Many would feel relief that we were not alone. The night sky would seem a less scarily empty place, and our position, balanced on this ball of spinning rock, less precarious. Many would be glad, too, that the responsibilities associated with being the sole possessors of intelligence in the universe could now be shared with others. Some would be worried that, true to our recent form, we would seek to kill and exploit the aliens: to farm them, eat them, steal and patent their secrets, destroy their innocence, teach them the morality of the free market, and set them to work in sweat shops.

It’s said that 2022 is going to be a bumper year for UFO revelations. Secret archives are going to be opened and the skies are going to be probed as never before for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Much would depend, no doubt, on what we knew or supposed about the nature and intentions of the alien intelligences. If they seemed hostile, intent on colonising Planet Earth and enslaving us, our reactions would be fairly predictable. But what if the reports simply disclosed the existence of other intelligences, together with the fact that those intelligences knew about and were interested in us?
By Charles Foster
Some, of course, would simply be fascinated. What sort of anatomy and physiology do the aliens have? And, perhaps most intriguing of all, what sort of being do they have? We tend to assume that our kind of being (embodied, sensual, machines plus souls or, in our more desolate moments, just advanced computers) is the only imaginable type of being. It is not necessarily so. The religious literature is full of accounts of other kinds. And wouldn’t we expect that radically different ontologies might mean radically different epistemologies too? The universe might turn out to be a much more interesting place than we suspect.
In the sphere of religion the revelation of alien intelligence shouldn’t have much of an effect. It should merely complete the Copernican Revolution. C. S. Lewis, in his Space Triology, dealt squarely and convincingly with the suggestion that Christianity would be challenged by extraterrestrial life.1 Other religions, tending to be less anthropocentric than Christianity, have always been less troubled by the thought that there might be theologically significant organisms with bodies that do not look like the body of Jesus.
 Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.
This afternoon we might be presented with irrefutable evidence not just of life beyond the Earth, but of intelligences comparable in power and subtlety to our own. What then? Would it change our view of ourselves and the universe we inhabit? If so, how? Would it change our behaviour? If so how?
UFO against the sky. Free public domain CC0 photo
And yet, of course, the Copernican Revolution, though it might have triumphed in cosmology, has not triumphed in (particularly fundamentalist Christian) psychology. There are some would-be alien-ranchers who would try to deal with their theological queasiness at sharing the world with intelligent non-humans by declaring that so long as they were able to control the aliens, outer space was simply a suburb of the Earth, and the Earth continued to be, really, the centre of the universe. This would create a theological and psychological mandate for subduing the aliens.
Others would see the aliens, however benign, as a threat to human supremacy. Many humans like to think of themselves as the best that the universe has birthed. They are the ones who, in their own ontological insecurity, tend to deny the consciousness and the moral significance of non-human animals, because (they think) to credit any non-human with any human attribute is to diminish humankind (by which they really mean themselves). These, I imagine, would address their insecurities by trying to become alien-farmers.
Most of us, though, will read with interest the article announcing the proof of alien life, and will then get on with making the kids’ tea, writing the long-overdue paper, ringing up a friend, or worrying about the plight of earthly refugees. I’m not at all sure that those aren’t the best responses.

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