I have always wondered that why do all the movies and sci-fi novels show ET's as more intelligent and powerful than us. Can't they be just dumb or below us in the intelligence aspect? Apart from this, why should they have nose,ears or eyes. Shouldn't they be completely different and not recognizable. We have always seen in movies that they need eyes to see, ears to hear and they breath or walk. Isn't that completely wrong on some level?

I mean all the aliens in all the movies. One or two dumb species shown in movies is an exception but more than 90% of the aliens shown have fingers, almost human body limbs and are always smarter. The aliens who get to us can also be lucky or maybe their primary and only intellectual achievement is transportation. Why do they have to be the geniuses of universe and why do humans look miserable in front of them while they massacre human race. Why is it always us eager to learn from them. Why can't they be here to learn from us?

closed as too broad by Valorum, SQB, Shevliaskovic, Izkata, Stan Feb 3 '15 at 12:44

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is two questions in one. The first is the one in the title, why ET's are shown to be more technologivally advanced -- which isn't universally so. The second is about why they look like humans, which again, isn't universally so. Both questions are too broad, based on a false assumption, and likely to be attract opinion-based answers. – SQB Feb 3 '15 at 12:14
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    @MuxammilBashir: but I gave a mean comment! – Paul D. Waite Feb 3 '15 at 13:41
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    Regarding their humanoid shapes, see If Optimus and Megatron came to Earth 4 million years ago, why are the Transformers' robots forms so humanoid? for a plausible explanation why that is (yes, it's specifically about Transformers, but the logic stands - if they existed first, then we look like them, not the other way around). – phantom42 Feb 3 '15 at 13:55
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    Additionally, most of the time the aliens are visiting us, which demonstrates that they have mastered interstellar travel. Not necessarily smarter, just further along the learning curve. – JohnP Feb 3 '15 at 15:10

All depends.

For example, Star Trek operates under assumption that all (or nearly all) life forms in Galaxy evolved from common source (see The Original Series episode Return to Tomorrow, and The Next Generation’s The Chase). I'm drawn in that regards to V'ger as well, don't know why.

That being said, it is not unreasonable assumption that evolution will follow similar, but not necessarily identical paths. I can deep a bit deeper into theory involving DNA, proteins, amino acids and sugars, which shows just how incredibly complicated our life is...

That's why most of races of Star Trek are humanoid in apparition and most of them can (however shouldn't be able to) crossbreed and gain sustenance from extraterrestial foods.

But it all depends on assumptions od initial conditions put on by universe creator.

My favourite writer - John Ringo - usually populates his universes with very diverse life forms, so it all depends on who you read. His universe of Citadel series contains humans, porcupine-pig-like Glatun, velociraptor-like Rangora, squid-like Horvath, as well as giant caterpillars, very large crabs and others... Some smarter, some dumber, some... different.

Stargate Universe is based on notion that galaxy is human-compatible for specific reasons, but there are several species completely different as well. With dumber ones also.

SO it all depends on who where what... And since licentia poetica is in force, each sf is the way as the writer came up with.


One more thing. There are very few movies or TV shows which can be described as even soft Sci-fi... This is because science is not flashy most of the times. So it is greatly dumbed-down for audience (pun intended). However, once we cross to hard science (for example: Looking Glass series by Ringo & Taylor), the language becomes... Well, geeky is putting it mildly. And usual redneck will not cope with passage like that:

“There’s not supposed to be build-up on the covalent shearers,” Miriam said. “The only way that you’d get that is if molecules with polar bonds were getting through. The covalent shearers can’t break polar bonds. Check the polar corpuscle. It’s probably detuned. Check the point and dwell settings. As to repairing the covalent shearer and the carbon cracker, you can’t repair them perfectly. But you can take them and cut them up and run it through the fabber on a recycler setting. The parts will come out clean. Use a melder to join them and you’ll get about ninety percent efficiency. See if that works.”

Or that:

"There was one more thing.” Miriam said. “I think that the first excited state of the flavor neutral must have the required rest mass of three zero nine six point nine million electron volts in oscillating flux density but the half life of the up-type pair must be longer, frame relative, than the rest frame seven point two times ten to the minus twenty-one seconds. The modulation and control of the flux density and pair half life can increase or decrease the flat space metric within the motivation metric to accommodate potential well suitability. But it’s just a guess.”

So, since scriptwriters cannot parse above, thus we are left with duct-taping Tribble to phaser in order to attempt to regenerate di-lithium crystals...

EDIT 2: I'm eating the words above... Just revisited one series and there is really funny Sci-fi moment. Shows how geeky one sometime is. Stargate SG-1, S07E21 - The lost City pt. 1

O'NEILL: (Continues shaving, he's almost finished) No, no, no, wait. Don't hang up. I need a seven letter word.

JACKSON: I told Sam I wouldn't help you.

O'NEILL: Well, then this will be the one thing she doesn't know. Up, down, charmed, blank.

JACKSON: (With NO hesitation to think about it) Strange.

O'NEILL: (Not getting that Daniel gave him the answer ... I think he thinks Daniel called him strange!) Yeah. Well thanks anyway.

JACKSON: (Thru the phone as Jack takes it away from his ear) No the word you're looking for... (Jack hangs up)


Because in general, they got to earth. Which means they mastered FTL travel, which is incredibly hard. Aliens on planets where we get to them can be more primitive.

To be empathetic as characters, they also need to be vaguely human, especially if they don't speak.


In Avatar, the aliens on Pandora are shown less intelligent then us. They lack technology, have primitive lifestyle and weapons. They rely on forces of nature on Pandora. Had their nature not sent animals to help in the end, Na'vis would have been crushed by humans easily.

So basically, Na'vi are intelligent, but restricted only to their environment. Unlike them, humans are shown much more intelligent as they adapt to their surroundings. You should watch Indian movie 'PK' for it's aliens. lol

Also, the symbiotic life form from Spiderman is in gooey form, no ears, no eyes. It captures host to inherit it's anatomy.

So basically, there are many aliens/extra-terrestrials in films that will go out your question.

Basically, from my POV, its hard for humans to imagine objects far from their view. Have you ever tried to imagine a new color which can't be achieved by mixing any of existing colors? For humans, anything that can see are eyes, anything that can smell is nose, anything that can consume is mouth. Thus imagining anything more than that is difficult.

  • The smurfs in Avatar are less technologically advanced, but much wiser because they are tuned to nature, and not icky militarists like the bad humans. The wise humans paint themselves blue and join them. – Oldcat Feb 25 '15 at 19:58

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