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  • Jack McDevitt

Blog #26

I’ve mentioned before that people at SF conventions or simply attending luncheons or

in classrooms tend to get annoyed if a speaker suggests that the UFO stories were probably

fabricated and that no, it’s unlikely we’ve ever had any visits by aliens at any time in the

recent past. By ‘recent,’ I’m suggesting since the rise of western civilization. And that’s

likely well north of reality. It’s doubtful any human has ever seen a flying saucer. Ever.

It’s hard to say why we seem so desperately to want to entertain visitors. I recently

finished a conversation between Chase Kolpath and Gabe Benedict on the subject. They

live nine thousand years from now, have access to a pretty decent starship, and haven’t

themselves seen much in the way of intelligence anywhere else. There’ve been a few

civilizations that rose briefly into the sunlight. But only one other beside ours has

survived. Well, of course that’s only fiction. One guy’s lack of imagination at work.

“Why,” Chase asks, “do we care so much?” Neither of them has an answer.

Probably we just don’t like being alone. Watch SF on TV and the cosmos is filled with

aliens. Of course, when you’re running a TV show, it’s a lot easier to come up with story

lines when you have aliens. Empty worlds just don’t cut it.

But there’s an even more depressing possibility rising from the one facing Chase and

Gabe. We still don’t know how life got started, and the odds against its occurring simply

because the right chemicals showed up at exactly the right time, got together in the perfect

environment, while every other detail occurred in precisely the correct order, the

temperature was perfect, the water contained exactly the necessary amount of nitrogen and

salt, and the other details were exact might be pretty remote. The odds against its

happening have been compared to a monkey tapping on a typewriter and writing Hamlet.

If it’s really that extreme, we might be the only living world in the universe. Present that

possibility to an audience and you can feel the discomfort. The truth about us is that we

just don’t like being alone.

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