Some scientists publicly refuted Hawking, blasting his pessimistic prediction of an extraterrestrial encounter. Meanwhile, other researchers have rallied behind him, offering similarly wary predictions.
AOL News managed to establish contact with four self-described experts in the field of UFOlogy -- the study of unidentified flying objects -- to elicit their takes on the news. They fell roughly into two broad camps:
ET IS FRIENDLY, BECAUSE ...
1. Just Like Us
Jose Escamilla is a documentary and creative filmmaker by trade, but he joined the ranks of the world's most legendary UFO witnesses thanks to a series of videos he recorded from 1994 to 1998. They appear to show unidentified rod-shaped structures flying over Midway, N.M. (near Roswell), in broad daylight. In previous interviews, Escamilla maintained that the rods are likely living creatures, and friendly ones at that. As he explained to AOL News, the violent aliens are likely to be few and far between:
2. Would Have Invaded AlreadyFrom my own firsthand experiences when filming UFOs in broad daylight over Roswell, N.M., I can clearly state that just like we have many types of humans among us, there are probably many types of alien beings already among us. There is no reason to think we haven't been visited yet or that aliens have not made contact with us ... As far as aliens being hostile, just like we have violent people, I am certain it's the same with aliens. "On earth as it is in the heavens?"
Dr. Steven Greer is a physician turned UFOlogist who founded The Disclosure Project. His organization seeks to get Congress to "hold open, secrecy-free hearings on UFO/extraterrestrial presence on and around Earth," which Greer believes is irrefutable, having ostensibly experienced contact firsthand and recorded similar testimony by numerous members of the U.S. Armed Forces and private industry.
In response to Hawking's comments, Greer told AOL News he found it "unfortunate that Stephen Hawking has added his voice to a growing chorus of xenophobia and fear regarding what he terms 'aliens.'" Greer went on to say:
Greer concluded by chastising Hawking for "stirring the war-mongering fear pot" and defending the industrial-military complex. But while Escamilla and Greer and advocate the position that alien life is more likely to be hospitable than threatening to earthlings, others took Hawking's warnings to heart.As a scientist, he should know better: Any interstellar civilization would possess such technologies that the meager resources of Earth would be unneeded. If you can travel faster than the speed of light, you can manifest what is needed. Period. Moreover, if they were hostile, since ETs are already visiting Earth (see www.DisclosureProject.org) this would have been made crystal clear when we detonated the first atomic weapon in 1945. To date, no place on Earth has been invaded or attacked or colonized.
ET DOES NOT COME IN PEACE, BECAUSE ...
3. Clear Evidence of Harm
Dave Cosnette manages the U.K. website "Cosmic Conspiracies," which is self-billed as "Europe's Biggest UFO Database." It logs sightings and offers perspective analysis on the evidence for various alien encounters around the globe. Cosnette and his brother Martin share a "passion for paranormal research" that extends to other subjects including the Apollo hoax, ghosts and psychic phenomena.
Dave told AOL News in an e-mail:
However, like Escamilla, Cosnette points out that alien life is probably diverse enough to incorporate a variety of personality types: "In our studies so far, we have investigated over 60 different alien species encountered. We must remember the vastness of space; this is probably just the tip of the iceberg ... like here on Earth it would be to difficult to imagine many of these would be hostile."I agree with Hawking, they would be threatening species and they are probably far more advanced than we are. There have been many occasions where people coming into contact with aliens have been harmed. One case in Brazil comes to mind where the person was killed in a horrific manner being skinned and had various body parts removed via some kind of laser.
4. Aliens Hide
The expert with arguably the most academic experience studying alien encounters that AOL News spoke with was also the most unequivocal in his support of Hawking's assessment.
David M. Jacobs is a history professor at Temple University who is widely recognized as one of the most pre-eminent UFOlogists in the world. He wrote his dissertation on UFOs in the 1970s and has devoted his professional career to studying them and purported alien abductions ever since, publishing four books on the subject and overseeing the website The International Center for Abduction Research. Jacobs was quick to skewer the other UFOlogists consulted for this story as being unreliable charlatans. "I completely agree with Hawking," he told AOL News. He continued:
Jacobs said this dour view of alien/human relations developed as he researched hundreds upon hundreds of abduction stories and found that they shared the commonality of neurological manipulation by distant, super-powerful entities hell-bent on maintaining a cloak of secrecy, to what ends he could only speculate were nefarious.Contact with extraterrestrials is not advisable and is to be avoided at all costs. Everything I've seen over the course of my career has lead me to conclude that far from being the kind of benevolent, spectacular first contact scenario that pervades in the media -- thanks to works like "Contact" by Carl Sagan -- humanity's encounters with alien intelligence could be catastrophic for us all.
Indeed, Jacobs said he was grateful for Hawking's seemingly renewed interest and attention to the subject, noting that "there's hardly anything we can do [to prevent alien encounters] as long as the broader scientific community thinks this is nonsense."
So as the search for conclusive proof of intelligent life continues, so too does the debate over how we should greet it. One thing, however, remains as clear as an idyllic night sky: No matter what you believe about ET, there will be some expert out there with evidence to support your views.