Alien Observations


Two wise aliens from outer space had volunteered for the curious and, to them, amusing task of observing life on Earth in order to make a report back to their civilization ten light-years away.

After at first being distracted by American football and TV game shows—two activities on which humans spend so much time that the aliens thought they must somehow be crucial to the functioning of Earthly life—the aliens began to recognize the real story, so to speak.

One day, the First Alien observed to the Second:

“Don’t you find it remarkable that the humans, who call themselves Homo sapiens, create so many problems for themselves, mess up the Earth so much, and seem to be on an immensely unwise and destructive path?”

As the two aliens had nothing else urgent to do, the following conversation ensued:

“Yes, it seems to me that many of the assumptions and paradigms on which their society is based, on which they’ve made it depend, and to which they seem stubbornly committed, are deeply mistaken.”

“Mistaken?!  Some of them are utter nonsense.”

“What’s worse is that those assumptions and paradigms aren’t merely mistaken; they’re also unhealthy, frequently destructive, and ultimately downright dangerous.”

“Yes, much worse!  Indeed, they’re ultimately self-destructive.”

“Wise words!”

“Thank you!  But how can it be?  Why do they continue to perpetuate and endorse the nonsense they’ve created?  After all, don’t they have the places they call ‘universities’, including some that they consider particularly great, such as the places called Harvard and Oxford and Cambridge and Stanford and Princeton and Berkeley and so forth and so on?”

“It seems strange to me too, and very hard to explain.”

“And within those universities, they even have departments called ‘Philosophy’!”

“What does it mean, their so-called ‘Philosophy’?”

“Are you ready for this?  Translated, it’s supposed to mean ‘love of wisdom’.”

“My goodness, where is the wisdom in what the humans, their universities, and their philosophy departments are doing?”

“That’s an excellent question, my friend.  It’s almost as if they’ve neutralized wisdom, or embraced a neutralized version of it that’s disconnected and disengaged from life, from the way things are going on Earth—in other words, not so well!”

“Of course, we might be mistaken about what their universities are supposed to be for.  Maybe they’re mainly intended as mating grounds for young humans?  Or, they also seem to be trying to prepare people—to indoctrinate them—to accept the mistaken assumptions and paradigms of, and to actually work within, the very institutions that are causing so many of their problems.  They call it preparing for careers, I think.”

“I hate to say it, but they almost seem enslaved to their foolishness.”

“Or, maybe it’s we who are missing the point?”

“Maybe.  Perhaps we should look again at their American football and TV game shows?  Still, it all seems very odd to me.”

“No, I think we’ve seen enough for now.  Let’s come back in a few thousand years to see how they’re managing.”

“OK, but I don’t see many reasons to be optimistic.”

“After all, some beings never learn.”

*   *   *

Dear fellow human philosophers,

As far as we can tell—acknowledging that we don’t have perfect knowledge, and probably never will—some of the most consequential mistaken assumptions and flawed paradigms, presently, in the real world, are those upon which our “modern society” is based and to which it seems foolishly committed.  The question for us is, What will philosophers actually do about it?

Be Well,



7 thoughts on “Alien Observations

    • Dear Alan, please allow a bit more time. Your earlier comment is intriguing and I’ll plan to read the link. Please recognize that, at least at first glance, it might appear hard to relate the idea that “space can be removed from matter” is a false premise, to the fairly immediate aim of helping make the world a better to live. Put another way, if it is true that space can’t be removed from matter, and vice versa, how will understanding that help us achieve a just, peaceful, meaningful, healthy sustainability for humans and other life on Earth? I’m not suggesting that it wouldn’t, nor am I suggesting that knowledge is unimportant or etc., but I’m simply explaining the dilemma I, and we, face as we choose among priorities. But, in any case, my curiosity remains, so I for one will try to read the material at the link and respond. It may take awhile. But intelligent aliens are patient, right? Cheers, Jeff

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  3. Jeff,
    This is great. It is probably helpful to explicitly list our foolish assumptions and work to replace them with wiser and more accurate assumptions. Here is a start:

    Empty space = nothing
    Happiness = gratification
    More is better
    Money = happiness
    Growth is unlimited
    I am the center of the universe
    My job is my identity
    Preserving the past ensures the future
    Perception = conception
    The universe is comprehensible
    My beliefs are true
    National boundaries are meaningful
    Boundaries in natural systems can be accurately modeled by sharp discontinuities
    Mine is the one true religion
    Seeing is believing
    We can discover Truth
    Our lives have meaning
    I am responsible for my circumstances
    Government is for the people
    Power = Wisdom
    Description is a sufficient explanation
    Common sense makes sense
    Men are more important than women
    Humans have souls
    I can act independently
    Three dimensions suffice.


  4. Good question, Jeff. They COULD start revealing and correcting those mistaken assumptions and flawed paradigms. But WILL they?


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