Is anybody out there? Men more enthusiastic about talking to aliens

News, Science

When it comes to speaking to aliens, men are more enthusiastic than women. Almost two thirds (65%) of men want to reach out to extraterrestrials, compared to 47% of women.

Research from the University of Oxford, announced at the British Science Festival, also revealed that if alien beings contacted earth, Britons would pick scientists (39.4%) over politicians (14.8%) to decide what to do.

Eleven per cent of those polled by Survation said they would like a global referendum on the matter, and 22.6% said they did not know.

If it was left to a planet-wide vote, 56.3% of the 2,000 people questioned would choose to initiate contact.

Fourteen per cent would vote to not initiate contact, 9.2% would not vote, and 11% said they did not know what they would do.

They survey also looked at the differences between Brexit voters.

Those who voted to Remain were more likely to vote to initiate contact than those who voted to Leave, at 66% and 54% respectively.

Dr Peter Hatfield, from the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, said: “No-one knows if or when we will receive a message from extraterrestrials, but astronomers are listening – and it could happen any time.

“If we do receive a message it is encouraging to know that the public seem to have confidence in scientists having a key role in the decision-making process of potentially replying.

It was aliens
Many people told the survey that they did not know how they would react if they were contacted by beings from other worlds (Ian West/PA)

“More generally, these results are interesting for understanding the connection between science and democracy – what role should scientists play in future referendums and decision-making processes?”

Speaking at the festival hosted by the University of Warwick, Dr Hatfield explained scientists based the likelihood of making contact with aliens on the Drake Equation, which is based on an approximation of how many species there could be in our galaxy, the Milky Way.

He said: “It is intrinsically very hard to put a number on it, but I would say most professional astrophysicists have in their heads something in the order of a 10% chance (of contact) in the next hundred years.

“Some people would put it higher, some people would put it lower.”

Dr Leah Trueblood, from the Department of Law at the University of Oxford, said: “It’s interesting that so many of our responses were for ‘I don’t know’.

“I think this is promising.

“It suggests that the public may be open-minded about what decision-making processes are best fit for humanity’s purposes going forward.

“In this age of political polarisation, people being open to persuasion is good news.”

Night skies
Those who voted to Remain are more likely to want to contact aliens than those who voted for Brexit, the survey found (Ben Birchall/PA)

Dr Trueblood added: “It’s also fascinating that most our responses were in favour of contacting aliens. Those surveyed are clearly much braver than me.”

Speaking at the event being held in Coventry and Warwickshire, she continued: “I am much more frightened than Peter. So I wouldn’t have voted to make contact with aliens.

“So I wondered if scientists were chosen because people are afraid. Because this is a hugely frightening prospect.”

Dr Trueblood hypothesised that people may just want someone who understands the subject to be the ones making the decision.”

The scientists highlighted a number of pros and cons associated with contacting aliens.

One con was revealing earth’s location to hostile species, while a pro was aliens potentially having the ability to share new science with us.

There is currently no international law setting out the protocol for making contact with extraterrestrials.

However, in March 1996 the International Academy of Astronautics published a post-detections protocol.

It asserts: “No response to a signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place.”

Chris Price
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