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The Cost of SETI

A new Space.com article asks the question “SETI: Is It Worth It?” It should be pointed out – as a look at the article’s byline will show – that the author of the piece is SETI’s Seth Shostak…so the article isn’t going to be an unbiased debate on the topic. Nonetheless, Shostak raises some good historical analogies (though he obviously picks the successful longshots in history, rather than the failures), and puts his finger on the ultimate reason why SETI captures our imaginations:

SETI speaks to a quintessential human need even without that carrot – the quest to know. More to the point: to know how we fit in. What is our part in the enormous cultural tapestry that we suspect threads the star fields of the Galaxy?

Are we truly biologically or intellectually special? One radio whistle from the cosmos would answer that question. Even if a discovery deflates our egos, it’s still something that would be incredibly interesting to know. Ignorance is not bliss – it’s only ignorance. When Copernicus argued that our view of an Earth-centered universe was parochial and wrong, he cracked a door in a stuffy house. SETI could blow out every window in the place.

Although the same reasoning could be employed for justifying ufology, and Seth Shostak seems to find plenty of time for ridiculing that endeavour…

Editor
  1. Of course SETI is worth it!
    I would rather support SETI anyday than someone developing the next generation of nuclear weapons.

    SETI harms no one, but may, one day, change life on earth for ever.

    Regards

    Nostra

    1. Earth to Major Tom
      I agree Nostra, but I can’t help but feel SETI is making a huge assumption that extraterrestrial civilisations use the same technology as us. It’s also a shame that they can’t see the forest for the trees — there’s plenty of evidence to suggest ET is visiting Earth right now. ET may not even be from another star system, but alternate dimensions. It’s a shame research into other forms of ET contact can’t get the same support as SETI.

  2. mind you….
    it’s an assumption that ET may wish to communicate with us and/or transmit any signal we are capable of recieving.

    We may very well be the only species at this point in evolution, give or take 10,000 years. More advanced are not interested and less have not the capabilities.

    But better to try then not………………

    “Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told.”
    LRF.

    1. SETI
      Good morning everyone,
      I think SETI is certainly worth it, but they do say more about man than ET. I feel there is an arrogance that they are searching in terms of our technology, as if it is cutting edge in universal terms.
      I think, Floppy, the point isn’t whether they’re trying to contact us – the simple fact that they would be somehow transmitting something is all that would be needed – assuming we could understand, or even detect it.

      Wise people usually begin as stupid ones

      Anthony North

      1. my point exactly…..
        my last line……better to try then not……
        personally, I feel any out there are either obsevering or laughing at us. Sort of like an ant farm…..you get one ant that leaves the line or common practice, and feels the glass as if to know more. But we completely mis-read this as random action of an otherwise structured and purposefull ( totally lost for the right word or expression of meaning) please fill the gaps…………………

        “Life can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you do what your told.”
        LRF.

      2. have to look
        I largely agree. We have to look for radio signals, as well as anything else we can think of.

        I also agree that looking for our technology is not very promising. Especially high energy radio waves, which we ourselves have started to abandon after less than 100 years.

        —-
        If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.

        (Bill Clinton, and perhaps others)

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