Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs, often referred to as "the Brookings Report," was a 1960 report commissioned by NASA and created by the Brookings Institution in collaboration with NASA's Committee on Long-Range Studies. It was submitted to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics of the United States House of Representatives in the 87th United States Congress on April 18, 1961. It was entered into the Congressional Record and can be found in any library possessing the Congressional Record for that year.
The report has become noted for one short section titled, "The implications of a discovery of extraterrestrial life," which examines the potential implications of such a discovery on public attitudes and values. The section briefly considers possible public reactions to some possible scenarios for the discovery of extraterrestrial life, stressing a need for further research in this area. It recommends continuing studies to determine the likely social impact of such a discovery and its effects on public attitudes, including study of the question of how leadership should handle information about such a discovery and under what circumstances leaders might or might not find it advisable to withhold such information from the public. The significance of this section of the report is a matter of controversy. Persons who believe that extraterrestrial life has already been confirmed and that this information is being withheld by government from the public sometimes turn to this section of the report as support for their view. Frequently cited passages from this section of the report are drawn both from its main body and from its footnotes.
Although the report discusses the need for research on many policy issues related to space exploration, it is most often cited for passages from its brief section on the implications of a discovery of extraterrestrial life. The report touches on the possibility of covering up extraterrestrial life. Noteworthy passages include the following:
"While face-to-face meetings with it will not occur within the next twenty years (unless its technology is more advanced than ours, qualifying it to visit Earth), artifacts left at some point in time by these life forms might possibly be discovered through our space activities on the Moon, Mars, or Venus." – pages 182–183
"Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they have had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different life ways; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values and attitudes and behavior." – page 183
"Since intelligent life might be discovered at any time via the radio telescope research presently under way, and since the consequences of such a discovery are presently unpredictable because of our limited knowledge of behavior under even an approximation of such dramatic circumstances, two research areas can be recommended:
Continuing studies to determine emotional and intellectual understanding and attitudes -- and successive alterations of them if any -- regarding the possibility and consequences of discovering intelligent extraterrestrial life.
Historical and empirical studies of the behavior of peoples and their leaders when confronted with dramatic and unfamiliar events or social pressures. Such studies might help to provide programs for meeting and adjusting to the implications of such a discovery. Questions one might wish to answer by such studies would include: How might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public for what ends? What might be the role of the discovering scientists and other decision makers regarding release of the fact of discovery?" – pages 183–184
"An individual's reactions to such a radio contact would in part depend on his cultural, religious, and social background, as well as on the actions of those he considered authorities and leaders, and their behavior, in turn, would in part depend on their cultural, social, and religious environment. The discovery would certainly be front-page news everywhere; the degree of political or social repercussion would probably depend on leadership's interpretation of (1) its own role, (2) threats to that role, and (3) national and personal opportunities to take advantage of the disruption or reinforcement of the attitudes and values of others. Since leadership itself might have great need to gauge the direction and intensity of public attitudes, to strengthen its own morale and for decision making purposes, it would be most advantageous to have more to go on than personal opinions about the opinions of the public and other leadership groups." – page 183
"The knowledge that life existed in other parts of the universe might lead to a greater unity of men on Earth, based on the 'oneness' of man or on the age-old assumption that any stranger is threatening. Much would depend on what, if anything, was communicated between man and the other beings . . ." – page 183
"The positions of the major American religious denominations, the Christian sects, and the Eastern religions on the matter of extraterrestrial life need elucidation. Consider the following: 'The Fundamentalist (and anti-science) sects are growing apace around the world . . . For them, the discovery of other life -- rather than any other space product -- would be electrifying. . . . some scattered studies need to be made both in their home centers and churches and their missions, in relation to attitudes about space activities and extraterrestrial life.'" – page 102, n.34
"If plant life or some subhuman intelligence were found on Mars or Venus, for example, there is on the face of it no good reason to suppose these discoveries, after the original novelty had been exploited to the fullest and worn off, would result in substantial changes in perspectives or philosophy in large parts of the American public, at least any more than, let us say, did the discovery of the coelacanth or the panda." – page 103, n.34
"If super intelligence is discovered, the results become quite unpredictable. It is possible that if the intelligence of these creatures were sufficiently superior to ours, they would choose to have little if any contact with us. On the face of it, there is no reason to believe that we might learn a great deal from them, especially if their physiology and psychology were substantially different from ours."– page 103, n.34
"It has been speculated that, of all groups, scientists and engineers might be the most devastated by the discovery of relatively superior creatures, since these professions are most clearly associated with the mastery of nature, rather than with the understanding and expression of man. Advanced understanding of nature might vitiate all our theories at the very least, if not also require a culture and perhaps a brain inaccessible to Earth scientists." – page 103, n.34
"It is perhaps interesting to note that when asked what the consequences of the discovery of superior life would be, an audience of Saturday Review readership chose, for the most part, not to answer the question at all, in spite of their detailed answers to many other speculative questions." – page 103, n.34
"A possible but not completely satisfactory means for making the possibility 'real' for many people would be to confront them with present speculations about the I.Q. of the porpoise and to encourage them to expand on the implications of this situation." – page 105, n.36
"Such studies would include historical reactions to hoaxes, psychic manifestations, unidentified flying objects, etc. Hadley Cantril's study, Invasion from Mars (Princeton University Press, 1940), would provide a useful if limited guide in this area. Fruitful understanding might be gained from a comparative study of factors affecting the responses of primitive societies to exposure to technologically advanced societies. Some thrived, some endured, and some died." – page 105, n.37
While not specifically recommending a cover-up of evidence of extraterrestrial life, the report does suggest that contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life (or strong evidence of its reality) could have a disruptive effect on human societies. Moreover, it does mention the possibility that leadership might wish to withhold evidence of extraterrestrial life from the public under some conditions.
Some ufologists and conspiracy theorists argue that this section of the report, by outlining plausible motives for government suppression of a discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, furnishes evidence of an ongoing cover-up of intelligent extraterrestrial life already discovered.
In an email published by The Virtually Strange Network, "Brookings Report Re-examined," Keith Woodard writes that the Brookings Report "did raise the possibility of withholding information, but took no position on its advisability. 'Questions one might wish to answer by such studies,' intoned the report, 'would include: how might such information, under what circumstances, be presented to or withheld from the public for what ends? What might be the role of the discovering scientists and other decision makers regarding release of the fact of discovery?' Those two sentences comprise the report's entire commentary on the subject of covering up the truth." Others argue that many passages from this section of the report (e.g., those passages that suggest close study of the historical record regarding the effects on traditional cultures of contact with previously unfamiliar or technologically more advanced societies) comment on the subject of cover-up indirectly by suggesting factors that leaders would want to consider if faced with a decision about whether to release such information to the public.
- "Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs". RRO.org (Beau, Jérôme). Retrieved 16 November 2012. See rollover PNG image scan on the RRO.org page.
- Michael, Donald N.; Baranson, Jack; et al. (December 1960). "Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs". Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. NASA Document ID: 19640053196; NASA Report/Patent Number: NASA-CR-55643. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
- Michael, Donald N.; Baranson, Jack; et al. (December 1960). "Footnotes for Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs". Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution. NASA Document ID: 19640053194; NASA Report/Patent Number: NASA-CR-55640. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- Woodard, Keith (30 November 1997). "Brookings Report Re-examined". virtuallystrange.net. Archived from the original on 28 October 2002. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- "The 'Brookings Report'". The Enterprise Mission. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- "Mankind is Warned to Prepare For Discovery of Life in Space". The New York Times (abstract). UPI. 15 December 1960. Retrieved 16 November 2012. Transcription of article courtesy of The Enterprise Mission website.
- "Space-life Report Could Be Shock" (PDF). The U.F.O. Investigator (National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP)) 1 (11): 5. December–January 1960–1961. Retrieved 16 November 2012. Check date values in:
- "The World Of Future". The Baltimore Sun. 26 February 1961. p. A26.
- Coia, David Alan (25 August 1993). "Mars watchers see extraterrestrial cover-up". The Washington Times. p. A1.