We've found an extrasolar planet with life on it. Now what?

Well, not really, but that’s the premise of this thread.

If you want to argue that it can’t happen or we’d never find it or whatever, feel free to start a thread and I’ll drop in for a visit.

In the past few decades we’ve gone from theorizing that planets exist outside our system to seeing gas giants, to currently locating a solid, if inhospitable world.

It’s now 10 years in the future and our astronomers have found a planet smack in the middle of the temperate zone of a distant star. Gas spectography determines that there is water and chlorophyll analog plant life. The only thing needed to be 100% certain is a postcard saying Wish You Were Here.

Obviously we’re not likely to get there any time this century without whole new branches of math, science, and physics.

So what will our reactions be and what will we actually do in the meantime.

There will of course be the usual collection of CTs who’ll claim that it’s all faked.
Ditto some of the mainstream and minor religions.

There will be the groups that want to put together collections of every type of transmitter we have to beam “Hi neighbor!” messages at it.

And the other end with the isolationists who are worried that the neighbors are hostile and have figured out FTL travel.

As for myself, a bit more moderate, we’ll build space based all-spectrum telescopes that will make Hubble seem like a highschool science project. Take a closer look at it and the rest of our neighbors.

Beyond that, nothing will really change until someone comes up with a viable way to visit.

In a gesture of friendship, we send over a pie. Everyone loves pie.

I think it’ll be an epochal change that somehow fades as people realize it really doesn’t have much effect or our day-to-day life and whether Jon and Kate will get back together. Kind of like the moon landings , which were a HOLY S—!!! moment at first, but are now old news and not even all that interesting to most people.

Your initial thoughts (deniers, religious fanatics, and people fearing an invasion) are right on. Those groups will get the lion’s share of initial press coverage, so will seem to be more abundant. Most people will be consumed by it for while, watching and reading as much info as they can, then drifting off to something else when it becomes clear that it’s too far away to visit or even communicate with. I think I’d fall into this group. I’d read everything I could get my hands on at first, then probably become less so as time went on… I wouldn’t be all that shocked as I think it’s a near certainty that there’s something else out there, given the size and structure of the universe.

The one thing I’d be curious about is what effect it would have on religion. I could see it both strengthening or weakening religion’s hold on humanity. I think long-term, it would decrease the literal religions and they would be gradually replaced by more of a personal spiritual approach.

If it’s close enough for us to detect unambiguous signs of life (free oxygen in the atmosphere), then two worlds with life within a fairly small region of the galaxy suggests that the total number of worlds in the galaxy with life is significant. It would get monitored by radio telescopes long enough to confirm whether or not artificial signals were being transmitted from it. It might be kewl enough to get a really big space-based imaging array funded and built. If it’s really close (within 30 light years), then proposals for interstellar probes start getting taken more seriously, with the first mission now including an orbiter/lander/rover rather than just a flyby. If it’s right next door (Alpha Centauri), you get people seriously proposing building a thermonuclear-pulse colony vessel.

Life on another planet might just be similar to plants and fungi on this one: very interesting from a scientific point of view, but no more of a challenge to the idea that human beings were specially created than discovering an uninhabited island on Earth with some previously undiscovered plants on it. What would be a challenge would be evidence of sentience, but it’s going to be much harder to find evidence of that, unless those alien beings have evolved to have at least a good grasp of technology as we have.

Unless, of course, on that planet pie is a WMD, deserving immediate retaliation.

How far away is this distant planet?

I think we will eventually find out there’s no sentient life, but until then, we have to try various radio communications.

And young-earthers have to do an exponentially larger amount of cognitive dissonance. But they will.

That’s what I’m looking forward to. I really believe that this is something that will happen in my lifetime.

Just see how all the different religions incorporate the information into their views.

I’d like to think the RC’s learned their lesson from that debacle with Galileo.

I think the major religions have learned enough that now it would merely be seen as evidence of the bounty of heaven and God. But that would change some of the lower end bullshit, especially with the fundamentalists.

But I agree with the idea that we’d then want to build ever bigger telescopes to get a better view.

And it might just spark some imaginations that are heretofore uninvolved, to begin thinking about FTL.

That wouldn’t be the end of the world - retaliation would just be another pie!

If the retaliation goes exponential it mignt not end well…

Here’s a related thread I started back in 2006:

Would ET negate God?

Issues I have not seen raised in this thread include:

  1. Assuming there is intelligent life there, it could be more or less technologically advanced than we are. Should we have some sort of Prime Directive? Do we want to risk being mistaken for gods by the Flintstones, or do we want to risk being noticed by the Borg?

  2. Assuming we choose to explore the planet, and can devise technology to do so, how do we do it from a political/geographic point of view? Do we act as individual countries, as NATO, or as a unified planet?

  3. What if different nations pursue different approaches, some of which could be dangerous to our planet? Do we go to war here over what some other country does out there?

I made the comment a few weeks ago in a similar thread, it is a sad fact due to the nature of the universe (speed of light and all that) said planet would be forever beyond human reach. :(:frowning:

I thought pie went on forever without end.

Are you saying they’d send english pie?

Valid questions, but a bit out of scope for this thread. You posited a situation where ET has traveled here and made itself known as an intelligent and more technologically advanced race.

What we’re dealing with here is that we’ve discovered a planet with at least plant life and currently no way to tell for sure if there are animals, let alone whether any of them was intelligent.

On the whole, less traumatic than grays addressing the UN, but still a solid kick in the reality for many dearly held world views.

Quite an interesting thread you started though if you’d like to reincarnate it.


The Russians putting up the first satellite and the first man in space shook us up enough that we got off our collective asses and put a man on the moon. I can see where this kind of discovery would give us impetus to get back to the moon and set up a base with the goal of reaching Mars.

We send a probe.

It contaminates the planet and kills every living thing on it.

I’m a pessimist. We will fuck up whatever we find. And we will do it brilliantly!

It would go down something like this.

When we bring life back from an alien planet, animal or plant, we are going to have the best episode of Iron Chef EVER!

An anal probe? Turnabout is fair play, you know.