I have new housemates. Mostly, they’re cool. They’re mostly other science types, researchers of other subjects, good people to have a beer with. However, they’re a little more mainstream, they like hunting and they don’t read for fun as much as I do. I feel a little weird telling them all about my blog discussing alien life. I also don’t feel comfortable telling them to take out the damn recycling and stop crowding my shelf in the refrigerator. One of my pet peeves if people crowding my space. Conflicts of this kind are inevitable with new roommates, so common in fact that I call it the “new roommate phenomenon” and most people know what I mean.
This got me thinking. Are conflicts inevitable on any scale? Is the current culture clash between many Muslim countries and the USA inevitable? Is conflict with aliens inevitable? Obviously, this last is the most important question in the context of this blog.
One of the main concepts in ecology is the competitive exclusion principle. This principle states that any two species that fill the same niche will compete until one of four outcomes occurs: Species A out-competes Species B, Species B gets wiped out; Species B out-competes Species A, Species A gets wiped out; Species A and B fall into an unstable equilibrium which eventually results in one of the previously mentioned outcomes, somebody gets wiped out; Species A and B fall into a stable equilibrium which eventually results in niche partitioning and everybody lives happily ever after. On Earth, we have many more examples of the first three outcomes than of the last outcome.
David Weber is one of my favorite science fiction authors. In a couple of his series (Mutineer’s Moon, Safehold), aliens seek to wipe out humanity because they (the aliens) occupy the same type of planet as humans and they do not want anyone to wipe them out through competition, which is an extreme expression of the competitive exclusion principle. In fact, these alien cultures are wholly based upon this goal. When meeting aliens for the first time, we obviously want everyone to live happily ever after. Query: Could it be possible for intelligent life to create a stable equilibrium, even if one species is clearly better able to compete on Earth-like planets?
Answer: The Prime Directive! In the Star Trek universe, Starfleet is prohibited from interfering with the development of alien civilizations. In Star Trek, this was phrased as allowing for cultural self-expression. However, the reality is that removing the threat of being wiped out for cultural and biological differences allows for the possibility of niche-partitioning. The Prime Directive allows everyone to live happily ever after.
Holy cow, I just used Star Trek to answer a problem presented by David Weber! Is that even legal in sci-fi?
Sometimes Star Trek people ran into problems when they didn’t recognize other civilizations as such or when they broke the taboos of a civilization they were exploring. Enter the “new roommate phenomenon”. What do we do about that? I have no idea. What do I do about my new roommates? Content myself with dealing with the recycling more often and tell them about my blog. I’ll also be labeling my refrigerator shelf! You hear me, roommates? That shelf is MINE!