Oil workers


What extraterrestrial societies could tell us about ourselves if they existed; bad news for Saudi Arabia

A regular feature of The American Culture, highlighting items revealing trends in American society and culture, compiled by TAC correspondent Mike Gray.


Big, Bigger, Biggest!

A few years back, a Soviet scientist got to thinking on the large scale: suppose we were to detect intelligent aliens out there in deep space. What would their civilization be like? If they can travel through space, he reasoned, they must have a lot more energy and power at their disposal than we do; and if that’s so, then their capabilities would put our conception of bright lights, big city in the shade.

So this Russian scientist devised a remarkably elegant scale to measure how advanced, in terms of energy consumption, any civilization might be. (As a good Marxist materialist, he never ventured, as far as I can tell, to make any conjectures about the moral and/or spiritual characteristics of extraterrestrial beings, but I imagine he envisioned their culture as the Soviet Union writ large.)

The scale runs from Type 0 to Type V, as follows:

Type 0: This is where we of Planet Earth are now. (Discouraging, ain’t it?) This civilization can barely keep the lights on; there’s no coordinated effort to distribute energy to the remotest parts of the planet for the benefit of everyone. (Some scientists generously rate us as Type 0.7. Feeling any better?)

Type I: This civilization can make use of all the power, from many sources, available on its home planet. This would require the concerted efforts of all the nations of the earth working toward a common goal—in other words, world government up the wazoo. (Hey, let’s give that Babel thing one more try.) Example: Star Trek.

Type II: This civilization can make use of all the power generated by a single star—although that would require disassembling the sun itself. Let’s take the sun apart! (Florida beachfront property prices plummet; farewell, Swedish Bikini Team.) Example: Star Wars.

Type III: This civilization can make use of all the power generated by all the stars in a single galaxy. Type II on galactic steroids.

Type IV: This civilization can make use of all the power generated by a supercluster of galaxies; some galactic clusters have thousands of members.

Type V: The ultimate civilization, one that lives in even the remotest parts of the universe and utilizes all the power the cosmos generates. (Nota bene: as much as these critters might want to think of themselves as gods, and as godlike as such powers might seem to the likes of us, there’s always God himself beyond them, who by definition is greater than His creation.) Examples: Doctor Who, Stargate Atlantis.

So, what do you think? We’re a Type 0.7 now. Couldn’t we make it to Type I if we all got together and wished really hard?. . . .


Oil Is Where You Find It

Can the theory proposed by the recently deceased astrophysicist Thomas Gold and some Soviet
geologists possibly be true? Because if it is, everything about the modern world would change completely.

We’ve all been taught that millions of years ago dinosaurs roamed the earth until one day they got so big and fat and prosperous that they all died of myocardial infarctions. Since the mammals were severely underfunded by the Department of the Interior, they were forced to leave the dinosaurs unburied. Eventually the decomposed bodies of all these creatures sort of oozed together to form what we nowadays call "fossil fuels." And it’s from these trillions of dead organisms that we get oil—well, mostly the Arabs get it and let us have it at reasonable rates (wink-wink).

This biogenic (originating from life) theory is the one that almost all scientists, theologians, politicians, school children, and people named Matt Damon hold to be true and unquestionable.

But then along comes something called the abiogenic (originating without life) theory. This is an idea that could have Saudi Arabia’s chief export shift from oil to sand. The theory maintains that oil (hydrocarbons) is a natural consequence of movements inside the earth and the work of tiny bacteria doing what bacteria do for a living. In other words, the earth produces oil from its own components without any need for dead animals, and is doing it all the time. No dinosaurs need apply.

As Thomas Gold put it:

Hydrocarbons are not biology reworked by geology (as the traditional view would hold) but rather geology reworked by biology.

It’s an attractive idea, but it has met strong opposition—understandable because there are some people who stand to lose trillions of dollars if they don’t keep an energy crisis going. And if there’s one thing those who are greedy and covet power need most, it’s a crisis of some kind.

—Mike Gray