Classic EssaysRevilo P. Oliver

Is There Intelligent Life on Earth? (part 11)

by Revilo P. Oliver

Is There Any Hope?

IN THE Eighteenth Century, as Voltaire tells us, two extraterrestrials, Micromégas, a native of Sirius, and his friend, a Saturnian academician, stopped by the earth and discovered, somewhat to their astonishment, that there was life on it. Their scientific curiosity then led them to try to ascertain whether any form of life on the tiny planet was intelligent, but they could find only slight and ambiguous evidence of that.51

More than two decades ago, reviewing some bundle of piffle about “flying saucers,” I suggested that speculation about the inhabitants of Venus or Mars would be premature so long as we did not have more cogent evidence that intelligent life had developed on our own planet.

The crucial question has at last been asked, and I have taken the title of this essay from a new book by Jack Catran, Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?52 It is refreshingly forthright, lucidly written — and ominous.

The subtitle is, “We are ALONE in the universe.” I expected the book to begin with a demonstration that, as was succinctly stated by Sir John Eccles, “the chances of rational beings existing elsewhere in the universe are so remote as to be out of the question.” Mr. Catran takes that more or less for granted, although he mentions a few of the pertinent data when he reviews, with restrained satire, some of the wilder “science fiction” that has been solemnly proposed as legitimate scientific theory. He ridicules the unceasing babble about possible communication with beings from a more advanced civilization on some other planet, supermen who coyly play hide-and-seek about the earth on “flying saucers” or visited it as “astronauts” in the past or aimed radio waves at us from somewhere in this or other galaxies for our edification.

Such exciting drivel is naturally purveyed by scribblers like Von Däniken and journalists, whose business it is to keep the boobs in a dither, but Mr. Catran shares my alarm that it is also peddled by men who are professors in highly reputed universities and are accredited in legitimate sciences.

It is small consolation that many of the performing scientists probably do not mean what they say. Mr. Catran suggests that the initials of the much-touted and extremely expensive project called Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence would more properly stand for “Search for Extended Tax-free Income.” I cannot forget the scientist who complacently said that such things as “creation science” merely prove the value of scientific training: it produces clever fellows with lucrative talents, and “You can hire a scientist to prove anything.” And it was another scientist who explained to me years ago the principles of his research: “Where the bucks are, there go I.” He could have made the parody a little closer (“Where the politician sucks, there suck I”), but you can see his point. One can suggest, however, other motives for some of the performers: an irresistible yen to exhibit one’s visage on the boob-tube; a high-minded urge, common in all religions, to perpetrate forgeries and hoaxes to influence the populace to behave as one wishes; and, as a distinguished student of such phenomena reminds me, just the fact that scientists are human and therefore members of species that commonly permit their glands to overrule their reason. And one must not forget the ambience of a society in which natural ignorance is augmented by the ignorance inculcated in the public schools, and anything goes and the wilder the caper, the more it will be applauded. But Mr. Catran is probably right in tracing most of the pseudo-scientific jigging to an appetite for fast bucks.53

One can endorse, almost without qualification, all that Mr. Catran has to say about the physical sciences — he is justly sceptical about the “Big Bang,” for example — and one can only praise his repeated emphasis on the basic fact that, for all practical purposes, we are alone in the entire universe and that all the palaver about civilizations elsewhere is equivalent to spook-raising and probably just as fraudulent.

If you have ever wandered through the more lonely regions of the south-west, you have probably followed an old Indian trail or one left by prospectors until you came suddenly to a point when the trail ended in a drop into an arroyo or recently formed gulch or subsidence of a limestone cavern. When you read this book, you will also come to a sudden drop and step into it, if you aren’t watching. Mr. Catran starts talking about an intelligent society on this planet, and he has been reading “science fiction” — lots of it. And not the best, either.

There are some stories he could have read with profit. He could have read Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius. The hero, who is appropriately named for the dog star, is a dog who, as is possible when Science can do anything, is born with potentiality of a man’s intelligence and is given an education to develop it. But he discovers that his mind cannot alter his innate limitations. He can read, but he cannot write: his paws will not grip a pen or fit the keys of a typewriter. He can speak and reason, but he cannot disregard the instincts that are inherent in a canine body. The end, of course, is tragic. The story, which could also be taken as an allegory, might have reminded Mr. Catran that all organisms have limitations inherent in their biological structure. It is true that he does mention a “genetic inheritance” twice, but only to forget about it immediately.

It soon becomes apparent that Mr. Catran was nurtured on Technocracy, of which the adepts, it seems, are still plodding along, as persistent as other creationists. A few years before the United States was mobilized for the Crusade to Save the Soviet, I heard two lectures by, and even conversed briefly with, Howard Scott, who was then seeking recruits for his grey-shirted army of engineers, who were going to help him do what Jesus, Marx, and other Jewish revolutionaries promised to do, create a New World. It was the same old panacea with a new label on the bottle. Scott talked about the wonders of technology, and his sales-pitch inflated the egos of engineers so ignorant of human nature that they could believe that nations can be built in the same way as suspension bridges. Plenty of horse-power and kilowatts will work miracles.

And now, almost half a century later, that age-old boob bait, slightly disguised with new verbiage, acted on Mr. Catran like a dose of lysergic acid diethylamide. I should have felt much better, if he had started waving his arms, not in the wild oratory of an evangelist, but in an effort to fly up and roost on the boughs of a convenient tree, as some who have ingested the hallucinatory drug try to do.

The man who writes so judiciously about the physical sciences and what is impossible in the real world as we know it, suddenly turns in an epoptic rapture and assures us over and over that “with science everything is possible.” The man whom I admired for his rational ridicule of talk about “astronauts” begins to foam at the mouth and promise that “Space travel will come, we will know the surfaces of other planets and eventually other solar systems and galaxies.” And with a messianic glare in his eyes he even proclaims that “man can become a god through manipulation of the controls.” Oh, yes. Eritis sicut dii — that was the bait with which the world’s first con man hooked the first sucker, according to the well-known myth in Genesis, 3.5.

I will tell you frankly that I read on through this book with despair in my heart. I was going to end this article right here with an observation that Jack Catran had answered his own question with an emphatic negative. But it may be worthwhile to review briefly his hallucinations.

* * *

Source: Liberty Bell publications; transcribed by Racial Idealism

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1 Comment

  1. Truthweed
    10 May, 2019 at 5:25 pm — Reply

    Flying saucers exist!

    A few years ago one came from Earth and landed on Mars.

    Remember?

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