SETI Communication Only Outward So Far
While we wait for responses, all we hear are echoes of our own intelligent signals into space.
Astronomers and biologists who yearn to find company in the universe met yesterday in Puerto Rico for a conference, Space.com reports. Titled “The Intelligence of SETI: Cognition and Communication in Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” its purpose was “to discuss the many forms alien intelligence could take.”
All the communication, though, seems one-way: outward. “Can We Talk to E.T.?” Mike Wall headlines. If we must. They are not talking to us, so far. Much of the discussion seems about our strategy for reaching out.
“Philosophical questions aside, from a pragmatic perspective, if we are to send a message, we must design it in a way that it can be understood and used by the broadest range of forms that intelligent life could take,” University of Washington biologists Dominic Sivitilli and David Gire said in a statement. “We can make substantial progress toward this goal by understanding the diversity of forms that intelligent life has taken on this planet.“
They didn’t word it with the dreaded phrase “intelligent design,” but those two words were used, and were key to the point, even if separated by other words. How is our own intelligence to be explained? One remarked that “‘exaggerated’ intelligence, as in humans, may be a rare accident of chance, as rare as a peacock’s tail.” Stuff happens. Maybe that’s why Space.com’s opening graphic shows constellations: the peacock, an octopus, and the profile of Charles Darwin, author of the Stuff Happens Law.
Fermi Paradox Again
A visionary physicist has a new way of finding the aliens. You could do this at home, with a backyard telescope, Science Daily says: just look for cosmic beacons they are sending. They must be out there, because we are just now getting good enough at photonics to send super-bright, reinforced-energy beacons of our location, and we’re not more intelligent than the aliens, are we? He suggests the possibility of SEDI, the Search for Directed Intelligence.
On second thought, Philip Lubin (UC Santa Barbara) realizes there are implications of his technological theory.
Lubin added. “Could we see each other? Can we behave as a lighthouse, or a beacon, and project our presence to some other civilization somewhere else in the universe? The profound consequences are, of course, ‘Where are they?’ Perhaps they are shy like us and do not want to be seen, or they don’t transmit in a way we can detect, or perhaps ‘they’ do not exist.”
It’s hard to believe the aliens are all shy. Humans sure are not, broadcasting messages into space with reckless abandon. Which brings us back to the old Fermi Paradox: if they are out there, and if they are so much more advanced than us, where are they? They should have made their presence known long ago.
Isn’t it ironic how the believers in SETI hate intelligent design, but find it very useful? They use intelligence to project messages, and they would certainly infer intelligent causes if they detected complex specified information from space. They know it’s possible to distinguish natural causes from intelligent causes, even when you can’t identify the designer. That’s the core principle of intelligent design.
The possibility that Earth is unique in the universe as an abode for intelligent physical beings should not be dismissed too quickly, even with quintillions of stars out there. For one, it fits the empirical evidence from SETI (i.e., complete silence). For another, humans are not obscure, being about halfway in size between subatomic particles and galaxies.* Finally, we have the Creator’s word that he formed Earth to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18-20). Nowhere did He say that He created other physical beings with souls outside of the Earth. And Earth was so special in His plan, He sent His Son to redeem the rebels that turned from Him.
That should not imply, however, that the rest of the universe is wasted space. Nothing is wasted if He creates things for His own pleasure (Revelation 4:11). We don’t know the abode of the angels, who are extremely numerous according to the Bible, with ranks and hierarchies of power. And God’s future plans for the universe, and humans within it, are only vaguely revealed. Furthermore, heaven may not be limited to the dimensions we can currently sense.
*Consider these four arguments for the unique existence of humans in a vast universe. (I, your humble commentator David Coppedge, have not found these discussed by others, so I’m going to claim priority unless shown otherwise. I’ve taught these ideas at star parties for several years.)
Why are humans so small in a vast universe?
- We appear small by necessity. Given the laws of physics that make atoms and stars possible, human beings must be smaller than rocky planets of a limited size with sufficient gravity to hold them to the planet’s surface. They must also orbit a star with the right mass and type to permit a suitable environment on that planet.
- If God had made us larger than planets and stars, we could not exist, because our mutual self-gravity would destroy us. We would become black holes, not people. We would be incapable of communicating as God intended.
- If God had made us larger than planets and stars, He could easily have extended His creation by the same amount, leaving us with the same conundrum, “Why are we so small in such a vast universe?” His purpose was to declare His glory, including His omnipotence (Psalm 19:1).
- In the spectrum of size—from subatomic particles to galaxy clusters—there is only a narrow range suitable for the existence of complex, communicating life. At the extremes, diversity decreases, but in the middle, the capacity for individuality skyrockets. Consider: stars and galaxies fall into a limited number of categories; for the most part, they are much the same, and certainly incapable of constituting intelligent beings able to communicate. Planets, being smaller, are very diverse, but they are prisoners of gravity and the vacuum of space (SETI doesn’t plan on communicating with stars or planets, but with beings roughly our size on a planet somewhere). At the other end of the size spectrum, subatomic particles and atoms can be classified on a single sheet of paper. Diversity starts climbing with molecules, but they are too prone to atomic and electrical forces to have free will. Cells are extremely diverse, and they communicate profusely, yet only over limited areas, and without sentience as far as we know. It is only at the size range we inhabit (plants and animals) where true sentient communication between intelligent beings possessing free will is physically possible. And as humans, if Philip Rubin is right, we could theoretically project signals of our presence across the whole universe.
Let me know what you think. Does this make sense? Are these arguments original? (Probably not, but I’d like to know.)