Celebrated astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wants us to beware: Don’t be tricked by so-ugly-he’s-cute E.T.; interactions with aliens could be dangerous. In a documentary that aired last month, the British scientist said that it is likely that extraterrestrial life exists, but that communicating with it could put earthlings at risk. 

“The outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” he warned in the Discovery Channel special program “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking.” “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.” 

Apparently, Mr. Hawking doesn’t spend much time watching Hollywood blockbusters. Anyone who has seen “War of the Worlds,” “Mars Attacks!” and countless other B movies over the decades could have told him that.  

All jokes aside, Hawking is not alone in pondering the possibility of life on other planets. The Catholic Church, among others, has addressed the question, most recently at a meeting last November in Rome that was sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. But the Catholic scientists haven’t explored the questions from a position of fear, as Hawking seems to do, but from one of faith in God.  

“The mere possibility of intelligent life elsewhere puts a human (or at least, humanlike) face on the far better established astronomical observation of the enormity of our universe,” according to scientists at the Vatican Observatory in “The Heavens Proclaim: Astronomy and the Vatican” (OSV, $39.95). “For us Catholics, the thoughts that come from contemplating this question, in the absence of firm answers, should lead us to focus on realizing God’s greatness and his special love for each of us.”