SETI: When is enough enough?

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:26 pm

Austin Harper wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:12 pm
I'm sure there are people who think the Skeptics society is a waste of money. I guess we should shut this forum down.
Skeptics aren't shy about exposing scams where people lose their money, even if we don't have the power to shut them down. I wish all the SETI donors the best of luck, even though I don't think much of their chances for finding an intelligent signal after all these years.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Austin Harper » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:32 pm

SETI isn't doing a scam. They're doing exactly what they said they would.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:36 pm

Austin Harper wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:32 pm
SETI isn't doing a scam. They're doing exactly what they said they would.
Except for finding an intelligent signal despite spending vast sums of money. If I were getting my paycheck from donations, I'd be making an effort to change my methodology after decades of no results. Eventually, in good conscience, I'd be recommending an end to the program.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:39 pm

landrew wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:26 pm
, even though I don't think much of their chances for finding an intelligent signal after all these years.
The same has been said about Skepticforum.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:42 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:39 pm
landrew wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:26 pm
, even though I don't think much of their chances for finding an intelligent signal after all these years.
The same has been said about Skepticforum.
Are skeptics allowed to criticize themselves?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Austin Harper » Wed Dec 12, 2018 7:06 pm

If you don't like the way SETI spends its money, don't donate to them. Why are you so bent out of shape by people spending their money in ways you don't like? Your whole objection to this program and Mars exploration seems to be based on your belief that's it's not money well spent.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Wed Dec 12, 2018 7:11 pm

Austin Harper wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 7:06 pm
If you don't like the way SETI spends its money, don't donate to them. Why are you so bent out of shape by people spending their money in ways you don't like? Your whole objection to this program and Mars exploration seems to be based on your belief that's it's not money well spent.
Because as skeptics, we call it as we see it. They don't have to listen to me and neither do you, but that's my opinion.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gord » Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:45 am

landrew wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:36 pm
Austin Harper wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 6:32 pm
SETI isn't doing a scam. They're doing exactly what they said they would.
Except for finding an intelligent signal despite spending vast sums of money.
SETI never said they would find an intelligent signal, they said they would look for such things.
If I were getting my paycheck from donations, I'd be making an effort to change my methodology after decades of no results. Eventually, in good conscience, I'd be recommending an end to the program.
SETI has changed its methodology multiple times. It has upgraded its equipment, upgraded its methods of sorting the data, and expanded to other ways of searching. The search field is vast and they have only scratched the surface, which is something that has always been known. It's an ongoing search.

https://www.seti.org/faq#ata4
Why do SETI at all?

There are many reasons, including such practical considerations as the technological spinoff. But SETI research is first and foremost pursued because it is designed to answer questions that previous generations could only ask. How do we fit into the biological scheme of the cosmos? Is intelligent life a rare event or a common one in the universe? Can technological civilizations last for long periods of time, or do they inevitably self-destruct or die out for some other reason?

If we could understand any signal that we detect, there’s always the possibility that it would contain enormously valuable knowledge. It’s likely that any civilization we discover will be far more advanced than ours and might help us to join a galactic network of intelligent beings. But even if we detect a signal without being able to understand it, that would still tell us that we are not unique in the cosmos. The effect on society might be as profound and long lasting as when Copernicus displaced the Earth from the center of our universe.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Thu Dec 13, 2018 6:47 pm

Because I tend to believe the Rare Earth Hypothesis, I consider it probable that SETI will never find any signs of alien life. But despite this, I know I could be wrong, and it is therefore very wise to run what checks we can. This means research, and that is what SETI is doing. I think they will fail, but I support the need to do the research.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Upton_O_Goode » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:22 pm

landrew wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:30 pm
Lance Kennedy wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:13 pm
I consider it unlikely that S.E.T.I. will achieve its goal. That is because I tend to support the rare Earth hypothesis. However, I have been wrong before and I support the research effort.
Even a rare earth could number in the thousands or millions.
I doubt we're rare for a variety of reasons:
Extremophiles can adapt to almost any environment.
We are discovering hundreds of earth-like planets with Kepler.
The universe is older than our solar system, and life has had more time to develop.
Our understanding for what i takes for life to develop is extremely limited.
The big problem, I think, is the extreme AGE of the universe. We don't know how often technological civilizations can survive. It may be that such civilizations self-destruct in a cosmic instant. (Which is the length of time we've had any way to modify the electromagnetic spectrum in our neighborhood.) The second big problem is the second law of thermodynamics, which has a way of causing information to get lost in any system over time (like my desk, for example). A blip here, a blip there, and by the time a radio message reaches Proxima Centauri, it's all blips...

What I'm saying is that there may be---probably have been---trillions of civilizations in the Universe (I don't believe in the Rare Earth hypothesis). But it's overwhelmingly likely that any particular one was extinct before the Cambrian Explosion happened on earth, or won't come into existence until the Sun becomes a red giant and swallows the earth. We've had at most 10,000 years of civilization on earth and only 125 years of the ability to create radio signals. What is that in the 14,000,000,000-year span of the life of the universe? You could put over 100 million of those time spans into the lifetime of the universe without any overlap.
Last edited by Upton_O_Goode on Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:25 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 6:47 pm
Because I tend to believe the Rare Earth Hypothesis, I consider it probable that SETI will never find any signs of alien life. But despite this, I know I could be wrong, and it is therefore very wise to run what checks we can. This means research, and that is what SETI is doing. I think they will fail, but I support the need to do the research.
I agree with you, even though I favor a "less rare" earth hypothesis; I believe the outcome is unlikely because I believe radio communication itself is rare. It's not very efficient either over long distances, and it's likely that something else may replace it soon. At any rate, I think we're asking a lot to expect to connect with another civilization many light-years away using radio. I believe the video summed it up best as: "Two civilizations shouting briefly at each other in random directions at random times."
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:50 pm

Upton_O_Goode wrote:
Thu Dec 13, 2018 7:22 pm
landrew wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:30 pm
Lance Kennedy wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:13 pm
I consider it unlikely that S.E.T.I. will achieve its goal. That is because I tend to support the rare Earth hypothesis. However, I have been wrong before and I support the research effort.
Even a rare earth could number in the thousands or millions.
I doubt we're rare for a variety of reasons:
Extremophiles can adapt to almost any environment.
We are discovering hundreds of earth-like planets with Kepler.
The universe is older than our solar system, and life has had more time to develop.
Our understanding for what i takes for life to develop is extremely limited.
The big problem, I think, is the extreme AGE of the universe. We don't know how often technological civilizations can survive. It may be that such civilizations self-destruct in a cosmic instant. (Which is the length of time we've had any way to modify the electromagnetic spectrum in our neighborhood.) The second big problem is the second law of thermodynamics, which has a way of causing information to get lost in any system over time (like my desk, for example). A blip here, a blip there, and by the time a radio message reaches Proxima Centauri, it's all blips...

What I'm saying is that there may be---probably have been---trillions of civilizations in the Universe (I don't believe in the Rare Earth hypothesis). But it's overwhelmingly likely that any particular one was extinct before the Cambrian Explosion happened on earth, or won't come into existence until the Sun becomes a red giant and swallows the earth. We've had at most 10,000 years of civilization on earth and only 125 years of the ability to create radio signals. What is that in the 14,000,000,000-year span of the life of the universe? You could put over 100 million of those time spans into the lifetime of the universe without any overlap.
First generation stars had no metals at all. it was their death throes which produced the elements above H and He. Second generation stars were still very poor in the higher elements. it takes a supernova to make elements with atomic numbers higher than iron. So, maybe 7 billion years, for life to form and evolve in environments in which a civilization is possible. Given the billions of years it took to go from simple prokaryotes to multicelled eukaryotes, there has probably not been more that 2 or 3 billion years during which civilizations could develop.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:46 am

Upton

You made a very good point about the extreme age of the universe, and that must be borne in mind in any discussion like this.

I do not necessarily agree with you about the idea that any civilization must die off quickly. There are enough stars in our galaxy that, if the Rare Earth Hypothesis is wrong, the total number of alien civilisations developing will be a very large number. If we imagine that, for example, one in a million star systems spawns an alien civilization, that is 100,000 of them. For each and every one to die off quickly is just too big a stretch.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Upton_O_Goode » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:36 pm

Thanks, Lance and Oleg. I'm still a supporter of SETI. Oleg's remark about first- and second-generation stars raises a point I hadn't thought of, and it does reduce the effectiveness of my argument based on the age of the universe.

As for the death of civilizations, I admit I have only one sample to base any conclusions on. But general principles suggest that intelligence would not evolve in the absence of a competitive struggle for survival, and that would make aggressiveness a nearly inevitable component of the "winner" in the struggle. (I'm assuming intelligence is the super weapon that triumphs, although the dinosaurs thought otherwise, and absent one large asteroid, they might still be the winners.)
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:00 pm

I'm inclined to believe that the vast majority of the progress of evolution of life was accomplished before cells became multicellular. I don't think 3 billion years is a lot of time for this to occur. After all, most single-celled organisms reproduce asexually, therefore the evolution was much slower without recombination of DNA. This is another reason that persuades me that it takes a very long time for intelligent life to develop, if at all. Because heavier elements didn't appear in our universe until several billion years had passed, we may be at the forefront of evolution, therefore relatively alone in the universe. Something that bears thinking about.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:24 pm

Upton

On the death of civilizations or species.
Here on Earth, it is estimated that the average life of a species is one million years. Of course, that does not mean they die off after that time. Many will evolve into new and possibly more advanced new species.

I have seen no convincing argument that this would be any different for alien intelligences. If one in a million star systems develops an alien civilisation, that is 100,000 of them. If they survive a million years on average, then our galaxy will be swarming with alien intelligence. Obviously, it is not.

I do not believe they would all kill themselves off. 100,000 different species would have an enormous range of variability, one to another. Some would not have the kill off defect. So the reason the galaxy is mot swarming with aliens must be something different.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:17 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:24 pm
I have seen no convincing argument that this would be any different for alien intelligences. If one in a million star systems develops an alien civilisation, that is 100,000 of them. If they survive a million years on average, then our galaxy will be swarming with alien intelligence. Obviously, it is not.
Actually, there's no argument at all, because we have only us to go by. Error of Small Samples strikes again.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:24 pm

According to some geneticists, our species has only about 125,000 years left before we go extinct due to degeneration of the Y chromosome. Fortunately, I believe our science will conquer this problem long before it happens. However, the same may not be true for other advanced civilizations who may have other abnormalities of which they are either unaware, or lack the science to mitigate. More evidence for rarity of advanced civilizations.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Fri Dec 14, 2018 9:10 pm

That just means that the Klingons should be portrayed as Amazons. Woot!
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:20 pm

Weren't the Klingons actually reptilians? Where's Gorgeous?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Rob Lister » Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:35 pm

landrew wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:24 pm
According to some one geneticists, ...
Not that it matters. Hell, the A.I. Singularity is going to kill us off way before that.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:00 pm

Rob Lister wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:35 pm
landrew wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:24 pm
According to some one geneticists, ...
Not that it matters. Hell, the A.I. Singularity is going to kill us off way before that.
Runaway global warming is our best defence. Look how well it worked on Venus!
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Mon Dec 17, 2018 5:43 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 10:00 pm
Rob Lister wrote:
Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:35 pm
landrew wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 8:24 pm
According to some one geneticists, ...
Not that it matters. Hell, the A.I. Singularity is going to kill us off way before that.
Runaway global warming is our best defence. Look how well it worked on Venus!
When you think of all the frozen hydrates on the ocean floor, and all the methane tied up in the permafrost, a runaway greenhouse effect seems less far-fetched.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gord » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:37 am

"Knowledge grows through infinite timelessness" -- the random fictional Deepak Chopra quote site
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:07 am

Ed Zachery.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:54 pm

Upton_O_Goode wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:36 pm
Thanks, Lance and Oleg. I'm still a supporter of SETI. Oleg's remark about first- and second-generation stars raises a point I hadn't thought of, and it does reduce the effectiveness of my argument based on the age of the universe.

As for the death of civilizations, I admit I have only one sample to base any conclusions on. But general principles suggest that intelligence would not evolve in the absence of a competitive struggle for survival, and that would make aggressiveness a nearly inevitable component of the "winner" in the struggle. (I'm assuming intelligence is the super weapon that triumphs, although the dinosaurs thought otherwise, and absent one large asteroid, they might still be the winners.)
The bonobo. Aggressive with OTHER species, getting it on within the tribe. But...competition to mate does seem the very general rule. Contra: General principles would suggest that if a species is intelligent enough not to {!#%@} in their drinking water, they may overcome their inherent competitiveness as well. Lots of different ways to meet the challenge. I like those sneaking males that act like females.........and BANG!!!!!! when the silverback has his back turned............or was that frogs?
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by mack_10 » Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:45 pm

The cost of the Hubble telescope $1.5 billion
The cost of the Large Hadron Collider $13.25 billion
The cost of the International space station $150 billion

annual cost of SETI $2.5 million (that's million with an "m")
The Hubble found exoplanets and takes very nice picture
I have no idea what we have got from the LHC that was worth $13.25 billion
I have no idea what we have got from the ISS that was worth $150 billion
I say let SETI run, the cost is comparatively small and the potential gain is enlightenment

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:47 pm

mack_10 wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 3:45 pm
The cost of the Hubble telescope $1.5 billion
The cost of the Large Hadron Collider $13.25 billion
The cost of the International space station $150 billion

annual cost of SETI $2.5 million (that's million with an "m")
The Hubble found exoplanets and takes very nice picture
I have no idea what we have got from the LHC that was worth $13.25 billion
I have no idea what we have got from the ISS that was worth $150 billion
I say let SETI run, the cost is comparatively small and the potential gain is enlightenment
You're comparing total cost to yearly cost for one thing. SETI has spent far more than that in total cost over the years. Anyway, it's not a case of comparing it to something worse; it's about whether the money should have been spent at all. At any rate, the rationale for continuing to do something to no effect, diminishes with each passing year.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Mon Jan 21, 2019 5:05 pm

You really are a hall monitor.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:27 pm

Scientific experiments have to be run. Often the result is negative. Think of the 99% of all drugs tested that prove ineffective. But to find what is real, you have to test what is not.

The idea of aliens has not yet been shown to be unreal, so the experiment must go on.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:40 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 6:27 pm
Scientific experiments have to be run. Often the result is negative. Think of the 99% of all drugs tested that prove ineffective. But to find what is real, you have to test what is not.

The idea of aliens has not yet been shown to be unreal, so the experiment must go on.
Ironic to hear this argument in a skeptic's forum. The notion of giving an idea a fair chance is often a contentious one in our discussions. A great many posts are devoted to NOT giving unlikely ideas a fair hearing. Interesting how this unlikely idea has garnered support for a multi-decade chance to succeed, despite decades of evidence to the contrary (no evidence).
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Jan 22, 2019 12:44 am

The idea may be unlikely, landrew, but it is still possible, and if real , is of enormous importance. So, despite the low probability, it is still well worth testing.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by mack_10 » Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:24 am

How, do you decide on the probability of finding aliens?
I have seen the Drake equation but the final variable is dependent on the actual number of technologically advanced civilisations capable of sending a message, we will not have any estimate of that number until we find one.
There is at least one technologically advanced civilisation in the galaxy, here we are.
Why would we assume that the laws of physics and combination of circumstances that created us would exist nowhere else?

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:52 am

mack_10 wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:24 am
Why would we assume that the laws of physics and combination of circumstances that created us would exist nowhere else?
No one does.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:42 am

Such data as we have (SETI and the Fermi Paradox) implies that alien civilizations are not common. But we do not really know.

We do not know what the circumstances that created us truly are. We do not know what factors are required to permit
1. Abiogenesis
2. Survival over 4 billion years
3. Evolution over that time of sufficient magnitude to lead to intelligence. For example, here on Earth something strange happened to create eukaryotes. Would that happen elsewhere ? We do not know.

We are getting some ideas from the studies of extraterrestrial planets. For example, we now know that most star systems have much more strongly elliptical orbits than ours does. That would diminish the likelihood of intelligent life evolving because it would create seasonal temperature extremes that would be difficult, if not impossible, to survive.

Also needed is real stability in the stars energy output, a lack of disasters, stability in such things as tectonic activity, the right chemistry, the right sized planet in the right orbit etc.

There is every chance that the sum total of all necessary factors may make intelligent life very rare.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:16 am

Define common. aka: you can go either way.
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Gord » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:46 am

landrew wrote:
Mon Jan 21, 2019 4:47 pm
...At any rate, the rationale for continuing to do something to no effect, diminishes with each passing year.
Objection! I've already shown the effects of the SETI program in previous posts. Continuing to claim or suggest that the SETI program has "no effect" is ... uh, bad. (I ran out of words towards the end of that sentence. I'll just go with "bad".)
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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Poodle » Tue Jan 22, 2019 11:02 am

Besides, the day after the SETI system is switched off .... well, you all know what will happen.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:30 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:16 am
Define common. aka: you can go either way.
More than one per galaxy.

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Re: SETI: When is enough enough?

Post by landrew » Tue Jan 22, 2019 7:40 pm

I'm not one to give short-shrift to the collective wisdom of Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame, and proponents of the UFO Hypothesis such as Jacques Vallée, who propose that extraterrestrials are simply too intelligent to contact us directly, knowing full well of the potential destructive effects that result from contact between two vastly different cultures. We should know this as well, as witnessed by the damage done by European colonization around the world.

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