RE: extraterrestrial intelligence

Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 14:09:09 -0400

Tim responded to my comments:

> 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.
Not particularly

> > 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.
I would think that God created the universe for His glory, not just for
"only one inhabited planet" which I would see as a rather anthropocentric
point of view. I don't think that SETI work is intended to prove or
disprove the existence of God (Yuri Gargarin's comment that he didn't see
God during his first space flight notwithstanding). I do get a sense, as I
mentioned earlier, that for some people, finding other intelligent beings
would be a comforting thought.

> 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.
Agreed, but it does raise all sorts of interesting theological questions:
these ETs would have been created by God and would, presumably, have been
created "without sin." Would these ETs also be "under the curse" and, if
so, how did they get there and would they need Christ's sacrifice? Would
Jesus then simultaneously have taken on an ET form? If they are not under
the curse, would they be "without sin?" Are these questions relevant?

> > 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.
Assuming that information cannot be transmitted at speeds greater
than the speed of light, information exchange would probably take a long
time, sort of Moses posing a question and John Calvin getting an answer
without knowing what the question was in the first place. A celestial
"Jeopardy?" This is difficult to imagine.

> > 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 vote "yes".
Don't know. Maybe they can be swayed by the Carl Sagans in this world.

> 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.
Would they even believe it that these were actually radio messages?
Unbelief cuts both ways. BTW, how strong would a signal from a distant
planet have to be to be detected on earth? I would think that the signal
strength falls off with the cube of the distance.

Chuck Vandergraaf