What do you get when you put one of the smartest people in the world – astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson – in the same room with MSNBC talker Chris Hayes? Answer: You get a lot of science interview questions, not all of which will be gems. But to their credit, they did manage to cover the one burning issue which awaits resolution – where are the aliens, and why haven’t they contacted us?

Tyson may not know for sure, but he has a theory.

Astrophysicist and Cosmos host Neil DeGrasse Tyson told MSNBC host Chris Hayes that while it’s audacious enough for human beings to say they’re capable of defining intelligence, he would still like to know if there’s other intelligent beings in the universe.

“My great fear is that we’ve in fact been visited by intelligent aliens,” DeGrasse Tyson said to Hayes. “But they chose not to make contact, on the conclusion that there’s no sign of intelligent life on Earth. How’s that for measures of intelligence?”

One reason it’s presumptuous for humans to act like they’re the arbiters of intelligence, DeGrasse Tyson said, is the possibility that planets much older than ours are already sending us messages in a format that, while basic to them, is incomprehensible by our current standards.

The idea that the first hint an extraterrestrial species will have of us is old I Love Lucy reruns is not a new one. But would a space-faring race really assume we are all that stupid? A quick inspection would show that we have manned and unmanned artificial satellites orbiting the planet. A modest visual survey would show cities, roads, and all manner of intelligent design. It just seems unlikely to me that aliens would ignore anyone who had not yet mastered the warp drive.

I’ll suggest two other possibilities and you are free to add in your own.

First, assuming there are other intelligent species alive at this time in this galaxy, I’m guessing there aren’t going to be that many of them. Given the number of stars in the Milky Way it would have to take many times the span of years that we have had an advanced civilization to search them all. So they may be out there and looking, but they just haven’t found us yet.

The second possibility I am sure is far more likely. At roughly the same time they invented their own warp drive, they also invented politics. In the ensuing squabbles, the budget for the warp drive was diverted, and they never got off the ground.

Tags: science