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InsiderOnline Blog: August 2011

If You’re Not Convinced by the Science, Maybe You’ll Be Convinced By the Science Fiction

Researchers in Penn State University’s geography department want to help humanity prepare for an encounter with extra-terrestrials, so they’ve published a 37-page paper that lays out a variety of scenarios, including this one:

Ecosystem-valuing universalist ETI [extra-terrestrial intelligences] may observe humanity’s ecological destructive tendencies and wipe humanity out in order to preserve the Earth system as a whole…. These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets.

Why contemplate such a scenario? Perhaps the authors really secretly yearn for the arrival of an all-powerful alien overlord willing to threaten havoc unless we humans shape up. There’s a certain type of liberal that reveres thuggery, as long as the thuggery is put in service of good ends. In James Cameron’s The Abyss, aliens stand ready to crash thousand-foot high tsunamis on every city, town, and hamlet in the world in order to stop humanity’s destructive ways. They change their minds at the end of the movie, but only because they think there’s hope for us yet. Everybody goes home happy. Columnist Tom Friedman wants America to have a government more like China’s so that it could get around messy democracy and do cool stuff like subsidize clean energy. These are the deus ex machina fantasies of progressives: If we don’t have utopia, it’s only because the dictatorship that would impose it hasn’t yet arrived.

Posted on 08/26/11 01:57 PM by Alex Adrianson

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