May 18, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

What SETI Guru Wants to Know

Seth Shostak, a SETI advocate, has two key questions for aliens.

A frequent spokesperson for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Shostak was recently invited to be a science consultant for Hollywood’s latest cosmic battle epic, Battleship.  His interview for ended with the following: what would he ask the aliens?

First, Shostak clarified whether the question meant getting an answer back or not.  Assuming it could be a two-way conversation, he did not care so much to learn about alien science or technology.  Instead, surprisingly, he would ask something very different.   He said,

But if it ever got to a point where you could get into a conversation and ask questions, my two have always been: do you have music and do you have religion?

I wouldn’t ask about physics because we could eventually figure that out, but those two questions are things only they would know.

As for whether aliens would be friendly or hostile, Shostak shrugged and said it’s basically too late to worry, because our messages are already out there.

Yes, they have both music and religion.  Angels serve the living God and sing for joy in His presence.

Next question?

Shostak would never ask such things if he did not realize deep in his soul that music and religion make no sense in a Darwinian universe.  Somebody send him Handel’s Messiah for contemplation as he ponders the conundrum of whether aliens would send signals by intelligent design or not (12/03/2005).


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  • Ismaray777 says:

    Are you saying that angels are what people know as aliens ?

    • Editor says:

      No, not necessarily. The phrase “what people know as aliens” begs the question that anyone knows aliens exist. But how would Shostak know? He would have no way of determining the identity of the messenger. The message could be from a liar. Like in Twilight Zone, it could be a friendly-sounding book title called “How to Serve Man” that turns out to be a cookbook. It could be bad angels impersonating aliens. Shostak seems to think an alien message would be trustworthy.

      Intelligent Design does not deal with the identity of the designer, the purpose of the design, or the validity of the message. It only deals with whether the signal has an intelligent cause vs. a natural cause. The point is that if the alien did say it has religion and/or music, Shostak could not remain a consistent Darwinian and believe it. Nor could he deny that he used intelligent design methods to discern that the signal came from a mind.

      One could argue, however, that there is more evidence for angels (from history, eyewitnesses, trustworthy testimony like from Jesus Christ, etc) than there is for physical sentient beings on other planets, for which there is NO evidence–just hope. Thanks for your question, though.

  • Jon Saboe says:

    “In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.”

    Sounds pretty alien to me…

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