Sunday, February 06, 2005

Active SETI Is Not Scientific Research

"An Active SETI signal much more powerful than the normal background emitted by the Earth might call us to the attention of a technological civilization that had not known of our existence. We can not assume that such a civilization would be benign, nor can we assume that interstellar flight is impossible for a species more technologically advanced than our own."

WTF? One of SETI's central tenets is that "you can't get there from here," yet this article frets over the possibility of invoking an interstellar attack. If SETI wonks are willing to entertain the idea of interstellar spaceships, then they should rightfully take scientific interest in the possibility that some UFO sightings are evidence of ET visitation . . . but somehow I don't see this happening.

The rest of this is laughably anthropocentric; it implicitly "congratulates" humanity by assuming we have something a technologically superior civilization might want (which I personally find pretty doubtful). Secondly, it assumes that a space-faring ET civilization isn't likely to know we're here unless we send them an unmistakable signal; little mention is made of the radio leakage we've been emitting for decades. Both notions are, at the very least, rather profound pats on our collective back.

And of course there's the obvious: If working up the courage to send a directed signal is "not active research," then who's to say aliens (who, according to SETI dogma, seem to think just like us in all other essential respects) don't share this viewpoint? In this case, no one in the galaxy is transmitting because everyone's waiting to receive a signal first.

So what are we listening for?