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Interview with an Extraterrestrial

-- P. Lutus Message Page

Scene: In an artificial bubble on the surface of Ganymede (one of Jupiter's moons),
an alien explorer describes his visit to Earth.

Can you give us a general picture of Earth and its inhabitants?
        The planet is rather pretty, with lots of natural resources. "Fertile" isn't too strong a word, especially when compared with most places in the local system. There are lots of energy sources, easily accessed, and lots of chemical resources as well. And we think this fertility is why the Earth's inhabitants — the "humans" — have such distorted ideas about reality.

You mean like the silica worms on Venus, who, because they can't see through their atmosphere, have the idea that their planet is the entire universe?
        No, the humans are much worse. They can see and study the entire universe, but they still think they are the center of everything, that their planet is the reason the universe exists.

(collective gasp from audience)

But only the young humans, the larvae, have these distorted ideas, right?
        No, that would be true here, but on Earth even old humans have a larval view of reality. Some never mature beyond expecting a deity, or a government, or nature herself, to satisfy their craving for transformation.

What is this transformation? Don't they understand what they are?
        Not in the slightest. They believe they are super-beings, or are mystically connected to a super-being, so everything is simultaneously temporary and unsatisfactory, to be someday replaced by fame, justice, immortality, or something called "true love."

Do any of them have our concept of nature as a connected whole, of which all are a part? How do their beliefs differ?
        The earthlings have it exactly backward. They think nature exists for them, designed to meet their needs, not that they are part of nature, as we understand it --

(another gasp)
        -- But it is much worse than that. They can't understand why nature won't meet their most trivial needs, and they are possessed by dissatisfaction. If they look at their planet's moon, it is unsatisfactory because they can't build a house on it. Everything is too hot or too cold, too big or too small. Reality is viewed solely in terms of a human's immediate needs.

How did they stay so backward for so long?
        Mostly by looking in the wrong places. You may not believe this, but many of them rely on each other for structure and meaning — they even form units, composed of a leader and followers. The leader pretends to need followers, and the followers pretend to need a leader. Naturally, the most dangerous leaders — and followers — are those who forget it's a game. This game used to be called "religion," now it is called "government."

Are there any regions of more advanced behavior, a place where we could safely present ourselves?
        Emphatically not. In fact, there is one area of Earth that is much worse than the others — it's called "America." The Americans have raised dissatisfaction to an art form. They rarely notice events and creatures of great beauty, and completely miss spectacular examples of nature's generosity. For example, I once monitored the brain-waves of a human observing a sunset. After a moment, he thought "If only this sunset were 10% prettier, why then I would be happy."

What causes this distorted view of reality?
        Well, humans have only recently acquired intellectual skills, therefore those skills are in a dangerous, immature form. We have seen this in other places — the Earthlings have Godlike thinking powers grafted onto animal personalities. They have the ability to destroy themselves through badly formed ideas, but no ability to curb their passions.

        Their most serious problem is that they still believe in authority --

(gasps and laughter)
        -- yes, I know it is hard to believe. Many species throughout the universe have successfully made the transition from animal, instinctive mental processes to true intellect, and along the way they come to recognize authority for what it is: the last vestige of animal thought and behavior. But the transition away from authority can be difficult. The humans are about halfway through this learning process — they still believe in centralized control of individual behavior, and yet they have developed fusion weapons, as though they had any chance to control such weapons with their pack-animal political system.

Don't they have some version of science and mathematics to help them transcend their animal passions?
        Most don't even know what science and mathematics are, and many of the rest think science can only be practiced by someone called a "scientist." —

(pandemonium)
        -- Yes, and that is the best evidence for their primitive state. They don't recognize scientific thought as the principal way to evolve from the half-animal, half-civilized state in which they are now living. They don't understand that science is the moral property of all thinking creatures.

Well, at least they realize they are in transition between the world of animals and intelligent beings?
        No, actually they think they are intelligent beings, with no supporting evidence at all. Humans study the geological record of species that have been transformed to meet new requirements, but they don't realize they are themselves in the midst of such a transformation.

Can we help them? Can we share any part of our knowledge base with them, ease them toward intelligent behavior?

        No, I cannot recommend that. They would only use our tools to kill each other, and our ideas would either confuse or frighten them. I recommend that we stay out of their view, as the other advanced species have decided to do, and let them wake up by themselves, in their own good time.

Thank you for your report. Make it so. It is requested that none of our craft approach Earth, or become visible from there.

Send out this request: Stay away from Earth — they must show evidence of civilized behavior before we can allow them to join our community in the stars.

(applause)

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