Back when I was in grade school and junior high, long ago and far away, shortly after the earth cooled and the dinosaurs went away, I dreamed of being a scientist. I loved chemistry and biology, and I especially loved the idea of space travel...this was the early 60's, just at the dawn of the space age, and I was inspired by Alan Shepard and Yuri Gagarin, the original astronaut and cosmonaut. One of my heroes was Colonel McCauley, the star of Men Into Space, and I cheered the adventures of Captain Video and the early Buck Rogers.
This, of course, was before I stumbled over advanced algebra before finally crashing on the rocks of college-level differential and integral calculus. It's why today I'm a linguist rather than a chemist or a space explorer.
An offshoot of my early love of science and space travel was a firm belief in the existence of unidentified flying objects...UFOs..."flying saucers." I just knew those things were out there, that they were crushing strange symbols into our crops and kidnapping the odd isolated traveler for unspeakable medical experiments. I sat up late on Saturday nights to watch Chiller Theater and movies like Earth vs the Flying Saucers, Devil Girl from Mars, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Someday, I knew, those little green men with the bulbous heads and the giant eyes were coming, and that they were more likely to be like the nasties from Independence Day hissing "die now!" than the waddling and gentle ET figuring out how to phone home.
Well, they're not here yet. At least, not officially. But at least the Vatican says it's okay to believe in their existence. The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the director of the Vatican Observatory, said in a recent interview that belief in extraterrestrial life doesn't necessarily contradict our faith because aliens, wherever they are from, would still be God's creatures. They wouldn't be "documented," of course, but if they've mastered interstellar travel and have weapons capable of destroying whole cities, I doubt that anyone will be checking their passports. And they probably won't be looking for jobs mowing lawns and running convenience stores...although I'd rather they did that than tried to destroy the earth.
I still believe there are other "people" out there. I don't think it's rational to look at a sky dotted with billions of galaxies, each one containing billions of stars, and believe we're alone in all that vastness. They may not look like us, they may be either friendly, neutral, or hostile, but they're out there somewhere. I don't know if we'll meet them in my lifetime, but I think someday we will.
I also think they'll be probably be disappointed at the behavior of the life in this remote corner of the Milky Way.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.