KOHALA COAST, HI.., August 6, 1999 -- Since Congress terminated NASA's Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program nearly six years ago, a number of grass-roots organizations have been striving to keep SETI science alive. Growing participation in SETI research by a wide range of dedicated amateurs has raised the bar as far as verification standards are concerned, according to Dr. H. Paul Shuch, executive director of the nonprofit SETI League, Inc. In an invited paper delivered at the Sixth International Bioastronomy Conference, Shuch today challenged his colleagues to come up with a clear, unambiguous definition of what constitutes interstellar contact.
"Laymen have the time, energy and enthusiasm to search in ways which the professional scientific community can not," according to Dr. Shuch. "However, there is valid concern as to whether those not schooled in the scientific method can do credible science. Premature announcement of an unverified contact especially could undermine the credibility and respectability not just of The SETI League's present Project Argus search, but of all SETI experiments. Thus, one of The SETI League's duties is to educate its members in scientific restraint."
"The question [of proof] is complicated by the fact that the general public … may make only a vague distinction between proof and faith," Shuch's paper continues. "The spectrum of human skepticism vs. gullibility encompasses a wide range of extremes, characterized by diverse viewpoints ranging from 'of course they exist -- we couldn't possibly be alone!' to 'I'll believe in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrials only when one walks up and shakes my hand.' We must take pains to prevent such declarations of faith from clouding the judgment of our SETIzens."
SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join_at_setileague_dot_org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to +1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at +1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
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