Πώς θα αντιδράσει η ανθρωπότητα αν αποκαλυφθεί εξωγήινη ζωή στο διάστημα;

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Δεν είμαστε μόνοι στο σύμπαν – οι περισσότεροι αστροφυσικοί και οι αστρονόμοι είναι σίγουροι γι’ αυτό.

Ότι υπάρχει ζωή κάπου στο διάστημα, θεωρείται αρκετά πιθανό, ακόμη και ο διάσημος επιστήμονας Στήβεν Χόκινγκ πιστεύει ότι υπάρχουν εξωγήινοι.

Φυσικά κανείς δεν έχει καμία γνώση σχετικά με το πώς θα μπορούσαν να μοιάζουν αυτές οι μορφές ζωής – ίσως όχι απαραίτητα όπως φαίνονται στις ταινίες επιστημονικής φαντασίας.

Αλλά για πολύ καιρό οι αστρονόμοι έχουν κάνει πολλά για να οδηγήσουν στην αναζήτηση πλανητών με βιώσιμες συνθήκες στο διάστημα.

Αλλά η ανθρωπότητα έχει μια ερώτηση να θέσει: Τι θα κάνουμε αν τελικά βρούμε ζωή μακριά από τον πλανήτη Γη; Πώς θα αντιδράσουν οι άνθρωποι, θα είναι ως επί το πλείστον θετικοί ή αρνητικοί σε ένα τέτοιο μήνυμα;

Φυσικά, ο καθένας πρέπει πρώτα να απαντήσει σε μια τέτοια ερώτηση. Και θα πρέπει επίσης να εξαρτηθεί σε μεγάλο βαθμό από τη φύση της μορφής της ζωής αυτής.

Ερευνητές από το Πολιτειακό Πανεπιστήμιο της Αριζόνα έχουν ασχοληθεί σοβαρά με το θέμα. Η μελέτη τους, που παρουσιάστηκε στο Ώστιν στο επιστημονικό συνέδριο AAAS, έδειξε σαφώς ότι οι περισσότεροι βλέπουν θετικά την ενδεχόμενη επαφή με ζωή στο διάστημα.

Για την ανάλυσή τους, οι ερευνητές επέλεξαν πέντε άρθρα εφημερίδων σχετικά με διαφορετικές ανακαλύψεις, οι οποίες προκάλεσαν αναταραχή τα τελευταία χρόνια: Η αμφιλεγόμενη ανακάλυψη υποτιθέμενων απολιθωμένων βακτηριακών ιχνών σε μετεωρίτη του Άρη από το 1996 ή η ανακάλυψη επτά πλανητών που μοιάζουν με τη Γη, πέρυσι.

Τα άρθρα εξετάστηκαν από ερευνητές χρησιμοποιώντας ένα ειδικό λογισμικό που ονομάζεται Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Το σύστημα, το οποίο δεν υπήρξε εδώ και πολύ καιρό, αναγνωρίζει ποια συναισθήματα που συνδέονται με τις λέξεις, είναι θετικά ή αρνητικά. Ο υπολογιστής έδωσε ένα σαφές αποτέλεσμα: Οι συντάκτες των άρθρων, και μέσα μαζικής ενημέρωσης, όπως οι «New York Times» και η «Washington Post», έδειξαν να έχουν ένα σημαντικά υψηλότερο ποσοστό θετικών συναισθημάτων.

Σε ένα δεύτερο μέρος της μελέτης, οι ερευνητές ζήτησαν από περισσότερους από 500 – τυχαία επιλεγμένους – ανθρώπους να γράψουν μερικές προτάσεις για το πώς θα ανταποκρίνονταν στις ειδήσεις ενός υποθετικού μικροβιακού ευρήματος στο διάστημα. Και πώς, κατά την εκτίμησή τους, όλοι οι άλλοι θα αντιδρούσαν. Για να γίνει αυτό, έθεσαν στους συμμετέχοντες ορισμένες ερωτήσεις και συμπεριέλαβαν επίσης αυτά τα κείμενα στο λογισμικό ανάλυσης.

Και πάλι, οι θετικές αντιδράσεις ήταν περισσότερες. «Αυτό θα ήταν πολύ συναρπαστικό – ακόμα κι αν ήταν μόνο μια πρωτόγονη μορφή ζωής», έγραψε ένας συμμετέχων.

Οι ερευνητές έκαναν μια άλλη δοκιμή: Χώρισαν 500 εθελοντές σε δύο ομάδες και τους ζητήθηκε να γράψουν τις απόψεις τους για το άρθρο σχετικά με τα υποτιθέμενα μικροβιακά απολιθώματα.

Και πάλι οι απαντήσεις για την εξωγήινη ζωή ήταν στην πλειοψηφία τους θετικές.

«Πολλοί φαίνεται να έχουν εντυπωσιαστεί από το γεγονός ότι η ζωή σε έναν πλανήτη διαφορετικό από τη Γη είναι εφικτή», εξηγεί ο επικεφαλής της μελέτης Μαικλ Βαρνουμ.

Γιατί οι άνθρωποι φαίνεται να σκέφτονται θετικά για την εξωγήινη ζωή; «Ίσως μας αρέσει ακριβώς η ιδέα να μην είμαστε μόνοι», λέει ο Βαρνουμ.

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