The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 3: Philosophy

Why Not Look Locally?

Dear Dr. SETI:
I just don't understand why we are searching deep space when there are already highly advanced and highly evolved non humans in our airspace doing exactly what they want, and we all know it, but for some reason most people are in denial or blinded by indoctrination.

We must stop thinking things are the way we expect them to be, because, they are not. I believe in the not too distant future, that SETI will be ridiculed for being so backward thinking. I ask you, which is more significant, creatures already in our airspace most people can't even comprehend, or a chance signal from a distant galaxy?

It just does not make sense to me! No offense intended...just frustration.

Peter (UK)

The Doctor Responds:
Peter, I understand your frustration. Let's assume for the sake of argument that you are entirely correct about advanced beings in our airspace. Let's further assume that extraterrestrial civilizations are common and numerous (I see no reason not to start here). If ETI is as diverse as humanity (and again, I see no reason not to assume that), then we have something different to learn from each civilization we might encounter.

True, I can learn a lot from my local neighbors here in the US, but should that stop me from also seeking a dialog with other humans in, let us say, the UK (or anywhere else)? Similarly, even assuming there are "highly advanced and highly evolved non humans" here on Earth, why should this stop me from also seeking other ETI elsewhere in the universe?

If you have the expertise to study and communicate with ETI here on Earth, then you should certainly do so. As a radio astronomer, I have (arguably) the expertise to establish contact with other ETI at a greater distance, so I should certainly do so! We each play to our individual strengths.

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