You wrote [about why people may have an interest in SETI]
> I suspect it is more than being curious.
Yes. I'll agree that there must be many other motivations, in
addition to curiosity.
Are you curious? I am.
> My gut feeling is that this search for extraterrestrial
> intelligence is driven by an anxiety and a fear that it may
> "just be them" and ... God.
I hope you're not thinking that SETI work is simply a means for
sustaining disbelief in God (I'm not picking up this feeling
from your posts, but from previous comments from others on this
topic). Because that doesn't say much for SETI supporters who
are deists and theists (& probably a few "token" Christians).
Among the religious folk, I think part of the drive may be the
sentiment that it would seem a bit peculiar to create such a
large universe for only one inhabited planet. I think there
are a mix of people with different reasons for supporting
SETI. For some, your characterization may be spot-on; for
others, off by a mile. One thing all share is a curiosity about
what is outside our immediate solar system.
The existence/nonexistence of ET's says nothing about the
existence/nonexistence of God. I know there are people who
would like to think so but, well, there're simply wrong. I think
the only people who can claim to have something to lose in the
matter are those who hold the religious belief that God didn't
create intelligent beings on other planets. But I haven't seen
many of these folks.
> Instead, if there were extraterrestrial intelligence (hopefully
> emanating by something they can reasonably well identify with,
> like a vaguely human-looking entity such as E.T.)
That would be cool! But unlikely. Further, any exchange of
information would probably take centuries, so the hopes for
immediate technical advancement will likely be dashed.
> If this were just a curiosity, how could the proponents of this
> search be able to convince government agencies to spend vast
> amounts of money on this sort of thing?
How did they get the government to spend money on COBE? They
were curious about what happened billions of years ago. Getting
back to deist and theist support for SETI... Are government
agencies (and the officers of the government) which support this
project (with relatively little money*) run mostly by doubting
atheists that are trying to reinforce their quivering beliefs,
or are there a couple religious people mixed in there that
IMO, I would be a pity if we got an extraterrestrial radio
message and all the religious people of the world had to
learn about it second-hand, because they weren't interested
enough to bother monitoring.
> Chuck Vandergraaf (out on a bit of a limb here)
Nothing to be shy about; nobody but primates here.
firstname.lastname@example.org (despam address before use)
*[SETI is run on a shoestring. There is even a SETI project
being put together by amateurs who are buying old satellite TV
dishes, hooking them up to amateur radio receivers and
playing the signals through sound-blaster PC cards to process
the data. http://seti1.setileague.org/hardware/blkdiag.htm]