It has been one of the most prevalent themes in science fiction literature and film for decades: alien beings intent on destruction and takeover of the Earth and its inhabitants arrive and wage total war on the planet, blasting us with laser beams, and flying advanced aircraft capable of out-maneuvering the fastest jets. Obviously, the looming threat of a hostile alien takeover is something that remains in the forefront of the collective paranoia of those willing to ask “what if?”
Fortunately, in most instances when this occurs, mankind somehow manages to outsmart the evil alien menace… in films, at least. Take for example Independence Day, where our curiously under-equipped military here on Terra Firma finds the Achilles Heel of ginormous saucer craft that traveled all this way just to leave their backdoor open, vulnerable for a shoot-down. The Day The Earth Stood Still, originally having dealt with an alien which traveled to Earth on a “goodwill mission” was revised in 2008 to have its alien visitor Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) decide animal life on our planet is to be collected Noah’s Ark-style, before humans are destroyed for their warlike tendencies. This is prevented with moments to spare, after Klaatu arrives at the decision that there are hopeful virtues that still exist among our species. Elsewhere, War of the Worlds sees the alien menace gaining an upper hand against Earth, only to end with H.G Wells’ aliens falling victim to terrestrial bacterial ailments and dying.
What is often overlooked about Wells’ story, however, is that there had been an alternative ending he had toyed with, in which humanity was driven underground in an effort to escape the alien assailants, waiting for an opportunity to launch an uprising against the unwelcome guests squatting on the surface. Indeed, we must wonder whether, if there were ever to be an actual alien invasion, how likely Earthlings would be able to defend against it, and whether we’d even be as lucky as those in the other plot line Wells had considered. On the other hand, would we know it if an alien “invasion” of sorts were even occurring?
This, granted, deals with the presupposition that an alien invasion is likely at all, which in itself brings to mind some unique questions. Many who have come and gone have taken the famous Drake Equation, named for astronomer Frank Drake, as evidence for the possibility that alien life likely exists elsewhere in our galaxy; it has also been used to justify the likelihood that a civilization might destroy itself before it ever harnessed the capabilities needed for advanced communication or travel into deep space. One proponent of this view was astronomer Carl Sagan, who speculated whether civilizations could in fact avoid self-destruction. According to Wikipedia, “in Sagan’s case, the Drake equation was a strong motivating factor for his interest in environmental issues and his efforts to warn against the dangers of nuclear warfare.”
When it comes to the Drake Equation, the aforementioned influences remain something we must keep in mind today; since its genesis, the equation’s most popularized interpretation by scientists like Sagan occurred during the Cold War era. Thus, theories involving life elsewhere in space were justified accordingly. At the time, it felt as though Earth had teetered on the very brink of launching a global assault, pitting the largest superpowers against one another. True, this could still occur today; look at the tremendous concern that exists pertaining to Iran’s desire to foster a nuclear program, which has led to economic sanctions against them by UN countries such as the United States and Russia, having been bitter Cold War enemies, now with hope of working together to ensure peaceful relations. Nuclear war isn’t something we can cast aside and forget all about, but perhaps, having made it this far, it isn’t inevitable, either. Applying this logic to distant worlds and the civilizations that could occupy them, perhaps other societies have managed to coexist even better than humans; but what factors might govern their success as a species?
Let’s take a moment to consider a hypothetical situation, where life begins to develop on a planet distant from ours with an exterior that is primarily rocky. Although there is plant life capable of sustaining an insect population and that of creatures resembling mammals (keep in mind, this isn’t Earth we’re talking about), the rocky landscape, along with the heat these stones collect from the nearby suns, create a fitting environment for reptilian creatures to thrive. After eons of existing as the dominant species, these reptiles forge ahead and begin to harness intelligence. How would these reptile-like creatures behave? Would they likely be humanoids? How large would they be, and would these factors be dependent on the size of their home planet, as well as the resulting gravitational forces exerted on its inhabitants? Consider the behavior of reptiles here on Earth, as well as the similar base-instincts that certain aspects of the human mind maintains, which resulted in their labeling as the “reptilian complex” of the triune brain. Would these reptile creatures, with their penchant for violence and dominion over other life forms (and presumably their own kind), be likely to exist for long as an advanced race before destroying themselves? In this instance, perhaps the likelihood of an alien race of reptilian monstrosities existing long enough for evolution to bring about a civilized society and, thus, cooperation needed for advancement to things like science and space travel, would seem unlikely.
Let’s take another example, this time supposing that insects emerge on a distant planet as the predominant species. There are several types, ranging from weird mantis-like creatures, which, although capable of a stoic sort of “wisdom” on a bug-basis, never manage to escape their proprietary feeding tendencies, remaining lone-wolves that come and go, capturing prey and feasting. There are spider-like entities, which, though capable of maintaining a large breeding population, remain primitive due to the female’s tendency to bite the heads off of the male as they emerge from the throes of passion, feasting on his remains or using them to provide food for her young. But what if bees–or insect creatures resembling bees–with their desire to feed on available plant life, as well as their propensity for constructing elaborate, cellular abodes in the form of hives, were to evolve from this sort of communal cooperation into a species harboring intelligence?
Following this species of “beeople,” let’s assume the path of evolution leads them to harnessing intelligence and sophistication, and eventually advanced technology. Would the so-called “hive mentality” create an overpowering sense of union among their own kind, outweighing the kinds of cultural destruction prevalent among different societies here on Earth? Furthermore, would these beings be more likely to advance as a species, and at a faster rate from working together, rather than attempting to stifle the activities of another “colony”? In spite of their own evolutionary tendencies that were so conducive to their advancement as a species, could this sort of mentality also be detrimental to another intelligent species if, for instance, these aliens ever traveled here?
It would be interesting to consider whether the presence of this speculative race of “beeople” here would resemble a hostile takeover to us. What if, according to their perspective, they were merely interested in “harvesting” resources from our planet–and potentially its occupants–in an effort to thrive based on this “hive” instinct? When compared alongside various aspects of alleged alien activity here on Earth (i.e. abduction accounts, cattle mutilations, etc), there are certainly factors that seem to work harmoniously with the notion of a disassociated, hive-like race of beings that seem more intent on taking advantage of humans and Earth’s resources, rather than communicating and having interaction with us. In such a scenario, we might even liken potential alien visitors and their motives to wildlife resource management teams, which would hope to control breeding populations of animals like deer–often for their own health’s sake–but no less with the knowledge that some people will “harvest” these creatures for food and other resources.
When considering the vast possibilities that would shape the motives and morals of an alien species, it is difficult to say whether invasion of planet Earth is something we’d likely see at the hands of strange guests from elsewhere. More importantly, trying to define “invasion” correctly would also be a factor, since what humanity might perceive as a takeover could be viewed by aliens on the other end as a controlled, even caring effort to micro-manage species here on Earth… to the benefit of both parties. Even stranger is the notion that a sort of “symbiosis” might occur in this way; but what if it were occurring right now? After all, very few are the dogs or cats kept by a loving owner who ever question their inherent captivity; if humans were being held in such a prisonless, symbiotic “captivity,” would we be able to perceive it any better?
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to GR reader “deadpossum” for pointing out previous confusion between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles.by