[Big Ear Masthead]

SETI: Shall We Try?

by Dave Raub

It appears from scientific opinion that present-day technology is capable of mounting a very effective search for extraterrestrial signals. The question we must ask ourselves is: Is it worth about half the cost of the Apollo Program to attempt such a search? The biggest barrier to making such an expenditure is that we cannot GUARANTEE success. Such an undertaking represents a very expensive gamble.

Against the risk we must weigh the potential benefits. In all likelihood, intelligent civilizations have existed in this galaxy for at least 5 billion years. It seems very probable that many of these civilizations have been taking place for aeons and beacons may well exist to help young races, such as ourselves, to join this galactic community founded before our sun was ever born. Some who have studied the problem for a very long time feel that all past history of the galaxy alone may indeed be merely a prelude to an inconceivably exciting future as participants in galactic culture. At the very least we could expect to gain access to a heritage of knowledge billions of years old. What astronomer would not cherish to have pictures of the galaxy and the universe many billions of years old? Wouldn't we all like to learn the natural histories of all life in the galaxy and the social structures that have led to the survival of the oldest cultures?

I cannot conceive that man, unable to travel to the stars, will not some day attempt to reach other life through interstellar communications.

Is it too early to begin the Search? Or will the year 2001 no longer find us an isolated species, but beginning a new epoch in the evolution of all life on earth?

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