How much money should a nation spend on space-alien ventures? China is shelling out almost 200 million dollars on an enormous radio antenna built to listen for signs of far out intelligence.1 In the western hemisphere, the US invested millions of dollars in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) project but turned up no evidence whatsoever.2 The ever-growing number of barren and gaseous exoplanets discovered continues to elevate Earth's uniqueness.3 Apparently, China would love to be the first nation to make "first contact."
China recently made news for displacing over 9,000 villagers from areas surrounding their new alien-hunting antenna dish. The project called "Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope," or FAST, will have an array of tilting and tunable triangular plates along the world's largest parabolic dish of its kind. The device should dramatically increase the sensitivity of faint radio signal detection. "And, of course, it will advance the search for extraterrestrial signs of life." according to CNN.4 What underlying beliefs does this venture reveal?
The factual record looks quite bleak for alien-seekers. Its pages are blank. Radio telescope arrays captured zero hints of intelligent code after 60 years of diligent searching. Plus, the physics of interstellar travel are extraordinarily prohibitive. If a snowflake-sized speck touched a ship travelling at only 1/3 the speed of light, the collision would equal almost four tons of TNT.5 On what basis do we scour the skies for life?
No scientific evidence supports searches like SETI and FAST. So could beliefs about origins and God play a prominent part? For example, Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer and Director of the Center for SETI research recently suggested that even though no evidence exists for space aliens, if we find them they will probably not look like little green men. Rather, he says,
More likely is that most advanced alien civilizations will be a special kind of artificial intelligence ("A.I.") called "superintelligence" - synthetic cognition that vastly exceeds the best that humans can manage in every category: social skills, general wisdom, scientific creativity, and so on.
We suspect this could be true based on analogy with our own near future, as we may be near to developing superintelligence ourselves. Making such machines may be the most transformative event of the 21st century, or perhaps of any century in human history. It could be as natural an evolutionary step as the emergence of land-dwelling animals 370 million years ago.6
So the evidence that unobserved space aliens will take the form of superintelligences rests on an analogy to an unobserved superintelligence that mankind has not yet invented, and on an analogy to an unobserved evolutionary emergence of animals. It appears the search for aliens is based solely on hopeful imagination. Does anyone find it odd that people not only call this scientific, but spend millions of dollars and—in the case of the Chinese effort—displace thousands of residents in its pursuit?
Investigating the unknown is part of what makes us human—an expression of God's image that can even peek through fallen mankind. Curiosity and diligence that improve lives justify sensible investments.7 But China's new and expensive FAST project, scheduled for completion in September 2016, appears to confirm what author Gary Bates wrote over a decade ago: "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!"8
Ironically, while the secular world vainly scours the skies for superintelligence, a real Superintelligence who came to Earth from beyond the stars awaits our contact with Him through His life-giving truths found in the Bible. This Book also happens to teach that Earth was uniquely fitted for life, God (not evolution) created man, and stars are real and worth our attention—all in exact accord with real, observable science.
- Wong, E. China Telescope to Displace 9,000 Villagers in Hunt for Extraterrestrials. The New York Times. Posted on nytimes.com February 17, 2016, accessed February 18, 2016.
- Thomas, B. SETI Funding Linked to Belief in Evolution. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org May 9, 2011, accessed February 18, 2016.
- The online exoplanet encyclopedia lists 2,081 planets as of February 18, 2016. So far, none of them maintain the conditions required to support life.
- McKirdy, E. China looks to the stars with creation of world's largest radio telescope. CNN Space and Science. Posted on cnn.com October 12, 2015, accessed February 18, 2016.
- Sarfati, J. Alien visitors to Earth? Not with the huge energy shortage and megaton dust bombs. Posted on creation.com, accessed February 18, 2016.
- Shostak, S. Goodbye, Little Green Men. SETI Institute. Posted on seti.org January 29, 2016, accessed February 18, 2016.
- For example, tires and frost resistant surfaces. See Thomas, B. Beetles and Bears Inspire Technologies. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org February 12, 2016, accessed February 18, 2016.
- Bates, G. 2004. SETI—coming in from the cold of space: Fantasy fuels funding. Creation. 26 (3): 48-50.
Image credit: © European Pressphoto Agency. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.
*Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on March 7, 2016.