As you may know, astronomers for several decades have been finding planets outside of our own solar system. The total number found so far is, I believe, over 400.
For reasons having to do with the discovery process, most of those are very large planets. Also, most of them are too close or too far from their suns to be able to have liquid water, which is believed to be vital to the existence of life. Therefore, so far there haven't been any earth-like planets found where life could exist (according to our understanding of how life can form and even exist). But even within our own solar system, some of the moons of Saturn or Jupiter might be able to support life.
In any event, it is probably only a matter of time before planets similar to our own Earth are found. Of course that does not mean that they will be found to have life, let alone intelligent or highly evolved life.
But also, astronomers have been speculating about intelligent life outside of our own earth for a long time; and the famous, late Carl Sagan in fact proposed a formula for calculating the likelihood of extraterrestrial life given the enormous number of galaxies, each with many stars, and many stars no doubt having planets.
So if you want to believe the speculation and calculation, they're out there--though we have not yet contacted them. (Some people of course believe they have visited us.)
Well, if we do ever confirm the existence of creatures like ourselves (or not) elsewhere in the universe, that will pose a problem for religion. Christianity holds that God sent his Son to Earth. Did God send the same son--or anyone else that he progenerated--to other planets? If not, why was Earth singled out? Can we assume that somehow Earth is special in God's sight and was singled out for the blessing of having His Son sent to us?
So the eventual discovery or confirmation of life elsewhere should, in principle, pose a problem for religion--at least for Christianity. But you know what? I think it will survive. Some sci-fi writers have even speculated that Christianity will simply send missionaries and export its religion throughout the universe, just as it did all over the Earth.
The hope is that any sufficiently advanced civilization that is capable of such travel would be older, so people also assume that it would be more... Well "mature" for lack of a better word...
There certainly no reason to assume that it will be any older, more peaceful, or more reasonable; but people like to dream...
Well, if they meet us more than halfway, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to assume that they will be more developed than us. But here's the really frightening idea... You know how sci fi always has an "elder race"? Be it Vulcan or Protoss or whatever... What if we humans are the actual elder race of the galaxy? Scary, isn't it?
It is not reasonable to assume that they will be superior in any way but technologically. Having bigger, better toys, does not necessarily mean anything more than just that. However, if we learn we are the "elder race", we might as well just stick to this rock because the universe is doomed.
Well, that seems to be where all the evidence points. It may have taken 200,000 years to get where we are, but I am comfortable believing we are more than halfway to the stars. If third generation stars like our sun have been around for billions of years, the less than half million years it will take to go from dawn of our species to interstellar voyagers is nothing. A margin of some 0.01%. The odds that there is a race older than us, but just a tiny bit so that we haven't heard from them yet, seems miniscule.
Lets see, the universe is 13.77 ± 0.059 billion years old according to our best estimates, and our solar system has been around about 4.5 billion. Humans have been around for what, about a couple of hundred thousand years or so? I really do not see there being any evidence that we are the apex species of the universe...
As far as us not hearing from them yet, you make the assumption that they would try to contact us, which isn't necessarily true. What reason should they believe we would be welcoming or have anything of any value to offer?
We live on a semi-dark ages planet where religion still holds enough sway to stigmatize theories that have better and more persuasive evidence than gravity. There are wars, murders, and just plain sadistic bullshit crawling out of the orifices of just about every single mainstream religion on this rock. We have polluted, destroyed, or exploited the majority of natural resources we have(lets not even go into global warming). And if that isn't bad enough, we have politicians.
What race in their right mind would WANT to have anything to do with us, we are the insane asylum of the universe! Hell, I would live on the moon if I could, but I am sure the crazies would make it there eventually, and it would start all over...
They might want to study us as examples of primitive life forms.
Perhaps, but they would not have to play nice for that either. If they view us as primitive, as we do other animals, they would not have to care how the study was done. Do we ask monkeys or labrats if they want to vivisected and studied? Why should they see or treat us any differently if we are below them?
I might see their interest if we share common traits, but if we were too different physiologically, our study would be of limited benefit for them beyond satisfying curiosity.
If the nonevidence believers leave earth to preach to the universe there will be more room for evidence based thinkers here on earth.
Yeah, but can you imagine the havoc they would bring to the galaxy? It would be like the haciendas all over again if we let them.
I don't know your analogy of the hacienda.
Feel free to read up, but don't take the sugar coating they try to feed you. They make it sound so nice. "Natives were not irrevocably bound to missions until baptism". Is that an apology for keeping them as slaves AFTER they were baptized?
And forget about the two years till baptism part. I have read about other places where people were baptized, having no idea what was going on, and then because their "pagan" marriages weren't recognized by the Spanish, were forced to live in all male or all female dormitories away from their spouses. Just sick.
We would probably be destroyed, as we could not have picked worse representatives for our race. The fundamentalists would make them think of us as little more than cattle... cattle too violent and hateful to be allowed to exist.