Most of humanity still believes that it is superior to the other creatures on the planet and that animals are here for our use. Clearly, we are superior in intellect, linguistic skills, and tool-making ability, and the bible implies we are the only creatures with a soul. So, for the most part, we ignore evidence that many animals have intelligence and emotions not necessarily too dissimilar from our own. Elephants, chimpanzees, dogs, cats, and many other animals have shown the ability to feel what appears to be love, anger, fear, happiness, boredom, excitement, depression, compassion, and pain. They have shown the ability to recognize individuals, to sense our various emotional and physical states, and to care for and help us.
Charles Darwin was one of the first scientists to write about the existence and nature of emotions in non-human animals. Yet, scientists do not generally agree on the extent of these emotions because there are no widely accepted, objective scientific tests that can conclusively prove their existence one way or another and we lack the ability to communicate with animals in a sophisticated way. However, anyone who has ever owned a pet, worked with primates, or read compelling anecdotal accounts or anthropological studies on such creatures understands that these emotions are present. Two excellent books addressing the evidence of animal intelligence and emotions are Dogs Never Lie about Love, by Jeffrey Masson and A Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall. Rather than restate their extensive and compelling evidence, let’s just assume that animals, to a varying degree, are intelligent and possess emotions.
The fact that we continue to look for evidence of intelligent life on other planets while we virtually ignore the intelligent life on our own is curious. Sure, we may be the only creatures here who have a sophisticated method of communications and the resultant ability to share knowledge. But what if intelligent life on other planets is so far advanced over our own, that they have absolutely no interest in us? Even if they could find a way to communicate with us, would they even care to do so? What would be the point? The chance that there is something they can learn from us would be negligible and what would be the point of trying to teach us about their way of life? Maybe we are just too violent and limited in intelligence to even benefit from their teachings.
Alien species may be as far advanced above humans as we are over chimpanzees. Do humans try and communicate with chimpanzees in an attempt to establish a code of behavior appropriate for a creature of our higher intelligence? We have taught some how to use sign language, but do we believe they have rights equal to those of humans? Have we tried to develop and teach them a code of chimp behavior? Chimps have been known to initiate brutal attacks upon members of their own group or other groups over territorial disputes or what appear to be simple grudges or jealousy, but do we really care?
Obviously, we don’t care about the lives of most other species. Cats and dogs are partial exceptions, but we still continue to use them by the hundreds of thousands per year to test toxic products and new medicines. Aside from this, we like to take care of our pets, but what about other creatures? If we were ever able to find a way to communicate with insects, would we try and convince worker ants or bees that they don’t have to live as slaves to an all-powerful queen? Have we ever tried to find a way to persuade lion prides to respect clear, negotiated borders rather than fight over land? Do we intercede in the wars between neighboring groups of chimpanzees or gorillas fighting over territory? No. We assume there is no effective way to communicate with them about such things and we are probably right–at least for now. We merely observe, take notes, and remark on how only we humans can resolve our differences through communication, learning, empathy, and caring. Although I can’t really say that has really worked for us so far.
If we don’t care about the lives of wild animals, what makes us think aliens would care about wild humans? Many people have reported being abducted by aliens and being forced to endure experiments or medical procedures, including impregnation and the birth of hybrid children. Then there is the unexplained yet widespread phenomenon of weird cattle mutilations. If aliens are visiting Earth, it sounds to me like they have a very different concept of human or animal rights.
Remember the “Prime Directive” from Star Trek, which is the rule that humans must not interfere with the internal development of alien civilizations until they are ready for space travel? Maybe the real Prime Directive for alien visitors to Earth is that a species can use and interfere as much as it wants with the development of another species, but should try and keep from getting caught and sparking a global panic.
What would happen if governments of the world confirmed that Earth was being visited by meddling aliens who frequently scoop some of us up to conduct genetic or other medical experiments? Naturally, I think that many would instantly panic. People in isolated rural or suburban communities would feel the most vulnerable even if we were all equally at risk, so there would be a rush to migrate to the cities, leading to overcrowding, violence, food shortages, and unemployment. People would act like cornered animals and attempt to defend themselves by purchasing weapons and setting up 24×7 neighborhood security patrols, even though we know this would be completely ineffective. Criminals would take advantage of a newfound fear of the dark. The transportation system might break down as people started to fear traveling in the dark. We would see a drastic increase in anxiety and tension, which would manifest itself in irrational behavior and create a more dysfunctional society. Is there any wonder why governments have been accused of suppressing and confiscating all evidence of alien visitation?
Eventually, however, society would adapt to the new reality and try to cope. Wasteful spending on homeland security would be replaced by “global security” as the major world powers spend trillions of dollars on useless surveillance and defense technology that the aliens can easily bypass or defeat. The major religions of the Earth will adapt, as usual, to changing circumstances, by clinging to scripture and a belief in god while widening the scope of god’s creation. They may even welcome the aliens as angels sent to test or punish us for our sins, or may consider them demons to be resisted.
In any case, the world will go on and most people will continue to die from disease and car accidents, not from alien activity. Eventually, the nations of Earth will settle down and continue to fight amongst each other over terrestrial resources while a small few plan their migration to the stars.