Friday, July 26, 2013

Why Search?

In an earlier post, I argued that the current SETI program is not a silly waste of time if we want to search for ET and answer the question of whether we are alone, and I stand by that.  At the time I wrote that post, I didn't think that anyone would be interested in the why question. Of course we want to search, the only question is how, isn't it?  Maybe not for everyone.

All you have to do is to look at people like Frank Drake, Jill Tarter and Seth Shostak, who have
SETI Pioneer Frank Drake
devoted most of the careers to this topic, and you will realize that is is emotionally involving at a personal level, and not just "scientifically interesting".  It isn't purely a matter of scientific curiosity, and certainly not of ambitious scientific careering. 

Well, of course, the small number of people who study a topic are interested in it, and probably find it fascinating in some way.  What about everyone else?

So here is a question to ask yourself: if it was announced tomorrow that science knew for certain that there was another intelligent civilization in this galaxy, what would change for you?  Most adults are highly accomplished at keeping their own little worlds unperturbed.  Would the announcement of a distant ET civilization affect any major decisions you might make about your own life - your job, relationships, where you live, how many children you have, or any religious beliefs you might have?  Probably not you, but the younger generation, yes, because adolescents have left behind the comforts of childhood, and have yet to build their little worlds.  They don't mind being perturbed, and will often volunteer do some perturbing.  With announcement that we know about ET, their worlds just got much, much bigger.

Now it's not just Earthlings alone in the vast, cold universe anymore.  There are the others, possibly many others.  The universe no longer belongs solely to the astronomers, but is now alive, and belongs to everyone.