I had better tread carefully today, for I am going to write disparagingly about an entire class of sentient beings—and we should all know what has happened to Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Kathy Shaidle, Kate McMillan, Jonathan Kay, Fr. Alphonse de Valk, Mark and Connie Fournier, Marc Lemire, and a bewildering, quickly growing list of other Canadian writers hauled before the so-called “human rights” commissions, and shaken down with frivolous but financially ruinous sue-and-stall court litigation, on the suspicion that they may have entertained “hateful,” politically incorrect thoughts.
The group I intend to slur today are the Extraterrestrials. I’m not sure how the courts will interpret “hate-speech” and “hate-thought” towards this group, which is not yet specifically protected under any of Canada’s awkwardly-worded “rights” codes. Arguably, any attack on Extraterrestrials could be taken as personal attacks on members, former members, outriders and hangers-on of the “human rights” commissions themselves, and therefore provoke the next round of vexatious lawsuits.
Still, if Canada is to recover free speech and freedom of the press, journalists will have to be brave and bold, and I’m prepared, like a Boy Scout, to do my bit. I don’t care what the personal consequences to me—they can sue me, they can throw me in prison (I’ve already been hauled before the Ontario Press Council)—but I’m going to speak out. I’m going to tell you exactly what I think about Extraterrestrials.
I think they don’t exist. (And what could be more demeaning!)
While I acknowledge the belief that highly intelligent, super-evolved beings must inhabit other planets—if not in this galaxy, then surely in some others—is dear to the post-Christian “liberal” mind, my own views are old-fashioned, skeptical, and Catholic.
These are dangerous views, as I discovered this week, when I lapsed into e-mail exchanges first with a fairly sane, sensible, Darwinian atheist in Texas, and then with several more strident correspondents from the Darwinian camp. I had no idea, until I provoked them, just how powerfully the desire to believe in “little green men” can animate the thinking of minds bereft of sound religion.
But while their arguments struck me as simpleton, and ludicrous, I could nevertheless reformulate them into something vaguely plausible. Consider:
Life did not “seed,” or start evolving on our Earth, very late in the day. There are indications of microbiological activity only a few hundred million years after the planet’s first formation—and it could well be that unicellular organisms appeared immediately after the meteor bombardments ceased, 3.8 billion years ago. That isn’t consistent with the idea that the origin of biological life on Earth was a “lucky strike,” a statistical fluke of some sort. It is consistent instead with a natural and universal biochemistry.
Now, how do we account for the “biological big bang”—a.k.a. the Cambrian Explosion? The planet enjoyed three-billion-plus years of single-celled creatures only—plankton, bacteria, algae—and then, in a geological instant, all over the globe, an incredible diversity of extremely complex multicellular creatures suddenly salute us from the fossil record. The “soup” was there all along. Surely the “bang” could have happened, even here, hundreds of millions of years earlier or later.
Spread the chances over an estimated 100 billion galaxies, each containing a few hundred billion stars—and planetary systems, on each of which, for all we know, similar soups were bubbling merrily away. And consider the extreme environments to which life has adapted on this Earth. For if God can grow worms, and flatfish to eat them, that skip across pools of molten sulphur, by volcanic vents in the mid-ocean depths, in water with pH lower than Coca-Cola, thick with toxic metals lethal to other fish, and at a temperature to bake fish sticks, then why not under the ice on Enceladus? (I refer to a moon of Saturn’s.)
Indeed, we should expect to find life all over, and given the odds, many places where it has evolved far in advance of our own, so that alien civilizations with technology beyond our dreams should by now have been crossing and colonizing galaxies for a billion years.
Which is where the whole argument falls down. As the late great Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, first asked coherently more than half a century ago, “Where the hell are they?” If they existed, they would have been here by now. Nor could they hide: for in the course of their evolution, they would have left broad frequency signatures right across our skies, that they could never erase without going back in time.
I’m with Fermi, and incidentally against the Vatican astronomer who fed the media some embarrassing nonsense about aliens this week, in the naïve hope of pleasing them. There are no little green men.
But if my reader still wants to believe there are, good luck to him! Continue with your extravagant SETI—Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence—activities. But be careful: a lot of your friends have been abducted by these aliens! And pray for me, that I don’t get abducted.