TO: Hal on "SETI: A New Vision..."

Robert Owen (
Sun, 03 Oct 1999 20:32:10 -0400 wrote:

> Robert Owen, <>, forwards a proposal from Allen
> Tough for SETI:
> > Any extraterrestrial intelligence that we detect is likely to be far ahead
> > of us in knowledge and technology, perhaps 100,000 years or more.

> > This means that we should vigorously pursue and support these three
> > promising strategies for detecting near-Earth ETI:
> >
> > (1) implement several of the eight ways of searching for
> > physical evidence of an alien object in the solar system
> > or even on our planet;

> The problem with number 1 is that there are plenty of people who will
> claim that such evidence already exists, in the form of UFO reports,
> alien abductions, mysterious artifacts, construction of the pyramids, etc.
> All the vast literature of pseudoscience will be brought into the fray.
> Enthusiasts of all stripes will all come out of the woodwork, and the
> noise will overwhelm any signal that might be there. Maybe some fraction
> of UFO reports really are aliens; maybe some ancient artificats were
> built with their help. But I don't think our investigative methodologies
> are up to the task of producing a satisfactory or convincing affirmative
> answer from the kind of data that is available.

Agreed. It is simply unfortunate that the scientific investigation of anomalous terrestrial and intrasolar phenomena must, at this time, occur in a social context of superstition, scientific illiteracy, and a mindless will-to-believe associated with the decline of theological credibility. The problem, it seems to me, is not the absence of an appropriate experimental methodology, but how to isolate it from mass ignorance.

> This leads to number 5, the classical approach of looking for beamed
> or leaked signals. This really only makes sense if there are obstacles
> which make interstellar travel infeasible. We can't rule this out, but
> from what we understand it should be possible to travel to the stars,
> although it may not be easy.

Again, I agree that optical and radio scans must be considered only a temporary expedient (with the possible exception of the placement of detection devices on the dark side of the moon). Dr. Tough, in fact, isn't entirely convinced of the ultimate effectiveness of RA SETI or OSETI.

> Ultimately, it seems that there are three possibilities. Either there
> are no (advanced) aliens, in which case SETI is not going to work.
> Or there are aliens and they are trying to talk to us, in which case we
> have to wonder why SETI hasn't worked yet. Or, third, there are aliens
> and they are avoiding talking to us, in which case SETI is likely not
> to work until they want to talk. All in all it doesn't look like a very
> good bet at this point.

Not a good bet, but what other technological alternative to we have at this time, assuming that we did not choose to search, rather the search chose us. The motivating curiosity is not going to go away, and never has, despite the lack of positive reinforcement.

Best wishes,


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA