Are Religious Beliefs Going To Screw Up First Contact?
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At the same time, however, and as clinical neuropsychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre now argues, we're not quite ready to make contact just yet. The problem, he says, is that most of us haven't come to grips with our place in the universe.
Towards a New 'Cosmic Consciousness'
He calls this the "cosmic consciousness" — a term that Canadian psychologist Richard Bucke defined as "a new evolutionary step beyond self-consciousness." Now while this sounds a bit new-agey, there's some substance to this idea. As Torre writes,
More than one hundred years ago, Bucke went further and described a new concept of cosmic consciousness as a new evolution [sic] step beyond self-consciousness. According to Bucke, by virtue of self-consciousness, man is not only conscious of trees, rocks, bodies of water, and his own limbs and body, but he also becomes conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the universe. Further, by means of self-consciousness, man becomes capable of treating his own mental states as objects of consciousness. The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is, as its name implies, a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe.
It could be argued that many of us, particularly those who read io9 regularly, have a well-developed cosmic consciousness, or "space awareness," as Torre puts it. But after conducting a survey, he came the realization that it's a sentiment or feeling that's certainly not shared across the board.
Are We Ready?
Prior to this pilot study, Torre participated in such as projects as Mars 500 and an ESA initiative designed to assess whether or not we should engage in Active SETI — a proposed effort to broadcast our presence to any ETIs who may be listening. Looking to learn more, he sent a questionnaire to 116 American, Italian, and Spanish university students. The survey was comprised of five different sections:
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