Extraterrestrial Civilization and the Scientific Method
With each passing year, efforts to map the sky and locate inhabitable worlds become more numerous and more sophisticated.
But if alien civilizations exist, do they use scientific inquiry? or is it a methodology unique to humanity?
Scientific Inquiry As a Way To Understand The World
That the scientific method works is an undeniable fact to anyone who has stepped onto a plane, taken modern medicine, or spoken to a friend ten thousand miles away on the telephone.
The reason that scientific inquiry is so powerful is due to the simple fact that the Universe operates according to the laws of physics. These laws can be tested, probed, understood, and harnessed.
Facts are initially understood using hypotheses, which are then rigorously tested. If the tests are passed, further refinement takes place and further evidence is gathered. Ultimately, a scientific theory is developed. These theories can then be used to control and shape the natural world.
At a fundamental level, the scientific method is not different from the way human ancestors understood the world. Natural events were observed, interpreted, and predictions made.
Without this ability, humanity would not have become the dominant species, and may not have survived past events such as ice-ages, droughts, and predators.
That the world is logical and understandable, and that causes precede events, gives a structure for learning and adaptation.
Is This Structure Universal?
So far, the furthest man-made structure in the Universe is the Voyage 1 probe, which as of late 2008 was 108 times further from the sun than the Earth (108 astronomical units).
The probe has continued to send back data as expected, indicating that the laws of physics are consistent at this distance.
The Voyager probe, however, is at a trivial distance compared to the size of the Universe. Telescopes offer the best way to test the universal application of the laws of physics.
So far, images taken of the most distant objects ever viewed seem to indicate that the laws of physics hold. The exact nature of these laws is still being researched, but that the same laws hold through-out the Universe seems clear.
Scientific inquiry is often used in conjunction with mathematics, and observations of the Universe also seem to suggest that the rules of mathematics as developed by mankind are also universal.
Extraterrestrials and Scientific Inquiry
Given that the laws of physics seem to apply everywhere, it is clear that any life evolving on other planets will develop in an environment of cause and effect, and of logic and reason.
Any civilization will require preparing for the future, adapting to changes in circumstances, and understanding the laws that govern the Universe.
It is a logical conclusion, therefore, that if contact is ever made with an extraterrestrial civilization, that they will be fully aware of the scientific method.
Indeed, considering the arbitrary nature of language, history, philosophy, and art, the scientific inquiry may be the only truly universal aspect of civilization in the entire Universe.