Let's think it over, logically, without prejudice. There is life on Earth. We know that as a plain fact. We are alive. Nobody can deny this.
The universe, as we have learned through research, is big enough to host billions of planets. Now let's apply simple math and probability - if we know of at least once case of "life" in the solar system alone, then the probability of more "life" cases in the universe is very high - close to 100%. That's because the number of potential "living plantes" is so high. Even planet Mars, so we discovered lately, has water in it. And water is one of the basic elements of life as we know it.
If our culture, which is pretty primitive, succeeded in performing space travel, there is a good chance that more cultures have performed the same task, with even greater success. However, the number of cultures who advanced themselves to this level of technology is drastically smaller than the total number of "life" events.
This leads us to the following two conclusions:
1) There is more than one case of "life" in the universe
2) Since the universe is so vast, there's very little chance of interaction between our planet and another planet
It all comes down to distance. Would a cat from Kansas meet a snail from Tokyo? no way. Their lives are too short. They can't track each other. They can't swim. They can't fly. They can't bridge the distance.
That's our situation. We don't know how far away is the next living culture.
And we can't get there, since it's light-years away from us.
We simply don't have the information and transportaion to bridge the gap.
However, there is a chance, albeit pretty small, that we, on Earth, might meet in the future other cultures from outer space. We call them "aliens" because we are afraid of the concept, but basically they are just different cultures, with various levels of intelligence and technology. They can be powerful enemies, good-hearted friends or just harmless creatures that don't care about us at all. All options are possible.
Some of the ET's might be different than us, some could be similar, but some of them who are able to travel long distances can be radically more advanced - in most aspects. They could have fantastic transportaion and communication abilities. They could travel immense distances in a short time, create black holes and hyper-gates, communicate with each other using telepathy and overcome the boundaries of physical space and time.
Even our primitive culture is beginning to think of ways to manipulate time. Humans are facing exciting fields of study, which may enable us to overcome limitations of the speed of light. Atomic energy can provide the human race with tools to interstellar expansion. Modern science can build dangerous weapons of destruction, but also amazing tools for growth and speed.
Just think about this: 200 years ago, no human could even fly. There were no airplanes.
Now we have space jets, solar-powered robots on Mars, and telescopes finding new planets every year.
Perhaps 200 years from now, the human race would be able to develop a jet which would come close, or even exceed, the speed of light. Then the galaxy will become our new, unknown highway. And we could start bridging the gap, even without getting a speeding ticket.
Most humans fear the unknown - that's a healty instict of survival. Meeting a real alien is a frightful exeprience because it casts an immediate threat on our well-being. The human nature is still very much like an animal's living in a closed environment - and we are acting like animals which are not accustomed to human beings.
Ask yourself: does a cat understand the way cars work? can a house dog comprehend the meaning of "Australia", or "time", or "space?". It's all a matter of intelligence and self-awareness. It's perfectly natural that humans fear superior cultures from outer space, regardless the question of their existence.
There's a bright side to all of this. Our situation is much better than it was, say, 500 years ago. In the 16th century, for example, man could not comprehend the idea of the round globe, the infinite universe and concpet of space travel. The ladning on the moon was a landmark event for human nature in that respect. No wonder that sci-fi novels have been very popular since the landing on the moon - mankind has become self-aware of outer space.
The theory that we are not alone in the universe is spreading gradually. It takes time, but events like the landing on the moon, movies like "ET", "Close encounters of the third kind", TV programs like "Star Trek" - they change the way the we deal with the complicated idea of the existence of alien cultures. However, the probability of actually meeting aliens in our lifetime is very low, and is close to 0%. This is why the alien biz is close to being a religion: it lives on belief alone.
The kids of the 2000's treat ET's as a possibility. They know that Snow-white, Aladdin & old hags belong in fairy tales - but aliens do exist. It is hard for modern parents to tell their kids that aliens are a fable - they are not sure for themselves. It is possible that the kids of the 21st century will be more mentally capable of meeting and communicating with them.
I know I'm not alone in the universe, but I don't think that I'll be able to meet aliens in my lifetime.
I can't even assume that my children or grandchildren will be able to meet aliens.
Planet Earth, in a way, is like a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.
We can only write down an SOS note, insert it in a bottle, and hope that it will reach someone who can read it.
(Last updated: Nov. 2005)