Let's say there's 100%-certain proof of life in outer space. How would it change our lives?

Let’s say that one day, scientists on Earth are abruptly hit with 100% absolute, certain, no-doubt-about-it **proof **of life in outer space…that there are *trillions *of species residing on outer space planets.

And not just bacteria or viruses, but large and small animals of all sorts - ranging from creatures just a few millimeters across in size, to creatures and plants far larger than any animals on Earth. Science is blown away and realizes that the diverse ecosystem on Planet Earth is just a drop in the bucket compared to the vast array of species out there.
There’s just one catch: All of these extraterrestrial species exist many light-years away.
They’re so far away that it is impossible for humans to ever encounter such species in person. (Please don’t ask how we got proof of alien life if it was so far away…just go along with the hypothetical.) :wink:

So, the question of this thread is: What practical effect would the discovery of such alien space life have on us humans here on Earth? Would it change the way we live, the way we think, the way we do things? Or would we simply shrug and say, “Well, it’s nice that there’s life in outer space, but we can’t ever encounter it in person, so it has no practical effect on us” and then go back to our lives?

As an atheist who believes all along that other lifeforms are out there I’d be tickled pink. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least but I’d be curious as hell as to who they are.

I think religious folks would have a hard time with it, but I’m not sure.

I think we’d certainly spend a lot of effort challenging the assumption that we can’t ever encounter them.

We would certainly have a LOT of questions to ask them.
(I’m assuming we could speak their language, and get replies within , say, a couple years).

The philosophers and religious folks could natter on forever, but it wouldnt really change our lives.
But if we could learn new science and engineering, the changes could be profound.

But if the aliens are hundreds of light-years away, and contact is limited to the speed of light, so no conversations are possible…then it would be no more revolutionary than when Darwin discovered evolution. Very interesting, but no real change in our lives.

Yes, this is the point of the hypothetical.
It’s not, “How will life in outer space change us?”
It’s, “How will life in outer space, that we cannot ever interact with, encounter or communicate with, change us?”

It is essential to the hypothetical that we cannot contact the aliens in any way and they cannot contact us.

Basically, would the very knowledge that we are not alone in the universe, be enough to change our attitudes and lives?

I can’t recall if it was Carl Sagan or one of the other astronomers that explained how many planets could potentially host life. It was a huge number and there was a very high probability that some of those planets hosted life. I’ve always taken it as a given that life exists some place else in space.

It doesn’t effect us at all. I would be worried if they had the technology to travel across galaxies and reach earth. Our science knowledge and technology would be so primitive compared to theirs. We’d be easy pickings and basically helpless.

First of all, lots of people wouldn’t believe it anyway. It’s all a conspiracy, you see.

Then there would be huge arguments on whether to try to contact aliens or try to keep ourselves hidden.

I’m not sure how the religious crowd would react, but it’s not like this would be the first time that facts contradict belief and somehow belief “wins”.

Depends - can we tell what their environment/metabolisms/physiology/evolution are like? I take it so, given the detail we’ve gleaned in the OP.
If so, it’ll have a profound affect on our life sciences and evolutionary biology. If they’re weird enough, probably also on our theories of cognition and consciousness. It would be an exiting time to be a scientist in any related field, that’s for sure.

But I doubt the man in the street will be changed, any more than the existence of black smokers makes the average person stop and go “Woah!” (as it does me)

About twenty years ago, I worked with a Latter Day Saint, whom I once asked about the story I’d heard that right-living LDS’s could someday be in charge of their own planet. He claimed the story was anti-LDS propaganda.

A few years later, in the wake of the extra-terrestrial meteorite found in Antarctica which supposedly showed fossils of microscopic lifeforms, he came swaggering in to work, proclaiming that the story he’d earlier denied proved that, “we were right” - i.e., there was extra-terrestrial life.

To paraphrase the old adage about computer standards, the nice thing about religious prophecies is that there are so many to choose from (after one has actually occurred).

You probably remember Sagan talking about the Fermi Paradox or the Drake Equation.

As a Catholic who believes all along that other lifeforms are out there I’d be tickled pink.

The Pope has said he’d be cool with it, as well.

It would change some religious attitudes. It would inspire a lot of people to get involved in science and space exploration. It would boost political support for science and space exploration.

So it would be significant but not world-changing, I think.

To echo RandMcNally: I am a Catholic, and I’d be pleased, but not surprised, because I already believe there is extra-terrestrial life in the universe.

The people that it would effect in an adverse way would refute it. Just like they do today.

Might be a boost for NASA.

That is the one problem with your hypothetical, if you can confirm it, it might as well not exist. Even now we have people doubting things like vaccines.

There will always be doubters, unless they can see it.

And remember statistics don’t tell you what WILL happen, they only tell you what is LIKELY to happen.

If you flip a coin 100 times, statistics say 50 times should be heads and 50 times should be tails, that is what is LIKELY to happen. But there is nothing to prevent all 100 times coming up tails. It’s just not likely.

So just because it’s likely there is life out there, doesn’t mean it must be.


The practical effects on rational people will be minimal. The practical effects on non-rational people will be zero.

Q: If they’re so smart, why the hell would they come here or share jack-sh-t with us technology wise?

We’d just be a lesson on what NOT to do, recorded & preserved for [del]posterity[/del] more worthy/intelligent life forms.

What beliefs? I see no religious reason there can’t be life in outer space.

I’ve never heard a religious-backed argument against life outside of Earth. Not that I am out there looking for religious-backed arguments of anything, mind you.

What religions/sects are typically anti-alien?

(I’m Lutheran FWIW and I never heard a peep about outer space in all my years of churchin’)