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SETI and a New World Order
by Peter Schenkel (email schenkel @
SETI League Regional Coordinator for Ecuador

In her speech at the opening of the 50th IAF Congress in Amsterdam (Oct. 4-8, 1999) the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Mrs. Jorritsma-Lebbink, said that the task of this congress was not only to consider the question how to take man into space, but "how can we take space to man? Or better still: how can space research contribute towards enhancing the welfare and wellbeing of mankind - perhaps even more important - how can we use these data and technologies to make planet Earth a healthy and safe place, also for the generations to come."

This was a most appropriate and timely reminder. Science - especially in times of financial bottlenecks - should not be performed only "for science sake", but must bring solid and forseeable results and benefits for humanity. Costly research, especially in space, needs this for its justification. This is also true for SETI, hampered in the U.S. by Senate obstructionism, but also by its sometimes ill-oriented promotion efforts.

However thrilling the technological wizardry of such SETI projects as Phoenix, BETA, SERENDIP and Argus may be, it is not radio antennas and sophisticated spectrum analyzers that appeal to the public and on whose merit the legitimacy of SETI should be gauged. What will Contact with an advanced extraterrestrial civilization mean to mankind? This is the central question. In what way will Contact, either via radio astronomy, detection of alien probes or habitats in our solar system, near comets and asteroids, or a visit of an alien craft, benefit and spur on our civilization? I posit that Contact with a scientifically and organizationally superior ETI would be a blessing for us in many ways, especially for the following reason:

Due to the presence of only one superpower, the U.S., the threat of a ghastly global war now seems diminished. But by the middle of the new century there will be five or six superpowers vying for world supremacy, and by then population growth, resource scarcities, development gaps, ecological degradation and political and economic competition will have built up colossal strains and pressures. Already today these forces press for the establishment of a unified global order with a strong supranational authority, the only one capable of dealing effectfully and justly with our mounting global problems. The only questions is, will this new world order be introduced via peaceful consent, or only after a devastating clash between the future superpowers?

The ETI we are likely to contact will necessarily be endowed with a peaceful global organizational order. It will have done away with war and destabilizing forces eons ago and be benign and friendly toward other intelligencies, for ethical considerations and selfinterest. Contact with such an ETI would therefore be most opportune during the coming critical decades. It would deal a severe blow to all reactionary and aggressive forces, show us that eternal peace, of which Kant dreamt, is not an illusion and that the creation of a rational and just global order may also be within our grasp. Contact would strengthen the cause of a peaceful transition toward a global order and the faith of all people who believe that mankind awaits a great future. It might help stave off a disaster that may face our next generations. What a benefit for mankind! Not a small reason why all SETI efforts are so important, and need your urgent support.

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