"Life is not about what we know, but what we don't know, craving the unthinkable makes it so amazing, that is worth dying for." Doru Indrei
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Probably Avatar Could Mean Something

There has been tons of Internet traffic in recent days about moviegoers supposedly getting all down in the dumps after watching the blockbuster sci-fi film "Avatar." Fans are enthralled by a beautifully created fantasy world of gentle blue-skinned aliens living on a Disneyesque moon. It is a true Garden of Eden where all of nature coexists in harmony. (The film even has a veiled allusion to the biblical Tree of Life)

              Audiences then leave the theater to go outside to asphalt parking lots and drive pollution belching cars home in a world full of excesses, waste and lots of billboards. They reportedly get wistfully teary-eyed about the thought of an alternative lifestyle in Pandora's jungle utopia.

             Personally I don't find anything wistful about the thought of running around in a loincloth and not having an iPhone, the Internet, and modern medical care. 

            There are now apparently Web-based encounter groups for dealing with what journalists have termed the "Avatar Blues." But to imply that a melancholy infatuation with the film fosters any kind of clinical depression makes light of a serious illness, say medical experts.

Predictably, the news media has hyped this angle up from a CNN news report. The most commonly quoted statement from an "Avatar" fan is: "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora."

           The most despondent comment I could find on the avatar-forums.com site read: "I couldn't help but cry in public for ten minutes after the movie." Oh well, this was exactly my feelings after seeing the untimely deaths of Disney's "Old Yeller," and Bambi's mother.

           But then I grew up. 

             It was reported that a 42-year-old Taiwanese man with a history of heart problems died of a stroke while getting overly excited watching "Avatar."

            This leaves me to wonder if people can get this wrapped up in a fantasy about extraterrestrial life, what would happen if the real thing came along?

            The biggest dilemma is that if there are paradise civilizations like the Pandoran culture, they are non-technological and therefore can't communicate with us. And getting to where they live, within a human lifetime, is as close to utterly impossible as I can imagine. (There could be utopian technological civilizations, as illustrated in the 1936 film Thing to Come.  But that idea is definitely not reflected in "Avatar" or any other contemporary films about technology running amok.)

            Even if we could warp-speed to paradise, anthropology teaches us that a less advanced civilization gets the short end of the stick when it encounters a more advanced civilization (unless you're the "Star Wars" Ewoks). So consider the vast gulf of space between the stars "God's quarantine."

             Even if we are left to simply pick up SETI signals, the realization that we are not alone in the universe could at once be enthralling, mystifying and terrifying to some people. Given our scatterbrained culture "the message" would no doubt spin off pseudo-religions with cult leaders.

             My guess is that an alien signal would come from so far away that it would have been broadcast thousands of years ago. Therefore everyday people may treat it as dispassionately as the Dead Sea scrolls -- assuming the message has information content.

            But in all probability it will simply be an acquisition beacon. There could be some mathematical formulas embedded in the transmission. Yawn. But we wouldn't have anything tangible to contemplate about the alien culture: no biology, art, music, philosophy, or even religion (if they live in a double star system I bet they have two deities).

            Even if we received and decoded a "Wikipedia Galactica," Nobel laureate biologist George Wald cautioned against pursuing such a discovery. "I can think of no nightmare as terrifying as establishing such communication (with extraterrestrials). It would be a degradation of the human enterprise. The thought that we might attach ourselves like some umbilical cord to a more advanced civilization in outer space doesn't thrill me at all but quite the opposite." 

           Regarding the idea of contacting an altruistic utopian culture, Harvard astrophysicist Philip Morrison said, "Most people speak about what they think they'll see in a mirror [regarding extraterrestrials]. But enormous distances separate us from those we'd think of as our kind."
Given the infinite pathways of evolution I would argue that nothing like our kind lives inside the Milky Way galaxy. 
           Suppose an asteroid never came along to wipe out the dinosaurs. And, imagine that given another 65 million years of evolution they developed a technological intelligence. What would you say to a Velociraptor? "Do you brush those teeth daily?"

            This is more than idle speculation. There are evolutionary arguments that intelligent beings would be descended from carnivores -- creatures with a definitively predatory mindset.

            "Just drop sugar on the ground and watch how the ants swarm around it. This will tell you more about the behavior of extraterrestrial life than any science fiction story," said Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard biologist E.O Wilson.

           So the sobering view is that worlds like Pandora may only exist--if at all--in places far, far away in space and time: lost forever among 100 billion galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

           "The universe appears to be a gigantic wilderness area untouched by the hand of intelligence, except for God," said astronomer Ben Zuckerman. Therefore, our human cosmic condition is that of a prisoner in a cell. All we can do is listen for someone tapping on the wall. But the silence to date is eerie.
But just maybe that's good for our self-esteem. So cheer up!

 by "environment clean generations"

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