Gabriel De la Torre, a scientist at the University of Cadiz, Spain, believes that humanity wouldn’t be able to stand the shock if it met an extraterrestrial civilization. A survey among students in Spain, Italy and the United States suggests that the general level of ignorance and the strong impact of religion would be a stumbling block to the successful coping with such a situation.
Even though searching for extraterrestrial life forms is a major scientific goal nowadays, many people hoping for discovering intelligent civilizations on other planets, a quick analysis of general mentality seems to demonstrate that we are far from prepared to face such a discovery.
At least this is the conclusion drawn by Gabriel de la Torre, a professor at the Psychology Faculty of the University of Cadiz, and a participant in scientific projects related to space exploration. Among else, he participated in the Mars 500 project, which consisted of a simulated mission to Mars.
De la Torre sent a questionnaire to 116 students in Spain, US and Italy. The questionnaire consisted of 5 sections: religious beliefs, environment, knowledge about the cosmic space, daily activities and opinions on life issues.
The professor explained that he chose to survey students’ beliefs as they are the ones who will become the politicians, scientists and other power factors of the future – therefore, it is important to find out about their level of knowledge.
Some of the questions asked were: in the students’ opinion, how probable is it that life exists on other planets? In what year did people land on the Moon for the first time? What is the name of the largest planet in the Solar system?
The results were disappointing: the students don’t possess a very good level of scientific knowledge in general, and about the cosmic space in special. For example, only 82% of the students knew that the first man stepped on the moon in 1969 and 72.8% believed in the existence of angels and demons.
Another conclusion was that, in general, religious convictions are strong; this in itself is not a problem, but the professor thinks religion could influence the reaction of people in case they were confronted with a major event of being contacted by an alien civilization.