Is SETI Science?

Picture: SETI (C)

Picture: SETI (C)

Steven Novella of the Neurologica blog tackles an interesting question: Is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) scientific?

Via Neurologica:

With regard to SETI the hypothesis is this – life arose spontaneously on Earth, there is nothing special about the Earth and therefore it is possible for life to arise elsewhere in the universe. It is possible that some of that life evolved intelligence, and some of that intelligence developed technology. One method for a technological civilization to communicate across stellar distances is through radio signals. Therefore, perhaps the Earth is being bathed at this moment with intelligent radio signals from other worlds.

Every link in that logical change is perfectly reasonable. The best way to test that hypothesis is to simply look. Looking is part of science. It is a valid way to test many hypotheses. It is not necessary to be able to prove that there are no intelligent radio sources anywhere in the universe in order for this endeavor to be properly scientific.

Keep reading.

, ,

  • BuzzCoastin

    if there is intelligent life in other parts of the universe
    then I’m sure they’d be intelligent enough to avoid Earth and it’s human population

    • Juan

      Curmudgeon much?

      • BuzzCoastin

        having been an alien most of my life
        and having traveled around your fair planet quite a bit
        and therefore I am somewhat presumptuously speaking
        on behalf of other aliens and I’d like to say this thus:
        one by one humanity is indeed wonderful & sublime most times
        but collectively
        it’s like dealing with a herd of brute animals

        if there are beings who have enough energy & intelligence
        to send a signal wee could receive
        what could they learn from us?
        wee can’t even reply, let alone get there

        and if they’ve have the ability to read our meager transmissions
        why would they want to visit?

        i prefer to think of it as being sardonic
        in a Pococurante sorta way

        • mannyfurious

          Great response, and I’m glad I’m not the only one to feel that way. As individuals, I find the vast majority of human being to be endlessly fascinating, compassionate even.

          But as groups… I cannot stand this species. And unfortunately the mob has much more sway on the individual than…well… the individual.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do

            The individual is an illusion. There is no such thing. We are falsely divided against each other, which makes us dividual. The earth probably already communicates with other planets and solar systems in ways we couldn’t imagine.

          • Andrew

            I’m not sure about all that, but the human self/mind/psyche/ego is divisible. There’s the subconscious, two separate hemispheres of the brain which can work independently (alien hand syndrome), and the enteric nervous system which can also function when cut off from the main brain. Fundamentalist individualism is really a false doctrine from both within and without.

          • Andrew

            I’m not sure about all that, but the human self/mind/psyche/ego is divisible. There’s the subconscious, two separate hemispheres of the brain which can work independently (alien hand syndrome), and the enteric nervous system which can also function when cut off from the main brain. Fundamentalist individualism is really a false doctrine from both within and without.

          • mannyfurious

            Well, you’ve opened up a can of worms, and no single internet message board post is going to adequately reflect my feelings on what you just said. Let’s just say I agree with you for the most part. The difference between the individual and the group is in semantics only. It’s an illusion created by language.

            With that said, it’s a strong illusion, and for all practical (instead of spiritual) purposes, it’s one that has to be recognized and dealt with on an everyday basis. But even within the confines of the illusion, we should understand that there is no such thing as “the individual” without the “the group” and vice-versa. Still, it’s the “mob mentality,” an illuision within the illusion, that creates most of the assholes we come across. Again, the “assholes” being separate from myself is still part of that illusion, but it doesn’t make any of them any less of assholes.

      • Ittabena

        Think about it, if you were out there watching us, would you drop in? I wouldn’t. We is pretty violent, especially the US.

        • Juan

          Agreed. I would give this place a miss, for sure.
          Why are we assuming that aliens would favor a peacful planet, as opposed to a brutally violent one like this one happens to be right now?

          • Ittabena

            Good point.

  • BuzzCoastin

    it’s naive to assume highly evolved intelligence
    would use late 20th century Earth technology to communicate
    with highly evolved life
    we’re more likely to encounter communication from highly evolved life forms
    on ayawaska, mushroom or DMT trips
    hell, I’ve had a few close encounters with pot

    we haven’t figure out how to communicate with animals & plants
    how are we going to communicate with other life forms
    math? ΔX * ΔP ≥ h / (4π)

    • Ittabena

      That’s what I’ve always thought, Radio? Now I know that much of SETI is scanning for incoming signals, I had it on my PC for a while, but I had to put this up;

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me6jLTR0Fto

      • BuzzCoastin

        McLuhan noted that we march into the future
        looking in a rear-view mirror
        SETI is a rear-view mirror idea

        Terrence McKenna & others
        begin to appear around the same time
        with a different idea about exploring the universe
        these new ideas are very old and predate technology
        by hundreds of thousands of years
        so obviously they’d be rejected by a technologically biased culture

      • BuzzCoastin

        McLuhan noted that we march into the future
        looking in a rear-view mirror
        SETI is a rear-view mirror idea

        Terrence McKenna & others
        begin to appear around the same time
        with a different idea about exploring the universe
        these new ideas are very old and predate technology
        by hundreds of thousands of years
        so obviously they’d be rejected by a technologically biased culture

    • Juan

      Have also had close encounters on herb, but that was years ago. For sure, more recently with ayahuasca.
      Yeah, looking with radio waves does seem a bit naive.

      • http://artasith-m-nasdsnre.tumblr.com/ Simon Valentine

        i can’t help but notice naivety and also
        others’ commenting on the brute force algorithms of mass(es)
        if brute force IS instead mass, instead of spending time connecting ideas – which IS a worthwhile practice – we may then ask to begin:
        symbolism
        combinatorics is the mediating or mitigating math
        physicality
        physics as stands is debates and stagnation, it’s equations and ideas aren’t even a drop in the bucket, let alone water compared to the sea that is
        or isn’t.
        none of it is anyway
        just crumps.
        teleportation, warp drives, are like communication or telepathy
        inevitably, even if only now that i have, someone will ask about tractability
        is it computationally feasible
        next.
        does something already exist which does it
        or
        can we build it

  • CosmicAmazing

    I always thought SETI was a front for something else. What you ask, I have no idea.

    Highly evolved intelligent entities are not going to use transverse EM waves for communication. I imagine they would use something that involves a mechanism like Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance”. Or something like Buzz is saying; higher consciousness interdimensional communication. It’s mainstream science’s materialistic view of the universe which limits their perspective on the subject.

  • Lady of the Snows

    People forget the WOW signals – and more importantly, why people forget ‘em in the first place, they’re embarassing. Faced with a genuine anomaly, its impossible to prove something is truly alien activity, it just remains unexplained evidence. That’s why its not science but something akin to UFO watchers.

    SETI did not produce useful results and is at best failed science. Even if looking is a part of science, SETI found nothing after years upon years. You can’t compare it to using predictions of known scientific facts to locate mineral resources – and finding them because the search was based in solid science to begin with.

  • ParanoidCoast

    I recommend reading Stanislaw Lem’s novel “His Master’s Voice” if one is interested in this subject. In brief, “His Master’s Voice” is the mirror image of Sagan’s “Contact.”

  • Noah_Nine

    didn’t Tesla insist he was receiving signals from extraterrestrials during his “wacky” phase….? i think i remember reading that….

21