The March 29 Are We Alone program titled SETI: Now What? celebrates 50 years of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Included are interviews with current and former participants, a description of the famous Drake Equation (by Drake), and, of course, memories of Carl Sagan. It’s a great podcast.
I can never listen or read about this topic without pondering my own beliefs about the existence of sentient life existing somewhere else in the universe. My basic belief is pretty much summed up by what Ellie Arroway’s dad told her in the movie Contact when young Ellie (Sparks) asked him about life on other worlds:
I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space.
Note that I have used the word “belief.” People may believe in life on other worlds but we don’t really have any evidence yet that such life exists. And even if there are “billions and billions” of other habitable (whatever that means) planets, the possibility also exists that the occurrence probability of the incredible sequence of events we call “evolution” here on earth may also be infinitesimally small.
I certainly hope not, but “hope” and “belief” have to be balanced against facts. As discussed by the participants in this podcast, we haven’t heard anything yet.
That doesn’t mean the search isn’t worth it. But I admit that I would also like to see more attention paid to Jupiter’s moon Europa. If we were to find some sort of evolved life there under the ice I would think that would significantly increase my belief in the likelihood that intelligent life has evolved elsewhere — and that SETI may actually hear something one day.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald