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Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 4: Psychology

Public Reaction to SETI Success

Dear Dr. SETI:
Is there a consensus among scientists as to how the peoples of the world would react if a non-threatening contact was made, and interaction was near? Would different cultures or nationalities, for whatever reason, view a contact differently than others? How about the religious community? And would some religions react differently than others?

I would think such an event would be the most dramatic and exciting in all written history of the world...But I'm not sure others would agree.

RB (via email)

The Doctor Responds:
I share your view, RB, as well as your realization that others may disagree. The world's scientists, like the world's politicians, are sharply divided on the question, which is likely one of the reasons the Reply Protocols proposed by the International Academy of Astronautics in 1995 have still not been ratified by the UN.

For the opinions of three different scientists on world reaction to contact, see the guest editorials "Speaking for Earth", "Should SETI Protocols Consider Interstellar Travel?, and "What Should We Tell The World?"

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