News and brain candy for the philosophy community
Earth is calling…or maybe not!? In a new Discovery Channel series, Stephen Hawking has answered the question that has plagued scientists for years. In his mind it is totally logical to assume that aliens are out there and that we should not invite them over here. The reason why there has to be extraterrestrial life is the sheer number of galaxies in the universe and the resulting huge number of planets in every single galaxy. Somewhere there has to be life. Hawking admits that this life can be in the form of microbes and small animals, but he is adamant that there can also be intelligent life and that these aliens can be very very dangerous for us Earthlings. They might be on the hunt for resources or space to live in and might be far advanced from us. For hundreds of years the idea of extraterrestrial life has challenged astronomers, because the sheer assumption leads to a whole plethora of philosophical relevant questions. First of all, would we not have to change the term “alien” and apply it exclusively to extraterrestrial life? Nick Clegg might not agree with that, because he would be as afraid of these aliens as he is of the human ones. But for the rest of us it is an interesting question if an extraterrestrial alien can ever be “legal’? Or if they are human at all? Do we have to treat aliens the same way we are supposed to treat each other? But what happens if they do not have a philosopher like Kant but only one like Nietzsche? Can we assume that they understand our logic and how universal is logic anyhow? Maybe they can solve our ethical dilemmas, because they know more then we do? Maybe they even know that God does or does not exist and there would be no need for Churches anymore, especially those that are not able to treat humans correctly anyhow. Kepler, at the turn of the 16th Century already questioned whether God could play the role we say he does if there are so many other galaxies out there. Hawking warns us of looking for contact with aliens, but it is not clear if we can avoid that contact. If it is unavoidable, we might learn a lot, maybe about them but maybe even about ourselves.
News and updates about the discussion at timesonline.
By Thomas W. Polger, University of Cincinnati
Vol.4, September 2009
God and the Natural World in the Seventeenth Century: Space, Time, and Causality
By Geoffrey Gorham, Department of Philosophy, Macalester College
Vol. 4, September 2009