As the world waits with bated breath for news about the mysterious asteroid named Oumuamua which has entered our solar system and is 'acting in a mysterious way', it strikes me as sad that much of the human race seems desperate to find signs of intelligent life in outer space.
The thought of Oumuamua being an alien spacecraft, as the tabloids would have you entertain, is fanciful to say the very least. It's probably an odd shaped rock rather than a ship full of green aliens.
Why are so many people consumed with a need to find alien life? With so much life to wonder at on our own planet, they still need proof that it also exists somewhere else. Is it a desperate reaction to being trapped on a tiny planet spinning through space, with no destination and apparently no purpose, that creates a panic response in those who need to find a reason for their own existence? In order to justify the belief that everything must have a reason that fits with our desire to know answers, they feel an urge to find 'proof' of other life out there in the infinite emptiness of space.
Sending out radio signals to the rock, as scientists are doing, and listening for a response seems to me a rather naïve experiment. We know next to nothing about the universe and yet we casually expect alien life to use the same technology as we do in a rather smug assumption that we are somehow intelligent life ourselves. The truth is that we have about a hundred years of what we might refer to as modern technology and we can't even find a way to protect and nurture life on our own planet, let alone be relied upon to communicate successfully with life from other worlds.
And imagine if we received a reply to our simple radio broadcast - what would we do with the information? Judging by our performance so far on earth, we would infect our new alien friends with a lust for environmental destruction and war.
And I use the term 'infect' consciously...
I remember gazing out of a plane window once on an overnight flight across Europe. As I looked down over towns and cities, specks of light all merging together into small clusters and interconnected with glimmering strings of roads, like fibres binding them all together, it struck me just how much it looked like a giant petri dish containing a culture of bacteria that was growing and spreading across the surface of the life-giving, nurturing medium to which it clung. It seemed to me that if human beings were like a virus infecting the earth and spreading across the surface, then this is what it would look like from a great distance. It was not dissimilar to looking at a sample of food bugs growing on a nutritious jelly in a lab.
I recall as a child observing a colony of busy ants, each doing their allocated job - rushing about, building, working, eating - and wondering if they were in any way aware of me watching them. I came to the conclusion that they were entirely oblivious, living in a world of their making, thinking (if indeed ants 'think' which I suspect they do on some level) that they were in control of their own lives.
So sometimes I'm prone to speculate whether human beings are no more than the ants I watched as a child, or indeed the bacteria growing in a petri dish. For each form of life struggles to survive and is at the mercy of the one watching its progress.
If we are no more than a comparatively primitive organism in the big scheme of things then what benefit would it be to encounter an alien species when we can't even co-exist in harmony with other creatures on the same planet? My hunch is that there is nothing else out there anyway, that we are a universal accident, a miracle perhaps. Alone in the great unknown would be a terrifying thought for some no doubt and yet isn't that the very nature of our lives individually?
I feel no need at all to hope for other signs of life out there in the vast unknown. I feel even less need to go and look for it. I think there is enough to deal with here. I am however, oddly aware of being 'watched'. Observed by some higher authority. Whatever one believes that higher authority to be is another matter entirely. But it makes perfect sense to me that there is Something with a capital S, a force that can control our destiny, as we presume to control the destinies of those forms of life that are around us, the same ones that remain unaware of our existence.
The hope, to which many people clutch, of discovering alien life, seems to me a futile attempt to find rationality in a universe where struggle appears to transcend reason. Unless of course the reason turns out to be God.
That would make sense.