by Brick Walters, 2/11/00
Dc: This is DCR, a news program that's not to be believed.
For years the accepted wisdom has been that we are not alone in the
universe, that there are thousands, maybe millions of civilizations
out there on other planets and we are simply waiting to hear from them.
But now some scientists and leading thinkers are challenging that assumption.
Brick Walters reports.
(sfx: scientific bg .. beeping?)
Brick: Alone at the base of a giant interstellar radio microphone at
the National Center of the Universe's Life Detector, space listener
Darcy Delving listens, and waits for a moment before placing her pouting
lips to the microphone.
Darcy: Hello? (pause) Hello out there? Come in, please! Earth calling
Brick: And then ... she waits. Ever hopeful that from the fringes of
the galaxy or out of the depths of far flung corners of the universe,
an alien's answer will float past her eager ears.
Darcy: Yes, I believe there is life. I expect that we will make contact,
and that it will be unlike anything we have ever experienced. I always
have believed it, ever since I was a little girl.
Brick: Meanwhile, across the sprawling National Center of the Universe
Campus, in the dusty recesses of the Extraterrestrial Theory Building,
Search Co-ordinator and ruggedly handsome Phd. Malcolm Perryman holds
forth on his favorite topic ... what he sees as the growing evidence
that we earthlings are alone.
Malcolm: The conditions to support life like ours ... are extremely
rare. The universe is large, but it is a very, very, very nasty place
and the chances of survival for complex life forms ... from what I've
seen ... are quite slim.
I know dreamers who think there might be life, but for the practical
man and woman ... it's time to start getting used to the idea ... of
(sfx: light smattering of applause)
Brick: Doctors Perryman and Delving ... working for the same agency
in the same buildings, represent the widest extremes in current thought
about life, the universe, and our place in it. Dr. Perryman's book,
" Empty Space All Around", chronicles his difficult journey
from the popular belief of a universe teeming with life to his more
recent and (he says) "reasoned" conclusion that Earth is unique
and we are destined to follow a solitary path until the end of time.
Malcolm: Maybe there's some green slime out there. But who can get excited
about that? We need to accept that we are too advanced to find suitable
companionship anywhere in the universe.
Brick: Isn't it arrogant to suggest that there's nothing out there for
Malcolm: People act like it's heresy. They get uncomfortable. But this
is science and we shouldn't take it personally. We have to look at the
Brick: But what you're talking about would force us to accept a whole
new set of expectations.
Malcolm: Talk about expectations! My mother!
Brick: She's read your book?
Malcolm: She says ... "I know you're feeling down right now. But
cheer up. You'll find some nice aliens, you wait." Well, I'm tired
I want to get on with the business of being alone!
(sfx: scientific bg .. beeping?)
Brick: Meanwhile, back in the radio microphone laboratory, Darcy Delving
continues her lonely crusade, seemingly unaffected by the raging debate.
Darcy: Hello? (pause) Hello out there? Come in, please!
Brick: Don't you get tired of constantly asking, asking asking?
Darcy: No. What makes me tired is the self important, egotistical ...
putting down of this effort. How can anyone say there's no chance ...
when there's so much we don't know? I believe in hope.
Brick: Dr. Perryman says complex life is so unlikely, we are "extremely
lucky" to even be here ourselves.
Darcy: (arch) He says that, does he?
Brick: He claims if it weren't for the effect of Jupiter, our solar
system would be unbalanced and inhospitable.
Darcy: Well Dr. Perryman should know a lot about Jupiter. He's also
full of hot, toxic gas!
Brick: So you've met him?
Darcy: Don't get me started.
Brick: Are you saying he's wrong?
Darcy: (out it comes) I'm saying ... he's selfish. I think he's fooling
himself and this book makes him look pathetic.
(she's said too much) And I'm not interested in his opinions anyway.
(weepy) Now if you'll pardon me, I'm going to call some more aliens.
Brick: Back on the other side of the campus, I mentioned to Dr. Perryman
that Dr. Delving discounted his theories and called him "selfish"
Malcolm: Did she say anything else about me?
Brick: That you're fooling yourself.
Malcolm: Hmmm. Fooling myself, eh? And when she called me "pathetic,"
was that a "poor baby" kind of "pathetic" or a "you
idiot" kind of pathetic? (fade) It can be taken two ways and believe
me, I've heard it said just about every way ...
Brick: And so our understanding of the universe inches forward, gingerly
advanced by the willingness of dedicated professional scientists to
question each other ... and sometimes call each other names. Who is
right? Will we ever know? And ultimately, does it matter? Perhaps these
questions will be answered some day, through our own efforts, or by
life forms wiser than our own. Out in the field ... I'm Brick Walters.
Dale Connelly Reporting Home