Why ET Has to be Humanoid
The Bible tells us that Man was created in God's image. But what of the Extraterrestrial? Why is it that our image of the visiting Alien is almost always humanlike in form? Why do we see humanoids?
Skeptics say that such creatures would in no way resemble our human physical form. They say that "popular images" of ET are silly. They maintain that we are simply projecting how we wish the alien to appear onto ET's form. People see ET in terms of life as we know it, science writer Dr. Craig Freudenrich recently stated. He glibly remarked, "For most of history, aliens had to be played by human actors in alien costumes. This made it difficult to have shapes other than humanoid." He adds, "And you cannot make an alien look too different from a human because the audience must recognize it. Psychologically, we are very good at recognizing humanoid shapes, so an alien shaped like a coffee table would not be very good." Folks such as Freudenrich feel that we aren't satisfied with microbes or even jellyfish – we want little green men or benign Klingons – so this is what we see when we see ET.
Science has conditioned us to reject the anthropocentric viewpoint. They have done this since the Copernican Revolution showed that the Earth is not the center of the universe. When scientists interpret observations, they obsessively try to exclude human values. They loathe their humaness. They insist that Science must not be human-centric. They tell us that the chances of ET with intelligence are slim, and that – even given their existence – the probability of them in any way resembling "people" is very remote. Though we are most certainly not the center of the universe, the pendulum of thinking on this has swung far too far.
We should not fear to fathom the simplest solution – that ET is very much like us!
ET visitors often appear as forms that are human-like for very good reason. They generally have heads, torsos, four limbs and bilateral symetry because they must. A friend's young child wisely reasoned, "Well, the Aliens could be green slimey globs – but if they are coming here, hands and feet sure would be helpful!"
And the child is right. Aliens likely do exist on their respective planets as blobs, slithering things, unimaginable things. But if the Alien is able to leave its home planet and visit us, it must have manual capability. It must make be able to articulate movement to make things. To do so requires appendages with opposable digits. It would need limb-like structures to ambulate within the environment. It has to see in order to make. Thus it possesses "hands", "arms", legs", and "eyes". And it must have structure – a "skeleton" or frame to hold itself upright – and "skin" to contain what is within. The Visitors are –out of necessity – humanoid. No matter how clever, a crab or a cat will never propel a spaceship through space-time.
Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut and physicist Dr. Ulrich Walter makes this case very well in a 2004 paper. He goes against traditional scientific thought on the matter of what ET would look like. He says of the visiting alien form, "No matter from which angle you approach the problem, the only realistic approach seems to be the variant realised by the human race." He examines in fine detail why the basis of such evolutionary life has been carbon chemistry, or organic chemistry. This is why ET cannot be that much different from earthly life with regard to its basic substances. Space-faring creatures would require the same stereoscopic vision and the same hand-eye coordination as humans. Dr. Walter says that (unless artificially created) such sentient ET life would be made of "flesh" (agglomerate of reproducing aqueous cells) and "blood" (a liquid which transports needed substances.) The "flesh" and "blood" of a humanoid. Dr. Walter concludes that ET's functional counterparts are similar to ours, and that "the only question that remains is where these parts are located."
When another child was asked, "What does ET look like?" he replied: "They can be anything." He too is right. If the universe teems with sentient life, then there are beings that are at once ancient and advanced. And those that survive, adapt. Over the eons, technology has no doubt enabled them to appear as they wish. And if something is sufficiently Alien, it may appear as anything. Or it might not even wish to be noticed as "living" or recognized as sentient at all. Their form is likely whatever they desire it to be. It is "self-engineered". Aliens who visit us would have to be unfathomably adaptable – with the technology to change form to exploit all habitat. Just as their craft (and the material from which they are comprised) can change state, so too can ET's appearance.
Though they appear as they wish – ET's core nature remains humanoid. The reason that their form is so familiar is because we are from the same source. We share ultimate origin. And one day we will do what they do. The truth is that Man and Visitor both reflect the infinite image of God – rendering meaningless the very use of the term "Alien".
(originally published Jan 2009)