Fear of the Unknown Justified or Not?

I’ve  always been a science fiction fan and none too discriminating in my tastes, which range from the classic Star Trek to the edgy Babylon 5 and the preposterous StarGate series. Now a NASA study suggests humankind might not rush to boldly go where none have gone before.

The study, “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity?” was written by scientists at NASA and Pennsylvania State University and published a few months ago in the journal Acta Astronautica. Recent media reports brought it to light.

As befits the topic, the study strikes an ambivalent note. Alien species could decide we are dangerous and wipe us out. Or they could aid us with technology and urge us along. We’ll have to roll the dice when that historic day occurs.

Meanwhile there may be a way to put this bit of whimsy to use in our own lives.

Fight or flight is wired into our makeup. Our inner animal is boiling with hormones that tense our muscles to spring into action when confronted with a threat. And since saber tooth tigers are extinct, the question often confronting us is how we react to the unknown. Are we the curious who linger to explore or the cautious who regard the novel as a risk?

The healthiest choice may be to assume that the world is, by and large, lovely and miraculous. Maybe not quite a Garden of Eden but certainly a rich realm of possibilities which we owe it to ourselves to explore — whether boldly or not being a matter of individual preference.





About Tom Abate

Tom Abate is a former small-press publisher, businessman and newspaper reporter who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. A Brooklyn native and U.S. Navy veteran, Tom is a UC Berkeley graduate who earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. During his career he has worked in public relations, graphic design, typography and business journalism. As a journalist he specialized in science, technology, biotechnology, economics and the business culture of Silicon Valley. He has taught writing through UC Extension and was briefly a junior college instructor. He can work with spreadsheets, presentation software and some multimedia tools. In addition to his paid work, he wrote a blog (MiniMediaGuy.org, 2005-2010) that explored the business models, techniques and practical concerns of new and independent media. He is on the advisory board of the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR.org). The father of three children, Tom loves to garden and build things. His intellectual passions include political theory, globalism and the struggle of the individual against bureaucracy.
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