If ever aliens did come to Earth one day, it will be no “Independence Day,” neither “War of the Worlds”, not even “Transformers.” The children’s reaction as shown in “E.T.” might be the closest semblance to how humans will react to aliens coming to Earth.
If the day comes that people will be face to face with aliens, most people will react positively. This is according to a study conducted by Michael Varnum, an assistant professor of psychology and a group of researchers from Arizona State University.
The study involved two subsequent surveys of about 1000 Americans and Western Europeans who were asked about their reactions (1) if life beyond Earth is discovered and (2) if scientists created a new life form in the lab. The results showed that people are more receptive of aliens than synthetically-created life and that there does not seem to be any chaos or disorder in the world.
“If we came face to face with life outside of Earth, we would actually be pretty upbeat about it,” Varnum said when he presented the study at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on February 16.
To conduct the study, Varnum and his colleagues ran previous news stories on aliens through a language-analysis program, National Geographic reported. News stories were about the 1967 discovery of pulsars, the unidentified signals detected by SETI in 1977, the 1996 supposed discovery of fossilised microbes in the Martian meteorite, the dust misinterpreted as alien megastructures in 2015, and the 2017 discovery of Earth-size exoplanets. The researchers also used the Amazon Mechanical Turk to obtain reactions from 1000 respondents asked about the discovery of microbial alien life and who read two stories in The New York Times regarding synthetic life forms.
While the study revealed possible positive reception from people, Paul Davies, director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University, explained that the odds of aliens reaching Earth remains elusive. “The truth is, we have almost no idea how non-life turned into life, so we can’t estimate the odds,” Davies said at the AAAS meeting. He highlighted that he personally believed that chances of finding intelligent life are very slim.
As for Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at the same university, exploring the space should be more than useful and inspiring enough, regardless of whether the existence of aliens will be confirmed or not. “There’s an even more important reason to do robotic space exploration and that’s to inspire everyone on Earth to take a bolder step in their own lives and to appreciate the extremis of the engineering and the amazing things we can do as humans,” Elkins-Tanton said.