Some people think it’s impossible for aliens to exist, while others swear they have had personal encounters with them. As with nearly every subject, the most likely truth lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
There’s no way to know for sure whether intelligent lifeforms exist somewhere else in the universe. Therefore, the idea of aliens at first can seem as preposterous as leprechauns, fairies, God, Zeus, or any other myth.
The more specific these ideas get, the more unlikely they become. This includes little green men, or short grey humanoid aliens, with giant heads, enormous black eyes, and no discernible gender.
However, the more generalized beliefs get, and the more options we consider, the greater the probability of alien existence becomes. When you consider the sheer magnitude of our universe,the chances of homo sapiens being the only intelligent species shrink more and more. Astrophysicists are constantly discovering new planets suitable for life, and this makes claims of us being the only highly evolved species increasingly arrogant.
If you look at aliens as nothing specific, but merely other intelligent lifeforms, then the probability of them existing is so high that is appears inevitable. Among the billions of stars in the universe, most of which contain orbiting planets, there are some chunks of floating rock that are similar to Earth, and are entirely suitable for life. Even if these planets only represent a miniscule fraction of all interstellar bodies, there should be at least thousands of them in the known universe. There may even be thousands within our own galaxy, and scientists have so far only been able to map out 4% of the universe! Statistically speaking, further exploration is guaranteed to reveal more Earth-like planets.
Most descriptions of aliens in people who claim to have seen them are anthropomorphic. This is odd, given that the chances of this being the case are vanishingly small. It’s obviously due our own representations of intelligence. Human beings are the most intellectually evolved creatures in the universe, as far as we know. So it’s logical for us to assume that even more advanced iterations of life will look similar to us.
Certain evolutionists like Richard Dawkins, claim this may be partially true. He believes that evolution through Darwinian natural selection of random mutations is the only way that life can arise and flourish. This means that other lifeforms might not resemble us because their evolutionary paths may have branched off in very different directions from humans. However, they will probably have arrived at their current state through the same mechanism. They could be anthropomorphic, or completely different, but they will have evolved in a similar fashion as people. Many other people agree with Dawkins, citing factors like evolution’s complexity, and the requirement of specific ingredients for lifeforms.
Other scientists disagree. They argue that given the high number of factors that could lead to life elsewhere in the universe, it is parochial to assume that it would be humanoid, or at least follow the rules of evolution. No one has any idea of how much our laws of physics apply to undiscovered reaches of space. On distant planets, life could have found extremely unusual ways to form. Adapting to different fundamental scientific laws, it could have learned to consume and produce energy in varying methods. These lifeforms might experience life in ways that we cannot possibly imagine. Consider the idea of amorphous, methane-based intelligent beings, who survive on sulphur, and produce copper. You could speculate endlessly about all the directions in which life could go.
It is possible, although highly unlikely, that life somehow failed to arise elsewhere in our universe. It could also be the case that other lifeforms evolved, but haven’t made it as far as us. Another option is that other beings came into existence, constructed their own societies, and are exponentially more advanced than us. But maybe they are so far away that we will never meet them. Even if there are lifeforms in the deep reaches of space that are hundreds of thousands of years ahead of homo sapiens on the evolutionary scale, they may never develop technology to allow quick interstellar travel.
This brings us to the Fermi Paradox. First postulated by Enrico Fermi in 1950, he pointed out that if extraterrestrial life is so common, we should have seen evidence of it. Maybe human beings actually are a rare success story, lucky to have survived every event that led to our existence. Many creatures, from the first single-celled organisms, all the way to you, have died along the way. There have been interstellar collisions, asteroid impacts, natural disasters, wars, famines, diseases, droughts. The list of obstacles against life could go on forever. Maybe the odds of surviving, and flourishing well beyond where we are now, are simply too insurmountable. An alien species in another galaxy would have to figure out how to do things like travel through wormholes, or at speeds much faster than light, to be able to get close to Earth. These feats are thought to be impossible by many, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Let’s talk about UFOs, or Unidentified Flying Objects. There have been many of these throughout human history. If you see something flying through the air, and you don’t know what it is, that’s a UFO. A hunter-gatherer tribe who have never seen a plane before would think they are magical if they see one. Weather balloons or satellites can look mysterious if they’re far away, and you don’t know what they are.
However, when most people use the acronym, UFO, they are referring to an alien spaceship. There are innumerable people who claim to have seen them, and many also say they have been abducted. A lot of people believe aliens have visited Earth, but their evidence is almost entirely specious, or even ridiculous.
When you look at the evidence of alien visitations, the vast majority of it consists of eye-witness accounts, with a little bit of video footage sprinkled in. Most of the video footage has been completely debunked, and the small amount that hasn’t remains mysterious. But something unexplainable is nothing more than an anomaly. It doesn’t mean that aliens have visited us. The supposed footage of extraterrestrial craft could be various other things. It might be secret government projects, tricks of light, artifacts in the picture, deliberate hoaxes, or a number of other possibilities.
We know that eye-witness accounts are entirely unreliable. People’s memories are highly flawed, and most of us are completely certain that our inaccurate accounts of events are correct. There have been countless times when innocent people have gone to jail because witnesses mistook them for criminals who look similar. The order and details of events can also easily be confused by anyone in a high-stress situation. Your brain interprets prior occurrences in the way that suits your self-deception. We all have stories in our heads that turn out to be slightly different when we discuss them with others who were there at the time. That’s why, when recalling what a man walking down the street a week ago was wearing, you might think he was wearing a red hat, while your friend could be certain it was blue. Let’s not forget that people also could easily lie about alien encounters or UFOs to get attention, or validate their own version of events. They might even have a financial incentive, if they’re writing a book, making a documentary, or trying to sell some obscure service.
Area 51 is often used as evidence for aliens. For decades, investigative minds have claimed that the government was hiding evidence of flying saucers, and alien bodies. A lot of people believed them, because it’s an attractive and imaginative idea. However, what is more likely? Is it more probable that aliens figured out interstellar travel, came to Earth, crashed their ships, and were captured by the government and the military for study? Let’s remember that there were government and military officials who claimed this was going on. Or, is it a greater possibility that the military was working on secret projects, civilians found out that they were being secretive, and people in charge of the projects went along with the theories? If people are working on secret operations, does it make more sense for them to tell everyone the truth, deny it, or aid in perpetuating myths?
According to recently declassified C.I.A. documents, the most likely possibility turned out to be true. Area 51 was a secret military base during the Cold War, and it was where the C.I.A. developed secret technologies, such as spy planes, and covert recon tools. Since this was happening during the Cold War, American military and government officials didn’t want Russia to know what they were working on. So when people started spreading rumors about aliens and U.F.O.s, they denied them, claiming that the experimental aircraft people saw was objects like weather balloons. The C.I.A. continued with this strategy in public, but in secret, they had people posing as ex-C.I.A., and ex-military, going around and telling people confidential alien stories. These civilians were told to keep this information secret, but they publicized it, which is exactly what the C.I.A. hoped for. If an enormous amount of people believe you are working on alien technologies, that draws attention away from the possibility that you are developing spy planes. If the C. I. A. had told the public they were deciphering the intricacies of extraterrestrial space flight, people would have demanded to see it, so that option wouldn’t have made sense. It would have also drawn the attention of Russia.
It seems highly likely that there is intelligent life somewhere else in the universe. Perhaps we just need to continue exploring and advancing technology until we find it. Maybe alien lifeforms communicate through methods so sophisticated that we haven’t invented them yet, and they can travel in dimensions we don’t have access to. It’s possible that there are highly advanced beings out there that are too far away for us to communicate with. Or, maybe human beings really are the most advanced form of life in the universe. Perhaps we will discover the truth in the future. Whether aliens exist or not, it is unlikely almost to the point of impossibility that they have visited and communicated with us. But that doesn’t mean that it unequivocally has never happened. As with most highly speculative issues, this one has many proponents on either side of the spectrum. No one knows the truth, which is why it’s so enticing to think about. Whether you believe in aliens or not, and whether you believe they have interacted with humans or not, no on can deny that alien life is an endlessly fascinating topic.