Churchill’s Essay on Extraterrestrials is a dark reminder of dangers we face

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Winston Churchill wrote an amazing essay about aliens.

It is hard to imagine that the iconic British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had anything else on his mind than the impending conflict with the Nazis as his country tottered on the brink of the Second World. However, a recently re-discovered essay penned by the former Prime Minister suggests that his mind wasn’t just pre-occupied with Hitler during this time but also the prospect of life on other planets.

The eleven-page essay entitled ‘Are We Alone in the Universe’ has been sitting almost entirely undisturbed in the US National Churchill Museum archives in Fulton, Missouri since the 1980s. But it recently caught the eye of the astrophysicist Mario Livio who decided to review Churchill’s ideas for this week’s edition of Nature journal.

Livio noted that Churchill’s conception of the hunt for extra-terrestrial life was spectacularly advanced for his time. The Prime Minister had clearly given a great deal of thought to the kind of conditions that would be required for a planet before it could be considered a candidate to support life, but he noted that it was incredibly difficult to say with any degree of certainty what these conditions would have to be. He also said that the main obstacle when it came to discovering alien planets that were host to intelligent life forms was the sheer distances between the stars.

It appears that Churchill’s thoughts had been drawn to the idea of extra-terrestrial life because of the tragedy and the chaos of the world on the eve of the Second World War. “I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures, ” he wrote.

It is known that the British government took the prospect of extra-terrestrial visitors to planet Earth very seriously during the Second World War and in the years that followed. In the post-war years, the government took weekly ministerial briefings on all of the UFO sightings of the past seven days, but this information was kept under wraps. Churchill was particularly concerned about keeping information about alien contact a secret from the general public as he felt that the information might cause such alarm among the population that it would prove seriously detrimental to the war effort.

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