While researching for my first book, I had to ponder how I wanted its world to appear. My first thought was hard SciFi, which I found daunting to read at times, or fantastical science fiction, which would be a lot more fun for me. Considering what I enjoy reading, it’s hardly surprising I chose fantastical science fiction.
The subject has risen a few times since and I’ve been thinking about the possibility (or not) of extraterrestrial beings looking like/close to/approximating humans.
Opinions vary as much amongst writers of science fiction as scientists. Some writers and scientists agree it is conceivable that extraterrestrials can and do look human-like, but some members of both groups are totally against the idea while others can see both sides of the argument.
I’ve read many arguments for and against the possibility and personally, I don’t see any reason why extraterrestrials can’t look like us or at least have enough similarities that procreation is possible. As a science fiction writer I use humanoid aliens all the time and I can’t comprehend readers suggesting my characters can’t be real. There is no definitive evidence to either sides of the argument. To propose one side or the other is correct has to be wrong. They are all opinions after all. No one I know of has proof of encounters with aliens. But please, if any readers are aware of or have such cogent evidence I’d love it if you let me know.
Here’s one side’s thoughts:
In the Scientific American magazine November 2009 ‘Will E. T. Look Like Us’ Michael Shermer comments on a Josh Timonen of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science produced YouTube clip depicting evolved dinosaurs, I argue that the chances are close to zero.
Note, he says, close to zero.
He also goes on to say, I replied to Dawkins that if something like a smart, technological, bipedal humanoid has a certain level of inevitability because of how evolution unfolds, then it would have happened more than once here.
Now I have to admit I have said that same thing more than once when discussing Darwin’s theory of evolution. I’m still sceptical on that score. After all, it was only a theory. Don’t get me wrong, I like Michael Shermer’s work. He writes many interesting articles for Scientific American and is also the founding publisher and regular contributor to Sceptic magazine. I too am a sceptic when it comes to the reality, but I write fiction and as such, believe, until there is cogent evidence either way, I’ll write whatever I want.
I can’t find the video Shermer comments on. As it was produced in 1982, I suspect it is no longer available for viewing. Shermer does have an image of the aliens on the site link above and I think they look not only acceptable as extraterrestrials but they are cute. Again, please let me know if anyone does find the YouTube clip.
For the other side of the debate:
An article in The Telegraph ‘Aliens are likely to look and behave like us’ by Richard Alleyen, science correspondent, dated 25 January 2010 appeared.
Alleyen states, ‘Professor Simon Conway Morris at Cambridge University will tell a conference on alien life that extraterrestrials will most likely have evolved just like “earthlings” and so resemble us to a degree with heads, limbs and bodies.’
Another snippet, ‘Prof Conway Morris believes that extraterrestrial life is most likely to occur on a planet similar to our own, with organisms made from the same biochemicals. The process of evolution will even shape alien life in a similar way, he added.
“It is difficult to imagine evolution in alien planets operating in any manner other than Darwinian,” he said.
So there’s a bit from both sides and I stand by my belief that without proof, fiction can be whatever the writer wants after all, no matter how believable my stories are um…they’re not real. Ha, there’s not even any evidence extraterrestrials are out there…yet.