Articles: Are We Alone?

By Declan Molloy

How many of us have looked upwards and wondered if we are alone, I have and as a young teenager I avidly soaked up every available book on the topic. Eason Bookshop on a Saturday morning would be raided for the latest book on flying saucers with lurid accounts of alien abduction and unexplained happenings in America and Europe with the occasional sighting in the USSR. My brain was like a wad of paper kitchen towel – it would soak up facts and figures. I had a map of the world on my bedroom wall and with little flags fashioned from dress pins and red insulating tape I would diligently plot the position of all the sighting in order to discover a pattern... there had to be a pattern.

Indeed there was, it was a pattern of western culture and what I later describe as paradise syndrome. Less well off cultures have little or no time for the Hollywood alien or his sinister agenda to be bothered – but this I learned in hindsight. Despite the reported sightings there is zero evidence for alien visitation. There are no crashed spacecraft, no alien autopsies and no conspiracy.

Sorry to be so negative but when asked last year during a radio interview whether I thought there was aliens visiting earth my answer was: Elephants exist, we have their DNA, we have photographic evidence of elephants in the wild, in zoo’s we have their tusks fashioned into chess pieces – we have a pile of elephant evidence (methophorically speaking) but the laboratory display cabinets stand empty when it comes to alien artefacts. Anyone who says anything different it’s only wishful thinking and self delusion.

But hang on there just a moment – hold your horses Declan, are you saying that we are alone in the universe? ...NO... I’m not. Imagine Frank Drakes equation is a little bit correct; let’s say there is a handful of sentient aliens out there – with an evolved curiosity – then surely they would seek us out. Surely one or two of them would have technologies smarter than ours and would go exploring and eventually pick up signs of our existence (our radio broadcast for example). Well, maybe’s if’s and buts’ and if my auntie was somewhat differently built she would be my uncle.

The simple inescapable facts are: no alien craft has landed on the Whitehouse lawn or impaled itself on the Dublin Spire because the great ocean of space is so vast that earth is infinately smaller than a bottle cork bobbing on the great Pacific Ocean.

An analogy I use quite often is – imagine the earth covered from horizon to horizon with thick woodland and you dropped 300 people at random on the surface...what would the chances be of any two individuals running into each other within a single life time.

When we think of alien – think alien life or life not native to our earth. You need to widen the definition and be prepared to encounter something a little less complex than Mr Spock from the planet, Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you Slime On Rock (if we are lucky) – more likely simple bacteria. Remember, for nearly three quarters of the history of life on earth – it was microbial, smaller than the eye can see. And consider this nearly 95% of all life on earth now is smaller than the eye can see. Higher forms of life are possible but probably rare; there is every reason to expect that other planets will have had a roll of the evolutionary dice as well as us, that simple molecules will by chance randomly create a simple cell and by random chemistry a replicator. – something that can reproduce.

Maybe it happens quite often, more likely it is quite rare – but only needs to happen once! And bingo the clock is ticking – So by all means keep watching the skies but wrap up warm and enjoy the majesty of the heavens, enjoy what is, and dream of what might be.

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