George Noory posed an interesting question to me last week on Coast to Coast - "do you" he asked, "believe that there is intelligent life in the universe besides our own?"
"Yes," I replied, without hesitation. I then pointed out that most scientists agree with that conclusion.
At which point George pointed out that this was just a belief, because there is no proof that such life exists. I agreed with him, although I noted that the universe is a big place, and the odds favour the existence of life "out there" (some of it possibly coming here), certainly on a "balance of probabilities" standard, if not beyond a reasonable doubt.
As I recall, George paused for a second or two, and then asked something along the lines of, "Don't you think it would be lonely if we were the only life in the universe?"
I think I just said that I wasn't too worried about it, as I don't think we're alone in the universe, and then we moved on to another subject.
But what if we are alone?
Does that prospect bother me?
Nope. No more than the prospect that we're not alone bothers me. I'm "good" with either possibility. I think it would be wonderful if ET is out there, for a whole host of reasons. On the other hand, if they're not, I'm perfectly happy to go it "alone".
Skeptics are never bothered at the prospect of ET - as I've said before, Phil Klass would have been the first person to shake ET's hand, should he have met him in his back yard (er... assuming ET was friendly).
No, the people who are bothered are not the skeptics, but rather those who can't come to grips with the possibility that we may indeed "alone". Who are they? Some of the peple who believe that ET is out there, and that he / she has come here.
Not folks like Stan Friedman, who, if you could prove to him that there was no life in the universe besides ours would probably just shrug and say something like, "Hmph... well, I guess we better get our act together down here then." Stan champions the ETH not because he wants or needs to believe in aliens, but because he's looked at the evidence and come to the conclusion that aliens exist. I think that his conclusion is premature, but I respect the way he came to to it.
No, the people who would have trouble if we really are "alone" are the ones who have pinned their hopes and dreams for a better world on the intervention of extraterrestrials. In this respect, they are no different than religious types who count the days until the return of God (in whatever form), so that He can save us from ourselves.
They look to the sky (literally for the die-hard ET believers, figuratively for the religious types) for salvation from a world that they see as gone mad (usually for different reasons).
They eagerly await the "other" to solve their problems here on Earth, and lead us to a better future.
They may be in for a rude awakening (which was, I think, the general thrust of the notorious "Klass curse") - or not. Who knows?
What I do know is that if ET does exist, and we find it, either here or "there", the skeptics will have little trouble adjusting their worldview accordingly. We're ready for it - most even hope it's true.
So, when the true believers toss out the red herring that skeptics are afraid of the "other", don't believe them for a second.
The fear is really coming from them, caused by the nagging concern - perhaps conscious, perhaps not - that we may really be "alone", and that we may actually have to solve our problems the old fashioned way, i.e. by ourselves.
In short, the problem isn't that skeptics don't want to believe in ET , but that the believers don't want to believe in humanity.
Which means that unless ET lands on the White House lawn, they really are "lonesome tonight", whether they realize it or not.