Wednesday, November 02, 2005

David Brin on the failure of SETI

David read my Fermi Paradox page and noted I'd omitted a 1983 article of his. I need to add it in, but for the moment here's his reference and commentary.

David is not a fan to active SETI, though the Fermi Paradox is a bit reassuring on that count. It probably won't work, but at worst it might finish us off.
Contrary Brin: (pause) Extinction ... and avoiding it...

...John, my 1983 paper is: Quarterly Journal of Royal Astronomical Society, fall1983, v.24, pp283-309 Also see: Am.J.Physics Jan89 -Resource Letter on Extraterrestrial Civilization. (Downloadable at or (let me know if you have troubles.)

The unique feature is that it remains the ONLY scientific paper about SETI that attempts to review all ideas, instead of using zero evidence to support a single adamant theory. In 22 years, there has still not been any paper as comprehensive. I was supposed to write a book, but who has time?

The irony... the SETI crowd has become among the most cult-like and narrowminded group anywhere. Their ideology has radicalized and dogmatized to such an extent that they will drive out anyone who does not pledge faith to things like "all advanced alien races are automatically altruistic." Ooops, sorry. Using the word "alien" will also get you ejected. Along with any mention of the ten thousand sci fi gedankenexperiments about first contact.

They are now supporting "active seti"... or poking at the experiment by blaring YOOHOO! at the cosmos with radio telescopes, an utter betrayal of the pledge to passively sift the sky and listen "for as long as it takes." Needless to say, anybody outside of the cult finds this arrogant presumption appalling. But they are invulnerable to reason. If you ask for discussions before yelling into an unknown cosmic jungle, you are "paranoid".

The ability of human beings to romanticize, and turn modernist ideals into romanticism, is legendary. Marxists turned a future-oriented notion into a reactionary killing machine. The 1930s "modernist" architects became tyranical magicians, as soon as they could. What we are trying to do is very very hard and contrary to human urges. SETI is the latest sad exapmple of the fact that even scientists will avoid Citokate, unless they are either very wise... or prevented from doing so.

Our struggle is uphill...

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