Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Back to 2009: Close Encounters of a Weird Kind

Trey Smith
Original Post Date: 2/7/09

I just finished watching an interesting movie. I felt the director didn't do a very good job as the film seemed to lack continuity and the transitions from scene to scene were clumsy. The special effects bordered on amateurish -- many times it was readily apparent that I was looking at cheesy models. Yet, despite these weaknesses, I really enjoyed Mission to Mars (2000).

In my opinion, the strength of the film was the storyline and it certainly didn't hurt that 3 of the film's stars -- Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle and Gary Sinise -- are some of my favorites.

I'm not going to explain the entire premise here -- use the link above to read the plot summary -- except to say it has to do with humans encountering an "alien" life form. What I really liked about the storyline is that, unlike most films in this genre, the first impulse wasn't to attack the life form and destroy it.

I've often wondered why it is that most people believe that, if we ever come in contact with life forms from other planets or solar systems, said beings will be violent toward us. After watching this movie and contemplating afterward, I think I know the answer -- we judge potential others by our own human reflections!

If we look over the annals of human history, explorers of new lands immediately tend to want to oppress and subjugate the indigenous. When Columbus landed in the Caribbean or the pilgrims encountered Indian nations, that's precisely what transpired. It's the same pattern seen in Africa, Asia and Australia. The so-called conquerors, who believe themselves to be technologically and morally superior, sweep into "new" lands and, almost without exception, their first substantive move toward these unknown people is aggressive.

Since we humans behave in this manner, we project that other life forms must necessarily follow suit. So we end up with films like War of the Worlds, Alien and Independence Day as the norm with films like Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, ET and Starman as the exceptions.

I submit that one of the chief motivations behind our assumption that advanced life forms will necessarily be aggressive like us is borne out of many of our religious beliefs. Since in Judaism, Christianity & Islam the human species is said to be created in the image of the creator, we necessarily assume that other life forms cannot have achieved the level of moral consciousness that we have. Since we tend to be aggressive and warlike, it follows that other life forms must be too.

I will grant that this assumption may well be true -- if other advanced life forms do exist -- but I choose to believe the opposite. For all our technological advances, the human species, in many ways, hasn't advanced that far from our primitive origins. I'd like to believe that visitors from other worlds have surpassed our weak and relative morality to embrace peace, sustainability and harmony.

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