While walking my dog this evening I looked up at the brilliant celestial bodies, showing themselves during this, the coldest of Wisconsin’s winters. Orion sits majestically in the eastern sky, the large crescent moon hangs opposite, just above the horizon, and Venus prominently stands out amongst the countless stars around her. I stood wondering how many civilizations out in the cosmos look towards our sun – just a dot in their evening skies – and how many are aware of Earth and its inhabitants.
If we assume that there are extraterrestrial beings who are aware of us, then we must also assume that they are more advanced than we are. This distinction makes me wonder if they view us as mere, ant-like creatures, or if they see us as beings that are worthwhile of investigation? If we are ants then I suspect they gander at us amusingly, becoming quickly bored at our seemingly meaningless running to and fro. But if they see us as worthy creatures, do they see us as intelligent? As disgusting? Frightening? Perhaps some combination?
After observing us they may decide, sadly, that we are too dangerous a species with which to make contact, because, surly, any civilization who has been in existence long enough to develop the kind of technology that interstellar travelers must possess has learned that evil, greed and war-mongering are not indicative of a sustainable and prosperous species. Perhaps that is why contact has not yet been made. Perhaps it never will be. Perhaps it would be self-destructive to contact beings who refuse to live together harmoniously, who plunder natural resources so casually, who hate other members of their own kind based merely upon race or religion, etc., and who value the accumulation of wealth at the expense of anyone or anything.
Will we ever know beyond all doubt that we are not alone in this universe? We send messages into space, hoping to reach intelligent life; notifying them of our existence; believing those messages will be, or have been, intercepted. But how they are interpreted is to be determined. Do they view our messages individually or as a collective, with every transmission speaking on behalf of all humankind? Do they even observe our messages, or do they observe only our actions? And if they are there to observe at all, do they do so as we do, or are their observations based on criteria that we either cannot understand or do not find significant?
The beauty of the night sky momentarily distracts me from my unanswered questions, as billions of stars shine down. The mysteries of space burst forth, creating new questions each time I gaze up. If we are being observed, perhaps the observer(s) came from a planet near a star in our own beautiful night sky.