The Human Race vis-à-vis Extra-Terrestrials
by Garry Davis
Humanity, by definition, is a unified species. Its present home planet, as far our present knowledge extends, is Earth, third planet from a minor star situated on the outer fringes of a galaxy composed of millions of stars, one of millions, perhaps more, of galaxies in an expanding universe.
Humanity as such is a relatively latecomer to planet Earth itself which, given the 14 billion years since the Big Bang, is also a recent addition to the cosmos having been formed from the solar system only 4 billion years ago. In cosmic time reckoning, humanity's entire existence can only be counted in seconds.
Since the discovery and release of the power of the atom in 1945, the so-called Nuclear Age-a sub-set of the Space Age-was inaugurated by scientific members of our race. The question of the possible existence of other sentient species distinct from Earth thereby took on a practical rather than mere theoretical consideration. But the knowledge and use of atomic energy exposed an additional question about human development, not for humanity but for possible observors from outer space: As a major indication that a species was able to escape its home planet's gravity was the development of nuclear power, was the intelligence capable of producing that power being applied to the social organization of the species concerned? Or contrarily, was the social development, unlike absolute nuclear power itself, divisive and thus internally unstable? The events of 1945 over Hiroshima and Nagasaki underline the horrifying answer. Off-planet observors would be cautious if not downright hostile to such a species escaping its planetary environment. In short, the human species would present a danger to an otherwise friendly universe.
The test of intelligence of any species is the rational organization of its collective survival.
What attitude then should humans take if encountering "alien" or "extra-terrestrial" beings? Should we, who have not yet realized our own unity assume that such beings are per se hostile? Or should we assume they are friendly? But more fundamental and profoundly psychological and social questions underlie an obvious direct contact. Are conceptual values such as love, justice and reason universal norms or only pertinent to familial and social order on our planet? But the more pertinent question arises about our human race itself in its present sociological state: Have we yet recognized ourselves as an intelligent species able to organize our own survival on our home planet?
If the answer to this core question is no, then our divisive and immature nature would automatically apply itself to any encounter with a sentient species other than humanity. As hostility, in the form of separate nations, is institutionalized as a social and political norm, the alleged leaders of these separate units would transfer such an attitude to any and all visitors from space considering them "intruders" and hostile to the alleged sovereignty of the national units.
Contrarily, as wise men and women from ancient to present times have taught, the concepts of unity and universality encompassing conceptual values are the very core of all sentient beings, whether on Earth or elsewhere in the universe. Moreover, it is self-evident that humanity as such is at the very dawn of space travel whereas any and all extra-terrestrials who visit our planet would be far in advance, both socially and technologically, of we humans. Our efforts thus far to penetrate space would be considered primitive at best.
Recent TV broadcasts entertained the question: Who speaks for humanity if extra-terrestrials visited Earth? The Pentagon is today imperiously claiming that the United States must "own" space since the next wars between nations will be fought there. This thinking is a classic example of the paranoiac mistrust of the nation-state, an anachronistic social unit based on division and fear.
In conclusion, humanity will face its greatest historic challenge when it encounters its neighbors in the Universe. That encounter will determine whether humanity continues to justify its planetary "escape" to valid membership in the Universe or, like myriad other species before it, did not vindicate its survival by applying its innate intelligence to its overall social organization and thus perished by its own violent hand.
Postscript: In a somewhat lighter vein, my nominations as Earth Ambassadors would be the team of Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew, the intrepid captains of the Enterprise and Voyageur respectively.