How Would People React to the Discovery of Alien Life?

What would happen if people on Earth discovered that we are not alone in the universe -- even if that discovery only meant the existence of extraterrestrial microbes? Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University, wanted to find out if there would be mass hysteria or welcoming acceptance. His researchers recruited participants on Amazon's Mechanical Turk crowd-sourcing website to answer two questions: How would they personally feel if scientists announced the discovery of alien microbial life? And how do they think the public at large would respond? The researchers found that, in general, people reacted positively, although they were less sure that their neighbors would feel the same optimism about alien life forms.

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  • “It’s more likely that we're going to find microbes or viruses rather than, say, intelligent civilizations living on Venus,” Varnum said.

  • Varnum also analyzed the word choice used in news articles relating to potential extraterrestrial discoveries, and noted that the language tended to skew more positive than negative.

  • In a separate study conducted by the consulting firm Glocalities, 26,492 people from 24 countries shared their beliefs about life on other planets. The majority of the respondents (61 percent) said that they believe there is life on faraway planets, despite the lack of evidence..

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Post 2

Popular media has a large hand in public perception of life from other worlds and if this polling had been done a short decades ago when there was enough fear to cause mass disruptions when Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" was presented as a news broadcast, the results would have been far, far different.

The assumption that microbial life is all we'd find on Venus seems highly plausible, but to think there are no other sentient beings in all the wide universe would take a huge leap of pessimism. They're out there. We just don't know how far, or what forms they may take.

Post 1

The idea that people in general couldn't handle the truth originated in government, more so the infamous radio broadcast of an invasion from Mars. But the key factor there was people heard we were being attacked and they responded. Plus, you need to factor in the real wars of the world back then.

Today most, rational people will accept the fact that our tiny speck is not the ultimate center of the whole universe and out of trillions of stars, if a God was out creating life he wouldn't stop here and likely did not begin here.

As has been said before, if this is the only place in the infinite Universe with life, that's an awful waste of space.

I think seeding life by sending out tiny microbes, with DNA that is coded to survive in space for eons, and also evolve into a whole set of creatures from tiny to huge sizes across a whole planet, adapting to the use of what is found there to work with, the elements, minerals energy etc. makes perfect sense. A self-sustaining, never-ending system, good for trillions of trillions of time periods and beyond. Cast them out on the winds of space and life grows everywhere.

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