Review: Beyond UFOs
by Jeff Foust
|Bennett is optimistic about the prospects, if not for alien life then for our own.|
Having dispatched that issue, he lives up to the title of the book and moves on to the general issue of whether life could exist beyond Earth, and if so, where. Bennett approaches the topic straightforwardly, first addressing what “life” is, how it can get started and what planetary conditions are required to support it. He then examines potential abodes for life elsewhere in the solar system (including Mars as well as Europa, Titan, and Enceladus) and in extrasolar planets around other suns. He is skeptical of the “rare Earth” hypothesis that argues that Earth-like planets are uncommon, but notes we lack enough data to be able to determine if it is correct or not.
The book closes out with a discussion of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence as well as what’s known as the Fermi Paradox: if intelligence life exists and is widespread in the universe—that is, that humans aren’t so special—where are they? There is no good answer to that question, but Bennett is optimistic about the prospects, if not for alien life then for our own. “I’ve found scientific reasons to think that there’s a good chance, perhaps a very good chance, that we stand today on the verge of making contact with a civilization that predates ours by millions or billions of years,” he writes in the book’s conclusion. “And even if this turns out not to be the case… we ourselves are positioned to become the galactic colonists, if only we can solve our current problems and mature as a species.” While that belief may not be as on the same solid scientific ground as the rest of Beyond UFOs, it’s also one that doesn’t require believing in flying saucers and little green men.