The search for intelligent life is alienating

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We sat, my wife and I, amid the purple Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans in the garden, which we lovingly tend, idly discussing the news of the day – Egypt’s unravelling proto-democracy, the Senate expense scandal in Ottawa, Moncton’s summer road construction schedule – when, just above the tree line, a fleet of brilliantly white lights, appeared in the eastern sky. We shrugged with mild contempt and returned to our conversation.

That’s the trouble with ET. It’s not that he doesn’t phone home; it’s that he never phones ahead.

Apparently, he’s been conducting a lot of annoying, unannounced pop-ins recently. According to a Winnipeg Sun item in May, “More Manitobans than ever before reported seeing unidentified flying objects last year. A survey on UFO sightings in Canada released. . .by Ufology Research reveals there were 124 reported sightings in Manitoba in 2012, up from 81 the previous year and the most sightings recorded in a single year since records started being kept on the topic in 1989. Seventeen of those sightings emanated from Winnipeg, the report states.”

The “sightings” in the province were part of a growing tendency among Canadians to spy space aliens from the comfort of their patio furniture. In fact, the folks at Ufology Research counted nearly 2,000 reported sightings across the country in 2012  – more than double the number in 2008. Ontario boasted the most (822) and PEI the least (2). Oddly, as a per capita proportion of the population, New Brunswick ranked close to the head of the class (41).

In fact, this summer has been a busy one for alien-spotters in Westmorland County. On July 31 at 10:45 pm local time, two “credible witnesses” in Shediac “saw a series of reddish orange balls coming across the sky from the southwest, in a straight line,” reports Ufology Research on its website. “We’re on a common flight path for transatlantic flights here, but the men, retired engineers, could also see airplanes in the sky that had no connection to these objects. The sighting lasted about 15 minutes. No noise or other lights as you might see on aircraft; nothing but the balls of light themselves, about a dozen in number.”

Some weeks ago, the Moncton Times & Transcript lent editorial real estate to claims by residents near Pointe-du-Chene of seeing luminous objects hovering silently in the starry night. Were these a precursor of invasion or just a couple of Chinese lanterns that had slipped their moorings? The investigation, I assume, continues.

In any case, no less esteemed an expert on all things cosmological than astrophysicist Stephen Hawking – the size of whose brain pan is reputed to be second only to that of the late Albert Einstein – has suggested that if extraterrestrials exist, and if they pay regular visits to our humble orb, they may be “nomads, looking to conquer and colonize”. In a 2010 documentary for the Discovery Channel, he said, “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.

The remark earned a mild rebuke from former Canadian defence minister Paul Hellyer, who told The Canadian Press, “I think (Professor Hawking) is indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature. . .I think it’s really sad that a scientist of his repute would contribute to what I would consider more misinformation about a vast and very important subject.”

He continued: “The reality is that they’ve (aliens) been visiting Earth for decades and probably millennia and have contributed considerably to our knowledge. Microchips, for example, fiber-optics, they are just two of the many things that allegedly – and probably for real – came from crashed vehicles.”

In other words, the truth is not only out there; it’s all around us.

Meanwhile, as my wife and I continued to mourn the passing of intelligent life on Planet Earth, much less the universe, we watched as the fleet of white lights noiselessly transformed themselves into a flock of seagulls whose wings had caught the dazzling glow of the slowly setting sun.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief. Given the news of the day, we were in no mood for company.

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