Some discussions in some facebook groups that I belong to have centered on the subject of religion, so I thought I'd include an excerpt from our book that discussed the religious angle.
And those trade arrangements of the past were very one-sided. If our experience with extra-terrestrials mirrors that of peoples colonised by Europeans, “trade” will not be something conducted by equals – Earth will have resources that the aliens need and what they will offer in return will amount to the equivalent of glass beads. But then, it’s as well to remember that the kind of civilisation imagined here is likely to regard an iPhone X as the equivalent of glass beads.
A close look at European colonial history suggests other possibilities, too. Earth may be invaded to spread religion, as many countries on this planet were invaded to force people to adopt Christianity. Or Islam. Or Communism. And that brings us back to the question of how people will respond. This will be dealt with in more detail later in this book, but it is often suggested that one of the big losers on Earth in the event of discovery of an extra-terrestrial civilisation would be religion. And that is not, in fact, necessarily so. A cartoon doing the Facebook rounds recently showed some aliens on another planet talking to visitors from Earth. ‘Jesus?’ says one of the aliens. ‘We know him well. He drops in about once a month. We give him coffee and cakes. How did you treat him?’
Suppose the invaders brought with them a holy book that told roughly the same story as the Bible. Or the Quran. Or some other religious text already known here. Is it possible to imagine anything that could better reinforce an existing religious message?
Then again, there’s the possibility that the extra-terrestrials’ values are so far from those of humans that it is impossible for humans to understand them. Earth provides a fairly benign environment for the human race to grow up in. When humans have been able to desist from killing each other, in the cause of religion or trade or simply because humans are tribal and don’t really like people from other tribes, the world has mostly been kind to them. Imagine a different planet – the one from which the inter-stellar visitors are coming – in which every day is a struggle for survival. These aliens did not emerge unscathed from their own planet’s evolution. They survived because they became better at killing other species than other species became at killing them. What mindset – what value system – are such people likely to have developed?
It’s extremely likely to be the idea that the universe is predicated on the survival of the fittest. They believe that, if humans are unable to resist them effectively, humans are not fit for survival. They would be justified in killing us, just because they could.
Justified not, perhaps, by our standards and values, but certainly by theirs – and it would be their standards and values that counted, because “might is right.”
'Where are They?' is available now on Kindle ana paperback.
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Mark Rodger and Steven Lazaroff live in Canada.