Tom Cruise has been mouthing off a lot lately, but he's taking unnecessary flak for this answer to a German newspaper's question about whether he believes in aliens: "Yes, of course. Are you really so arrogant as to believe we are alone in this universe? Millions of stars, and we're supposed to be the only living creatures? No, there are many things out there, we just don't know."
On this one, he's right. It is arrogance to presume that Earth is the only place in the vastness of this universe that is capable of sustaining life. Many brilliant men and women, like the late great Carl Sagan, have said exactly that for a long time. Mathematically, the odds would be heavily against that many solar systems not having some life form within at least one of them.
The problem is not with Cruise, but with those who hear "alien" and immediately think of a semi-human-like form they've seen in some movie. Here's a paragraph I wrote on the subject in January, 2003:
The close-encounters types always have the same description of the alien, too. Of course, the visitors are able to converse in whatever your native tongue is, no matter where you are. Visually, the species that allegedly spawned us has almond-shaped eyes, hands with three fingers, a slow gait, no hair. Darwin was wrong! We're descended from Homer Simpson!
Once you think about all the other life forms we have on Earth -- from a pine tree to a duck-billed platypus -- who's to say that life elsewhere in the universe won't be in those shapes and sizes, or one that we've never seen before?
The really good news for Cruise is that this means so many more possibilities for love-mates he can exploit in public to promote a movie project in the future.