Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979;

(c) 1979 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.




Chapter 22.  Extraterrestrial Cultures

"I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith -- it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe."
          -- from Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert A. Heinlein2643

"The Gowachin: the frog people of Tandaloor whose concept of Law is the strangest in the ConSentiency. To them, ritual (form) is the foundation upon which Law stands, but Law must change to meet each new condition. They do not even trust their own Law, believing that even the most high-minded people will use legalisms for their own benefit. The Courtarena where they try their cases can be a scene of carnage. The losing Legum (lawyer) forfeits his life. Any jurist or client who makes a misstep can be dispatched. This is a situation which makes for infrequent trials and memorable court performances."
          -- Frank Herbert,3026 on The Dosadi Experiment (1977)2615

"I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. Our only hope of understanding it is to look at it from as many different points of view as possible."
          -- J. B. S. Haldane (1928)974

God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.
"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.
"Certainly," said man.
"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God. And He went away.
          -- from The Sirens of Titan (1961) by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.2211

"Every sentient creature sees beauty in a different way."
          -- Tec, in Janet O. Jeppson’s The Second Experiment (1974)2164


At last we arrive at the apex of anthropologist Leslie White’s "cultural pyramid" -- the ideological and philosophical strata in alien societies. This cultural subsystem encompasses religion, ethics, logic, worldviews and aesthetics. In the present chapter we shall attempt to deal with these symbolic articulations of the nature of the universe which we may encounter in extraterrestrial societies on other worlds.

Xenologists attempt such an analysis with some trepidation, for they heed the warning of sociobiologist E.O. Wilson that many human concepts of ethics, aesthetics, law, philosophy, and religion may be at least partly traceable back to our primitive biological heritage. If this is so, then our human notions of "culture" may be grossly anthropocentric at an extremely fundamental level. As Wilson suggests:

Although the hundreds of the world’s cultures seem enormously variable to those of us who stand in their midst, all versions of human social behavior together form only a tiny fraction of the realized organizations of social species on this planet and a still smaller fraction of those that can be readily imagined with the aid of sociobiology theory.3198



22.1  Alien Religion

Will ETs be religious? Will they believe in supernatural forces or gods that control or guide their individual and collective destinies? To answer these questions xenologists must decide exactly what they mean by "religion" in the context of an alien culture.

Theologians and philosophers generally espouse fairly broad definitions of the phenomenon.797 James L. Christian calls religion "the search for ultimate meaning in life."1620 J. Milton Yinger claims that "religion is a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life."812 Robert N. Bellah at Harvard defines religion as "a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence."805 Anthony Wallace sees religiosity in somewhat more functional terms, and presents an inventory of specific religious behaviors:

1. Addressing the supernatural (prayer, exorcism)

2. Music (dancing, singing, chanting, playing instruments)

3. Physiological exercise (physical manipulation of psychological states through drugs, deprivation, and mortification)

4. Exhortation (addressing others as representative of divinity)

5. Reciting the code (use of the sacred written and oral literature, which contains statements regarding the pantheon, cosmology, myths, and moral injunctions)

6. Simulation (imitating things for purposes of control)

7. Mana (touching things possessed of sacred power, laying on of hands)

8. Taboo (avoiding things to prevent the activation of unwanted power or undesired events)

9. Feasts (sacred meals)

10. Sacrifices (immolation, offerings, fees)

11. Congregation (processions, meetings, convocations)

12. Inspiration (pursuit of revelation, conversion, possession, mystical ecstasy)

13. Symbolism (manufacture and use of symbolic objects).3200

Unfortunately, most of these expansive definitions sweep too wide to be useful in xenology. Many social and cultural aspects traditionally ascribed to and subsumed within "religion" clearly are not unique to it. This is an obvious but oft-neglected aspect of the phenomenon -- a neglect which has led to much confusion in the literature.

Music, ritual, ethics and morality, and feasts can and do appear human societies outside of the religious context.853 That is, a "religion" may adopt a particular system of ethics, a prescribed set of rituals, or particular musical forms. But ethics, ritual, and music may exist independently and in the absence of religion. Consequently, xenologists cannot properly use these general qualities and broad activities in a definition of religion that aspires to universality.

Xenologists consider that the most significant and unique element of the phenomenon of religion is the belief in spiritual beings and supernatural forces. As the late Sir J.G. Frazer once wrote: "Religion is a proprtiation or conciliation of powers -- conscious or personal agents -- superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life."804 In this relatively strict conception, religion must be viewed as virtually synonymous with theism or the belief in gods and spiritual forces.

It has been estimated that mankind has produced on the order of 100,000 distinct religions since the time of the Neanderthals some 60 millennia ago.3200 Whether or not extraterrestrials will similarly invent religion -- a belief in the supernatural -- is a difficult question. Xenologists know that magical and religious explanations of reality are extremely common, though by no means universal, among simple human cultures.

But why believe in gods at all? Objectivity on this question in the literature is hard to find. Countless theories have been proposed, with everyone from philosophers, theologians, and anthropologists to sociologists, psychologists, biologists and even physicists trying their hand at explanation. Max Weber, for instance, concluded that primitive societies seek the supernatural to ensure long life, favorable hunts, good land, avoidance of physical catastrophe, conquest of enemies, and similar mundane reasons. Some talk of distinctions between the "sacred" and the "profane" in cultures, or postulate a mysterious "religious emotion" or an innate "need for god"; others hail the fear of death as the primary motivation. Paul Radin suggests that man was led to postulate the existence of the supernatural at the dawn of civilization, when he was helpless and agape before the powerful and seemingly capricious forces of the natural environment:

His mentality was still overwhelmingly dominated by definitely animal characteristics although the life-values themselves -- the desire for success, for happiness, and for long life -- were naturally already present. No economic security could have existed, and we cannot go far wrong in assuming that, where economic security does not exist, emotional insecurity and its correlates, the sense of powerlessness and the feeling of in significance, are bound to develop. ... It is but natural for the psyche, under such circumstances, to take refuge in compensation fantasies. ... The main goal and objective of all his strivings was the canalization of his fears and feelings and the validation of his compensation dreams.3235

In this view, religion is an emotional response to a threatening and in comprehensible situation.

Another psychological theory on the origin of religion recently has been proposed by Dr. Julian Jaynes of Princeton University, in his fascinating but controversial book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.2599 According to this radical new theory, ancient man was an unconscious automaton acting on orders from voices heard within his head. Much like modern schizophrenics, people heard the voices of personal "gods" and did what they were told.

The occurrence of these bicameral god-voices supposedly was related to human split-brain architecture. Says Jaynes: "The speech of the gods was organized in the right hemisphere, in what corresponds to Wernicke’s area on the left hemisphere, and was ‘spoken’ or ‘heard’ over the anterior commissures to, or by, the auditory areas of the left temporal lobe."3008 Then, just a few years ago, escalating levels of novelty, change, and a series of fortuitous catastrophes caused the bicameral mind to break down. Consciousness was learned as the god-voices fell silent. Jaynes’ theory thus proposes a direct biological reason for theism. In his own words, the result:

In the second millennium B.C., we stopped hearing the voices of gods. In the first millennium B.C., those of us who still heard the voices, our oracles and prophets, they too died away. In the first millennium A.D., it is their sayings and hearings preserved in sacred texts through which we obeyed our lost divinities. And in the second millennium A.D., these writings lose their authority. What we have been through in these last four millennia is the slow inexorable profaning of our species. And in the last part of the second millennium A.D., that process is apparently becoming complete. It is the Great Human Irony of our noblest and greatest endeavor on this planet that in our reading of the language of God in Nature we should read there so clearly that we have been so mistaken.2599

Equally controversial, but perhaps most faithful to reality, is the sociobiological argument advanced by E.O. Wilson that religiosity may actually be selectively advantageous in the Darwinian sense. Those human societies best survive which are able to produce members willing to sacrifice their own interests in the name of the group or something symbolic of the group. To this end, the human species may have evolved a constellation of gene sets which predisposes humans to social conformity, followerism, and acceptance of authoritarian belief structures -- a kind of genetically preprogrammed "religious emotion." Says Wilson:

The mental processes of religious belief -- consecration of personal and group identity, attention to charismatic leaders, mythopoeism, and others -- represent programmed predispositions whose self-sufficient components were incorporated into the neural apparatus of the brain by thousands of generations of genetic evolution.3198

Of all the theories proposed to date, this one probably strikes nearer the mark than any other. ETs races evolving in similar circumstances may be expected to generate a similar genetic-based religious affectation.

Many human societies have a belief in spiritual beings, but belief in high gods is not universal. In fact, only 35% of all hunter-gatherer societies surveyed by J.W.M. Whiting in the 1960’s included high gods in their sacred traditions.3020 And the concept of an active and moral god who created the universe is even less widespread, amounting to less than 10% of all cultures surveyed which derive less than one-quarter of their sustenance from herding.3021 So while sacred traditions and origin-myths of some kind occur almost universally as a basic human cultural trait, traditional Western theism is far less common.

For this reason xenologists find it difficult to say exactly what belief structures alien societies may adopt. It is not certain that ETs will accept spirits and gods, despite the rather durable human propensity to do so. Indeed religion, human style, may be comparatively rare in the Galaxy.



22.2  Alien Ritual

Ritual may be defined as the performance of specific rites as a means of social control and communication.3022,3023 Rites are formal or informal procedures and acts conducted in accordance with prescribed rules and established custom. The effect on society appears adaptive, ensuring social cohesion in community, educational, economic, scientific, political, religious and other groups.872

Will aliens have ritual? Nonhuman primates on Earth exhibit tradition and "protocultural behavior";2950,452 dogs, cats, bears, and other mammals3045 exhibit strong ritual-like instinctual behaviors, and so do birds and the higher reptiles to a certain degree. Sociobiologists today believe that the seat of ritual lies in the R-brain of the triune system (see Chapter 14), and that its prevalence throughout vertebrate species implies strong selective value in evolution. If this is a correct conclusion, then the implication in xenology is that ritual observances may be commonplace though not universal among extraterrestrial communities comprised of beings qualitatively mentally similar to Earthly vertebrates.

In virtually all human societies, important life events with major social significance are usually tagged with elaborate ritual and ceremony. As E.O. Wilson points out, "human beings have a strong tendency to manufacture thresholds across which they step ritualistically from one existence to another."3198 Rites are performed during betrothal and marriage to enhance commitment and conformity; they occur during pregnancy and child birth, to lend social support to mothers and to enhance the status of motherhood; they appear frequently at the time of puberty, perhaps to encourage proper identification with same-sex peer groups or adults; death is commonly accompanied by elaborate funeral ceremonies to promote social cohesion and to test individual commitment to the community. Each rite is adaptive as an alternative mode of socialization. Aliens with poly sexuality or monosexuality, or having annual estrus cycles, or ETs gifted with optional sex, ephemeral lives, cannibalistic urges, or strikingly divergent sex-related death rates may have an astounding richness of ritual tradition.

How do rites work? Consider the rite of passage known as the initiation ceremony. All initiations, according to anthropologist A. Van Gennep, involve the movement of individuals or groups from one social position to another. That is, rites of passage involve changing one’s status. Van Gennep discovered that initiations in most human societies may be characterized by three distinct ordered stages which highlight the change of status: (1) separation, (2) transition, and (3) incorporation.3236 To move from one status to another, a person is first separated from his present position in the community, either physically or symbolically. Then he must pass through a transitional state, usually involving specific ceremonial procedures, tests of courage, and so forth. Finally, the individual is readmitted back into the community as an active member at the new status level. All this ensures that social mobility is not easy. By formalizing the division of labor by surrounding each specialty with ritual initiation barriers, group solidarity within each specialty is maintained. Hierarchy is made more concrete, social structure more durable, and the community less subject to disharmony and dissipation.

A moment’s reflection will produce many examples in contemporary society: Entering college, athletic competition, fraternities, seminaries, lodges and secret clubs, occupational role groups, etc. To Van Gennep, the following description of a typical military rite of passage into the United States Marines would have sounded familiar:

The initiate (recruit) is torn away from his family and familiar surroundings; is forced to undergo exhausting, intensive (and often humiliating) experiences, during which he must demonstrate his courage and stamina; and generally learns a new esoteric vocabulary and mythology as well as ways of behaving which will be appropriate to his new status. When he successfully completes the initiation, he returns to society as a new kind of person, a real "man," or perhaps a Marine.3009


22.2.1  Religious Rites

So far we have discussed only secular or nonreligious rites. It is clear that governments, organizations and bureaucracies of every functional and ideological stripe can engage in what anthropologists call "enculturation" -- a promotion of social cohesion by means of shared experience and ritual performance. Xenologists expect that any extraterrestrial organization or community populated by creatures with human-analogous mentalities will find the ritualization technique an extremely useful cultural tool.. Since we have earlier concluded that religion may be common but not universal among alien races, it should come as no surprise that xenologists also believe that religious-oriented rites will play an important role in many ET societies.

Of course, these things are notoriously easy to misinterpret. Xenological field workers must be meticulous in their observations or they may arrive at wholly erroneous conclusions. As in anthropology, there is great danger in using one’s own culture to interpret an alien one. Care must be taken to correctly analyze the function of specific rites. Imagine a naive alien xenologist from a highly religious culture who attempts to examine certain rites on some arbitrary foreign planet. After observing the doings in a large, open-air cathedral there, the ET researcher quickly files the following report to Galactic Central:

A large congregation gathered together to witness a ritual combat, conducted according to precise ritualistic rules. The participants are dressed in appropriate identifiable garb, or costumes, as they engage in their ritual combat -- one side representing evil and the other good, depending upon the viewpoint of the members of the audience. Leading the congregation are priestesses dressed in appropriate garb, participating in ritualistic dances and chanting various formulas that are supposedly efficacious. Operating on the principle of sympathetic magic, the priestesses attempt to transfer the enthusiasm of the crowd to the appropriate combatants.801

The alien, of course, has really been observing a Saturday afternoon football game in an American stadium, not a communal supplication to some unseen supernatural deity.* But would hasty observation reveal the distinction?

The tool of ritual may take many shapes in alien cultures. As suggested earlier by Wallace’s list of religious behaviors, ritual behavior designed to promote social cohesion may take the form of prayer, communal dancing or singing, sacred feasts, taboos, physical contact with amulets or holy water, drug-induced dream states, and so on. Extraterrestrial religious cultures may exemplify all these and more. But perhaps most fascinating from the xenological viewpoint are those extreme human religious practices which involve murder and sexual activity. Such extremes may appear normal to other sentient races inhabiting other worlds.

Murder and human sacrifice have appeared in literally hundreds of human cultures on Earth. The ancient Carthaginians sacrificed many of their youth to the god Moloch. The children were laid on the hands of a calf-headed image of bronze, from which they slid into a fiery oven, while the people danced to the music of flutes to drown out the terrible shrieks of the burning victims. In India, the old Khond sacrifice of the Meriah involved a human subject held in captivity for long periods prior to the rite. After several days of devotional rituals and sanctification, the victim was put to death by strangulation or pressure. The body was then dismembered and the pieces strewn among the fields, except for the portion offered to the earth goddess which was buried. The Pawnees of North America also had an elaborate religious ritual in which human beings were sacrificed to the Morning Star. The blood of the victims was sprinkled over the fields to ensure and enhance crop growth.

People have been murdered, often in quite gruesome fashion, to appease various gods and spirits. In ancient Siam it was the custom to immure a living person into a wall, or crush him under the foundation stone of a new building, in order to give strength and durability to the structure. It was believed that the death created an angry ghost who would haunt the place and guard it against the intrusion of enemies. According to the famous British anthropologist Sir James George Frazer: When a new gate was made or an old gate was repaired in the walls of Bankok, it used to be customary to crush three men to death under an enormous beam in a pit at the gateway. Before they were led to their doom, they were regaled at a splendid banquet: The whole court came to salute them; and the king himself charged them to guard well the gate that was to be committed to their care, and to warn him if enemies or rebels came to assault the city. The next moment the ropes were cut and the beam descended on them.804 In Bima, a district of the East Indian island of Sambawa, when a new flagpole was erected at the sultan’s palace a woman was crushed to death under it. The woman must be pregnant at the time, since the ghost of such a female should be more fierce and vigilant than usual. Also, when the great wooden doors were set up at the palace, it was customary to bury a child under each of the door posts:

Officers are sent to scour the country for a pregnant woman or little children, as the case may be, and if they come back empty-handed they must give up their own wives or children to serve as victims. When the gates are set up, the children are killed, their bodies stripped of flesh, and their bones laid in the holes in which the door posts are erected. Then the flesh is boiled with horse’s flesh and served up to the officers. Any officer who refuses to eat of it is at once cut down. The intention of this last practice is perhaps to secure the fidelity of the officers by compelling them to enter into a covenant of the most solemn and binding nature with the ghosts of the murdered children who are to guard the gates.804

In the old kingdom of Ashanti in Ghana, several persons used to be put to death following an earthquake. They were slain as a sacrifice to Sasabonsun, the earthquake god, in the hope of satiating his cruelty for a time. Houses thrown down by temblers were sprinkled with human blood before being rebuilt. When part of the king’s own dwelling in Kumasi was knocked down, no less than 50 young girls were slaughtered to appease Sasabonsun. (The mud to be used in the repairs was kneaded with their blood.) On the island of Siau of the Sangihe Island group off the north east coast of Celebes, Indonesia, the volcano god received similar homage:

A child stolen from a neighboring island used to be sacrificed every year to the spirit of a volcano in order that there might be no eruption. The victim was slowly tortured to death in the temple by a priestess, who cut off the child’s ears, nose, fingers, and so on, then consummated the sacrifice by splitting open the breast. The spectacle was witnessed by hundreds of people, and feasting and cock-fighting went on for nine days afterwards.804

The ultimate in ritual human sacrifice, which might conceivably also be found in an extraterrestrial culture, was found among the so-called "cannibal kingdoms." Not only were people sacrificed to appease the gods, but they were systematically eaten as well. The primary motivation for this behavior appears to be religious and social -- such as a desire to achieve or maintain status in society.3010 We have already mentioned the Bima custom of eating the flesh of children to promote group solidarity among the ruling class. Another example of community unity via cannibalism was found among the Tupinamba of Brazil. According to an eyewitness account by a shipwrecked sailor in the early 1950’s, the Tupinamba combined ritual sacrifice (of prisoners of war) with cannibalism:

On the day of the sacrifice the prisoner-of-war, trussed around the waist, was dragged into the plaza. Old women painted black and red and wearing necklaces of human teeth brought out ornamented vases in which the victim’s blood and entrails would be cooked. The ceremonial club that would be used to kill him was passed back and forth among the men in order to "acquire the power to catch a prisoner in the future." The actual executioner wore a long feather cloak and was followed by relatives beating drums. The executioner and the prisoner derided each other. Enough liberty was allowed the prisoner so that he could dodge the blows, and sometimes a club was put in his hands for protecting himself without being able to strike back. When at last his skull was shattered, everyone "shouted and whistled." If the prisoner had been given a wife during his period of captivity, she was expected to shed tears over his body before joining in the feast that followed. Now the old women "rushed to drink the warm blood," and children dipped their hands into it. "Mothers would smear their nipples with blood so that even babies could have a taste of it." The body was cut into quarters and barbecued while "the old women who were the most eager for human flesh" licked the grease dripping from the sticks that formed the grill.2896

What we have here is a major community event! Menfolk and womenfolk, married and unmarried, soldiers and civilians, young and old, all join together in the joyous festivities. Babies early learn the taste of human blood and their socialization begins with the experience. Adults, by focusing their attention upon a single ritual victim, achieve group solidarity by communal feasting. Elders, by partaking of the flesh of the victim, lend continuity and the approval of tradition to the event.

Our last exemplar of religious ritual murder is taken from the Aztec culture, which existed in what is today central Mexico during the 12-16th centuries A.D. Unlike most other cannibal societies, the Aztecs went in for human meat in a really big way. The first Spanish visitors to Tenochtitlán observed racks containing literally hundreds of thousands of skulls down in the temple cellars. Later they were told that at the dedication of the great pyramid at the Aztec capitol, four lines of prisoners stretching two miles long each were sacrificed by a team of executioners working around the clock for four solid days. (That works out to about 14,000 victims.) Writes anthropologist Marvin Harris: Aztec cannibalism was not a perfunctory tasting of ceremonial tidbits. All edible parts were used in a manner strictly comparable to the consumption of the flesh of domesticated animals. The Aztec priests can legitimately be described as ritual slaughterers in a state-sponsored system geared to the production and redistribution of substantial amounts of animal protein in the form of human flesh.2896 Each prisoner had an owner, who kept him plump prior to slaughter on a heavy diet of tortillas. The victim was tended by the owner’s family, delivered by them to the executioner for public dispatch on behalf of the bloodthirsty sun god, and was finally eaten by the family after slaughter. (The favorite Aztec recipe, apparently, was a stew flavored with peppers and tomatoes.) Again we have a community event providing a focus on unity.**

Another extreme form of human religious practice which may have some xenological significance involves promiscuous sexual behavior. Much like ritual public murder, ritual community sex has proven a very useful means of achieving cultural cohesion. In some societies, public sex is somewhat limited and informal. Consider for instance the tradition of the Marquise Islanders, among whom marriage and sexual activity were culturally separate:

Before marriage, girls could enjoy sex with many men. But after marriage they had to confine their sexual activities to their husbands. On the day of the wedding, the bride gave a sexual farewell party to her old friends: She lay down, and her old friends lined up for their last intercourse with her. The longer the line, the prouder the bridegroom.951

Fertility rites are a somewhat more formal observance. Among the Pipiles of Central America, copulation took place in the fields that the moment when the first seeds of the next planting were deposited in the earth. Men were restricted to having sex only with their wives, a religious duty in default of which it became unlawful to sow seeds. The Peruvian Indians enforced no such restraints. In December, when the alligator pears began to ripen, the people held a religious festival called Acatay mita in order to make the fruit grow mellow: The festival lasted five days and nights, and was preceded by a fast of five days during which they ate neither salt nor pepper and refrained from their wives. At the festival men and boys assembled stark naked in an open space among the orchards, and ran from there to a distant hill. Any woman whom they overtook on the way they violated.804

There are many recorded cases of formal institutionalized religious prostitution in world history.*** Most common are the various forms of temporary temple service. It was the Babylonian custom that every woman, rich or poor, once in her life must submit to the embraces of a stranger at the temple of Mylitta, and to dedicate to the goddess Ishtar (Astarte) the wages earned by this sanctified harlotry. The stranger signified his choice by throwing a silver coin into her lap -- no matter how small its value, the woman had to accept the coin and have coitus with the man. Once the rite had been performed, according to Herodotus, the female was absolved of her obligations to the goddess and need submit no more. The sacred precinct was always crowded with women waiting to observe the custom; ill-favored ones might have to wait a long time, sometimes even years, before they had performed their service.

In Phoenician temples women prostituted themselves for hire in the service of religion, believing that by this conduct they propitiated the goddess and won her favor. "It was a law of the Amorites that she who was about to marry should sit in fornication seven days by the gate."804 In Cyprus all women were obliged by custom to prostitute themselves before marriage to strangers at the sanctuary of the goddess Aphrodite. The practice was regarded, not as an orgy of lust, but as a solemn religious duty performed in the service of the great Mother Goddess.

These rites were significant in that they seem to have served as initiation ceremonies into the status of marriage. Other sexual rituals appear to have been puberty rites. For example, in Armenia the noblest families dedicated their daughters to the service of the goddess Anaitis in her temple at Acilisena. There the girls acted as prostitutes for a long time through adolescence before they were given in marriage. The practice had widespread community approval, as "nobody scrupled to take one of these girls to wife when her period of service was over."804 A similar case was reported by the traveler Strabo during the 1st century B.C., who claimed that beautiful young girls of noble birth served as the consorts or concubines of Ammon in the temple at Thebes in Egypt. They held sacred office only through puberty, before which they willingly and freely prostituted themselves to any man who took their fancy. After puberty they were given in marriage, and a ceremony of mourning was per formed for them as if they had died.804

Religious prostitution was often considered a noble calling, the ancient equivalent of modern missionary work. Among the Chinese, Syrians, and Greeks, nearly every temple had its official prostitutes with whom intercourse (for a small fee) was considered an acceptable form of worship. According to Dr. David R. Reuben:

Many of these ladies were volunteers in the sense that they only worked for a year or so, donating all the proceeds of their labors to the church. When their time was up, the part-time prostitutes returned home to their husbands and families with greatly enhanced prestige.3011

Finally, sexual experience was sometimes viewed as a religious act in and of itself. Tantric Buddhism, as practiced in India, Tibet, and briefly in China during the 8th century A.D., maintained that the symbolism of sexual union between man and woman represented an ultimate mystical realization of supreme spiritual bliss. Ritual fornication was countenanced, even encouraged, in a culture which held that the orgasm was a major religious experience.

Xenologists believe that religious rites regarded as extreme or peculiar by humans -- such as sacred cannibalism or ritual prostitution -- may be considered natural and normal by other sentient races in the Galaxy. Indeed alien rites may appear to our eyes even stranger, even more odious than those which have graced the human cultures of planet Earth.


* Or would ETs interpret our football in unfamiliar (and perhaps upsetting) sociobiological terms, as for example the suggestion by some psychologists that the game represents a socially approved male homosexual ceremony?3197

** It is interesting that elements of symbolic ritual cannibalism exist in many "modern" religions. Christians regularly, for example, consume "the blood and body of Christ" during their Sunday communion rite.

*** Religious prostitution is not of historical interest only. There are a number of contemporary examples, such as the so-called "Happy Hookers for Jesus" of the Children of God.3041



22.2.2  Extraterrestrial Cults

A cult is a system of the outward forms of religious worship, ceremony, custom and ritual, but lacking the dominant theme of traditional theism. Cults do not require the total absence of spirituality, but evolve on the basis of a predominantly nonreligious theme or motive. Cultism -- the single-minded fixation by a group of individuals upon a single goal, purpose, or cultural aspect -- may be grounded in ideological, behavioral, emotional, technological, physiological, or environmental basics of existence on any world.

What sorts of cults might we discover on alien planets? Consider first the elements of the environment.2619 Objects of worship are often determined simply by geography. In India, where the coming of the rains is uncertain but a matter of life or death, the water that falls from the skies is an object of veneration. ETs inhabiting "monsoon worlds" (stormy pelagic planets dotted with scores of tiny island land masses) might develop a cult of water worship.862 Extremely parched environments may also spawn extreme alien cults of water- or cloud-worship, a theme which has been dealt with occasionally in the science fiction literature.2643,2919 It is interesting that the Qumran Jews and early Christians, sects born in arid desert regions, incorporated religious initiation rites involving total submergence in water.

Alien cults may derive from other features of the environment.2622 Since more massive planets are expected to display more tectonic activity, xenologists would expect to find more instances of volcano, mountain, and earthquake worship on larger worlds than on small. River worship, such as the adoration of the Nile among the ancient Egyptians, and sun worship, as in the lofty plateaus of the Central Andes where the shade is always cold, may take on more extreme forms in peculiar alien environments.2620 Recurrent local weathers, such as the waterspout of Lake Lanao (now Lake Sultan Alonto) on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines,* could be revered and adopted as integral parts of local ritual and ceremony.

Astronomical events may play an important role too.804 The relation ship between the constellations, the seasons, the sun and moon, and the harvest time was discovered and put to use by the Chinese, Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, and many other civilizations in a bewildering variety of star cults, lunar-synchronized regal tenures, planetary astrologies and sky worships. Many specialized cult buildings were erected -- temple observatories, sun and moon temples, altars of heaven, and so forth -- in service of these beliefs. The astrologies devised by sentient extraterrestrial races, each based on its own unique set of planetary bodies and configurations of constellations and stellar movements, should prove diverse and highly entertaining.

Many of our present-day ritual celebrations are closely linked with celestial events. Perhaps the best-known of these is Christmas. This holiday was originally a pagan celebration commemorating the Winter Solstice in late December, the time at which the sun reaches its lowest point in the southern sky (the shortest day and longest night of the year). Christmas was later adopted by the Christians as a religious occasion marking what is believed to have been the repeat conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn during May, September, and December of 7 B.C. (the Star of Bethlehem). Other familiar examples include Thanksgiving, which may be regarded as a harvest celebration during Fall (the autumnal equinox), and Easter, which in the West is customarily celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon following the vernal equinox (when the sun passes the celestial equator and Spring season begins).

The existence of one or more highly visible Saturn-like rings around an alien planet may furnish yet another cause for cult worship. Such a grand display would surely dominate the celestial panorama, and would appear distinctly different from place to place on the ground: In latitudes near the equator they would sweep vertically up from the horizon and, illuminated by light reflected from the planet, would cross the sky in the form of a magnificent celestial archway. In those places well-removed from the equatorial zones, our ring system would give an impression of much greater breadth and would be well removed from its former zenith position. It could be expected to sweep across a large portion of the horizon, and we would find superimposed upon it a rounded, black, conical mass due to the shadow cast by the parent planet.61 Apparent ring crossings by constellations or planetary bodies could be used to mark the seasons and to fix the times of ritual ceremonies; wars might be fought to decide the single "correct" aspect of the rings. (Larry Niven has suggested that a similar celestial archway cult might arise among degenerate civilizations trapped on a giant Ringworld edifice.753)

Astronomical factors need not apply solely to "primitive" cultures. Alien scientists inhabiting a planet which orbits a class F star may have developed their science of astrophysics sufficiently far to be able to predict with some certainty that their sun would soon be leaving the Main Sequence and entering the Red Giant stage. Perhaps these ETs might develop a "religion of change" or a cult favoring space travel (which helps them maintain their commitment to interstellar emigration before the final disaster). Other alien cultures, faced with this same difficulty, might instead relapse into pathological cults of dispair and nihilism. As one early science fiction writer described it:

Their knowledge grew, faced with the fact that their world was dying, their home surely turning to a ball of ice, within which there can be no life. It would be discussed gravely at meetings of scientific societies, first, as a novel and interesting theory, and then as evidence accumulated, would seep down and down through all the levels of intelligence until the certainty of destruction was ever before all men. Philosopher, scientist and economist would know that death was the only end of their long ages of evolution from the slime, and religion would be asked to explain the fact that man had been created only for the purpose of being extinguished in cold and fear.1935

Extraterrestrial cults may also be founded on emotions or behaviors common to all members of a specialized or well-defined group. Hedonistic drug cults are common enough on Earth, and science fiction writers have long speculated on the possibility of pharmaceutical3054 and "wirehead"2020 cults in which biofeedback or surgical electronic implants are used to achieve a permanent state of stimulation in the pleasure centers of the brain. Alien cults may rally around nudity or promiscuous sex3412; murder and violence are yet another possibility.812 Alien belief systems may center on hunger or pain,2917 love or friendship, anger or hate, pride or envy, altruism or egotistical selfishness,1946 or group psychotherapy.3210 Cults might even be based on dreams:

In the mountainous jungles of Malaysia, an aboriginal tribe called the Senoi built a social order around its dreams. Tribal members are encouraged to discuss their dreams at break fast and control them at night.3055

The idea of dream cults has already appeared in science fiction.2578 Alien cults may find their expression through a particular ideology.

Many writers have described Soviet Marxism as a form of "secular religion."2600,812,857 Others would include scientific rationalism, Darwinian evolutionism, immortalism, etc. in the same category. (See Burhoe,864 Dobzhansky,868 Morison,866 and Yinger.812) Each has its high priests, rites of passage, central dogma, and so forth. Political ideology has frequently been imposed upon local religious pantheons, as especially in ancient China, Greece, and Babylonia, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that ETs may construct cults enshrining cherished beliefs in the economic, social, military, political, or cultural ideals of their society.889,807 The contemporary money-worshipping Unification Church of Reverend Moon suggests the lengths to which ideological cultism may be carried. Finally, there may exist cults relating to extraterrestrial life and space. On the simplest level, these may focus on the achievement of technical capabilities sufficient for living in space, or they may pertain to "visitations" or contact events by surrogate "space gods" in flying saucers. (Examples in recent memory include the cult of The Two,1921 the Aetherius Society,1870 and Gabriel Green’s Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America.333) Cults of "supertheism" may arise, espousing the notion that all superior extraterrestrial societies should be worshipped by all those in an inferior technological or cultural position.

More sophisticated versions of space cults have been investigated in science fiction. One notable example appears in "Lifeboat" by Gordon R. Dickson and Harry Harrison. In this story humankind encounters the belief system of the spacefaring Albenareth, an emergent galactic civilization which holds to the sanctity of space:

The Albenareth think of space as if it were Heaven. To them, the planets and all inhabited solid bodies are the abode of the Imperfect. An Albenareth gains Perfection by going into space -- the more trips and the more time spent away from the planetfall, the more perfection gained. You noticed the Captain identified himself as "Rayumung" and the Engineer as "Munghanf." Those aren’t names. They’re ranks, like stairsteps on the climb to a status of Perfection. The ranks stand for the number of trips they’ve made into space, and the time spent in space. The rougher the duty they pull, the greater the count of the time involved toward a higher rank. For example, this lifeboat duty is going to gain a lot of points for this Captain and Engineer -- not because they’re saving our lives, but because to save us they had to pass up the chance to die in the spaceliner when it burned. You see, the last and greatest goal of a spacegoing Albenareth is to die, finally, in space.3012


* Daily during early Spring of each year, around midday, a waterspout forms near the Lake's eastern shore travels westward over the water for some distance, and then breaks up.3053



22.3  Ethics and Law

While there is no consensus as yet, xenologists tend to view ethics as the general standards of social conduct and law as the specific rules of social conduct. Theories of ethics strive to ascertain umbrella principles of "proper" behavior, whereas law attempts (often using physical coercion) to recast and respecify theory in more concrete form. Each legal system thus serves some underlying theory of ethical behavior, but each theory of ethics may engender many different legal systems.

There is much confusion in the literature over the meaning of ethics, in part because of its frequent connection with religious values and local parochial moralities. It is certainly true that most religions provide elaborate ethical structures and legalistic proscriptions and taboos. But ethics and religion are distinct concepts. Many ethical systems are fundamentally nontheistic and require no religious validation. Ethics without gods is commonplace.3046 Popular examples of such "pure" ethical systems on modern Earth include Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Evolutionary Humanism, Confucianism, Civil Religion, and Secular Humanism. (See Cogley,810 Cole and Hammond,856 Humanist Manifestos I and II,3043 Kallen,854 Kolenda,3044 Kurtz,3042 and Rosenfeld.1860)


22.3.1  Extraterrestrial Ethics

A bewildering variety of ethical-moral systems have been devised by humans and human societies on this planet. The Golden Rule, which appears in the teachings of most of the world’s major faiths, and the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic tradition are prime examples of traditional religion-based ethics. Buddhist moral teachings involve a code of behavior known as the Noble Eightfold Path, consisting of understanding, right-mindedness, careful speech, moral action, sane living, steadfast effort, attentiveness, and concentration. Confucius insisted, alternatively, that a superior man has nine aims: To see clearly, to understand what he hears, to be warm in manner, dignified in bearing, faithful in speech, painstaking at work, to ask when in doubt, in anger to think of difficulties, in sight of gain to remember right.

The Navaho people traditionally adhere to five basic canons of ethical behavior:

1. Security -- health, long life, and industry are primary goals of life.

2. Decorum -- sobriety, self-control, and adherence to custom are valued.

3. Reciprocity -- care for parents in old age to repay them for their parentage; loyalty and altruism among relatives.

4. Benevolence -- behave to everybody as if they were your relatives, a broad ethical generalization including hospitality and other forms of generosity.

5. Avoid Excess -- excess, even in approved behaviors, is evil.3039

Many ethical systems seem "wrong" by Western standards, as for instance the old Eskimo belief that geronticide (allowing the aged to die) was moral. Still stranger perhaps are the Ik, a human tribe inhabiting northern Uganda which displays no love. Under conditions of extreme privation, the society has adopted an every-man-for-himself ethic. Children are turned out to scrounge their own food almost as soon as they can walk. Wives go out in search of food and feed themselves, bringing nothing back for their starving husbands. One observer reported that in two years he never saw one act that could even remotely be construed as love.2917

There have been few real attempts to forge a general theory of moral systems in keeping with the spirit of ethical relativism urged by cultural anthropologists having field experience in dealing with "alien" cultures.3040 One notable exception is the taxonomy of moral judgement devised by Harvard social psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in relation to the development of ethical standards of behavior among human children.3024,865 Kohlberg recorded and classified verbal responses to specific moral dilemmas. These he used to define six sequential stages of ethical reasoning through which people may pass during their mental maturation. Typically, the child moves from primary dependence on external controls to increasingly sophisticated internalized standards. Kohlberg used 25 different "dimensions of morality" to characterize each of the six stages of ethical maturity, two of which are given in the table on the following page. Sentient beings on other worlds, given a basically human mentality, might be expected to pass through similar stages of moral judgement -- or to stress any particular one of them.

Some anthropologists hold that there exist a number of universal issues upon which any society must take a value position. In developing this approach, Florence Kluckhohn and Fred Strodbeck discovered that most societies have a dominant worldview along five major dimensions of value orientation.3070 In theory, claim the anthropologists, we should be able to characterize the value system of any society in terms of its position on each of the five issues (Table 22.1). A more refined system will be needed, however, before this approach profitably may be applied to extra terrestrial cultures.


Table 22.1 An Anthropological Classification of Major Value Orientations
Universal to All Human Societies
(after Kluckhohn and Strodbeck3070)


Possible Value Orientations





Human Nature





Mastery over Nature

Harmony with Nature

Subjugation to Nature














However, the above generalizations may be hopelessly anthropocentric in the extreme. As E.O. Wilson notes:

Self-knowledge is constrained and shaped by the emotional control centers in the hypothalamus and limbic system of the brain. These centers flood our consciousness with all the emotions -- hate, love, guilt, fear, and others -- that are consulted by ethical philosophers who wish to intuit the standards of good and evil.565

ETs having different kinds of sentience and alternative modes of emotionality will undoubtedly also differ from us considerably in their ethics. The hive mentality of a genetic sentient, for instance, could not recognize any morality of individual behavior because such behavior is not subject to individual choice (it is preprogrammed genetically).974 A neocortical alien, freed from the shackles of hormonal emotionality, might develop a coldly rational but highly complex system of situational ethics in which summed probabilities of success would be balanced against danger in a kind of calculus of personal gain. Intelligent but extremely solitary creatures such as sentient octopuses might harbor no ethical notions of truth or reciprocity, never having had seriously to deal with other beings of their own kind on a social basis. Theirs may be a perfect libertarian, "love thyself, help thyself" morality. Another society of creatures having an excess of female births may permit infanticide or uxoricide (wife-killing) as a dominant component of the local ethos.3096 In still another culture, cannibalism may be biologically necessary for the survival of the race, elevating murder or suicide to the stature of deeply moral behavior.2948,3238 Yet it is probably true that the ethicality of each sentient race is in some sense hostage to the biological, ecological, and psychological heritage of the species (Table 22.2).3051,565


Table 22.2 Kohlberg's Typology of Moral Stages in Humans865


Motive for Rule Obedience or Moral Action


Value of Human Life

Individual is responsive to cultural rules and labels of good and bad, right or wrong, but interprets these labels in terms of either the physical/hedonistic consequences of action (punishment, reward, exchange of favors) or in terms of the physical power of those who enunciate the rules and labels.

Stage 1. Punishment and Obedience Orientation Physical consequences of action determine its goodness/badness regardless of the human meaning or value of these consequences. Avoidance of punishment and unquestioning deference to power are valued in their own right, not in terms of respect for an underlying moral order supported by punishment and authority.

Obey rules to avoid punishment

The value of human life is confused with the value of physical objects and is based on the social status or physical attributes of the possessor.

Stage 2. Instrumental Relativist Orientation Right action consists of that which instrument-ally satisfies one’s own needs and occasionally
- the needs of others. Human relations are viewed in terms like those of the marketplace. Elements of fairness, reciprocity, and equal sharing are present, but are always interpreted in a physical, pragmatic way. Reciprocity is a matter of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," not of loyalty, gratitude, or justice. 

Conform to obtain rewards, have favors returned, and so on.

The value of human life is seen as instrumental to the satisfaction of the needs of its possessor or of other persons.

Maintaining the expectations of the individual’s family, group, or nation is perceived as valuable in its own right, regardless of immediate and obvious consequences. The attitude is not only one of conformity to personal expectations and social order, but of loyalty to it, of actively maintaining, supporting, and justifying the order and of identifying with the persons or group involved in it.

Stage 3. Interpersonal Concordance Orientation ("Good Boy--Nice Girl" orientation.) Good behavior is that which pleases or helps others arid and is approved by them. There is much conformity to stereotypical images of what is majority or "natural" behavior. Behavior is frequently judged by intention--"he means well" becomes important for the first time. Approval earned by being "nice,"

Conform to avoid disapproval, dislike by others.

The value of human life is based on the empathy and affection of family members and others toward its possessor 


Stage 4. "Law-and-Order" Orientation toward authority, fixed rules, and the maintenance of the social order. Right behavior consists of doing one's duty, showing respect for authority, and maintaining the social order for its own sake.

Conform to avoid censure by legitimate authorities and resultant guilt.

Life is conceived as sacred in terms of its place in a categorical moral or religious order of rights and duties.

Clear effort to define moral values and principles which have validity and application apart from the authority of the groups or persons holding these principles and apart from the individual's own identification with these groups.

Stage 5. Social Contract Legalistic Orientation
Has utilitarian overtones. Right action tends to be defined in terms of general individual rights and in terms of standards which have been critically examined and agreed upon by the whole society. Clear awareness of relativism of personal values and opin ions and corresponding emphasis on procedural rules for reaching consensus and a "legal" point of yiew which incorporates the possibility of change due to rational considerations of social utility. Free agreement and contract is the binding element of obligation.

Conform to maintain the respect of the impartial spectator judging in terms of community welfare,

Life is valued both in terms of its relation to community welfare and in terms of life being a universal human right.

Stage 6. Universal Ethical Principle Orientation Right is defined by the decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency. These principles are abstract and ethical (the Golden Rule, the categorical imperative); they are not concrete moral rules like the Ten Commandments. At heart, these are universal principles of justice, of the reciprocity and equality of the human rights, and of respect for the dignity of
human beings as individual persons.

Conform to avoid self-condemnation. 


Belief in sacredness of human life as representing a universal human value of respect for the individual. 


But perhaps a "universal" system of ethics can be imagined. A few xenologists openly have speculated that a fully generalized and universally applicable moral code may have to be based upon negentropic principles inherent in all biological, intellectual, and sociocultural processes in the cosmos1532,2617 This viewpoint leads to what the author would like to call thermodynamic ethics.

From a thermodynamic standpoint, both life and culture may be viewed as highly improbable states of matter which absorb information from the environment in order to build internal complexity. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, such processes are permissible if an energy flow may be established. Consumption of negentropy is the major activity of all lifeforms. Absorption of entropy (randomness, disorder, loss of information) is the very antithesis of life. Dr. Ernst Fasan, a well-known international jurist, suggests that the ultimate immoral act is for one sentient being to "inflict entropy" upon another.372 Robert B. Lindsay, a physicist, has proposed a generalized ethical rule which he terms the Thermodynamic Imperative:

All men should fight always as vigorously as possible to in crease the degree of order in their environment, and to consume as much entropy as possible.3013

Thermodynamic ethics dovetails comfortably with many cherished ideals of virtuous conduct. For example, lying is immoral because it results in the assimilation of useless or erroneous data by another. Sloth is "evil," since it contributes no negentropy to the universe. Murder is wrong, unless its commission prevents more severe entropic disturbances elsewhere in the system (e.g., prevents a mass murder or terrorist action). Motherhood is "good" in low-density societies, because each individual born augments the negentropic biological mission. In high-population environments, however, motherhood may not be "good," because the presence of too many individuals tends to break down the social system and destroy stored cultural information.

The general theory of thermodynamic ethics permits xenologists to make one further prediction. Civilizations at higher cultural scales control more energy than lower cultures. More energy means that more entropy can be consumed. It therefore follows that energy-rich societies can afford more comprehensive and complex systems of morality and law. In short, though they may not choose to do so, Type II civilizations can afford "higher" ethics than Type I cultures.



22.3.2  Legal Universals

Exactly what is law? Perhaps the most satisfactory definition from an anthropological point of view is that offered by E.A. Hoebel of New York University. According to Hoebel, all alien legal systems will have three elements in common: (1) coercion or force, (2) official authority, and (3) regularity.1800

What do we mean by "force"? In its traditional and most absolute form, force means physical compulsion. Xenologists prefer to broaden this concept somewhat in dealing with extraterrestrial lifeforms. Other forms of compulsion than the physical may provide equally coercive effects. Economic sanctions (money damages, deprivation of property, work status demotion), religious sanctions (excommunications, acts of contrition, voodoo curses), social sanctions (marriage prohibitions, dissolution of kinship or disowning, expulsion from work guild), and cultural sanctions (ritual public cleansing ceremonies, ban from festival events) all may be extremely effective in forcing individuals to tow the line.1865 There are many ways to make life uncomfortable for a person short of physical violence or confinement -- the law of alien societies may bite with many different kinds of teeth.

The privilege of applying force under law goes to the official authority. The authority is normally endowed with the power of law enforcement by social consent, except in cases of "tyrannic law" imposed by conquerors or military occupational forces. It is not necessary that the authority hold official legal office -- he may simply be the situational representative of the general social interest as well as his own. Of course, social structure and form of government are crucial to the concept of official authority. Leadership systems involving oligarchies or decentralized political units may give rise to more "primitive" informal legal structures (private law), whereas democratic or highly centralized governments permits the development of "civilized" rigidly formal legal systems (public law).

The third requirement, regularity, does not mean absolute certainty. Rather, it implies that decisions will not be made wholly arbitrarily but will build on precedents or generally approved principles and standards. Even "primitive" law found in tribal societies on Earth rests upon precedent of a sort, relying on older rules or norms of custom. Xenologists thus expect legal systems on other worlds, as on Earth, to bear the stamp of regularity.

Sociologist Donald Black has attempted to synthesize a general theory of the emergence of legal forms in human social. systems, based on a wealth of sociological and anthropological evidence.3068 One of his major conclusions is that the quantity of law in any society tends to increase with social stratification, rank of caste, integration of roles, organization or complexity of social structure, cultural level, conventionality, and respectability. So, for instance, stratified societies have more law than egalitarian unstratified groups; wealthy and educated people have more law than the poor and illiterate; unitary and communist/socialist governments have more law than decentralized and laissez faire governments; and so forth. With the proviso that human law mirrors human psychology, Black’s work may prove applicable to extraterrestrial cultures as well.

Of course, more law is not necessarily better or more "civilized." There is evidence that excessive law tends to lessen respect for it. Anthropologist Ruth Benedict once described the Kurnai tribe in Australia, who had such strict rules regarding choice of marriage partner that young men commonly could find not a single girl in the entire tribe whom they could legally marry. To avoid drastically revamping the entire societal legal. and ethical structure, the Kurnai institutionalized evasion of the law! It was deemed morally correct to break the law as long as proper forms were observed. In this particular case, Kurnai who wished to marry would have to elope. All the villagers would set out in pursuit, even though they too had married in similar fashion. If the couple was caught before they reached a traditional place of refuge, they would be killed. But if they made it, they would then be accepted back into the tribe after the birth of a child.3037

Wherever there is law, xenologists expect also to find courts (but not necessarily lawyers2594). Courts are the specific embodiment of official authority in the legal system. The highly decentralized Yurok Indian society in California provides an example of a very simple kind of court:

An aggrieved Yurok who felt he had a legitimate claim engaged the services of two nonrelatives from a community other than his own. The defendant did likewise. These persons were called "crossers" because they crossed back and forth between the litigants. The litigants did not face each other in the dispute. After hearing all that each side offered in evidence and argument, the "crossers" rendered a judgment on the facts. If the judgment was for the plaintiff, they rendered a decision for damages according to a well-established scale that was known to all. For their footwork and efforts each received a piece of shell currency called a "moccasin."1800

(Today this process would be called "binding arbitration.")

Tribal councils, the panchayat of India (a court of five men who are the heads of all the families in the village), the Soldier Societies of the Plains and Cheyenne Indians all are examples of courts in "primitive" societies.1865 Perhaps among the most unusual is the traditional Eskimo manner of dealing with recidivist homicide.935 A single instance of killing gives rise to a feud without societal legal sanctions, but a second in stance of homicide by the same offender marks the culprit as a public enemy:

It then becomes incumbent upon some public spirited man of initiative to interview all the adult males of the community to determine whether they agree that he should be executed. If unanimous consent is given, he then undertakes to execute the criminal, and no revenge may be taken on him by the murderer’s relatives. Cases show that no revenge is taken. A community "court" has spoken.1800

If aliens have their courts, procedure may not always be formal and rational. For instance, in centuries past "compurgation" was a permissible form of legal proof in criminal matters. The defendant was allowed to swear off a charge if he could secure a sufficient number of co-swearers called "oath-helpers" or "compurgators." These persons did not swear that they believed the defendant to be innocent but rather that his oath was "clean." Writes legal historian William Seagle:

The number of oath-helpers who had to be found by the defendant was usually twelve in the Middle Ages, although in a case of murder as many as seventy-two were sometimes required. It must be apparent from the mere number of oath-helpers required that compurgation was not so absurd as it may seem, for only a man of good repute and standing in the community could find them, even though at first they appear to have been only relatives.2594

Many tribal societies rely on ordeals to decide guilt or innocence. Kenya’s Digo tribe tries a suspect by placing a hot metal against his skin. If he is burned, his guilt is considered proven.1865 Among the Eskimos of East Greenland, all grounds for dispute short of murder are settled by singing duels during which opponents are permitted to butt one another with their heads. The style of the songs must follow a traditional pattern, but the text is composed afresh for each new occasion. The audience is judge and applauds the better singer, even when he is actually in the wrong!452

Other forms of "trial by ordeal" depend on ancient ritual or resort to magic. In Burma some suits are still determined by furnishing plaintiff and defendant each with one candle, lighting them both at once, and he whose candle outlasts the other’s is judged to have won his cause. In Borneo the litigants are represented by two shellfish on a plate. The crustaceans are irritated when lime juice is poured over them, and the first to move settles the guilt or innocence of its owner. The ancient practice of axinomancy, a form of divination, involved a hatchet suspended in midair by a piece of cord. The blade would turn to point at the guilty party. Finally, the ordeal by bread and cheese -- a kind of lie-detector test -- was practiced in Alexandria during the 2nd century A.D. and by the English during the Middle Ages (known as the corsnaed or "trial slice"). A piece of consecrated bread and cheese was administered from the altar, along with the curse that if the accused was guilty God would send the angel Gabriel to stop his throat and prevent him from swallowing. Sure enough, guilty parties were apt to fail when their own fear caused their mouths to become dry and their throat muscles to constrict.

Legal procedure was often considerably more violent in character. A common mode of proof in Medieval Europe was trial by battle, an ordeal in which God was called upon to manifest the truth by aiding the righteous plaintiff to dispatch the guilty defendant (or his champion) in a judicially supervised contest of arms. Similar ordeals have been noted by anthropologists among many human tribal societies. Marvin Harris describes one such instance among the Yanomamo, a violent group of Indian tribes inhabiting the border between Venezuela and Brazil:

A man with a special grudge against another challenges his adver sary to hit him on the head with an eight-to-ten-foot-long pole shaped like a pool cue. The challenger sticks his own pole in the ground, leans on it, and bows his head. His adversary holds his pole by the thin end, whipping the heavy end down on the proffered pate with bone-crushing force. Having sustained one blow, the recipient is entitled to an immediate opportunity to wallop his opponent in the same manner.3038

Certainly extraterrestrial courts may be no less strange.

Do xenologists expect to find any "universal crimes" among alien races?

The most likely candidate for the most universal crime must be murder.95 On Earth, no society exists in which there is a general license to kill fellow humans.452,935 Homicide is perhaps the most direct, final, and ultimate means of ‘inflicting entropy" on another person. But the universality even of this crime is open to question. Most modern legal systems recognize categories of excusable or justifiable homicide.936 Among the Eskimos infanticide, invalidicide, senilicide, gerontocide, and suicide are privileged acts if conducted by a family member. The basic Eskimo ethical postulates ("life is hard" and the "unsupportability of unproductive members of society") permit a variety of socially approved homicides.935 Another well-known example is the Mundugumor of New Guinea, who believe that it is ethically right and proper to steal, cheat, aggress against, and get the best of one’s neighbors. The average Mundugumor is suspicious, hostile, and self-centered; he is convinced that everyone is out to get him, so he is determined to get them first. Even murder, to a point, is considered socially acceptable behavior.2928

Sexual crimes are considerably less universal in scope,931 so there is no guarantee that they will be regarded as offenses in extraterrestrial legal systems. Adultery, incest, fornication, seduction and rape are almost invariably punishable in human societies, but these offenses are defined in terms of elaborate kinship systems.935 Some cultures, for instance, distinguish between the rape of married and unmarried women; others make no distinction whatever between rape and adultery.2595 Since rape, homosexuality, and murder during sexual intercourse are commonplace throughout the animal kingdom, xenologists hesitate to assert that these acts must be universally prohibited among alien cultures.

Economic crimes such as robbery, embezzlement, or capitalism are heavily dependent upon the economic system used by the government.3056,937 While all primitive and modern societies entertain notions of personal property,2594 this may simply reflect our territorial simian ancestry and may not at all apply to nonterritorial sentient species or to intelligent races descended from other than monkey stock. Socially approved theft has been described among Adelie penguins in the Antarctic.1028 Then there is the old Gypsy legend that these wanderers have been granted divine permission to steal because it was a Gypsy who stole one of the four nails of Christ’s cross, thus lessening the Lord’s pain. Xenologists remain highly sceptical of the universality of the crime of theft.



22.3.3  Xenopenology

Xenopenology is the study of alien forms of sentencing and punishment for infractions of the law. Xenopenologists have identified at least six distinct theories of punishment, though these by no means exhaust the universe of possibilities:

1. Revenge -- the being who has inflicted harm must himself be harmed in retaliation to assuage the suffering of the victim and his family.

2. Expiation -- wrongs can only be undone by the suffering of the wrongdoer, a means of atonement by which his "moral account with God" is brought back into balance.

3. Deterrence -- the threat of severe physical punishment will restrain potential criminals (all persons assumed to be acting rationally all the time).

4. Isolation -- public must be protected from the criminal, so all criminals must be physically isolated from the rest of society ("warehousing").

5. Rehabilitation -- "punishment" is designed to transform the values and attitudes of the criminal so that he no longer wishes to commit illegal acts (social reprogramming).

6. Restitution -- victims of criminal acts should be compensated by the criminal, who should do everything he can to place the victim in a condition as close as possible to that existing before the commission of the criminal acts. (See Hoebel,931 Sorokin,31 Sykes,934 and Tiryakian.855)

Among human societies, revenge certainly has the oldest pedigree. The ancient Sumerian code of justice -- "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" -- is perhaps the earliest known example of this. According to the Code of Hammurabi, §195: "If a man has struck his father, his hands shall be cut off." This Sumerian notion of "sympathetic" punishment was often carried to even greater extremes, as witness the following articles of the Code:

§229. If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not made his work strong, and the house he built has fallen, and he has caused the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death. §230. If he has caused the son of the owner of the house to die, one shall put to death the son of that builder.2595

The Koran, the holy book of Islam, prescribes the decapitation of murderers and the chopping off of a hand for thievery. (In North Yemen, the convicted thief is required to pick up his severed hand and raise it to his forehead in a salute to the presiding judge.3056) Adulterers are to be tied in a sack or buried to the waist and publicly stoned. Assyrian law includes execution, mutilation (by cutting off lip, nose, ear, or by castration), impalement upon a stake, deprival of burial, floggings, and "the pouring of asphalt" as proper punishments for misdeeds.2595 The ancient Chinese recommended decapitation, strangulation, and the so-called "lingering death" (slicing to pieces until dead) for numerous crimes.2589 The Ashanti of the Gold Coast of West Africa devised an even more hideous form of punishment by death for interlopers in the chief’s harem. The atopere, or "dance of death," involved the slow careful dissection of the condemned victim, accomplished with such surgical skill that the prisoner was not killed during two or three days of exquisite torture.3014 Among the Cheyenne Indians, the wife who was suspected of being unfaithful by her husband ("the wife who four times erred") could be "put on the prairie" or "be made a free woman."936 This involved a most brutal form of sexual revenge for adultery:

Her husband invited his military society cofreres to a "feast" on the prairie. The pièce de résistance of this stag party was his wife, who was made victim of a mass raping. Thereafter, if she survived, she was free game for any man -- in effect, an outlaw. The husband and his fraternity considered this to be their legal right.935

One highly unusual method of revenge is found among the Trobriand Islanders, among whom the victim of a crime often retaliates against the offender by committing suicide. The idea is that the victim will then be avenged by his angry ghost.2594 Punishment systems based on the blood-feud can give rise to peculiar results, such as among the Australian Dieri who slay the capital offender’s elder brother rather than the offender himself. Another anthropological curiosity is the blood-vengeance chain of New Britain islanders on the Gazelle Peninsula of New Guinea:

When a man of low degree has been killed by a person of high degree, his relatives will kill a member of a kin of slightly higher degree than themselves in the knowledge that the process will continue until the original offender is reached.2594

Alien sentients with different behavioral and ethical predispositions may have a long history of isolation or restitution techniques, in contrast to the revenge theory which humans instinctively seem to prefer.

Given high technology, many isolation techniques can be imagined for use by extraterrestrials. Entire planets could be commandeered as penal colonies, and outshipments of convicts of many different races begun.668 Penal planets might best be situated on worlds having poisonous air or lacking any atmosphere at all.3239 Another possibility is that the insane, the extreme social misfits, and criminals could be sent forward in time using suspended animation techniques in the hope that future biotechnology could salvage them. If sufficiently cheap to maintain, cryogenic storage might become the official method of "execution," satisfying both the proponents and opponents of capital punishment.1863,67 Says Arthur C. Clarke of this procedure: "Our descendants might not appreciate this legacy, but at least they could not send it back.55 Then there is Robert Heinlein’s idea of a penal Coventry. Criminals are given the choice between psychological readjustment of the offender’s mind and withdrawal of the benefits of an orderly society. If the criminal does not wish to choose mental reprogramming, he is placed in an untamed unsupervised wilderness environment with other criminals -- a lawless subculture physically separated from normal society.2874

A few have suggested that rehabilitation could best be accomplished by permitting the criminal to experience the suffering of his victims. To high-technology ETs this might include treatment with a biocybernetic "electronic telepathy" hookup. The penal authorities would project images into the prisoner’s brain which would cause him to relive variations of his crime from the victim’s point of view. The sentence for attempted murder, for example, might be to experience murder three times.3052

There may be many interesting complications when different aliens are involved in crime. Besides questions of choice of law and conflict of laws, the punishment must be made to fit the crime. Should the punishment for the murder of an ET whose lifetime is only 5 months be as stiff as the killing of a being who normally lives 5 centuries? There is Edward Wellen’s concept of pro rata sentencing: ETs with shorter lifespans or aliens whose subjective time passes faster than our own should be given shorter sentences.1209 Are instinctual behavioral responses valid legal excuses or justification for acts defined as criminal by the victim’s race’s legal system? The possibilities are delightfully complex.



22.4  Philosophy and Knowledge

A few writers have suggested that ETs, no matter how strange they may appear, probably will think much like human beings.63,191 Modern xenology does not support this point of view.1171 Xenologists today believe that the ways of thinking employed by sentient lifeforms on other worlds will differ as much or more from the human than their physiologies, technologies, or social systems. Earlier we hinted that even relatively minor differences in sensory apparatus and basic mental equipment could significantly alter the perception and thought processes of extraterrestrials. Here we shall examine more explicitly a few of the many alternative modes of thinking that may be exemplified by intelligent aliens elsewhere in our Galaxy.


22.4.1  Alien Logic

Logic is the way we know something is true. Denoting rationality and reason, logic is a branch both of mathematics and of philosophy and lies at the very foundation of all intellectual pursuits. Aristotle is largely responsible for the development of the formal rules of logic which have become the basis for Western thought and science. Perhaps the best-known tenet of the so-called "laws of thought" or "Aristotelian logic" is the Law of the Excluded Middle.* This law holds that if a statement is true, then its negation cannot be true. If A is true, then "not-A" must be false. That is, there are only two choices -- yes and no. For example, if the statement "the sky is blue" is true, then its negation "the sky is not blue" must be false. All conditions of sky color are exhausted by the bimodal set of possibilities "blue" and "not blue."

This sort of reasoning seems intuitively obvious to humans. Aristotelian logic is somehow naturally suited to the way people think. After all, we ask, how could a sky both be blue and not blue at the same time? Well, it couldn’t, or could it?

The danger inherent in relying on any single logic system is that it tends to limit the number and kinds of problems amenable to analysis. The solution to any problem first requires that a question be posed. If the question does not appear tractable by our normal modes of logic, we try to reformulate it again and again until it is. When we do this, however, our thinking becomes limited by the capabilities of our logic system. One plus one does not always equal two.**

It is possible that human science today is beginning to feel the pinch of the limitations inherent in its ancient Aristotelian bimodal logic system. Perhaps the most striking examples occur in the field of quantum mechanics. Consider the following experiment. A solid plate with two small slits is placed in front of a beam of electrons. Behind the slits on the other side is a photographic screen able to record the arrival of electrons. During the experiment, electrons are sent toward the slits one by one, some bouncing off the blocking plate and others passing through the slits to be recorded when they hit the screen.

The Law of the Excluded Middle demands that any given electron must pass either "through the left slit" or "not through the left slit." These two choices define all of the logical possibilities for an electron-slit-passing event, and they are exclusive as well: If one is true, the other must necessarily be false.

Unfortunately, when nuclear physicists actually perform the "two slit experiment" they get seemingly impossible results. It turns out that the pattern recorded on the photographic screen could only have been generated if each electron passed through both slits simultaneously.

This is the classic "wavicle" problem in quantum physics. Contrary to traditional bimodal logic, the statements "through the left slit" and "not through the left slit" are both true at the same time. Aristotelian thinking cannot comprehend the problem because there is no "excluded middle" in the experiment.3015 The behavior of electrons must be impossible, and yet it occurs.

Perhaps the most important development for xenologicians in this century has been Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. In 1931 an American mathematician named Kurt Gödel devised a brilliant proof that any system of logic must necessarily either be internally inconsistent or incomplete.3027 In other words, Gödel’s proof demonstrated for the first time that there exist statements that are unprovable in any logic system, and that all arithmetic as we know it is at best incomplete, at worst inconsistent. it is logically impossible to construct a single grand "metalogic" capable of subsuming all other modes of logic while remaining consistent.3028 So hunian mathematics -- the language of the physical sciences -- is incomplete.

The implications in xenology are far-reaching indeed. We now know, for instance, that no single system of thinking (on Earth or anywhere else in the Galaxy) can hold, even in principle, all answers to all questions while remaining internally consistent. All logics must harbor unresolvable paradoxes. Therefore each new logic system we uncover in alien cultures most likely will teach us something new, some novel way of looking at the universe and understanding it in a consistent fashion which may be imperceptible -- even impossible -- from within our own system of logic. To this extent human thinking necessarily must be incomplete. Contact with alien minds will open new vistas of knowledge and beauty to mankind’s purview. Extraterrestrial logicians may find many of our most enduring paradoxes to be trivially solvable, and we may be able to resolve some of theirs equally effortlessly.

No non-Aristotelian logic system has yet been devised which resolves the "wavicle" paradox in the two slit experiment to the satisfaction of quantum physicists. However, mathematicians have imagined a wide variety of alternative logics which have been used successfully to resolve other paradoxical events recorded by human philosophers. The literature in this field is both difficult and extensive;913 no more than a brief smattering can be provided here.

Clearly a system with zero values is meaningless, and monovalue logics permit no choice. Such single-valued logic may turn out to be sufficient for genetic sentients, but if we wish to retain choice at least a two-valued (e.g., Aristotelian) system is required. We have seen, however, that two-choice logics. cannot explain many observable physical phenomena. As logician Clarence I. Lewis of Harvard University once noted: "The Law of the Excluded Middle is not writ in the heavens: It but reflects our rather stubborn adherence to the simplest of all possible modes of divi sion."902 Over the past century, human mathematicians have come up with "many-valued" logics which permit three or more states of truth instead of the Aristotelian two.908,909 An example of three-valued logic might involve the states "yes," "maybe," and "no." Alien computers could be programmed in trinary (rather than our binary) to handle this kind of computation; circuits might read "+," "0," and "-" rather than "on" and "off" as in normal binary digital machines. Another alternative system is the four-valued truth logic which is often used by Buddhist philosophers. (The four permissible truth states are "true," "false," "both," and "neither.")

Another kind of approach is to employ "modal" concepts rather than "truth" concepts. (See Bergmann,3031 Haack,913 Lewis and Langford,3029 Quine,3030 and von Wright.910) These types of logic are customarily three-or four-valued, and are of four principle kinds.3032 The first of these are called alethic modes or modes of truth. Where Aristotelian logic permits only the truth values "true" and "false," alethic modal logic allows the following modes: "Necessarily true," "possibly true," "contingently true," and "impossible."3033 A second form of modal logic is called epistemic logic or modes of knowing, including the modes "verified" (that which is known to be true), "undecided" (that whose truth is unknown), and "falsified" (that which is known to be false). Third, there is deontic logic or modes of obligation, which work as follows: "the obligatory" (that which we ought to do), "the permitted" (that which we are allowed to do), "the indifferent" (that which makes no difference), and "the forbidden" (that which we must not do).3034 The fourth main group of modal logics is called existential logic or modes of existence, which include: "universality," "existence," and "emptiness."

Higher-valued logics have also been devised. The philosophy of the Jains of India uses a seven-valued truth logic. It is grounded in the religious beliefs of the sect and utilizes the following truth values:

1. True (a thing is);
2. False (a thing is not);
3. Indeterminate (impossible to say either is or is not);
4. Is and Is Not;
5. Is and Is Indeterminate;
6. Is Not and Is Indeterminate; and
7. Is and Is Not and Is Indeterminate.900

Further permutations are possible, but these only change the way of saying and not the substance of what is said -- so are of no logical significance. (Note that Jam logic has an implicit Law of the Excluded Eighth.)

A few mathematicians have even formulated infinite-valued logics.901,899 Infinite logics range over a continuum of real numbers X such that 0 < X < 1. In this notation, "1" represents absolute truth and "0" represents complete falsity. Other peculiar systems thinking include plurality logic (using quantifiers such as "all," "some," and "none," or such as "all," "nearly all," "many," "not many," "few," and "none"),911 tense or temporal logic (systematizes reasoning with propositions that have a temporalized aspect and incorporate the axioms of time in general, such as "before" and "after" or "past," "present," and "future" relationships),912 probablistic logic, minimal logic, intuitionist logic, Chinese complementary logic, and so forth.913,894

It is sobering to realize that all of the above described alternative logical systems have been devised by human minds. The human brain operates using neurons with a two-valued firing pattern. It may be that people -- indeed all Earthly forms of life -- are hardwired or preadapted in some sense for Aristotelian modes of thinking. ETs on other worlds may have trivalue or higher-value neuronal firing patterns. To such minds the Aristotelian logic of humankind may seem horribly restrictive and primitive.


* Others include the Law of Identity (subject and predicate are identical) and the Law of Contradiction (nothing is both A and not-A).

** When 1.00 liter of water is added to 1.00 liter of ethyl alcohol, we get only 1.93 liters of solution -- not 2.00. There is a volume contraction of 3.5% due to intermolecular packing.3050



22.4.2  Time, Language, and Space

All living organisms possess natural cycles and rhythms, and most sentient species have some finite sense of duration. Speaking of the subjective human attention span, the so-called "human instant" or "specious present," J.B.S. Haldane wrote in 1928:

I am now aware of a "specious present" of experience about two seconds in length at most, in which I see moving objects and hear sound sequences. I cannot, however, be directly conscious at the same time of a series of events lasting for more than about two seconds. A long life consists of about 109 specious presents or "nows."974

A few writers have suggested that the perception of self permits the perception of time, since the self can then be distinguished from the volatile environment.906 The inference in xenology is that an inability to sense self destroys the ability to sense time. Using this reasoning, genetic sentients may have no subjective time sense whatsoever.

Factors in the environment also influence the perception of subjective time.28 For example, objects fall more slowly in weak gravity fields than in strong ones, so ETs indigenous to small worlds could afford to have much slower reflexes than we.96 Taking into account the expected variation in natural surface gravity on terrestrial planets, it appears that alien reaction times may vary by half an order of magnitude on this factor alone. Another more obvious effect is the definition of the local year. A "year" for an ET may vary considerably depending upon solar and planetary parameters -- alien years may last from 10-1000 Earth-days within the human-habitable ecospheres surrounding appropriate stars.

Dr. Bernard Aaronson at the Bureau of Research in Neurology and Psychiatry in Princeton, New Jersey, has conducted some fascinating experiments in regard to subjective time that may be highly instructive for xenologists. Dr. Aaronson gave posthypnotic suggestions to human subjects to test their reactions to expanded or contracted time frames. The following suggestion is typical:

Do you know how we divide time into the three categories of past, present, and future? When I wake you, the future will be gone. There will be no future.2507

The results of changing the perception of time-blocks in people by hypnosis are tabulated in Table 22.3. Subjects with no future experienced a profound mystical sensation -- one person reported that he "found himself in a boundless, immanent present." Expanded futures cancelled all fear of death, inducing serene calmness and happiness. Elimination of the present was found to be most disturbing (subjects were inordinately de pressed and behaved almost schizophrenicly), whereas deprivation of the subjective past produced drowsiness, memory loss, speech difficulty, and a vague sense of meaninglessness. If alien psyches are so constructed as to lack past, present, or future, or advanced biotechnology has imparted an expanded future (immortality), past (biocyhernetic memory), or present (heightened awareness), these experiments may give xenologists some clue as to the resultant ET behavioral patterns.


Table 22.3 Human Responses to Expanded and Ablated Areas of Time Under Post-Hypnotic Suggestion2507

No Past

Expanded Past

No Present

Expanded Present

No Future

Expanded Future










Fascinated by colors


No fear of death








Slow movements


Time slowed

Less motivated


Language loss

Depth loss

Identity loss




Enhanced senses

Stopped growing

Lots of time


Clarity of objects & sounds

No ambitions

More full and rich



Aaronson also used hypnosis to alter the pace at which time was perceived to pass. Persons told to experience three seconds for every one second on the clock developed a manic state and general boredom. Stopping subjective time entirely has an interesting effect: As when the present is eliminated, there is a sensation of death. According to one subject: "The world moves on, but I don’t." Admittedly these tests dealt only with humans, but the basic conclusions may yet be applicable to alien mindsets as well. The perception of time must profoundly influence the way ETs think about reality and their root psychologies.

According to the well-known Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, the structure and vocabulary of a language directly limits the perceptions and worldview of its speakers.3035,1752 Much like systems of logic, things can be said in one language that cannot be said nearly so well in another.2643,3047 For instance, Benjamin Lee Whorf once pointed out that the past-present-future tenses in English are well-suited for geometrical, linelike representations of time. In such a system, the self may be viewed as a moving point along a line of nonselves. But the linguistic expression of our sense of continuity is far from optimal. The Chichewa language (of East Africa) has two past tenses, one for events that continue to influence the present and one for events that do not. The Chichewa tribes thus are better equipped linguistically to appreciate the sense of continuity.903

Even more striking is the language of the Hopi Indians. The Hopi language has no tenses for its verbs, no reference to any concepts of time (express or implied), and no notions of enduring or lasting or of kinematic motion.1752 For the Hopi it is important only that things happen somewhere. There is no idiomatic temporal future with sequences and successions. There is no word for time in their language.903 A few writers have asserted that "certain linguistic habits were necessary prerequisites for the scientific revolution of the Renaissance,"904 implying that certain language systems -- as logic systems -- may effectively preclude a rationalistic scientific worldview capable of understanding and building a high technology. This may be so, but it is interesting to ponder the possibility of a "time-free" physics and chemistry.

Alien languages may incorporate concepts wholly unfamiliar to any human culture. As Doris and David Jonas have suggested, extraterrestrial senses may play an important role in temporal perception and its expression in language. Intelligent beings who rely most heavily, say, upon a primary sense of smell would have an extreme diffuse perception of time frames. To osmic aliens, according to the Jonases, "much of the past flows into the present and coexists with it," primarily because of the lingering character of scents. "Their thinking patterns and their language are based on different premises from ours, especially in this matter of what is past, what is present, and what is future."1000 Even their mathematics could be affected:

[Perhaps to osmic ETs] the number 1 represents a field extending from 1 to 2, and so on along the line. As a result, their mathematical calculations are expressed in symbols of probability and utilize the concept of statistical averages far more than the absolutes of our digital form of calculation.1000

Another interesting temporal-linguistic twist might be found among sentient extraterrestrials who could see polarized light. This simple physiological modification would add an entirely new dimension to their vision -- and their language. Once again the Jonases, from the viewpoint of a hypothetical xenological first contact team:

We first got a clue about this when we were trying to master some words of their language and found that they had dozens of different words for what to us was a single object -- say, one of their grass-trees. Slowly it dawned on us that a time element was an integral part of their vision. They never actually "saw" a grass-tree in the same terms as we did; it had separate existences for them as though it were a different thing at different times, determined by the angles at which the light from their suns reached it.

What we saw as a particular grass-tree they saw variously as a one-o’clock grass-tree, a five-o’clock grass-tree, or a ten-o’clock one; the different names incorporated their perception of the time element.. What it really amounted to was that for them time was fused with their perception of an object.

While their eyes actually saw objects in disparate bits and their brains coordinated these, simultaneously their brains also coordinated with the sight of an object their perception of the sun’s positions....1000

Concepts of physical space will also have a major influence on linguistic conventions. Many examples of the outré may be cited from Earth’s human cultures. The language of the inhabitants of the atoll of Truk (the Caroline Islands in the Pacific) treats open spaces without traditional dividing lines as distinct and divisible. Featureless spaces on the walls of a bowl, for instance, may have separate names, although there are far fewer terms for edges and boundaries than in Western tongues.3036 In the Hopi language, there are no terms describing interior three-dimensional spaces -- no words for room, chamber, hall, passageway, interior, cellar, crypt, attic, loft, or vault. In spite of this, the Hopi have multiroom dwellings which they use for specialized purposes such as storage, residence, grinding corn, and so forth. Still stranger is the Bolivian Quechua language, in which one speaks of the future as "behind oneself" and the past as "ahead of one." Quechuas explain that because a person can see "in the mind" what has already happened, such events must lie "in front of one." Since the future cannot yet be seen, these events necessarily must lie "behind one."2507

Xenolinguists point out the close association between human language and human body form. Extraterrestrial lifeforms will speak differently, think differently, and act and feel differently, simply because they have some other body shape and thus experience a markedly different awareness of space, position, and movement.2354 Some comments by psychologist Donald G. MacRae are worth quoting in this regard:

The human body is basically bilaterally symmetrical. This external symmetry is imperfect but dominant. The posture we regard -- and I think this universal -- as typical of the body in all societies is upright. This is to contradict experience: during most of the time we are, even in very physically active societies, as a matter of fact slouched, twisted and recumbent in sleep or rest, or crouched or seated or bent in action. Yet being upright seems a general convention of thought about being human. From the symmetry of this erectness we derive our categories of direction-up-down, left-right, before-behind, over-under, and beside. Our concepts of relations in space come not only from our binocular vision but above all from our experience of a fixed eye-level above a fixed ground. (How do birds, or arboreal creatures like gibbons see? How far can sight be said to be the same sense for such unstable observers as for us?) Certainly our ideas of dominance are all connected with the visual dominance of our erect postures. Both our categories for classifying and dealing with space manipulatively and organizationally, and our emotions about space and the values we attach to direction in space, derive directly from our body form.

For example, what is superior is up or high and what is inferior is down or low. (Low is often dirty, but high is not necessarily clean.) Right is law, morals, the holy and the strong; left is sinister, profane, weak and (often) feminine. Backward and behind are slow, hence stupid. Forward and in front are active, oriented and intelligent. Beside is confederate or paranoid: it is an ambiguous category of place. And I could continue this listing and give it an ethnography for pages. What is clear is that these aspects of space derive from our conception of the body and would not hold for an intelligent bilateral but horizontal animal, far less for a radially symmetrical one like a clever starfish, or for spherically symmetrical beings like those of the fable in Plato’s Symposium.2355



22.4.3  Science and Paradigmology

Will alien cultures have science? If by "science" we mean a rational comprehension of the universe which excludes consideration of the extra sensory and supernatural, many xenologists would answer with a qualified "yes." The general trend of sociocultural and technological evolution on Earth has been toward increasingly rational explanations of natural phenomena. As Sir James Frazer attempted to show earlier in this century, the course of the human worldview progressed from magic to religion to science as society and the technical skills of mankind became more sophisticated. Science in the form of objectified rationality should be common though by no means universal throughout the Galaxy.

Countless astronomical factors may combine to impede or to encourage the emergence of the "scientific method" on other worlds. For instance, galactographic position may be important. Planets circling stars near the Core of the Milky Way may have an immense number of nearby stellar neighbors and a superb view of the tumultous central galactic regions. This could spur the development of astronomy, astrophysics, and other hard sciences, as well as the technologies of electromagnetics and spaceflight.

On the other hand, highly isolated worlds may experience no such in centives.3048 A culture on a planet near the Galactic Rim may find itself hundreds of light-years from the nearest stars, and accumulations of inter stellar dust and gas clouds will block all but the external regions of the Galactic Disk -- a comparatively uninspiring sight. However, if the Rim world is located high above the Milky Way rather than lying in the galactic plane (admittedly an unusual situation), then the contrast between the stark void of intergalactic space and the beautiful whorls of the Galactic wheel may provide sufficient philosophical inspiration to compensate the isolation effects.

Stellar characteristics may also be significant. For example, a civilization which depends on a class F sun may realize their star is about to die. Since the end is nearer, the prospect of interstellar travel may greet a more welcome audience than humankind on Earth. A K star civilization, though the effect should be much less pronounced, may adopt a stay-at-home take-it-easy attitude once they realize their sun will survive literally for hundreds of billions of years.

What about binary star systems? A close binary should have negligible effects on the rate of cultural development, but things may be different for societies inhabiting a planet orbiting one member of a distant binary. One writer suggests that two suns in the sky will mean almost perpetual daylight, so ETs rarely will see stars and astronomy will advance only very slowly.77 Others have argued that the greater the number of celestial objects moving around in the sky, the more the curiosity of intelligent observers will be stirred and the less likely they will come to an erroneous conclusion (such as the crystal spheres in Greek astronomy). In this view, the presence of moons, planets, even multiple stars in the night sky will promote the advance of science.2049,2362

Xenologists suspect that intellectual discord and environmental corn plexity will speed scientific development as a general rule. A suggestive hypothetical example of such an intellectually fertile situation has been provided by astronomer Carl Sagan in another context (with reference to our own planet Mercury):

Mercury has a highly elliptical orbit. There is a commensurate relation between how long the planet takes to turn once around its axis and how long it takes to go once around the Sun; this ratio is 3:2. Suppose you stood at one particular place on the equator of Mercury. During the course of a day you would observe the Sun do the following. You would see it rising small, moving toward the zenith and swelling as it does. Then, one degree past the zenith, it stops, reverses its motion in the sky, stops again, then continues its original motion, shrinking, moving more rapidly, and then zipping below the horizon. That takes something like 88 of our days; their day, of course, is twice that. Now, if you lived at a place 900 away in longitude along the equator you would see something quite different. You would see an enormous Sun rise very slowly, stop, and then set. Then it would rise in earnest, shrink, moving faster, zip through the zenith, swell, slow down, and set. Then it would pop up again to say goodbye and sink again. If there were any beings on Mercury, you can imagine that the cosmologies developed by those astronomers who lived at the one longitude would be extremely different from those cosmologies developed at the other longitude. Eventually, two astronomers, each from a different longitude, would meet, and one would say to scornful disbelief, "Let me tell you what the Sun does."2053

Extraterrestrial astronomers inhabiting Earthlike planets in close orbits around K or M stars may experience similar "observational dissonance," to the probable benefit of their science.

What if the planet inhabited by sentient aliens is cursed with a perpetual cloud cover? Does this necessarily imply a static science? No simple answer is possible. Certainly the lack of starsight will have some negative effects, as one writer suggests:

Imagine the picture of the Cosmos formed by a lifeform bred in a gas planet like Jupiter. Since the energy source is internal, the background noise level is likely to be extreme, and most of the electromagnetic signal from outside is overwhelmed or defocused by the time it has penetrated the cloud tops. Such a lifeform is hardly likely to think of crossing space, though it might conceive of a vacuum as a philosophical abstract.1618

Still, terrestrial philosophers must be wary of what might be termed "astronomical chauvinism": The belief that the only route to basic science is through astronomy.445,1550 It is certainly true that the Copernican Revolution sparked developments in physics, with chain reactions and spinoffs into many other fields. But any natural science will do to set in motion the process of scientification -- geology, oceanography, hydrology, meteorology, biology, and so on. One wonders what elementary physical laws Sir Isaac Newton might have devised starting from, say, a geological rather than an astronomical basis. Perhaps the laws of thermodynamics and diffusion might have predated the laws of kinematics and gravitation. Alien physical sciences could have a wholly different orientation or basis from our own.

There is the equally exciting possibility, first suggested in 1972 by the Russian scientist L.M. Gindilis of the Shternberg Astronomical Institute at Moscow State University, of so-called "nonintersecting systems of knowledge."25 Others have traditionally assumed that because we share the same physical universe with extraterrestrials, and must confront similar problems and natural forces, our sciences and systems of mathematics should at least be comprehensible to each other.49 While this probably will be true in many cases, our brief examination of alien logics has already demon strated that each form of reasoning must be both unique and incomplete. Gindilis suggests that despite the ubiquity of the physical cosmos, extremely diverse approaches and conclusions about reality may still be possible. J. Robert Oppenheimer stated the problem is a slightly different way in 1962 when he noted:

Will we be able to understand the science of another civilization? Our science has concentrated on asking certain questions at the expense of others, although this is so woven into the fabric of our knowledge that we are generally unaware of it. On another world, the basic questions may have been asked differently.3016

Many kinds of science are possible. Magoroh Maruyama, professor of systems science at Portland State University, has coined the term "paradigmatology" to refer to the science of sciences, or, in his own words and more generally, "a science of structures of reasoning which vary from disipline to discipline, from profession to profession, from culture to culture, and sometimes even from individual to individual."895 A paradigm is a way of knowing, an epistemology, a cognitive structure by which know ledge is assembled and regularized. In essence, Maruyama is attempting to found a sociology of knowledge.

As summarized in Table 22.4, Maruyarna provisionally has identified three "pure" paradigmatical forms and four others which are mixtures of the three. Scientific and philosophical thought among alien races could conceivably be organized around any of the following knowledge systems:

1. Unidirectional Causal Paradigm -- traditional axiomatic human science. One-way flow of influence from a "cause" to an "effect"; there is nothing in the "effect" that cannot be traced back to its "cause." Past and future can be inferred from the present if we have a complete knowledge of the present.

2. Random Process Paradigm -- basis of information theory and probabilistic action in which all events are independent of all others. Purpose of random process or "stochastic science" is to identify the amount of information, types of coding and decoding and modes of transmission in living and artificial systems, and to maximize efficiency and economy as well as maximum use of channel capacity. Causation is probabilistic, entropical, thermodynamic.

3. Mutual Causal Paradigm -- complex patterns can be generated by means of simple rules of interaction. "Cause" and "effect" do not really exist; rather, events are merely the focus of a confluence of forces and other events. There is a nonhierarchical network of action, rather than a hierarchical causal chain. Reasoning is contextual, symbiotic, and synergistic rather than absolutist and isolational.

4. Probabilistic Unidirectional Causal Paradigm -- there is a one-way flow of influence from the "cause" to the "effect," but the influence occurs with some probability rather than with certainty. Complete information can never be obtained because the act of measuring disturbs the phenomenon, but "causes" may still be inferred from "effects" with some associated probability.

5. Deterministic Mutual and Unidirectional Causal Paradigm -- not all causal relations are mutual. There are some unidirectional causal relations mixed with mutual causal relations.

6. Probabilistic Mutual Causal Paradigm -- the same conditions may produce different results. Different conditions may yield the same results.

7. Probabilistic Mutual and Unidirectional Causal Paradigm -- has some of the characteristics of each of the three "pure" paradigms.895


Table 22.4 Examples of Paradigms
(after Maruyama895)


Unidirectional Causal Paradigm

Random Process

Mutual Causal


Traditional "cause and effect" model

Thermodynamics; Shannon’s information theory

Post-Shannon information theory


Past and future inferrable from present

Information decays and gets lost; blueprint must contain more information than finished product

Information can be generated. Nonredundant complexity can be generated w/o preestablished blueprint


Predetermined universe

Decaying universe

Self-generating and self organizing universe

Social Organization 



Nonhierarchical interactionist

Social Policy



Heterogenistic coordination














Unity by similarity and repetition


Harmony of diversity



Freedom of religion

Polytheistic harmony

Decision Process 

Dictatorship, majority rule or consensus

Do your own thing

Elimination of hardship on any single individual


Deductive, axiomatic 

Inductive, empirical 







Believe in one truth. If people are informed, they will agree.

Why bother to learn beyond one’s own immediate areas of interest?

Polyocular: Must learn different views and take them into consideration.


Classificational, taxonomic


Relational, contextual analysis, network analysis

Research Hypothesis and Research Strategy . 

Dissimilar results must have been caused by dissimilar conditions; differences must be traced to conditions producing them.

There exists a probability distribution; find out what the probability distribution is.


Dissimilar results may come from similar conditions due to mutually amplifying network; network analysis instead of tracing differences back to initial conditions.


"Impact" analysis

What does it do to me?

Look for feedback loops and for self-cancellation or self-reinforcement


Pre-set categories used for all situations

Limited categories for the
individual’s own use

Changeable categories depending on situation

View of Community People

Ignorant, poorly-informed, lacking in expertise, limited in scope


Most direct source of information, articulate in their own view, essential in determining relevance


By "experts", either keep Community people uninformed or inform them in such a way that they will agree


Generated by community people

"The difficulty in cross-disciplinary, cross-professional, and cross-cultural communication lies not so much in the fact that the communicating parties use different vocabularies or languages to talk about the same thing, but rather in the fact that they use different structures of reasoning. If the communicating parties remain unaware that they are using different structures of reasoning, but aware of their communication difficulties only, each party tends to perceive the communication difficulties as resulting the other party’s illogicality, lack of intelligence, or even deceptiveness and insincerity. Each may fall into an illusion of understanding while being unaware of his misunderstandings, or all communicating parties may fall into the collective illusion of mutual understanding -- each party may wonder later why other parties do not live up to the "agreement" they have reached.

"There exist many different paradigms, and there will undoubtedly be many more paradigms in the future which do not exist yet. The three paradigms above are illustrative of the use of paradigmatology. These examples are not meant to be exhaustive, nor are they mutually exclusive. There are mixtures and overlappings between these three paradigms as well as between these and many other paradigms."895


Extraterrestrial sciences may exemplify these and many other paradigmatical structures of reasoning.



22.4.4  Xenoeschatology

An eschatology of a culture in the broadest sense is "the doctrine of last things." It is concerned with final destinies, the ultimates of existence, and with the end of time and the universe. Most human religious systems and prescriptive philosophies incorporate some doctrine of destiny and purpose, so it is difficult to believe that sentient extraterrestrials capable of comprehending their condition will not be bothered by the same questions that have puzzled mankind for thousands of years: Why are we alive? What is our purpose here? Whither lies our destiny?

Xenologists generally agree that there are three major classes of eschatologies which represent basic approaches in assimilating reality: The naturalistic, the eternalistic, and the historistic.

Naturalistic forms are characteristic of "primitive" religious systems and of mass religions in higher cultures. The individual understands himself to be a part of nature, which is itself embossed with cyclical rhythms. Wrongness is experienced as an alienation from nature, whereas the Ultimate Good or final purpose is to achieve complete organic unity with nature.

Eternalistic eschatologies are grounded in a conception of time as an endless cycle of eternal recurrence. It is from this "vain repetition" that the individual must seek to escape. The "last thing" to hope for is to be delivered from the "unreal" realm of the temporal, historical and empirical to the "timeless" realm of spirit. For instance, the people of India hold to the existence of kalpas -- cosmic periods of four phases through which successive worlds appear, flourish, disintegrate and die. Hindu eschatology extends cyclicity to individuals as well as the universe at large. Notions of reincarnation and transmigration of souls effectively maintain the rigid caste system (there are today more than 2300 distinct castes in India) and a sociocultural order which is repressive -- from the Western point of view:

[Untouchables are] denied access to the interior of a Hindu temple; denied the right of using the public water supply; required to take all they need from a different point in the river; in many cases with children who cannot get access to the ordinary school; and, what is worst of all, people who do not themselves make a struggle to get out of their misery, because it is a part of their faith that their miserable lot is the punishment administered by heaven for some wrong that they may have done in a previous existence.2589

Another variant of the eternalistic eschatology appeared among the Stoics in Hellenistic times, when it was the belief that:

When the planets return, at certain fixed periods of time, to the same relative positions which they had at the beginning when the cosmos was first constituted, this produces the conflagration and destruction of everything which exists. Then again the cosmos is restored anew in a precisely similar arrangement as before. The stars again move in their orbits, each performing its revolution in the former period, without variation.1847

This eternalistic viewpoint has much in common with the "oscillating universe" hypothesis espoused by many contemporary cosmologists.

Historical eschatologies typically are founded on notions of linear time. There is a beginning and an ending to time, and at the end there will come a "final judgment," a "new world," or some other major event which signifies movement towards a fundamentally new plane of existence. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam provide classic examples of historical eschatologies among the human religious systems of Earth.

Xenologists are able to imagine many more eschatologies than the basic three displayed -by mankind. For example, a galactic civilization might adopt a kind of "thermodynamic eschatology,"3076 setting as its foremost goal the halting or reversal of entropic processes in this universe.2616 This might involve finding some way to overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics on the scale of the universe, a feat which lies well beyond the bounds of present human science and technology. If, however, other universes exist, the Second Law might be forestalled by borrowing negentropy from those other universes. The central galactic eschatology thus may imply the achievement (at some distant future date) of a higher plane of materially immortal existence accomplished by halting the expansion of the universe and resisting the spread of entropy therein.



22.5  Extraterrestrial Aesthetics

Aesthetics is the scientific study of the arts and their function and significance in human cultures. Xenoaesthetics is the equivalent course of study as it relates to all sentient beings -- including man -- in the universe.

Exactly what is art? The standard dictionary definition goes something like "creative work generally; the making or doing of things that have form and beauty, including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, literature, dance... ." Many devotees claim instead that "art is life," while skeptics insist that "art is useless." Science fictioneer Robert Heinlein has written that "art is the process of evoking pity and terror."2643 Then there is the offbeat "cultural gene" view of art suggested by biochemist A.G. Cairns-Smith: After much study a Martian might come to the conclusion that the text of Hamlet is a genotype which interacts with its environment in such a way as to bring about its own preferential reprinting.2364 Perhaps the most satisfactory operational definition from the standpoint of xenology is the following: Art is a means of sensory communication within the context of culture which serves or is intended to evoke emotion in the perceiver.1744 Beauty, the touchstone of all artistry, is a quality of a thing that makes it seem pleasant or satisfying in some way beyond its mere pragmatic function -- a profoundly emotional experience. (From this point of view, emotionless ETs can have no indigenous art forms.)

Table 22.5 was suggested by Abraham Moles’ work in the field of information theory and aesthetic perception.1815 The three dimensions shown may be used to classify all known simple art forms and, most important for xenoaestheticians, to generate scores of possible modes of aesthetic expression which have never before appeared on Earth.


Table 22.5 Physical Dimensions of Xenoaesthetic Experience

Spatial Aspect

Temporal Aspect

Perceptive Aspect

0-Dimensional (point)

Static (no element of time)

Tactic (touch, vibration)

1-Dimensional (line)

Kinetic (incorporates time dimension; has motion)

Gustic (taste)

(planar or curved surface)

Dynamic (incorporates time dimension and feedback control mechanisms)

Osmic (smell)

(spatial or volumetric)

Sonic (sound, hearing)

Electric or Magnetic

Electromagnetic (vision in visible, infrared, or radio spectrum)


A printed line of literature in a book is a time-invariant sequence of linearly assembled symbols. Such a mode of artistic communication is classified as 1-dimensional, static, and visual (tactic, if the book is in Braille). A painting or drawing provides messages in two dimensions, sculpture and architecture in three -- but all are static art forms. Movies and television pictures are 2-dimensional kinetic forms, but with the addition of a computer gaming circuit become interactive and thus dynamic. Speech and music have no spatial dimension whatever (0-dimensional), emanating as they do from essentially point sources. Music may be static,* kinetic (as with recorded soundtracks), or dynamic (as with a jazz orchestra, which may be influenced by the behavior of the percipient audience). Finally, there are the "complex" art forms which combine two or more of the "pure" classificational types to create artful mixtures -- including cinerama, dance, and live theater.


* The American composer John Gage has written a piece called "Silent Sonata" which consists of the performer sitting on his bench before the piano without ever touching the instrument or producing any sound whatsoever.1550 Here is a form of art, calculated to evoke emotional response, which may be classified 0-dimensional and static.


22.5.1  Xenomusicology

Of all the forms of human aesthetic expression on this planet, none has been so carefully studied than the "temporal art" of music. Music, the "language of emotion," has been the object of intense speculation among philosophers for many millennia. (See Merriam,1744 Révész,701 and Seashore.700) For modern xenologists, perhaps the most central question is: Why do people listen to music? If some rational basis can be identified for humans, the same analysis may be generalizable to our consideration of xenoaesthetic response.

Why do we listen? Ethologists have suggested that human beings may have certain inborn releasing mechanisms that automatically respond to rhythm, percussion and melody.2902 There is no question that the perception of musical sound causes distinct physiological reactions involving nervous control, blood circulation, digestion, metabolism, body temperature, hunger and thirst, sex drive, posture and balance.700 Sociobiologists point out that various forms of music are produced by animals throughout the world, including the songs of birds and the carnival displays of primates.565 But musicologists insist that we listen to music both because it gives us pleasure and because music is a system of symbolic communication660 which stimulates emotional, frequently visual, imagery. (See Crossley-Holland,669 Merriam,1744 and Swanwick.666) One researcher "had visions of locomotives thundering by" when dozing during a Brahms rhapsody, and described the reaction of one of his students to a string quartet composed by Ruth Crawford for a class in music appreciation as follows: "It produced a vision of a fly struggling in a spider web while the spider prepared to devour it."663

Probably the view among musicologists that "music transforms experience"662 is not far from the truth. Ethnomusicologists -- scientists who study the anthropology of music -- agree that the effects of the artform are very strongly culture-bound.1744 Western music, for instance, is not recognized as expressing emotion by many "primitive" African tribes, and is often described as a "dull monotone" by Chinese. But to Westerners thoroughly steeped in classical European tradition, Chinese music and the music of the Middle East often sounds like an aimless cacophony of noise devoid of emotional meaning. Like the expression of emotion itself, the appreciation of specific musical forms has major cognitive and culturally-determined elements.*1744,697

Why, then, do we listen to music? Undoubtedly the real answer lies in the negentropic character of all lifeforms.3071 Since it is life’s business to accumulate information and complexity, organisms have an inherent predisposition to pursue and to absorb negentropic order whenever and wherever possible. Music and other art forms are perceived by humans as a layer of complexity and structure imposed upon an otherwise chaotic sensory environment, since art is known to have a major informational component. (See Chamberlain,664 Heyduk,667 and Pierce.1742) One theorist even gives a simple method for calculating the number of "bits" of information contained in a musical score.1815

Leonard B. Meyer has suggested that the best music has a great deal of information designed into it by the composer. He calls this "designed uncertainty." Meyer continues:

As a musical event unfolds and the probability of a particular conclusion increases, uncertainty, information, and meaning will necessarily decrease. Systemic uncertainty of necessity exists at the beginning of a piece of music where the relationships between tones are being established. If music operated only with systemic uncertainty, meaning and information would necessarily decrease. But music is able to combat the tendency toward the tedium of maximum certainty through the designed uncertainty introduced by the composer. On the basis of this analysis we should expect designed deviations, delays, and ambiguities to be introduced as systemic probability increases -- as the pattern approaches completion. This expectation is borne out by the practice of musicians.1774

So we listen to music because it satisfies a kind of mental "negentropic hunger," a hunger we may share with all emotional extraterrestrial lifeforms anywhere in the universe. But there are many, many different patterns of sound capable of conveying information and structural complexity in tone and rhythm.3699 Indeed, a simply melody consisting of 100 notes, each chosen from a field of ten, may assume 10100 different forms. Why do humans prefer just a few of these?

Dr. Richard F. Voss, a young physicist at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center of IBM, has found at least a partial answer to this most difficult question.2881 In a seminal paper, published earlier in 1978 in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Voss identifies the central characteristic common to all forms of human musical experience.3017 (A similar analysis theoretically may be performed on other modes of aesthetic expres sion, though such has not yet been attempted.) Voss’ technique demonstrates that man’s perception of emotionally satisfying artistic forms is directly related to the organization of the human brain.

Dr. Voss' theory is based on the technical concept of "autocorrelation." The autocorrelation of a sequence of musical notes is the measure of how closely the present fluctuations of the signal are related to past fluctuations. A steady tone, for instance, is fully autocorrelated, since the present sound can be predicted with absolute certainty from a knowledge of previous sound (i.e., it will stay the same). A completely non-autocorrelated signal does not depend at all upon prior states. Each musical note is chosen entirely independently of all others in the sequence. Information theorists call this kind of signal "white noise." White noise occurs most commonly in nature as the thermal noise produced by random motions of electrons through an electrical resistance. This causes static in radio and "snow" on television screens. Musical compositions can be created by mimicking this random process of selection, say, by tossing dice to determine the next note. Voss calls these works "white music."

A very highly correlated form of noise, called "Brownian noise," takes its name from the physical phenomenon of Brownian motion. This may be observed under the microscope -- the random movements of small particles or organisms suspended in liquid water and buffeted by the thermal agitation of molecules much like bumper cars at carnivals. Each particle executes a three-dimensional random walk, the sequential positions of which describe a highly correlated sequence. The particle "remembers" where it has been. Voss calls melodies constructed in the pattern of Brownian noise "brown music." Rather than choose the next note in the sequence at random, brown music is generated by throwing dice to determine how many notes to progress up or down the musical scale from the present position. Velocity, not position, is selected randomly.

Brown music is highly autocorrelated; white music is very non-autocorrelated. Voss’ insight was to examine a class of noise having an intermediate level of autocorrelation. In electronics it has a special name: Flicker noise, or "1/f noise." Voss generated several musical compositions according to the white, brown, and flicker patterns. Invariably, test subjects preferred "flicker music" (Figure 22.1) to either white music or brown music. But the reason for this preference remained unclear.


Figure 22.1 Voss' Theory of Flicker Music2861


Then surprising new information began to emerge. 1/f noise was found to be extremely commonplace in nature. For example, the record of the annual flood levels of the Nile follows a 1/f fluctuation. Variations in sunspots, the wobbling of Earth’s axis, undersea currents, membrane currents in the nervous systems of animals, errors of measurement in atomic clocks, and traffic flows on expressways all exhibit a recognizable flicker pattern.

T. Musha, a physicist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, rotated a radar beam from a coastal location to get a maximum variation of landscape on the radar screen. The pattern was Brownian. However, when he rotated the beam twice and subtracted one image from the other (representing all the changes in the scene between the two sweeps) the resulting pattern was distinctly 1/f. The static world is very Brownian, in other words, but the dynamic world appears 1/f.

It is Voss’ contention that the human brain also may best be character ized by flicker rather than Brownian or white patterns. Human brains prefer compositions of sound with only moderate autocorrelation, and this is how we choose the music we like. Explains one writer:

We are now approaching an understanding of Voss’ daring conjecture. The changing landscape of the world (or to put it another way the changing content of our total experience) seems to cluster around 1/f noise. It is certainly not entirely uncorrelated, like white noise, nor is it as strongly correlated as brown noise. From the cradle to the grave our brain is processing the fluctuating data that come to it from its sensors. If we measure this noise at the peripheries of the nervous system (under the skin of the fingers), it tends to be white. The closer one gets to the brain, however, the closer the electrical fluctuations approach 1/f. The nervous system seems to act like a complex filtering device, screening out irrelevant elements and processing only the patterns of change that are useful for intelligent behavior.2881

We like flicker music best because it parallels the way our brain works. Our mental "negentropic hunger" demands a sensory diet of "1/f food." And since 1/f is the pattern of dynamic reality, we may expect that the neural equipment of many alien sentients will be organized in much the same way.

There are also a number of. physiological sensory limitations upon the music that extraterrestrials may enjoy. First there is the question of frequency response of alien ears. The average human can hear from 20-20,000 Hz. He can discriminate 600 distinct pitches at whisper loudness (5 dB) and 1800 pitches at the loudness of normal speech (about 60 dB).696 In spite of this, Western music makes use of no more than 100 distinct pitches, and even if other cultures are added in the total does not approach the theoretical maxima. Our music is comparatively poor.

The human ear has a hearing range of about 10 octaves, a music range of 8 octaves, a normal performing range of about 5 octaves, and a talking range of less than 1 octave. To the dolphin, with hearing from 100-200,000 Hz (11 octaves) and normal "speech" from perhaps 4000-40,000 Hz (3 octaves), our normal speech must sound incredibly dull, flat, and monotone. The entire human music range spans only the five bottommost octaves of dolphin hearing, and our normal performing range spans less than four. ETs with hearing ranges or pitch discrimination markedly different from humans may be unable to appreciate our species’ music, and vice versa.

Fortunately, however, evidence marshalled by xenologists indicates the differences may not be too great in many cases. Most land animals on Earth, including amphibians, birds and mammals, have maximum hearing limits between 10,000-100,000 Hz. While there are a number of notable exceptions (such as the alligator and the dolphin), aliens who evolutionarily have committed themselves to hearing as a major sensory modality probably will not fall much outside this range.

The lower limit of hearing is fixed by even more fundamental considerations. The relative insensitivity of the human ear at low frequencies protects us from the distractions of normal bodily vibrations.82 If we could hear below 10 Hz, our ears constantly would be bombarded with the creaks and groans of jointed skeletons, trapped gases and flexing musculature. There may exist ETs with uniformly soft mushy bodies that do not squeak, groan, or burble. But if they have any hard parts at all, chances are that aliens won’t hear below about 10 Hz either.

There is also the question of rhythm in music.696 The basic unit of musical time is called a beat. The pace of the fundamental beat is called the tempo. What are the upper and lower limits of tempo in alien music?

As for the upper limit, human nervous tissue imposes a maximum rate of transmission for discrete signals of about 3 milliseconds (18,000 beats/minute).454 This theoretical maximum for human beings cannot nearly be reached in practice, since musical messages must be processed through a complex network involving ear and brain structures. Generally, as with flickering light impinging the eye, musical sequences faster than about 20 notes per second (1200 beats/minute) lose their periodicity and become perceptually continuous phenomena. This is also the fastest speed at which notes may be separately fingered on a piano by human hands.665 It is certainly possible that extraterrestrials may have faster response times than this, but it is doubtful that it can be much faster if biological building materials are used. The human flicker response of 20 events/second is an evolutionary adaptation which promotes survival by permitting detection of fast-occurring survival-related events in the environment. ETs on high gravity worlds may have reflexes twice as fast as our own (giving them a flicker rate of 2400 beats/minute), but it is doubtful that still faster perception would serve any biologically useful purpose.

Ambient temperature has been shown to affect circadian rhythms and the flow of subjective time in animals and humans. Temperature and time are directly correlated: As temperature rises, subjective time seems to pass faster. In one memorable experiment, humans were required to tap a key at the subjective rate of three taps per second. When body temperature was artificially raised by diathermy, an acceleration in the tapping rhythm was observed of which the subjects were not aware.91 Biochemical reactions generally go faster at elevated temperatures, and neurochemistry is no exception. Given similar biochemistries, xenologists expect warm climate aliens generally to prefer faster musical tempos and have faster flicker rates than extraterrestrial beings indigenous to colder climes.

As for the lower limit of tempo, humans are known to have a neurologically-determined attention span of from 2-10 seconds (6-30 beats/minute).665,1815 Studies have shown that the perception of rhythm disappears when beats follow each other by more than 2 seconds.91 Attention span, like flicker rate, is determined by evolution. ETs native to low gravity, very cold worlds might have very long attention spans by human standards. Since nothing would happen very quickly on such a planet, lifeforms would need to be more patient to discern developing survival-related patterns in the sensory environment. The music of these creatures, perhaps involving a minimum tempo of 1 beat/minute, would prove well-nigh intolerable to human ears.

What about the preferred tempo? Human music normally runs at about 50-95 beats/minute, and a rather striking convergence on 70-80 beats/minute has been discovered among terrestrial cultures all over the world.91,698 Musicologists had long believed that the appreciation of specific tempos was probably a learned product of culture. But since many societies seem to choose the same "most pleasing" tempo, the explanation may lie in some characteristic of human physiology.

One fascinating theory goes as follows.661,698 For the first 9 months of its existence, the developing fetus is exposed to its mother’s heartbeat (normally 80 beats/minute) and to the periodic swaying due to the normal walking stride of pregnant mothers (also about 70-80 beats/minute). Newborn babies continue to hear the mother’s heartbeat when held to the chest for nursing or fondling. And experiments have shown that 70-80 beat/minute heartbeat sounds played over loudspeakers in hospital nurseries have an observable quieting effect on infants.661,82 So it may be that humans early learn to associate an aural environment of 70-80 beats/minute with warmth and security, imprinting this preferred tempo upon them for life. Later, the music they make naturally tends to cluster around 70-80 beats/minute.

The implications for xenology are clear. Aliens with different heartbeat timing may have different preference tempos in their music. ETs with markedly different maternal heartbeat and walk-strides may have two distinct preferred tempos around which their songs tend to cluster. Sentient species without heartbeats, without strides (e.g., no legs), or which hatch from eggs and so never experience the mother’s heartbeat or stride, may have no preferred tempo whatsoever, or it may be fixed by other factors.

Of course, the temporal arts are not strictly limited to the perception of sound. Other beings may make music utilizing other sensory modalities. Creatures who rely primarily on vision for communication may play visual music with flickering lights of varying colors, intensities, and tempos. They would doubtless find our Lasariums rather primitive efforts; and could humans ever hope fully to appreciate the nuances of prismatic harmony?

The phrase "electronic music" takes on new meaning when applied to electrosensitive extraterrestrials, and one wonders what mankind could make of dynamic magnetic music. Olfactory aliens may devise smell-symphonies, performed in giant auditoriums constructed much like wind tunnels. Delicate aromas suggestive of moods or activities such as sex or physical combat could be combined to create emotional musical dramas. (The accidental "breaking of wind" by an embarrassed patron, the osmic equivalent of shouting scatological curses in a human theater, would surely be grounds for ejection by the ushers.)


* The political, economic, and social ideologies of cultures frequently are enshrined in their music and art.2363



22.5.2  Alien Painting and Surface Arts

If the "negentropic hunger" theory of aesthetics is correct, then some form of artistic expression should be found among the more intelligent non human animals on Earth. Whales are known to sing half-hour songs that vary from season to season. Dolphins in captivity have been observed to blow echolocation beams in pairs, playfully creating a sympathetic beat frequency between them.15 But not enough is known about free-living cetaceans to determine if they actually have art.

Among the primates "song" and "dance" are common, and as early as 1962 thirty-two had produced drawings and paintings in captivity:

Twenty-three were chimpanzees, two were gorillas, three were orangutans, and four were capuchin monkeys. None received special training or anything more than access to the necessary equipment. In fact, attempts to guide the efforts of the animals by inducing imitation were always unsuccessful. The drive to use the painting and drawing equipment was powerful, requiring no reinforcement from the human observers. Both young and old animals became so engrossed with the activity that they preferred it to being fed and sometimes threw temper tantrums when stopped.565

Xenologists expect that the environment will strongly affect the style of alien painters. Gravity, for instance, provides visual orientation for land-dwelling creatures. According to one science fiction writer, describing a creature that grew up in the absence of gravity:

The effect was very beautiful, and totally alien. I saw that he was painting a flowing pattern of lines, converging on a blue center. The common structure of Earth paintings, into horizontal and vertical elements, was lacking completely.3240

The surface arts among humans are predominantly visual. Mixtures of colors and hues in alien works will depend upon eye sensitivity and the characteristics of optical receptors in the eye (recall Table 13.2). The art of ETs with frequency sensitivity like honeybees would appear excessively blue to the human eye. There would be an absence of red hues, and much of the chomatic tonality would be lost on us because we could not see several "invisible" ultraviolet colors. Aliens with eye responses similar to the seagull would produce predominantly reddish paintings with little blue or green. Other extraterrestrials might have visual sensitivities spanning a mere 1000 Angstroms, in which case their art would appear monochromatic to us. Conversely, our art would make little sense to them because of our unskilled use of their single major color.

There are other visual surface arts than just the "visible." Infrared paintings, for example, might consist of patterns painted with materials of varying thermal conductivity and heated uniformly from behind to produce a static polythermal image. Kinetic heat art could be accomplished by the use of conductive metals: The ebb and flow of heat patterns diffusing across a metal surface may be a beautiful sight to alien eyes. Dynamic art may be commonplace among such creatures, since touching, fanning, or blowing on the composition will cause its heat-colors to change. Radio art may be still more alien to human understanding. A single painting may cover an entire wall of a building and have no "visible" color. Irregularities in metal surfaces on the order of centimeters that strike our eyes as mere bumps and pock-marks will appear colorful and mirror-smooth to beings equipped with radio sight.1337

Sonic paintings are also quite possible. Porpoiselike pelagic sentients may set a sheet metal canvas vibrating uniformly with white noise. This is the sonic equivalent of blankness or whiteness. The aquatic artist then begins to paint by affixing tiny rectangular resonance cavities pointing outward on the metal canvas. These are driven by the white noise from behind (which contains all frequencies) and resonate at specific audio frequencies that represent colors in dolphin sound-vision. Such works could be made kinetic by using a driving frequency mixture other than white noise. Drivers sweeping the spectrum in monosonic intervals would cause the Lound-colors in the picture to pop out one by one for separate viewing. Since dolphins also have a Doppler sense, shifting the driver from blue to red sounds would make objects in the painting appear to move away from the observer, and vice versa. Entire action sequences could be crammed into a single work.

Xenologists admit that sonic and visual aesthetics may be mutually incomprehensible. Suppose we were to translate the Mona Lisa into sonic art using some sophisticated color/sound frequency mapping technique, in which our blue was rendered as high frequency sound waves, green as medium frequency, and red as low frequency tones. The resulting image would not look at all (to a porpoise) like the actual human female would had she been viewed by the marine creature in the water.

It is easy to see why. Whereas people live in a world of flesh, hair and clothing, dolphins see only solid bones and air pockets internal to the body using their echolocation vision. To them the skin and watery organs are virtually transparent. So sentient alien porpoises would regard most "rendered" human art as, at best, highly surrealistic. Conversely, the equivalent of the dolphin "Mona Lisa," rendered into human-visible form, would probably resemble a multicolored X-ray snapshot showing bones and other hard parts, liberally peppered with unsightly clumps and globules representing the female cetacean’s "beautiful" air vacuoles. Clearly a great deal of the aesthetic experience has been lost in the translation.

Extraterrestrials who rely on touch as their primary sensory modality may develop a form of tactile painting (static), or some means of transmitting tactile images via "teletactivision" using a picture screen with vibrating embossed patterns (kinetic). Electrosensitive creatures might have what humans could only describe as "phosphene art." Odor-painting is also a distinct possibility, with subtle blends of perfumes and scents:

The Olfax artist, by associating perfumes that have a connotation of fields, individuals, rituals, or edifices within a framed area could produce in his audience by olfactory means a response similar to ours when we see painted lines and colors on a canvas that combine aesthetically and produce a visual image of the things they represent.1000

One can imagine a number of clever "visual" scent-puns. For instance, the odor of heavily spiced pepperoni pizza might be juxtaposed with the scent of the alien equivalent of alka-seltzer. An electronic "teleolfactivision" could be used to bring kinetic osmic images directly into the home from across geographical distances.



22.5.3  Dance and Sports

The art of dancing is the art of moving the body in a rhythmic fashion, often accompanied by music, to express an emotion or idea or to narrate a story.921 Dance of a sort is common among Earthly animals, usually in connection with courtship activities. Among alien sentients dance will reflect cultural values including love, religion, and community., and may be used as a distinctive mode of communication.3018 Dance may also serve as a vigorous yet sensitive medium of entertainment and recreation, and thus is closely related to sports.

Dance is circumscribed by physiology. The degree of movement that is physically possible is determined by the flexibility and strength of muscles, ligaments, and the bony frame. The least flexible part of the body is the skeleton. As one writer describes humans:

The structure of bones and joints governs the amount of bodily movement in any one direction. The ribs and chest can easily be bent to each side and forward but will not bend backward. The ball and socket structure of the shoulder and hip joints permits a small degree of movement. Movement from the hip is easier in a forward direction; it is more difficult to swing the leg up to the side or the back than in front of the body. The ballet dancer must practice until his legs can be raised high in all directions without loss of balance or control. A fundamental of dancing is the control of distribution of weight.921

This description will be quite different for extraterrestrials. Other creatures will have alternative limb structures that permit the alien body to flex in unexpected ways. To the author’s eyes, even the very best human ballet always seems somewhat awkward and undignified. Perhaps this may be chalked up to man’s evolution on the grassy savannahs of prehistoric Africa. But compared to intelligent octopoid dancers with totally flexible limbs, human performers must appear as clumsy lock-kneed oafs.

Creatures connected together with universal jointed skeletons should also prove superior in solo ballet performances. Weird internal structures will permit odd forms of dance which are physically impossible for human beings to emulate. This may result in artistic culture shock among human choreographers and artists, who may undergo intricate surgical operations and skeletal modifications simply to be able to appreciate first hand the alien mode of emotive dance. Performances under conditions of low gravity (Moon or Mars) or in empty space3018 also should prove strikingly graceful -- something like underwater ballet, but without the viscous medium.

What can we say about sports? Multispecies athletic competition such as an Interplanetary Olympics would be complicated by the gravity factor. ETs native to high-gravity worlds would have a natural advantage, since in any given mass class these beings will have more muscle per kilogram than the others. It is an open question whether the gravity-related physiological differences between alien races will or should be compensated during scoring. Although the aggressive-discharge model of sports activity in humans has now been disproven,1804 other sentient races may use athletics to drain off pent-up emotional energy. Such creatures may instinctively regard compensatory scoring as unfair or unnecessary.*


* Much has been written about the effects of planetary surface gravity on various sports events, especially track and field, as for example Eck,1350 Lafleur,138 Margaria,3019 and Richardson.558



22.5.4  Alien Sculpture and Architecture

Sculpture may be broadly defined as the art of representing observed or imagined objects in three physical dimensions. Sculpture may take the form of a biological organism, a statue, or a frozen light sculpture involving laser bursts preserved in a cube of photosensitive gel.3058 Sculpturing may be computerized in the creation: An artist designs a composition, say, in wax, and a machine-driven laser scalpel carves perfect copies in gold or stone, on radium or plutonium ingots, in miniature (as on a precious gem such as ruby or diamond), or in some architectural medium bigger than life.3059 Larry Niven’s "kdatlyno touch sculpture" could be constructed from a vibrating metal surface with variable textural and vibrational modes, but it would have to be extremely wear-resistant to survive fondling by millions of spectators’ hands. Similar in concept are the "tactoids" imagined by Arthur C. Clarke, an egg-shaped time-varying polytexturic handheld sculptural form that "does to the sense of touch what a kaleidoscope does to vision."1947

Sculptures need not necessarily involve the solid phase. Ivan Sanderson has described a unique form of dynamic water-sculpture that echolocating pelagic ETs might perfect:

Certain substances glow in total darkness owing to the release of photons caused by the breakdown of materials that have become "charged" through the absorption of sunlight. What we see in the sea is called luminescence and is produced chemically by living things, most notably by a tiny single-celled animal known as Noctiluca miliaris. These creatures light up when stimulated in various ways -- as mechanically by a ship’s bow waves and wake.... Ultrasonic vibrations of the required intensity could be generated by a large marine animal; indeed, dolphins and whales generate just such sounds. A beautifully coruscating whorl of light could be engendered by two porpoises, "singing" in close harmony.632

Sentient dolphins, in other words, could create optical interference patterns by echolocating in pairs near the same frequency, creating a dynamic light and-sound sculpture against a three-dimensional "screen" of luminescent microscopic lifeforms suspended in the ocean.*

Rainbows are a form of natural sculpture, and sentient creatures may be able to generate similar effects artificially. Radio vision aliens might construct a giant diffraction grating in the form of metal picket fences or using closely spaced electrically-conductive natural plant growth. Spaced 1-100 centimeters apart, such patterns would yield three or four orders of rainbow-like spectra as an observer moved from the front around to the side.

Sonic rainbows are also possible. One way to do it is to send white noise through a field of very large bubbles of air about 1 meter in diameter. Just as light slows in water droplets to form a natural optical rainbow in the sky, sound travels slower in the rising air pockets and is refracted to create what porpoises might call an "airbow." A more elegant technique involves the use of very small air bubbles. As R. McNeill Alexander has pointed out, when bubbles are blown in water a musical note can be heard because in the act of formation the bubble surfaces are set in vibration.230 The properties of pulsating bubbles are such that a bubble of 1 centimeter radius will emit sonic radiation at about 330 Hz; a bubble 0.1 centimeter in radius radiates at 3300 Hz; and so forth. Perhaps as part of an elaborate dance orchestration, sentient dolphins could generate distinctive three-dimensional patterns of glowing water-space ("glowing" in the sonic spectrum) by blowing exactly the right kinds of bubbles at the proper locations with accurate timing. Such a sonic airbow could take on any shape or color desired by the artist.

What about alien architecture? Sociobiologists are aware of many instances of homebuilding among nonhuman animals on Earth.3057,438 Octopuses live in "houses" which they either occupy fortuitously or build from scratch using rocks, pebbles, rusted cans, bottles, or anything else they can find on the sea floor.1000 The honeycomb hives of bees are perhaps the best known instance of animal architecture, and Karl von Frisch has demonstrated that the hexagonal shape of the honeycomb is mathematically optimal in that it encloses the most volume using the least materials.438 And until the coming of mankind the monolithic cities of the termites represented the greatest modification of the natural landscape wrought by animal life. Built of porous clay and oriented exactly along an east-west axis to minimize the heating effects of direct sunlight, termite mounds often reach heights of more than 5 meters and occasionally have diameters as wide as 30 meters across.1000

So we see that both solitary and gregarious creatures on this planet make use of architectural structures. Virtually all human societies utilize some form of shelter, even in the Pacific islands where the climate is so benign that no elaborate housing is really needed. These facts argue strongly for the ubiquity of architecture among extraterrestrial societies.3060

What are the gross physical limits to such construction on any world? Gravity is the first problem.20 According to the Square-Cube Law, the mass of a building which must be supported by its foundation increases as the cube of the linear dimension, whereas the supportive area of the foundation increases only as the square. The compressive strengths of natural and artificial building materials are well known,924,1852 so it is a simple matter to calculate the maximum permissible sizes of structures on other worlds. Maximum height of a given design will vary inversely with gravity. In other words, the highest building on a 2-gee planet can only be about half as high as a similar structure with similar materials constructed here on Earth.

Another major environmental factor is geological activity.61 As we discovered in an earlier chapter, massive planets have more internal energy available to drive thermal convection currents in the mantle. This means more earthquakes. Xenologists therefore expect to find sqatter, more sturdy and temblor-proof buildings on heavy worlds than on light ones, since quakes topple buildings more easily the higher their centers of gravity are from the ground.926,925 This conclusion is reinforced by the observation that high gravity and tectonic activity appear to be highly correlated.

Still another important consideration is wind velocity. Planetologists recognize that planetary rotation is related to wind speed -- generally the faster the rotation, the faster the winds. Also, an empirical relation derived from data from the bodies in our solar system indicates that planetary mass and rotation are also correlated (for reasons unknown) -- the more massive the planet, the shorter its day. Putting these two results together, xenologists expect that massive high-gravity worlds should have faster winds than less massive, low-gravity worlds.

Tall, wispy architectures are less likely on planets with ferocious winds.925 Nevertheless, as Donald Stern once pointed out to the author, architectural forms on high-wind-velocity planets can still have as much variation and height as on Earth:

Wind factor can be compensated for. Under high wind conditions it is not necessary to weight a structure down to make it immovable. A good terran example of this is the Mongolian yurt, a dome-shaped structure of wood latticework covered with hides and a felt-like material ½ cm thick. This structure weighs only a few hundred pounds and is designed to be fairly portable. Yet it can withstand wind velocities up to 140 kph on the open steppes. Even tall structures should be possible under such conditions. (See "Wicker Wonderland" in Keith Laumer’s Galactic Diplomat.) Spire-like city structures could be constructed to serve as a graduated series of windbreaks. They could conceivably be semiflexible, but might prove more livable if they could be rigidly fixed in a giant latticework or grillwork system that would still be capable of breaking up the force of the wind. ("Galloping Gertie," the Tacoma Narrows bridge, collapsed because solid panels were used in the cable suspension; it was later rebuilt using a latticework system.) If spread across the face of a high-wind planet, such structures could serve to lower the wind factor by several orders of magnitude.2976

Another possibility for windy worlds is to construct buildings in the shape of vertical airfoils, streamlined, gimballed and pointing into the wind for maximum stability.**

Rather than using static construction materials, it has been suggested that ETs may wish to employ what is called "biotecture" or biological architecture. One biostructure grown by architect Rudolf Doernach near Stuttgart, Germany consists of living hazel trees bent into an arched framework over which dense foliage plants have been grown to form protective walls. Frank Lloyd Wright once designed a mile-high skyscraper with a foundation patterned after the taproot systems by which many plant species anchor themselves to the ground. Biotects dream of using genetically altered plants to grow predesigned habitable shapes, and crystalline minerals chemically treated to grow into specific forms. Marine animals such as shellfish and coral could be genetically doctored and used in biotecture. As one science fiction writer describes it:

A genetic manipulation of ordinary sea coral, it was the cheapest building material known. The only real cost was in the plastic balloon that guided the growth of the coral and enclosed the coral’s special airborne food. The remnants of the shaping balloon gave all architectural coral buildings their telltale bulge. The exposed walls can be polished to a shining pink sheen, Even after sunset the house glowed softly.231

Inside living houses we might find living furniture! A genetically altered canine, bred for patience and furriness, could serve as a self-moving chair (the "chairdog"); another variety could be used as a bed with a comfy conformable surface (the "bedog");2615 a modified Galapagos tortoise species could serve as living tables and desks (the "tableturtle"); and so forth.

A wide variety of unusual architectural forms have been proposed by many writers, including the cryotectural Ice City,3065 Ferrocement (Ant Farm) Structures,3062 Aerotecture,3062 Cybertecture,3062 Self-Building Symbiotic Structures,3065 the Sensitive House,3064 the Crystal Caves,3064 Archigram and Modular Habitats,3062 Chemitecture and Laser Architecture,3065,3063 Urban Microclimates,3062 Edible Houses,3064 Terratecture and Geotecture,3061 Green house Cities,3062 Kinetic Architecture,3063 the Biopolis,3067 Ecopolis,3062 and the Biomorphic Biosphere Megastructure.3066 Extraterrestrial architects and biotects may exploit these and countless other remarkable design approaches in the construction of buildings and habitats on other worlds.


* The gaseous phase is also a possibility -- "weather sculpture" has been suggested by at least one science fiction writer.3077

** Environmental and sensorial factors may also be significant. Olfactory beings may design "smell vents" into their buildings rather than windows and skylights.1000 The equivalent for tactile ETs would be vibration transducers mounted into walls. And radio-visioned aliens inhabiting starless planets should have a most unique variety of interior lighting. Since radio illumination percolates up from the ground, and deeper means hotter and thus brighter, ETs might drill vertical shafts to bring forth "radio light." Houses might be built around these radio wells.

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