Apparently you have, … if you are not designed. Over at MSNBC.com, Alan Boyle asked yesterday,
What would happen if we found out that we are not alone in the universe? Or, on the flip side, what would happen if we decided that we really were alone? Experts provided updated answers to those age-old questions, from a scientific as well as a religious angle, during a Sunday session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting.
But one of the most intriguing questions had more of a personal spin: What would you ask E.T. if you had the chance?
Well, what would you ask, readers?
And, as for what would happen if we decided that we really were alone? Glad someone wondered. The underlying cultural assumption has always been that SETI searches will be rewarded, insofar as we can’t be important enough to be alone. For one thing, it would imply that we are unique. Sounds too much like religion. Still, someone bit on the question:
Suppose the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continues for a century … and no messages are received.
Let’s see, some predictions first: When the truth sinks in, science fiction takes a huge nosedive in sales and, to rescue itself, gets reclassified as fantasy. SETI folds. NASA scales back the rhetoric at media events on astrobiology and loses funding for same. After all, no one really cares about extraterrestrial bacteria, even if they are out there. They won’t pay taxes for that for long, will they? No,They are the ones we have been waiting for.
Senior astronomer Howard Smith, the biter, took the occasion to introduce his misanthropic principle:
That term plays off the widely cited anthropic principle — the idea that Earth appears to be so suited for life as we know it not necessarily because God made it that way, but simply because we wouldn't be around to see it if it wasn't.
The way Smith sees it, the misanthropic principle is a good thing.
The view that we alone are responsible for our zone of the cosmos should make us feel "blessed," and more careful about not spoiling the good thing we've got here.
"The misanthropic principle is joyous," Smith said. "We should rejoice in our good fortune."
So rejoice, brother. You can get a religious message out of anything or its opposite.
Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.