Anyone who is a superfan of Star Trek: The Next Generation would know that before the Federation of Planets initiates first contact with an alien world, the people of that world must first develop the capacity to travel at warp speed. Warp drive is the litmus test that the people of a planet must pass before First Contact can occur. But what if in reality the litmus test was something different? What if the test is that a culture must abandon religion and/or supernatural beliefs?
In Star Trek, warp drive is the litmus test. It isn’t that warp drive itself is so important; but rather what warp drive represents. It shows that a society has sufficient scientific and technological advancements and allows the people of a planet to have a different perspective on their place in the universe. It also means that these people are now out there in space and that the Federation might encounter them somewhere out there.
A better litmus test might be a society’s abandonment of religion and/or supernatural beliefs as a whole. These might be seen as primitive beliefs by advanced alien societies. These beliefs not only hold the people of a world back scientifically and technologically, but they also make people more prone to tribalism and violence – not to mention being prone to irrational thinking.
Of course Stephen Hawking might be correct and that we shouldn’t even desire a first contact situation in the first place because they would probably just destroy us and take our resources like we have done to less advanced societies on our own planet. Or perhaps Christians like Ken Ham could be correct (what? It could happen *snicker*) and there might not be any intelligent life out there besides us and our supernatural creator… oh and the angels, demons, and dinosaurs.
Obviously, we don’t know if there are intelligent aliens out there or not. If there are, we don’t know if they will be friendly, hostile, or indifferent. They might just be too far away to even make the issue of first contact relevant. But if there are intelligent aliens out there, and they are friendly, and it is relevant, then I do wonder what the litmus test might be. If I were an advanced alien society I think atheism would be a good litmus test. What do you think? Leave a comment below.