link to Home Page

ZetaTalk: Cultured Aliens
Note: written May 15, 1996.

What humans variously describe as culture covers a magnitude of aspects - dress, posture, language, knowledge of significant or trivial details, and awareness of color and sound. In general, culture in a human society is deemed to be the summation of tradition, and in particular the traditions of the idle and privileged upper classes who have time to spend on such matters. Do alien cultures reveal what the alien groups hold dear - their intellectual pursuits, their regard for one another, or their escape mechanisms? Most certainly, just as human cultures are revealing.

Rigid human societies reflect the rigidities in their culture, which limit innovative art or music and prize regimented expression in the traditional mode. Primitive human societies reflect their mean and impoverished existence by a simplistic culture, with overtones of grief and despondency in their music and the distraction of bright colors in their artwork. Where daring and physical skill are valued the culture will reflect this by ritualizing feats, such as the rodeos in the American west. Cultures also reflect a society's fears, where the stories told again and again are doing far more than simply entertaining, they are acting as a catharsis. Threats in the form of large carnivores or violent weather are overcome, but sometimes at the self-sacrifice of a hero. Here the catharsis includes relief at the outcome but also a sense of grief, allowing the audience a safety valve for personal grief. Thus in human societies the culture may include many such opportunities, the choice of entertainment driven by inexpressible emotions which need an outlet.

Alien cultures, likewise, reflect their social order and physical environment. An intelligent life form on a water planet may find a water dance that incorporates motions reminiscent of self defense maneuvers during strong tides, finding a catharsis in reliving and resolving the anxieties this situation presents for them. An intelligent life form that can take flight and is devastated when unable to do so may incorporate entertainment that includes a flightless member being protected or sheltered in some manner by the others in the flock. Is this then entertainment, or a reflection of the life circumstances? Hominoid cultures regularly reflect the various emotions engendered by their dexterous ability to manipulate their circumstances. Mystery novels replete with motives and clues, all possible for hominoids who can manipulate their environments in intricate and varied ways. Likewise, all hominoid cultures reflect their highly interactive social structure, with the many opportunities to rescue and/or defend or, alternatively, desert and/or savage, their fellows.

Are the alien visitors to Earth cultured? Most certainly, as where there is intelligent life circumstances will be reflected in a culture. All intelligent life is thus cultured.

All rights reserved: