August 7, 2006

Good critique of SETI

A very good and concise critique of the SETI project was recently published on Space Daily. The article is largely a rebuttal to Seth Shostak's recent article, Is SETI Barking Up the Wrong Tree? (which I also critiqued a few weeks back).

The situation is significantly more complex: while we, for instance, think that the astrobiological revolution gives us very strong reasons to expect life and intelligence abound, this has almost nothing to do with actual practice of SETI which we believe is largely misguided (with some exceptions listed above).

Defenders of the SETI orthodoxy obviously-as, sadly enough, similar to many other well-documented cases in the history of science-put more weight upon the "orthodoxy" than upon the "SETI" part of the syntagm. In order for this rhetorical trick to pass below the radars, they substitute a scarecrow: whoever doubts the prospects of SETI as we do it, surely holds the pretentious and preposterous view that we are alone in the Galaxy. We strongly beg to differ.

SETI is a human endevoar, perhaps most quintessentially human of all scientific pursuits in the entire history of our species. As such, it is prone to typically human mistakes and delusions. This is clearly unavoidable. What is eminently avoidable, however, is that such mistakes and delusions are publicly defended in a dogmatic, "no-alternative" manner; especially when such mistakes and delusions are grounded in an old-fashioned, conservative and anthropocentric view of the mind and the universe.
[As an aside, I had a pretty good laugh after I read this article. My immediate reaction was to forward a link to my cosmologist friend, Milan Cirkovic. As I was about to do so, I realized that the article was written by none other than Milan himself (along with Larry J. Klaes).]

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