Tom Bethell reflects on ET’s no-show, and what it means for popular culture
|November 9, 2011||Posted by News under Extraterrestrial life, News|
They never write, They never phone …
A week doesn’t go by without the announcement of new planets. “Week Brings Hail of Planets” was just the most recent report. It capped a week of “new findings about worlds beyond our own solar system,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The latest marvel, 200 light years distant from Earth, has two suns. The reporter quoted John Knoll of Industrial Light & Magic as saying that this shows “science is stranger than fiction.” Actually, science fiction started this whole ball rolling, but that’s another story.
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has gone on for more than 50 years. In 1960 Frank Drake, a Cornell University astronomer, cobbled together the Drake Equation, supposedly quantifying the likelihood that intelligent life started up on its own. Nothing has yet been found and the search is getting harder to fund. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen put up some money which was used to build the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, but now it is “in hibernation.” The University of California was supposed to operate the array, but they’re broke too. Government money has dried up. Three years ago I tried to visit the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and, on a Wednesday, found the place locked up at midday. A night watchman came to the door. “Closed,” he said.
In the absence of aliens, the mood has turned to the much cheaper method of conjuring the possibilities from billions of billions of planets, using a current sample size of … one.
… Yet if SETI draws a blank, as I believe it will, we may have to confront the idea that we are the only intelligent life in the Cosmos. We could hardly be more unique than that. Maybe God put us here alone amidst all those planets, stars, and galaxies — a nightmarish thought for our modern atheists.
But surely they will just turn that into an Atheist-Message-of-the-Day too, Tom? When was atheism ever confuted by mere facts?
But still, what’s better for them for now is: THEY just gotta be Out There!!
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