SETI Invites Alien Talk
They may not be saying much to us, but we can think about what to say to them – aliens, that is. Space.com reported on the latest project from the SETI Institute: invite people all over the world to ponder, “What would you say to an extraterrestrial civilization?”
The SETI Institute is launching a new website, Earth Speaks, to gather people’s ideas about what we should say to an alien civilization should contact be made. “By submitting text messages, pictures, and sounds from across the globe,” CEO Thomas Pierson explained, “people from all walks of life will contribute to a dialogue about what humanity might say to intelligent beings on other worlds.” So far it’s a monologue, but people have been recording all kinds of trivial things that might be included in our first care package – sounds of walking on stairs, rattling of bracelets, the sizzle of grilled chicken. The website opens with internet tags on a “web cloud” that will grow in size as items become popular.
A debate rages on how to respond to aliens. What if they are hostile? Should we reveal too much about ourselves? The SETI Institute is not planning to send a message – just get people talking about what they would say. Perhaps the Institute takes a default position similar to that expressed by SETI father Frank Drake, who once said we might as well try to be friendly. Indeed, friendship and hope are some of the popular themes on Earth Speaks. Pierson said, “Through Earth Speaks, the SETI Institute also hopes to foster an open and thoughtful debate about the pros and cons of sending messages to other worlds.” The report ended:
Earth Speaks is founded on the belief that first impressions matter, especially when there is no quick way to correct them – which could well be the case when your partner in conversation lives trillions of miles away. Indeed, the initial messages we send to an extraterrestrial civilization could set the tone for a conversation lasting hundreds or thousands of years. It is only fitting, then, that as we ponder how we would represent humankind to another civilization, the decision should be made by people around the world.
It’s too late to control our first impressions, though. Episodes of I Love Lucy have probably been leaking out at the speed of light for decades. Broadcast TV, the Arecibo Message, and the Voyager Records are already out there. Former president Jimmy Carter wrote to the space inhabitants on the Voyager record that “We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations.” The aliens, our friends, could be on the way in their flying saucers any time now, carrying a book, How to Serve Man.
Exercise: compare and contrast this program with pagan religion. There are powerful, unseen cosmic entities all around us. We don’t know who they are, or how powerful they are, or what they are thinking, but we must offer supplications to them to appease them. We need to let them know we wish to stay on their good side, lest they destroy us. Our shamans at the SETI Institute, who consult and peep and mutter, decide what offerings are needed. The offerings go nowhere but at least make us feel good.
These are the same people, you recall, who ridicule Christians for communicating with Someone who has communicated – and even visited, bringing a message of love, grace, and salvation. But this is different. This is Science. Now stop complaining. Go to the website and make your offering.