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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

In search of intelligent life

U.S. REP. Dennis Kucinich, the failed presidential candidate and impeachment gadfly, apparently is not alone in his belief that while intelligent life does not exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it does on other worlds.

According to a recent poll, more than half of Americans believe earthlings are not alone in the universe. More interesting, however, was who did or did not believe in E.T.

The poll was conducted by the Scripps Howard Research Center, which is located on the campus of Ohio University. That gave us pause, wondering what the respondents might have been smoking, but it turns out that the 1,003 people surveyed were adults from across the United States, not OU students.

Curiously, while 56 percent of Americans believe there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, only 54 percent said it's unlikely they've visited Earth. This begs the question: What definition of intelligence were the other 2 percent using?

The average person who believes in aliens, according to the poll, is nothing like Mr. Kucinich. Instead, he's a young, male, less-educated, suburbanite from the West who is middle-of-the-road politically, doesn't attend church regularly, and is most definitely not evangelical.

The average person who claims to have actually seen something that might have been an alien spaceship looks much the same, with the exception that he's likely to be a good deal older. Of course, older folks also are more likely to believe Medicare and Social Security will always be there for them, which could be one explanation.

Interestingly, people with strong political or religious feelings, especially people of the conservative, Republican, and evangelical persuasion, are extremely unlikely to admit having seen something that could have been a UFO. And if they did see something, it was either the result of childhood abuse, political assassination, or a too-wide stance, and they're prepared to offer a tearful apology after spending several weeks in a cushy rehab facility.

According to a Scripps Howard reporter, one respondent from Georgia said he doesn't believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth because of his Christian faith and because there were too many conditions necessary for a planet to support life.

"Could there be life out there?" he asked. "There could, but that would have to be proven to me." We chose not to use the name of Lindsey Ivey of Ellijay, Ga., to protect him from the irony police.

Is there intelligent life on other planets? This is difficult for an editorial board to admit, but we don't know. However, we wonder if the pollsters from OU should have asked, instead, whether people believe there's intelligent life on this planet.

Considering the types of things we hear coming out of Washington - our economic woes are all in our heads and the economy is continuing to chug along nicely are two recent examples - we're not too sure of the answer to that one either.

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