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Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Good to Talk


“It’s good to talk.” So went an advertising campaign in recent years for a telecoms company. It is indeed good to talk … “Jaw-jaw is better than War-war" as the great Sir Winston Churchill said pithily.

Communication, language specifically, is one vital element in our distinctive humanity. Thinking is inconceivable (literally) without language, social interaction is enhanced by language, God is praised in words or heeded to in silence.

Is it good to talk to everyone? I believe so, yes. Even when facing a hostile presence? Still I say yes. A story is told of St. Nicholas of Japan that one of his first converts was an enraged xenophobic Samurai warrior, a certain Sawabe intent on decapitation who was disarmed with the saints Godly words.

So should we talk to aliens? These scientist believe so … Dr. Alexander Zaitsev, Charles M. Chafer, and Richard Braastad. Of course. attempts on a small scale have already been made as the linked article explains. However, the low powered beacons and artefacts so far sent into space will probably prove to be proverbial needles in vast haystacks. Something more grand is being talked about with M.E.T.I., (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). So far we have been listening but not really talking. Intelligent life may be rare even if life itself is rather common. Why, therefore, should we not talk?

Back to St. Nicholas of Japan. He didn’t flinch before Sawabe, he engaged. Some may think this counsel hopelessly na├»ve. After all, any alien intelligence we encounter in our galactic chatter will almost certainly be vastly more intelligent and advanced than ourselves … which is OK if our partners are benevolent but what if they harbour malice or even merely think that we are flies to be swatted for the sake of a greater harmony and tidiness, (after all we don’t have a very good track record on this planet). Of course, there are risks involved but are we really going to be silent, cowering in the corner in the cosmic vastness, mean spirited and hoping that no one will notice us? I hope not. It’s time to talk. Posted by Picasa

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