If we ever do meet real aliens, whey will look nothing like humans, apart from a few superficial similarities such as bilateral symmetry, a neural “cluster,” and a number of “limbs.” But to tell a story, humanoid aliens work just fine. Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, etc, all have universes with many humanoid races, in which to tell their tales of politics and love. And yes, I do know about the Star Trek episode that hand-waved the problem away. It’s a great episode; very silly and stupid, but fun nonetheless.
Here are the main three reasons why most fictional aliens look human:
- They are easier to identify with. Any story, even one about aliens, is fundamentally about the human heart, and it is easier to make us feel emotions towards a humanoid alien than a completely non-humanoid one.
- It is far easier and much much cheaper to slap a bit of makeup on an actor, than painstakingly animate a stop-motion puppet; design and construct a complex animatronic creature; or model, texture, light, animate and composite a CGI one. Especially when lore was laid down before CGI was available.
- Lack of creativity, and lack of understanding of evolution. It’s just easier to say “human with blue skin,” or “human with pointy ears.” You don’t need to design, describe, or think of the ramifications of your aliens. Designing a plausible alien means you have to think about the environment it evolved in, its evolutionary history, technology designed for it, communications problems with humans, etc.
I have no problem with humanoid aliens when they don’t try to explain why they are humanoid. Misunderstandings of evolution, convergent evolution and panspermia do more harm to a story when trying to explain things. I’d rather they just left it as an unspoken agreement to suspend disbelief.
Do you disagree with my opinion? Do you think that aliens might actually be humanoid? I’d love to open a discussion about it and I am more than willing to change my mind if presented with compelling arguments.
Could aliens really look human?