Converting the aliens

Converting the aliens People use night vision goggles to look at the night sky during an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) tour in the desert outside Sedona, Arizona. Photo: CNS.
Jesus instructed his followers to teach all nations, but what about the rest of the Universe, asks David Quinn

The United States released a report at the weekend which didn’t attract anything like the attention I thought it would. Maybe because Covid-19 is still dominating the news, and here in Ireland we decided to have another spasm of rage about Church and State prompted by the latest twists and turns in the National Maternity Hospital row.

The report was produced by the office of the Director of National Intelligence and concerns the topic of ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’, UFOs to you and me.

UFOs are a long-time favourite of science-fiction writing and movies, dating back over 100 years to the likes of HG Wells and his War of the Worlds, which was about a Martian invasion of Earth and has been adapted for cinema, TV and radio several times.


For almost as long, UFOs have been associated with kooks and cranks who imagine they have seen one in real life, or that they have actually been abducted by aliens. Another theory is that the US government is hiding the bodies of aliens or the wreckage of crashed spaceships.

In any case, the new report says that since 2004, the US Navy has reviewed 144 sightings of UFOs and in the vast majority of cases, cannot tell us what they are.

The report doesn’t use the term ‘UFO’ for those sightings. The new term is ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon’ or ‘UAP’.

Some of the sightings have been caught on video by US Navy pilots and can be found online. Just type in the words ‘US Navy UFO footage’ on YouTube and you will find them. The footage was originally given to The New York Times in 2017, and not to some kooky website.

Many of the objects observed by pilots fly in ways that are beyond known US technology. Could other foreign powers be responsible for them, like the Chinese or Russians? If so, they are far more technologically advanced then previously suspected.

As an article in National Geographic explains, some of the UAPs “lack flight control surfaces that would allow for high-speed maneouvers, such as wings or a tail. The objects also had no visible exhaust, even when seen in infrared.”

The US report doesn’t really attempt to guess what pilots are seeing. They don’t rule alien activity in or out, for example.


Even typing that sentence seems strange. Maybe it is why the report hasn’t received wider coverage. Although it comes from an official US agency, there is footage available, and it has received some coverage in mainstream news outlets, a lot of journalists and commentators might still be scared of being dismissed as kooks or cranks if they seem to take it seriously.

The Universe is unimaginably vast. Because of the speed need and the nature of physics, many scientists think it is impossible to cross any meaningful part of space in a short amount of time, that is, within a few years, never mind days or months.

The nearest star system to ours is Alpha Centauri, which is 25 trillion miles way. To put that in perspective, the closest Mars gets to Earth is ‘only’ 34 million miles.

This is why, in science fiction movies, you often see crews being put in suspended animation because they might take decades to reach their destination.

So, even if there is intelligent life out there, we don’t know how it could cross the vastness of space to reach us. The technology needed is almost literally unimaginable at this stage.

But let’s say aliens do exist, and they have reached Earth, and one day, they reveal themselves to us, what then?

Well, a lot would depend on their disposition. Would they be friendly or hostile?

If we could communicate with them, we would want to learn about them and from them, and vice versa.

Would there be religious implications? For example, would they have a religion of their own? Would they want to convert us to that religion?


Would they have some other set of beliefs and values they might want to convert us to for our benefit, as they might see it?

Would we seek to convert them? Many people would see it is absurd that (say) Christian missionaries would try to do this, although it is not really anymore ‘absurd’ when you think about it than the missionary efforts of the past when Christian and non-Christian societies first encountered each other. Jesuit missionaries, for example, sought to convert China and Japan.

Old debates might revive about whether these newly encountered beings had souls. And even if they did, would they need saving?

But let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that the world had become completely secular by the time we encountered aliens, and suppose we felt we had a superior idea of equality compared with this new alien race, what would we do then?

Would a Richard Boyd-Barrett seek to convert these beings to socialism? If so, that would simply be another type of missionary endeavour.

The fact is, as long as different peoples have been meeting each other, we have been seeking to influence one another in multiple ways. New ideas meet, for example, and they can cross-fertilise each other, or else one becomes dominant and the other dies out.

If we were to encounter an alien race, it would be no different. But at least it would have one certain benefit; it would give us something other than Covid-19 to talk about.