Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"The emperors of SETI have no clothes."

It is a headline that seems more and more frequent these days in the Science section of the news.

"Newfound Planet a Top Contender to Host Life."

The distant planet of Gliese 163c orbits what a handful of scientists term as "the Goldilocks Zone," meaning of course that it's not too hot and not too cold.  More importantly, liquid water can exist in such a zone.  I've lost count, but there are at least a handful of discovered extra-solar planets that inhabit such a Goldlilocks Zone.  One article I read far earlier this year claimed that SETI scientists are hurriedly pointing their dishes at these new discoveries.

Talk like this always reminds me of how many assumptions we make.

How can we use Earth temperatures as a guide to how life can or cannot survive?  Yes, yes, I know that we don't exactly have a whole lot else to go on, but that doesn't make it correct.  Could there not be multiple Goldilocks Zones?  Could not life evolve to survive in climates far different from our own?  I'll go you one better, isn't there at least the possibility that there are lifeforms that do not require water?

But the best method of seeking out life is still SETI.  At least in the scientific community and public perception.  The Powers That Be at SETI, believing themselves possessed of privity, make their share of assumptions as well.  The distances between stars are extraordinarily vast and we have no idea how to traverse them.  Ergo, other intelligent life must have determined this as well and if they're looking for other civilizations, then they must do so by signalling.  So let's just listen.

The research of Ufologists is heavily scrutinized and with good reason.  One of the leading complaints (as fallacious as it might be) against the notion of extraterrestrial visitation is that "there just isn't any evidence." Well, where is the evidence that SETI is a "best practice?"

This question is being voiced more and more openly.  Stanton Friedman once made this assertion about SETI:

 "Although SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been
getting a free ride from the popular press and the scientific community,
a closer examination of its assumptions (there is no evidence to
examine) clearly indicates it is basically a cult movement with the
acronym really standing for Silly Effort To Investigate. Ufology
traditionally gets a very hard time from the press and the scientific
community, but, in contrast with SETI, has facts and data that lead
directly to the conclusion that some UFOs are alien spacecraft and that
there is a Cosmic Watergate. It is useful to note the contrasting
underlying assumptions of SETI and ufology. Unfortunately, it appears
that SETI proponents are totally unwilling to review the UFO evidence
and are suffering from the Crown of Creation Syndrome. Our current
methods of long distance communication and travel seem to them to be in
the forefront of those of all life in the galaxy despite the fact that
we have only had advanced flight, electronics, and nuclear technologies
for roughly a century and that there are sun-like stars just down the
street which are a billion years older than the sun. It is time to
realize that the emperors of SETI have no clothes."

Wow, SETI as a "cult movement?" I've never thought about it that way, but now that you mention it...

Dr. Michio Kaku has also been critical of SETI:

 "We could be in the middle of an intergalactic conversation, and we wouldn't even know."

In another interview, Kaku discusses just how slight and insignificant the sample is that SETI is able to scan.  The officials at SETI acknowledge this freely.  Kaku, however, is exactly right in that the danger in this that "scientists sometimes judge alien technology based on what we can do." This can even alter public opinion.  "Those SETI guys have scanned the universe and not heard a peep.  There must be no such thing as aliens.  Therefore, all UFO reports are junk."

I'm going to stop here before a reader might get the impression that I'm anti-SETI.  I'm not opposed to it per se; listening is fine.  At one point, I even participated in SETI@Home.  My issue is that SETI is often viewed, especially by its leaders, as the one and only way to go about this investigation.

In other news, I tried the Snickers 3X Chocolate bar.  Not a big deal.  I found very little that would distinguish it from a regular Snickers.  In the end, chocolate nougat doesn't seem to taste that much apart from the regular kind.

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