Of Faith and Facts: Is SETI Religion?

By Guest Author David Darling
Astronomer & science writer

Is SETI - the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - a religion? This is one of the topics that Jill Tarter, Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and I discussed on Are We Alone?, the SETI Institute’s weekly radio program on Wednesday May 17, 2006.

The discussion by Jill and I was in response to a claim made by George Basalla (professor emeritus of history at the University of Delaware) in his book Civilized Life in the Universe (Oxford University Press: 2006) that SETI is more of a faith-based enterprise than a genuine science. He points to SETI’s failure to make “contact” after more than forty years of trying and its continuing efforts in the absence of any positive evidence as a sign that it relies more on a kind of religious zeal than anything else. (Incidentally, Basalla was invited to appear on the show but declined.)

SETI researchers know their limitations. They’re restricted at present to searching for radio and optical signals - our own best, fastest means of getting messages across interstellar distance. Who knows what our galactic elders, if they exist, may be using to communicate with? We have no idea what is out there or what forms alien intelligence may take. We are, as Seth Shostak pointed out during the radio interview, like Columbus sailing into uncharted waters. We don’t know what we’ll find. But the quest is extraordinary, exciting, abundantly worthwhile, and true to the methodology and spirit of science.

The Full Story can be found here

Of Faith and Facts: Is SETI Religion?

Sir Ulli

edit: i had something cool to say but got to angry and offtopic to post…

/me shakes fist instead!

So… the universe is billions of years old and someone expects that we should find a signal within a mere 40 years… apparently someone doesn’t really understand the science and the scope of the project. Ignorance because you lack the education to understand the science is understandable. To go public with that ignorance is moronic.

But he’s a professor of history. He probably thinks bronze is cutting edge…