Phi Beta Cons

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Aliens are Coming! (The Outer-Space Kind)


Little Green Men have become a topic of concern for the global intelligencia of late. (Seriously.)

First there was Stephen Hawking, who last week warned the world that we should seek to avoid contact with beings from outer space because they may be out for blood: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

You may have been under the impression that movies such as Mars Attacks and Independence Day were pure fantasy. But the grave warning above comes from a man who was a professor at Cambridge University for 30 years.

Now Richard Wright (formerly of Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania) has addressed the issue in the New York Times. Hawking has it wrong, says Wright: “So maybe any visiting aliens would themselves have passed this test; they’d have mustered the moral progress necessary to avoid ruining their planet, and this progress would involve enough genuine enlightenment — enough respect for sentient life — that we’d be safe in their hands.”

If we apply the terminology of international relations theory, Hawking would be the pessimistic realist. On the other hand, Wright exudes the hopeful optimism of an IR liberal. Personally, I favor Hawking’s view. I don’t like the idea of meeting up with a legion of hungry Martians.

Anyway, all this otherworldly talk got me thinking about the irony of these debates. This is the era of Hitchens, Dawkins, et al. In elite academic circles, belief in God is increasingly looked upon with derision. Faith, we are told, is for the ignorant and weak-minded. Meanwhile, some of our most respected intellectuals are spending their time debating stratagems for intergalactic relations.

Who knows? Perhaps John Mearsheimer is already work on his next NY Times bestseller, The Klingon Lobby and Earth’s Foreign Policy. At this point, nothing would surprise me.


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