Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


Chapter 25.  Theory and Practice of First Contact


"It’s moving.. . .Heading for us. Just what we’d do if a strange spaceship appeared in our hunting grounds. Friendly? Maybe. We’re going to try to contact them. We have to. But I suspect this is the end of the expedition. Thank God for the blasters...!"
          -- from "First Contact" by Murray Leinster (1945)2877

"All laws and statutes Are transmitted like Chronic ills from race To race."
          -- Mephistopheles, in Goethe’s Faust (1808)

"But beyond this lies the sweet poison of the false infinite -- the wild dream that planet after planet, system after system, in the end galaxy after galaxy, can be forced to sustain, everywhere and forever, the sort of life which is contained in the loins of our own species -- a dream begotten by the hatred of death upon the fear of true immortality, fondled in secret by thousands of ignorant men and hundreds who are not ignorant. The destruction or enslavement of other species in the universe, if such there are, is to these minds a welcome corollary."
          -- from Perelandra by Clive Staples Lewis (1944)364

"Once, just once, I’d like to land somewhere and say: Behold! I am the Archangel Gabriel!"
          -- Dr. Leonard McCoy, in the original-series Star Trek episode "Bread and Circuses"

"Mankind is poised midway between the gods and the beasts."
          -- Plotinus (205-270 A.D.)



We have seen that the origin of life, the evolution of sentience, and the development of technology may be common processes in this universe. Many billions of intelligent races may exist in the Milky Way alone at the present time. Naturally, we are anxious to learn more about them if they exist -- if possible, to seek them out and have some sort of useful interaction with them. Presumably many of them will be similarly motivated to seek out their sentient brethren. It is for this reason that the general theory of first contact -- contact principles applicable to any interaction between any two extraterrestrial civilizations -- is of such monumental importance to xenologists.* Knowledge of the basic procedures and ethical considerations involved in first contact will serve two useful purposes: (1) To suggest ways other civilizations will interact with each other, what polities and societies they may establish, whether or not peace is likely, and so forth; and (2) To suggest what humanity may expect when it first makes contact with an alien civilization from the stars.


* See, e.g., discussions by Lunan,1001, McDougal, Lasswell, and Vlasic,252, Maruyama and Harkins,615 and Haley.382


Last updated on 6 December 2008