Home » Extraterrestrial life, Intelligent Design » Don’t defund SETI, science broadcaster pleads

Don’t defund SETI, science broadcaster pleads

bob_60x60.JPGBob McDonald, the science guy  at Canada’s government broadcaster, CBC, critiques (April 28, 2011) the spending on the Royal Wedding, contrasting it with the small amount required to keep the recently defunded, 50-year-old Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program going:

… Until recently, their efforts had been hampered by the fact that they had to beg for borrowed time on telescopes, when they weren’t being used for other research. But thanks, in part, to the generosity of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, the Institute finally got its own instrument — an array of 40 telescopes, each six metres in diameter, set in the desert 300 kilometres north of San Francisco. But building a telescope is only the first part of the story; it takes funds to operate it every year, and that’s where they’ve come up short.According to the organizers, the array needs $2 to $3 million US a year to operate continuously, and they would need an additional sum to analyze the mountains of data streaming down from the Kepler Telescope, which has found more than a thousand candidates for worlds orbiting other stars. That’s about $5 million in total, which works out to just 1.6 cents per person in the United States.

Comments especially solicited from American readers: Is SETI worth it?

Meanwhile, rube shouts in: If SETI is so important, why don’t volunteers keep it going?

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14 Responses to Don’t defund SETI, science broadcaster pleads

  1. I think they have provided valuable information: there is no intelligent life in the universe outside earth. Whether they should continue, I am not sure.

  2. Apologies for the off-topic comment-

    A formal debate has started discussing the question:

    Is Intelligent Design Anti-Evolution?

    I have taken the negative:

    Intelligent Design is NOT Anti-Evolution

    My opponent, OgreMKV, has taken the affirmative:

    ID is anti-evolution (also copied to my blog)

    As always your comments are welcome…

    As always

  3. Surely we can find a few million bucks somwehere in the money currently allocated for NPR and Planned Parenthood to route instead to SETI research.

    What are the odds that if we do discover alien intelligence that it will be raging liberal in nature?

  4. Building on Mung’s comment above:

    What are the odds of discovering alien intelligence (never mind their political bias)?

    It would seem to be extremely unlikely, given the scientific facts that we know. Of course, it’s always good to test those things, but hasn’t that been done by now? The conclusion has to be that the SETI experiment has upheld the assertion that the random occurrence of intelligent life is extremely unlikely.

    I doubt we’ll see them admit that, because it brings the obvious question: How did we get here? This leads to the obvious answer: We were put here on purpose.

    Can’t have that, can we?

  5. Peter: “I think they have provided valuable information: there is no intelligent life in the universe outside earth.”

    I believe you might have overstated the case a tad. There are over 171 billion galaxies, each with between 10 million and 100 trillion stars. If each galaxy has on average only one earth like planet, that’s over 171 billion earth like planets. It is quite possible that every galaxy contains a planet that harbors intelligent life and we would never know it.

    Now before I get attacked by those of you who have an a priori belief that this is the only planet in the known Universe harboring intelligent life, I am not claiming that my suppositions are facts, only that they are possibilities, and that, if they are true (or even fractionally true) this would imply that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the Universe, but SETI would be highly unlikely to discover it.

  6. Whether or not you believe SETI is a worthwhile use of scientific resources, the claim that SETI has done enough to validate the claim that intelligent life is extremely unlikely is to greatly overstate the work SETI programs have done so far.

    By any measure, even within our own galaxy SETI has barely even begun to scratch the surface. Perhaps it will never find anything, and perhaps Earth is the only planet in the Milky Way to harbor intelligent life, but it is way too premature (probably by centuries) to declare that SETI has proven anything, except perhaps that there isn’t anyone beating down our door with radio-wave based technology.

  7. Bruce David,

    In a designed universe I would EXPECT other inhabited planets and other compex and intelligent life-forms.

    Just sayin’…

  8. One way to make life look not designed would be to make it ubiquitous. IMO.

  9. Ahh but what if the same factors that are here are present in the other planets? Meaning “The Privileged Planet” is correct.

    Also it doesn’t need to be ubiquitous.

  10. 10

    Joseph: “In a designed universe I would EXPECT other inhabited planets and other compex and intelligent life-forms.”

    So would I. To have created a Universe with nearly 200 billion galaxies but only one planet harboring only one sentient species among all that extravagance seems a little purposeless to me, and one attribute I personally don’t believe applies to God is purposelessness.

  11. Joseph: “In a designed universe I would EXPECT other inhabited planets and other compex and intelligent life-forms.”

    So would I. To have created a Universe with nearly 200 billion galaxies but only one planet harboring only one sentient species among all that extravagance seems a little purposeless to me, and one attribute I personally don’t believe applies to God is purposelessness.

    Or the universe was designed for us, and us alone. All that space may be for us to expand into, and for decoration – a nice backdrop whilst we colonize our universe.

    Joseph, when you say:

    In a designed universe I would EXPECT other inhabited planets and other compex and intelligent life-forms.

    you are presuming to know the mind of God.
    And Bruce David:

    one attribute I personally don’t believe applies to God is purposelessness.

    An empty universe may serve a purpose that we cannot fathom.

  12. 12
    CannuckianYankee

    DrBot,

    “Or the universe was designed for us, and us alone. All that space may be for us to expand into, and for decoration – a nice backdrop whilst we colonize our universe.”

    I agree. The Earth may very well be the singularity leading to the “Big Bang” of the social universe. Great things often start off small. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  13. DrBot:

    Joseph, when you say:

    In a designed universe I would EXPECT other inhabited planets and other compex and intelligent life-forms.

    you are presuming to know the mind of God.

    Nope. Also what if I do not hold God as the designer?

  14. 14

    DrBot: “Or the universe was designed for us, and us alone. All that space may be for us to expand into, and for decoration – a nice backdrop whilst we colonize our universe.”

    It’s mathematically impossible for us to colonize the entire 171,000,000,000 galaxies within the currently accepted lifetime of the Universe, constrained as we are by the speed of light. (I expect it’s impossible even if we were not so constrained.)

    “you are presuming to know the mind of God.
    And Bruce David:

    one attribute I personally don’t believe applies to God is purposelessness.

    An empty universe may serve a purpose that we cannot fathom.”

    It’s perfectly acceptable for me to have my beliefs regarding the nature of God. I think we all do, don’t we. I’m not laying them on you; you are free to agree or disagree.

    And of course, I agree that it is quite possible that God has a purpose for an empty Universe of which I am not aware. How could I not? But in the absence of such knowledge, I reserve the right to draw my own conclusions, tentative though they may be.

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