SETI: Looking for Cosmic Outposts
The stellar radio dial has been silent, but maybe we could look for alien interstellar outposts.
Astrobiology Magazine dredged up the old Pioneer plaque drawing, appropriately cropped, along with UFO artwork, to accompany a new search strategy by Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium. His strategy builds on the Fermi Paradox: if the universe is old and civilizations have been evolving, they should have found us by now.
Gillon thinks we can detect interstellar probes that alien civilizations have left to survey the cosmos, even if they were not trying to make contact with us. The idea presumes that alien civilizations would have figured out how to make self-replicating robots that could land on distant worlds and make copies of themselves out of the raw materials, then spread further, like viruses. It also presumes that they might use gravitational lensing from the stars they orbit to communicate back home.
One reason for the novel approach is the failure of traditional radio searches. “While the SETI institute has been hard at work since 1959 we haven’t chanced upon a signal yet,” the article admits. “But that doesn’t mean we’re alone or that we should stop looking.” Actually, it might mean either or both. At what point does it become vain to keep looking, though? After decades? After centuries?
The SETI project is built upon nothing but hope. “A negative result wouldn’t tell us very much,” explains Gillon. “But a positive result would represent one of the most important discoveries of all time.” It’s also built upon the supposition that the large number of extrasolar planets found by the Kepler spacecraft implies that habitable worlds like ours exist; and if they exist, life must also exist on some of them.
SETI reminds us of the logic of a joke that proves Napoleon has an infinite number of arms. The reasoning goes: (1) Napoleon was a great general. (2) Generals are forewarned. (3) Forewarned is forearmed. (4) Four is an even number. (5) Four arms is an odd number of arms for a general to have. (6) The only number that is both even and odd is infinity. (7) Therefore, Napoleon had an infinite number of arms. Some of the evolutionary assumptions behind SETI are just as absurd, like “where habitable planets exist, life will evolve.” If they want to keep searching, let them do it—just on their own dollars. It gives us another example of a science project built on the assumption of intelligent design to use against evolutionists.