Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about by Michael Michaud

By Michael Michaud

This booklet describes a wide selection of speculations by way of many authors concerning the effects for humanity of entering touch with extraterrestrial intelligence. The assumptions underlying these speculations are tested, and a few conclusions are drawn. As worthy history, the booklet additionally comprises short summaries of the heritage of considering extraterrestrial intelligence, searches for all times and for signs, contrasting paradigms of the way touch could happen, and the anomaly that these paradigms allegedly create.

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Extra info for Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials

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This optimistic model has great power, despite the fact that it remains unproven. Many of Sagan’s specific predictions may be disproved (perhaps inevitably, as he spoke on both sides of some issues). Like Lowell, he will be seen as influential even when he got the details wrong. After skeptics questioned the scientific validity of such a search, Sagan put together a pro-SETI petition in 1982, published in the letters column of the journal Science. The petition proposed that, instead of arguing about the issue, we should look: “We are unanimous in our conviction that the only significant test of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is an experimental one.

8 We may fi nd only their traces, frozen, scorched, or crushed by climatic and geological change. The question of life on Mars—past or present—remains open. Threequarters of the planetary scientists informally polled in 2005 believed that Mars once had conditions hospitable to life. One-quarter thought that it still does. 9 Finding an independent origin of biology on another world in our solar system would have momentous implications. 10 Discovering a second origin in our own small solar system would imply a fertile universe, one that might produce other minds.

However, Lowellism also showed how big ideas can stimulate thinking for generations, even when the immediate example is proven wrong. They change people’s conceptions of what may be possible. Some who rejected Lowell’s theories kept open the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, but displaced it to interstellar distances. W. Campbell spoke in 1920 of “other stellar systems . . ”63 Meanwhile, another profound change in our view of the universe was taking place. 64 The cosmos was not just a neutral background; it was potentially threatening.

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