SETI Funding Linked to Belief in Evolution

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, was founded in 1984 to detect signals from faraway alien beings. The National Science Foundation and the State of California are among SETI's major supporters, but in the current economic climate monies are becoming increasingly scarce. That raises the question: Is SETI's mission important enough to keep it going?

The institute recently announced the "hibernation" of its Allen Telescope Array of giant dishes at Hat Creek Radio Observatory near San Francisco due to lack of funding.1 The program has received intermittent financial support from NASA that seems to fluctuate with public interest. Gary Bates, CEO of Creation Ministries International and author of the book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, summarized the situation in a 2004 article that described how NASA initially funded SETI. The space program then pulled out for a number of years, but it restarted the funding when public interest in extraterrestrial beings increased.2

In response to the institute's current cutbacks, SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak wrote in the Huffington Post:

In tough economic times, a lot of folks who hear this story will dismiss its importance. After all, with problems like expensive health care, a weakened education system, and pervasive joblessness, it's unlikely that people are going to march in the streets to get the hunt for ET back on track. They're more likely to shake their heads, and profess that this sort of exploration is superfluous.3

He then argued that a defining feature of humanity is the capacity to discover "new things." The implication was that dropping SETI's search for ET would halt discovery and cause mankind to settle for a less-than-human existence.

But SETI has not discovered new things! Bates wrote:

With all these mind-boggling efforts, what have they found? The answer is nothing—not one single extraterrestrial message. One may well ask then, 'How is it that so many are willing to spend so much on so little?' The answer—a belief in evolution!2

Scientific endeavors that do lead to discoveries are funded because they answer core questions about how the world works. SETI has not done this, and all signs indicate that it won't in the future. Thus, a belief in the importance of its mission has to be fueled by a belief in evolution. In fact, the SETI website appealed to evolution in its plea for private funding: "The search [for ET, which would require restoration of the Allen Telescope Array] will cost $5 million. That's why we're appealing to you—someone who recognizes that the evolutionary drama that has taken place on our planet may have happened on other worlds."4

But if life was created and this "evolutionary drama" never did occur, as is consistent with the best evidence,5,6 then SETI's work is pointless. Evolutionists Donald Brownlee and Peter Ward demonstrated in their 2000 book Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe that there is an overwhelming number of factors that all have to be just right for life to survive.

For example, any habitable planet must be held in steady orbit at the right distance from a stable star, and the star cannot emit too much life-destroying radiation such as X-rays or UV rays. Brownlee and Ward wrote, "The mere fact that 95% of all stars are less massive than the sun makes our planetary system quite rare."7 Plus, the solar system is in a special region of the Milky Way galaxy that is gravitationally stable—another rarity in the universe. The presence of sufficient quantities of liquid water is also significant, and there remains no evidence of liquid water on any planet other than earth.

The many specific conditions required to support life have a very low probability of being met in the same time and place, even in this vast universe. And the complete absence of evidence for ETs, even after decades of searching and the billions of dollars poured into SETI, corroborates the extraordinary uniqueness of life on earth.

The reasons to fund SETI are firmly rooted in the belief that life evolved. If enough public interest can be generated to reignite SETI's telescope array amidst an economic downturn, it would not reflect humanity's pioneering spirit of discovery, but would instead involve donors duped into funding a dubious cause because of godless evolutionary ideas that have no evidence to support them.


  1. Pierson, T. Status of the Allen Telescope Array. Email transmittal, SETI Institute. Posted on April 22, 2011, accessed April 28, 2011.
  2. Bates, G. 2004. SETI—coming in from the cold of space: Fantasy fuels funding. Creation. 26 (3): 48-50.
  3. Shostak, S. Search for ET Put on Hold. Huffington Post. Posted on April 26, 2011, accessed April 28, 2011.
  4. Our galaxy may contain several billion habitable planets! SETI Institute. Posted on, accessed April 28, 2011.
  5. Morris, H. 2000. The Scientific Case Against Evolution: A Summary Part 1. Acts & Facts. 29 (12).
  6. Morris, H. 2001. The Scientific Case Against Evolution: A Summary* Part 2. Acts & Facts. 30 (1).
  7. Ward, P. D. and D. Brownlee. 2000. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe. New York: Copernicus, 23.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on May 9, 2011.

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