.
As the Space Age has unfolded, the possibility of discovering alien civilizations has tantalized us. However, it has done so mostly as fodder for entertainment, not as a serious scientific endeavor. Our radio telescopes have searched for over half a century, to no result.
But what if these anomalous signals are ETI? What if, finally, we can say "We are not alone"? I don't think I can overstate how much that would change everything. The religions which claim the allegiance of over half the globe—Christianity and Islam—are predicated on the belief that mankind is a unique creation, alone in its splendid isolation. The confirmation of even one alien civilization would blow apart religious belief.
Concomitant with that upending of received religious wisdom would be a similar blowing apart of political assumptions. We'd go from a bickering collection of cultures to one species among many in the universe. We would, at last, be confronted with existential questions on a global level. If there are alien species, what does that mean for the nature of humanity? Will we continue our internecine strife in the face of a cosmos rife with life? Will we evolve to confront the universe's immensity? Right now we are exploring the universe still under the impression that we are alone. But if we're no longer alone, and we ourselves are the subjects of the same exploration? I would hope that our petty differences would pale in comparison to a reality of a universe awash in intelligent life.
Here's to hoping that ETI are seeking us out. Here's to hoping that when we find each other, our petty cavils will fade into memory. And, of course, here's to hoping that we're not dinner.