Let’s say that you are the member of an advanced alien civilization. Does that automatically make you intelligent and responsible and capable of nothing but goodwill? Does it mean you will faithfully uphold the Prime Directive proposed in Star Trek, which requires you to avoid contact with other civilizations until they have progressed enough to be ready for space travel?
Let’s use a rich, young, beer-drinking jackass in a hot sports car as an analogy. He certainly doesn’t know how the car works, since it was built by many other intelligent and industrious engineers, workers, and automotive robots with the benefit of years of scientific and engineering advances and business competition. He probably doesn’t know how to build the kind of business that generated the money that paid for his car, house, slick clothes, or anything else he possesses. He didn’t build or regulate the roads or do anything else but shell out some cash and hop in, with little regard for other people who are on the road busily going to and from work or doing otherwise mundane chores. He just cranks it up to 100 mph when racing his buddies, tosses beer cans out the window, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. So, do I believe that all aliens are necessarily intelligent or good-natured? Not at all.
In fact, I suspect that there are probably some driving social forces that may even make it more likely than not that any aliens we are likely to encounter will not be model citizens of the universe. Consider Einstein’s theory of relativity, which says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light and that travel close to this speed, or through space, where there is little mass, slows the relative passage of time. This means that anyone on an interstellar journey will experience the passage of time far more slowly than the others he left behind on his home planet. Since the journey to Earth most likely requires one to abandon any friends or family forever, since they will be long dead before the traveler returned, I suspect that space travel isn’t for everyone. On Earth, it would probably be attractive only to die-hard scientists, social rejects or felons who have nothing else to look forward to anyway. Even if they could take their families with them, what kind of family would actually consent to living in space forever just so they could explore the universe?
Are you starting to get the picture? In other words, it would be perfectly understandable if any groups of aliens who show up at Earth include a large proportion of social rejects that are looking for a little fun and excitement after their long journey. The aliens who arrive might not even be the ones who originally left their home planet, but instead could be descendants who are really pissed off that they got the raw deal of having to live in an interstellar tin can. Since they probably possess technologies indistinguishable from magic to primitive humans, why wouldn’t they take advantage of it and have a little fun? Certainly, acting like gods would be one of the easiest feats to pull off. A little flying around, levitation, and laser light shows ought to have been enough for our primitive human ancestors. If not, a little mind to mind communication would have been enough to turn any doubter into a frightened, pathetic, little worshiper. When necessary, I’m sure it would have been possible to destroy an entire village or vaporize a particularly annoying ape-man.
However, this is mostly speculation based on the theory that, within any group of creatures, there are likely to be a few smart ones, a lot of average ones, and some very, very dumb ones. I think this theory works well on Earth for most species, but it might not apply to alien civilizations that have had the benefit of genetic enhancement. It is always possible that another million years of evolution or genetic manipulation could change things for us as well. We might all get genetically-modified genes that favor intelligence. Yet, if I had to bet on it, I would probably predict that people will choose artificially-enhanced beauty over brains. Furthermore, at some point, we will have stupendous artificial intelligence algorithms and robots capable of doing all the brain-intensive work for us. It will not be necessary to upgrade the intelligence level of people with average IQs. Even if we tried to transform the entire population into braniacs, how long do you think it would take us to devolve back into morons after we stop using them? So, maybe aliens also aren’t necessarily all that smart.
Einstein and I could also be wrong about the actual laws of the universe. Maybe it is possible to travel faster than the speed of light. Maybe there are worm holes that act as short cuts that allow travel between unimaginably distant planets in a relatively short time span. In this case, the quality of alien likely to show up would be different, but not necessarily any better. Consider the possibility that travel to Earth is actually relatively easy and that any alien can simply buy a ticket for a tour of Earth, hop on a wormhole shuttle, spend some time at a mother ship with a great view of our solar system and a selection of local cuisine (do cattle mutilations ring a bell?), and venture down to the planet on a small tour saucer. In this case, many of them wouldn’t be too concerned at all with the Prime Directive. A couple thousand universal credits slipped into his pocket would probably make any saucer driver willing to go in a little closer than normal or even to land, take a look around, scare some locals, and pick up a few souvenirs.
Many UFO critics say that it just doesn’t make sense that aliens would want to avoid contact, yet be so unconcerned with being seen, photographed, or videotaped by tens of thousands of witnesses all over the planet. I say it sounds perfectly reasonable assuming they are just visiting and just want to take a quick look around. Who’s to say that they have the technical capability to produce a device that can cloak themselves in the spectrum of visible light? They might not have much choice about being seen, so while they may prefer to avoid direct contact, it isn’t that big a deal and it certainly isn’t a reason to mess up their vacation!
Even if the big ships only fly around at night to avoid attracting too much attention from the military, I’m sure they have a good enough night vision capability to make the tour worthwhile. Remember the stir over the Phoenix Lights in 1997 when a huge black triangular ship flew low and slow over the city? The same kind of incident occurred over Moscow and Brussels in 1990. They were most likely a large Earth tour liner. The nighttime view of a lit-up Earth city probably makes quite a site, especially a place with a lot of night life. Maybe we should do a study correlating UFO sightings with highly-commercialized urban nightlife spots. I’m sure that scenic landscapes are probably also popular, but chances are there aren’t too many witnesses in those spots and the people who do see them are easily dismissed as drunks or stupid hicks.
How many people visit the zoo only to discover that the lions are sleeping in a cave or in the bushes and can barely be seen? What if you paid a lot of money to travel there to see them and had to put up with some really disappointed, whining kids? If you had the capability to paralyze the lion, pick it up, and look at it up close, wouldn’t you do it? Maybe some aliens just aren’t satisfied with an overhead tour and want to smell and poke something! Given the number of people who say they have been abducted, maybe there is something to it other than just some sinister plot to steal our sperm and eggs in an attempt to create hybrid human-alien creatures. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that some perfectly normal genetic experimentation or breeding isn’t going on. I’m just saying that a lot of it could be nothing more than good fun initiated by visitors who want to see some real, live ape-men (and women) up close.
Speaking of good fun, crop circles are most likely no more than that. Why would someone who intended to pass on an important message do so by implanting it in inscrutable geometric shapes carved into fields of grain? I suspect it really was started by some alien tourists who were just looking to create a little excitement by stirring up the locals. Then, a bunch of copycat humans got involved and pushed the fun to a whole new level, with characteristic human innovation and precision. Hard-core crop circle analysts can still usually tell the difference between alien creations and human ones by analyzing the grain for radiation that causes the grain to burst. This characteristic is extremely difficult to reproduce, not to mention unnecessary if all you want to do is get your creation into the newspaper or attract tourists.
I’m just wondering if all that human crop circle activity has amused or annoyed the alien inventors of the sport. After all, some of those allegedly human-created shapes are pretty amazing. I would hate to be the alien who gets teased by his buddies for making a lame, boring crop circle that gets little attention and is bested by a couple of humans with sticks and ropes. It might make them mad enough to sneak up in the middle of the night and scare the hell out of someone!