There was probably a time when you looked at an apparently inanimate object and wondered whether it might be, say, an alien.
Yes, you might have been under the influence of one substance or another, but there’s really no way of knowing what form space beings might take.
They’re likely (hopefully) smarter than us.
However, one fine academic believes that we will know one when we see one. Professor Simon Conway Morris of Cambridge University thinks aliens will (do) actually look quite a bit like us.
Conway Morris has just written a book called “The Runes of Evolution.” In it, he suggests that although there might be different species of being, they all evolve along similar patterns. His favorite is the fact that an octopus’s eye really does bear some similarity to the human one.
The professor is an evolutionary biologist. He believes in evolutionary convergence. This suggests that even though different species live independently, they still have to deal with similar environmental and ecological circumstances. Ergo, they evolve in a more similar manner than one might think.
This appears to reduce the likelihood that our friends from the Planet Pik are blue and have old TV aerials on their heads.
Conway Morris told the Independent: “The theme is to try and drive the reader, gently of course, into the possibility that the things which we regard as most important, ie cognitive sophistication, large brains, intelligence, tool making, are also convergent. Therefore, in principle, other Earth-like planets should very much end up with the same sort of arrangement.”
A little gentleness will be needed when we discover that aliens really do look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or even, who knows, Penelope Cruz.
But why, if aliens exist, why haven’t they tried to email us?
Conway Morris said: “The problem is exceedingly acute: we shouldn’t be alone but, famous last words, all the evidence suggests we are. Maybe [aliens] are hiding, the Arthur C Clarke idea, or as Stephen Baxter mischievously suggested we live in a virtual world.”
We do indeed live in a virtual world, one invented by strange looking people in northern California.
Conway Morris believes that there aren’t any types of life that have evolved only one time. He believes he can always find another example of a similar evolution.
And it is on that belief that we can at least hope to find an alien who looks just a little like we do. Or at least a little like a tall, handsome E.T.