This Dwarf Planet Life: Thoughts on the mysterious lights on Ceres, in Three Acts

We’ve found lights and a pyramid on Ceres, a dwarf planet chilling in our galaxy’s asteroid belt.  Here CNN details the discovery and comically attributes it to aliens:

But why is the idea that there are aliens on this planet funny?  It could because it’s in the middle of an Asteroid belt and it wouldn’t be a good place to build a human-like civilization.  But the article doesn’t bring that up, it just dismisses the idea of aliens entirely through a few sarcastic turns of phrases.

The thing is, it’s not just this guy who anticipates a universe full of “aliens.”

Aliens history channel

Joining him are  more respected “scientists” like these three:

Neil degrasse tyson stephen-hawking SethShostak

It seems finding life in space is becoming more and more inevitable, its discovery getting closer and closer.  The sarcasm needs to be exchanged for a full understanding of the gravity of what will go into and come out of that encounter.

This Brings us to Act 1 of the post:  “Intelligent?  Life?” I’m William Ramsey, This is “This Dwarf Planet Life.” Hold on.

Let’s start with Neil Degrasse Tyson’s thoughts on our first encounter with “intelligent life” in the universe:  Audio-visual learner?  Watch this:

The take away:  why do we assume we’re “intelligent life?”  In terms of DNA we’re one percent different from a chimp.  Does that one percent gap really make us “intelligent” and the chimp “unintelligent.”  When we encounter a species that has no DNA in common with us, or only 80% (in case of ancient alien planet seeding) how will our “intelligence” stack up?

Further, why do we think this “intelligent” will correlate in any way to our intelligence?

I wonder if the Sci-Fi is to blame for our lack of imagination towards intelligent life.  Sometimes Star Trek surprises me and pulls out photon based life forms from another dimension that understand the holodeck as a universe, but usually you get humans interacting with humans-cum-funny-foreheads.

cardassian ferengi warf

In fictions, aliens very often have the same number of limbs with eyes, ears, fingers, mouths, and nose.  All this leads to aliens that experience the world in terms of sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound the same way as us.[1] This means they posses an intelligence very like ours.   What a dry and unlikely universe.

I’m gonna keep digging at Star Trek.  Why did the writers have the prime directive revolve around warp travel?  Why do we assume that interstellar travel is some grand mark of intelligence? Think of all the intelligent beings chilling in space who have better things to do than decide their planet is shitty and in need of leaving.  These beings could be totally fine if we visited them, it wouldn’t at all disrupt their evolutionary process.  The way the prime directive is imagined is violently anthropocentric.  Maybe the federation is too tame for you and you identify with the villain.  Why did the writers have the Borg only go around and assimilate humanoids? What could the Borg learn from assimilating a tree?  Our imagination of “intelligent” just seems drastically stunted in and out of fiction.

What’s our preoccupation with looking for life on planets like ours?  For all we know a life form, organic in a way we are not, is on Jupiter as convinced that nothing could live on a small solid planet, as we are that nothing could live on a gas giant.

From Fantastic adventures, 1940.
From Fantastic adventures, 1940.

Maybe instead of organic life we should be looking for an agential planet that, through an awareness we are not yet equipped to understand, can travel interdimensionally, cross pollinating universes with new elements as it goes.

Sci Fi has imagined this scenario if you know where to look. Perhaps one of the most interesting totally non-human species is in Delaney’s Stars in My Pocket like Grains of Sand; the mysterious “species Xlv.”  It is a solitary species that has never communicated with the any other group in the story as it drifts through space, assumedly on ships.  However It’s also suggested that the Xlv might actually be a species that lives in spaces, and has never had a homeworld. The space ships not ships at all, but the individuals.  Think of traveling through space as a whale rather than on a boat.  Why does a species local to the vacuum of space seem so out of the picture just because we can’t live there? Looking for life like us on planets like ours just sounds lazy.

The way we will find other intelligent life in the universe will have less to do with warp speed and more to do with a paradigm shift on life.  Our narrative seems to be one of white guys looking for white guys in space. We are looking for carbon base life that is mobile and tool using.  I’d dare say the reason we haven’t discovered other intelligent life in the universe, on our own world even, is that our understandings of “intelligent” and “life” are too small.

[1] For a cool fictional monograph on just this Antropocentrism, see my friend David Gowey’s work in progress on “Cultural Xenology”:

2 thoughts on “This Dwarf Planet Life: Thoughts on the mysterious lights on Ceres, in Three Acts

  1. What an intimidating prospect: Humanity has no way of measuring how oblivious they could be to the presence of a superior intelligence. Sobering, but good, food for thought.


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