Recent research shows that many children who do not have enough to eat wind up with diminished capacity to understand and learn. Children don't have to be starving for this to happen. Even mild undernutrition - the kind most common among poor people in America - can do it.
What a splendid perspective contact with a profoundly different civilization might provide! In a cosmic setting vast and old beyond ordinary human understanding we are a little lonely, and we ponder the ultimate significance, if any, of our tiny but exquisite blue planet, the Earth.... In the deepest sense the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves.
Your religion assumes that people are children and need a boogeyman so they'll behave. You want people to believe in God so they'll obey the law. That's the only means that occurs to you: a strict secular police force, and the threat of punishment by an all-seeing God for whatever the police overlook. You sell human beings short.
Too much openness and you accept every notion, idea, and hypothesis-which is tantamount to knowing nothing. Too much skepticism-especially rejection of new ideas before they are adequately tested-and you're not only unpleasantly grumpy, but also closed to the advance of science. A judicious mix is what we need.
There is a reward structure in science that is very interesting: Our highest honors go to those who disprove the findings of the most revered among us. So Einstein is revered not just because he made so many fundamental contributions to science, but because he found an imperfection in the fundamental contribution of Isaac Newton.