by Andres Trujillo via listverse.com
That we’re not alone in the universe is something no one knows but most suspect – not only because it is highly probable that there is another advanced form of life somewhere out there, but also because it is a highly fascinating subject that does a beautiful job at spurring our imagination. However, in imagining what such form of life could look like or behave like, we readily make a number of anthropocentric assumptions (that is, we assume they are like us to an unnecessary degree), some of which we are not even aware of. Our common idea of what an extraterrestrial being should look like has been largely shaped by depictions in arts and entertainment that were, in one way or another, created to be relatable and convenient for storytelling purposes, while compromising verisimilitude. If we live in a multiverse, then practically any kind of being we could possibly conceive has existed or will exist at some point. But let’s pretend that humanity is on the verge of making first contact with a single species, a civilization that dwells on a planet close to ours. What can and what can we not assume about them? What do we have to wonder about them? Let us explore, in the spirit of speculation, a number of factors that merit some thought – and how they are related to both science fiction and real science.
It’s not just that we imagine them to be humanoid (standing on two legs, two limbs coming out of the sides of the upper torso, a head with a nose, a mouth, ears, and eyes); it’s that we imagine them to appear earthling-like at all. Even when we try to diverge most from the typical humanoid appearance that science fiction gives to extraterrestrials, we can’t help but envision them as sharing a general morphology with Earth’s fauna: reptiles, crustaceans, or, at best, insects – only of human size or slightly bigger. The rationale behind this is actually not as faulty as it may seem. If we build our imagined extraterrestrial from the ground up, we make anthropocentric assumptions about their morphology out of necessity. After all, we are the only intelligent species that we know of, and therefore the only instance that we can study of evolution reaching such a state. First, we assume that any intelligent species had to arise from some sort of biochemistry similar to ours. Then the resulting life form had to achieve a multicellular state, so as to develop a dedicated brain. It had to develop a skeleton of sorts to cope with gravity, and its body had to grow up to a minimum size such that its brain developed the level of cognition that we enjoy. It had to grow at least a pair of limbs to move around with and a pair to use tools. It also has to have a set of senses to interact with its world and a body big and strong enough to thrive in its ecosystem. In the end, it’s just simpler to not think outside the box.
Read the remaining Top 10 Interesting Questions About Aliens.