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Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 5: Sociology

Why Pass Such a Law?

Dear Dr. SETI:
If your government has no knowledge of aliens, then why does Title 14, Section 1211 of the Code of Federal Regulations, implemented on July 16, 1969, make it illegal for U.S. citizens to have any contact with extraterrestrials or their vehicles?

H. W., UK

The Doctor Responds:
I am neither a legislator nor a jurist, so I am probably even less qualified to speculate on the motives of governments than I am to speculate on the existence of ETI. Even answering the question would put me in the position of defending the US Government, something which I am little inclined to do. Nevertheless, and lacking any specific knowledge about it, here is my uninformed reaction to the cited law.

I don't recall ever saying that the government (my own or any one else's) has no knowledge of aliens, merely that I have no such dirct knowledge. (That I personally find it unlikely that such knowledge exists is incidental). But one must remember that laws are written by legislators, and passed for political purposes, often having nothing whatever to do with reality, scientific or otherwise. Thus, the cited Code (if it in fact exists) does not prove any specific knowledge of the existence of aliens on anyone's part. It merely demonstrates that legislators deemed it appropriate to pass such a law, for reasons that are as unfathomable to me as the existence, appearance, or motives of the reputed aliens.

What I do know about is technology, and today's terrestrial telecommunications technologies are fully capable of detecting intelligently generated electromagnetic emissions of sufficient intensity, radiated toward our planet from the stars. If such signals exist, we will find them, regardless of what laws our elected leaders choose to pass.

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