Is the search for extraterrestrial life a real danger? | Belicons

Is the search for extraterrestrial life a real danger?

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Thursday 6 April 2017

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Is the search for extraterrestrial life a real danger?

This week I heard of a subject that on the one hand sounds funny but is seriously on the other. That is the dispute about the search for extraterrestrial life. There are two groups: SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and METI (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). These organizations work in different ways. SETI is are just sending signals and wait until they find life in space. But METI is really sending messages to ‘aliens’ in order to tell them that we want to contact them.

But there is disagreement between these groups. John Gertz, member of the board of trustees of SETI, argues that the search for life is okay, but trying to contact them is a step too far, according to him. We don’t know anything about extraterrestrial life. What if they are evil? They might come here and attack us! For that reason he calls for regulations concerning the search for life.

This raises the question whether this isn’t carried far beyond the normal. If people like to search for aliens as a hobby that is fine. But if this search becomes bigger and people even start to call for laws, then it goes too far according to my opinion.

Why is John Gertz so worried?

According to Gertz we should assume that extraterrestrial life does exist and that their technology is far more advanced than ours. The reason for this is that we are just starting to discover technology. Take a look at the Romans. A modern army would easily crush them and we are only 2000 years ahead of them. And realizing that their technology is more advanced than ours is important for we don’t know whether they are good or evil.

At this moment there are no rules at all about the attempt to contact extraterrestrial life. Everybody who wants it and is able to can try it, Kim Jong Un, IS, etc. And he doesn’t like that idea. Therefore, he calls for regulation.

He gives 5 reasons for this:

  1. A few years ago SETI consisted of a few enthusiastic people. But now much more money is being donated and thus they become capable to achieve much more. The chance that they will find extraterrestrial life has increased a lot.
  2. Since we are sending signals for about 100 years now, societies within the reach of 100 light years could have noticed us about now.
  3. It could even be that there is extraterrestrial life in our solar system that we haven’t discovered yet. If they discover that there is life on earth that is technological now, then they can decide to send messages to the earth or even come here.
  4. What if China finds extraterrestrial life earlier than the rest of the world? Would they tell us? And if not, what are the consequences of that?
  5. Many well-known people, like Stephen Hawking, have signed the petition against METI since their work could become catastrophic. Despite this many people are still tying to contact extraterrestrial life. According to him it’s no science, but a policy.
     

Peiling: Er moeten regels en wetten komen rond de zoektocht naar buitenaards leven

Peiling: Er moeten regels en wetten komen rond de zoektocht naar buitenaards leven

Lees de blog bij deze peiling https://www.belicons.nl/nl/blog/METI

Poll: We need regulations and laws concerning the search for extraterrestrial life

Poll: We need regulations and laws concerning the search for extraterrestrial life

Read the blog that goes with this poll https://www.belicons.nl/en/blog/meti

Body 2: 

Is this science fiction?

An opinion like this probably sounds like science fiction in which just a few people believe. But I have to admit, it’s more than that. In the last few centuries we have made a lot of progress in our technology and because of that we are, among other things, amazed about what is outside of the earth. It turned out that the earth isn’t the centre of the solar system, but the sun. And that there is more than just our solar system, there is a whole universe of which we don’t know yet how big it is, whether it has an ending, and if so, what is behind that.

Many discoveries that have amazed us and raise a lot of new questions. One of these questions is whether there are other civilizations in the universe. And if so, we of course would like to know that and thus people start to search for them. And now there is controversy about that. Some don’t only want to find those other civilizations, but also try to contact them. And clearly not everybody is happy about that idea.

And I can imagine that. Almost all countries have an army so that they are able to defend themselves. But we have no idea what is in the universe but we have not thought about how to defend ourselves over against them.

Is he right?

So I can understand that he is worried about this. But that doesn’t mean that I share his ideas. In order to understand this it is important to see all the presuppositions that one needs to believe in before one can regard the attempt to contact extraterrestrial life a possible treat.

A few examples of such presuppositions:

  • Extraterrestrial life does exist
  • This extraterrestrial life can receive our signals
  • This extraterrestrial life can understand our signals
  • This extraterrestrial life is evil
  • This extraterrestrial life wants to be in contact with us
  • This extraterrestrial life is close enough to be able to reach us
  • This extraterrestrial life won’t find us if we don’t tell them we’re here.
  • Fill out additional presuppositions...

If one considers all that than one sees that the possibility that extraterrestrial life will really become a treat to us is very very small. Just a few of these presuppositions can turn out not to be true and we probably will never get into trouble because of extraterrestrial life.

Nevertheless, one could say that even when the change is small, it is important to take measures in advance anyway. But in this case, I wonder whether that is true.

What is our responsibility?

Gertz feels responsible for the whole of humanity. We need to defend ourselves over against an possible enemy that we don’t know. But I feel a very different responsibility for humanity. Many things are going wrong on this planet. Think about the hunger in Africa, the war in Syria, the dictatorship in North-Korea. And think of smaller things of people who live in poverty, elderly people in nursing homes with not enough staff, etc. We have a responsibility too to help these people.

Unfortunately we cannot help everyone at the same time. We have just a certain amount of means and a certain amount of money. If we help one person, we cannot help the other. In that case, how important is it really to spend money on searching for a civilization in the universe that may not want to be in contact with us, who might be able to teach us what peace really is, and that may not even exist? We are sure that all problems that I just mentioned do exist. Therefore, I think that it is better to spend our time, means and money on those problems.

Because of all this, I think that both METI and SETI should also stop looking for extraterrestrial life, for the chance that we will ever take advantages of that research is far too small. Let’s first take responsibility for the problems of which we know for certain that they do exist first.

What do you think? Should we take the danger of extraterrestrial life seriously after all? Or do you regard this as nonsense? Share your opinion, below, or on the forum!

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