SETI and the Search for Alien Life

In the future, a time may come when humans fulfil what is perhaps their greatest goal of all – the desire to communicate with alien life. However, it’s important to ask whether we are mentally resilient enough to handle such an event, if it ever does occur. As Science Daily is keen to discuss, ‘Are we ready to talk to extra-terrestrial life yet?’

For many decades, scientists and researchers have been monitoring possible sources of alien communication. They have also been sending messages, from Earth, containing details about our planet and location. While seemingly improbable right now, these scientists have dedicated their life to such work for a reason. And, if they succeed, we’re going to need to be fearless in our exploration of all that this could mean for human beings.

SETI Institute
SETI Institute Logo

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) scheme is a project that was first launched in the seventies. It was set up and sponsored by NASA. The experts working on this project have, for a long time, been sending messages from Earth, in the hopes that they will be intercepted by lifeforms intelligent enough to interpret them.

The problem is that some of the most respected astrophysicists in the world (Professor Stephen Hawking included) are very worried about what this might entail. They believe that the project is fraught with risk, because it could encourage a meeting with a civilisation far in advance of our own. And, there is simply no way to know whether it would be friendly.

For neuropsychologist Gabriel de la Torre, the social and ethical consequences of such an event are of great importance. His work explores the moral implications of choosing to communicate with an alien lifeform, on behalf of a whole world full of people. Torre actually believes that human beings are not ready to meet extra-terrestrials. According to this specialist, we just don’t have the knowledge and awareness to handle such a huge event.

A study published in the scientific journal, Acta Astronautica, investigates the psycho-educational implications of communication with alien life. This work is a little more complex than it first sounds, because the researchers have been discussing the potential for a new kind of cosmic consciousness. They believe that, in many ways, religion is holding human beings back from being fully prepared to meet extra-terrestrial life.

Search for Alien Life
Search for Alien Life

In other words, people are too quick to use conventional concepts of morality as a way to judge the appropriateness of alien contact. Is it useful, for example, that we are so prone to thinking of alien life as either ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ when these are concepts that we have created for ourselves? Do they have any place in the discourse about extra-terrestrial contact or are they holding us back from the bigger picture?

Only time will tell whether these very human issues will hurt or harm our quest to discover alien life. Or, whether alien life will be so far advanced that contact will be very different to the way we have imagined it, countless times, in science fiction novels and movies.