Thursday, July 20, 2006

Seth "Shostaks" the deck...

[Click title to read article]

Plucky Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute waxes defensive in a new article at Offering up the most common criticisms of the SETI initiative, Seth provides brief rebuttals for his anti-SETI "top 4".

His list?

1) Our technology (radio waves) is too primitive. We should be using...among other things... "Hyperdimensional Physics".

2) If they were "out there" they'd "be here"....the "Fermi Paradox".

3) Alien avoidance of contact due to disdain of human motives and behavior.

4) We're not looking in the right place...such as the Zeta Reticuli system.

Let's take a look at number 1...We're not using the right technology...

There is no question that radio encompasses a very narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Like looking for planets using visible light, the usable range of frequencies is infinitessimally small for any truly productive responses...unless we are really really lucky. Monitoring radio frequencies is barely more than the equivalent of hoping that aliens on other a cosmic Motel 6..."leave the light on for us".

Beyond that, any other form of monitoring is still limited by our own ignorance of how other worlds might communicate.

Seth takes an opportunity to mention "Hyperdimensional Physics". Here, Seth and I are in complete agreement. Of course, the most visible proponent of "HDP" is Richard Hoagland, so the chances of any advances on that front are hamstrung by the utter laughability of its major "fanboy". I think Seth included this simply to get a dig in on "Richard C". Deserved perhaps, but rather petty, IMO. Even so, Seth offers no rebuttal for the validity of HDP beyond his admitted ignorance of "what it is". Hmmm.

Number 2...If aliens were out there, they'd surely have visited here by now...presuming they are of an adequately advanced status to make the we're listening for someone who's not there.

Seth argues against this by using an analogy...there are no elephants in his parking lot, so should we presume that elephants don't exist, since they've had adequate time to "get here"?

Well, in this regard Seth's denial seems to ignore the inconclusive as it may be...that aliens HAVE visited here, and perhaps ARE visiting here. Why would he ignore such evidence out of hand? Well...

If you hypothesize that aliens in fact ARE visiting, then one must presume that they do not use radio frequencies to communicate, else we'd be awash in alien broadcasts. Obviously, Seth cannot accept a hypothesis which invalidates SETI, so "they" cannot be visiting, can they? A rather convenient narrow-mindedness from a guy that listens for radio signals from aliens, no?

But my question is, how can Seth assert that the hypothesis that aliens use radio waves is more valid than the hypothesis that aliens visit here? If you take a brief look, the evidence extant for the former is far outweighed by that of the latter, no?

Perhaps, while in the parking lot looking for elephants, Seth should simply look UP. :)

Of course, he might state that the point isn't communication, but simply detection. Well, call me impractical, but spending millions of dollars to just "find a signal" without the further ability to actually communicate just seems ridiculous to me. And how could you even prove that the "signal" wasn't just interesting "noise" without continuing the "conversation"?

Number 3...Aliens avoid us because we're too violent, or primitive, or...

Seth claims that this is unlikely because OUR radio and TV broadcasts haven't had time to get far enough out there for aliens to have noticed us, much less to determine our tendencies and motives therefrom. Here is where Seth...and SETI as a whole...find an impassable chasm of logic.

If our signals take so long to get to any conceivably inhabited planet, this would mean that any signals we receive are centuries...if not millenia...old. If we were to reply using our same radio technology, we could not expect any response until we are long gone...presuming (implausibly) that our reply found the aliens using THEIR same centuries or millenia old technology.

If the effectiveness of our communication technology is so slow, why waste time looking for ancient signals from some faraway place since the data gathered cannot be acted upon in any reasonable time-frame? Seth's and SETIs argument actually invalidates their own mission.

At any rate, if alien civilizations have been and/or are visiting us, and obviously are not using radio to communicate, they would have very good reasons for not wanting to trust us, or even to announce their presence. Again, the hypothesis that aliens exist and HAVE been here negates SETI, so said hypothesis MUST be wrong, per Mr. Shostak.

And finally number 4...We're not looking in the right place, like Zeta Reticula...

Here again, Seth argues against this by using a tautology. He says that SETI HAS surveyed Zeta Reticula, and found "no one home". Let me break this down just a little...

SETI searches for primitive radio frequency transmissions from outer space.

Many people are convinced...Shostak notes the Hills (and Betty's star map) as an example...that alien life exists in the Zeta Reticula system, and that Zetans have been and/or are visiting the earth. These people claim to have been in contact with these Zetans both telepathically and physically.

Seth says that SETI listened for radio signals from Zeta Reticula and found none. He concludes thereby that there IS no alien life in the Zeta Reticula system. Plus...and importantly...he offers NO evidence to rebut the claims of those that are convinced that Zetans exist, and communicate, and travel here.

But how about this hypothesis...the Zetans have long since given up on the "snail mail" of radio or electromagnetic transmission altogether, in favor of a more effective system...a system like telepathy. The Zetans don't need to send out signals because they already KNOW we are here, and have been visiting for some time. The Zetans are skeptical of our baser instincts and tendencies and so stay fairly hidden from plain sight to monitor us without overt involvement. While the occasional sighting or experience is allowed or occurs by chance, the general concensus among Zetans is that they should remain a nebulous, "mythical" reality until such time as overt contact is deemed appropriate.

Now, answer this question. In light of the foregoing paragraph, do you feel that there is more evidence extant to support that hypothesis, or rather that put forth by Seth and SETI?

Which leads to this question...Why does SETI enjoy so much acclaim, financial support, scientific respect, and near adulation of its mission? paraphrase an infamous military man..."We can't HANDLE the truth".

Keep on listenin', SETI. Maybe one day you'll find an "elephant in the parking lot", after all.


I can't believe he used the term hyperdimensional! He must be preparing for his next debate with Hoagie. Hoagie does probably deserve it, but petty as you said. If I didn't dislike his constant whining about lack of funding so much, I might take him more seriously.
Lesley -

Hoagland is a gifted to distill even highly complex concepts into some form of his HDP theories. But it always seems that HDP explains things AFTER the fact. It doesn't seem useful for "predict" anything, as such a sweeping hypothesis should.

I think Seth is a competent astronomer. But the mind-set of SETI as he presents it seems to be moving closer and closer to the cult status ascribed to it by folks like Stan Friedman.

But as for many research programs continue to be funded after years and years of no results?

SETI seems more than anything like a project to which people can contribute so that they can claim to support the "life elsewhere" hypothesis while privately feeling "safe" that it will never bear real fruit.

Pity, that.

Thanks for writing!
He's like a believer in UAPs who who eschews UFOs. See, UAPs are an unidentified aerial phenomena... and UFOs are unidentified flying OBJECTS. The former does not even have to exist in corporeal world, while the latter connotes an object's existence in same. The former is not prudent or rational... just cowardly. The latter is obvious in six different kinds of evidence and requires courage. See the difference?

Shostak is the personification of the corrupted mainstream's hedge to keep an extra-dimensional, extra-terrestrial, or extra-temporal "other" alive, but pushes the potentiality of it away, beyond arm's length, to a time and space far, far away... imbuing its actuality with a taint of plausible deniability or deniable temporal currency.

He's not cutting edge; he's intellectual cowardice institutionalized and I resent every dime he gets from those who would be braver that he ever would be.

...Not to put too fine a point on it. [g].
AVG Blog --
Alfred -

One thing comes to the film Independence Day, a SETI outpost (VLA?) is first to detect the signals coming from an alien source. And when the origin of the signal is determined to be "from the Moon", the first comment? "This can't be right!".

One wonders how accurate this scenario might be, if SETI were to actually find such a signal...or if they HAVE. :)

Would they be so convinced that ET must be far away, that they might ignore something closer as impossible, and dismiss it?

Unlikely perhaps, but an intriguing thought.

Thanks for writing!
Well -- Terrence McKenna wrote about science in its process of measuring the electrical output of a thousand conjectured circuits, applying some "meaning assessment" so as to produce an average predicted output for a circuit of that type... and publishing same for peer review.

999 measure within a few tenths of a per cent of each other. One of them measures hundreds of per cent off that schedule.

The scientists throw that bit of data entirely out of the data consideration and dismiss/disregard it... even ridicule it.

"That was the test 'X' set-up while she was having her period..."

I paraphrase.

There's your justification, their justification rather, to avoid telling you there are aliens on the moon, say, as per your example.

...Eh? ...Sorta inna way? ...Off in that direction? ...With a blush of that? LOL!
AVG Blog --
I wrote:

"There's your justification, their justification rather, to avoid telling you there are aliens on the moon, say, as per your example."

I should go on to say, that bit of offending data is 'impossible' so it of needs thrown out to remain 'scientific'. It's not the right 'number', it's obviously an improper 'measurement'. It's not in accordance with the interpretation of the (bowdlerized?) philosophy of Descartes so it is ignored as never having occurred at all... ...when it did, indeed, occur.

...It's just 'impossible'.
AVG Blog --
Alfred -

Sidling right alongside...if not point. And is often asserted...the "devil is in the details", one wonders if some significance cannot be gleaned from the "anomaly" that is tossed out as "impossible".

It tends to support the theory that SETI might apply significance only to that evidence which reinforces their point of view...decidedly un-scientific, and decidedly "cult-like", if not quasi-religious, no?

At any rate, if SETI is having trouble attracting new money, perhaps this is part of the reason.

Thanks again!
Seth. Gotta love him.
No... No, I don't think you do.
AVG Blog --
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