When thinking about the search for extraterrestrial life one must ask the question, is it really worth it? Consider the outcomes. If we were to find life on another planet what would we do? Would we be able to communicate with them? What if the life we find is not intelligent? Will it change anything in our world to know there are other planets with life even if that life is not intelligent. I tend to take the stance that we might throwing away our money on either a dead end or an unsatisfying one. What will we do if we find in 10 years we have spent billions of dollars on this search but still found nothing. When do we draw the line and say we are the only life in the universe? How could we ever say this since we could never search the whole universe. There are so many questions it seems that this quest is more likely destined for an unfortunate end rather than the sci-fi story we all want it to be.
Another part of the debate of searching for extraterrestrial life is whether it is safe. We might think about the words of scientist Steven Hawking “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet…I imagine they might exist in massive ships ... having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”
Did you hear about the new species of ____ they found? No? because it wasn’t a big deal. If we find microbial life on another planet I worry it will have about the same effect as finding a new species here on earth. We might think “oh, that’s nice”, but in the end, it does not change anything about our lives.
Not only could finding extraterrestrial life be unsafe or unsatisfying there is also the question of if we do find life what could we do? Most likely it will be light-years away. Meaning if we could even travel at the speed of light (which we can’t even get close) it would take years to fly there! Are we really going to waste years of our lives in a spaceship or waiting for a satellite to go to some planet we know next to nothing about in the hopes of finding another earth like planet? The only real thing we could do is contact them with radio waves, and even then, there is no guarantee we will find a way to communicate.
When I think about the viability of searching for extraterrestrial life I have to come to the conclusion that we can probably spend money on better things. We have no business searching for mysteries of the universe when we don’t even understand our own planet. We should be studying our planet and spending our money on things that will actually make a difference in our life. On top of that we may be sending ourselves to our own doom. We really have no idea what kind of things we might encounter. We all know the old saying “ignorance is bliss.” Perhaps we might find we would rather be ignorant about what’s out there. Lastly, we really can’t act on our findings. We are searching for answers our generation will most likely never see.
Well written and an easy read. You expressed your thoughts and concerns completely and thoroughly. Nice work!
Maybe I can give some insight as into why it would be worth it: throughout history the desire to explore and settle new unknown lands (as well as our origins) runs deep in our veins. This has lead to discoveries and inventions that brought us to where we are today and will bring us into the future.
Kenneth C Carroll
I find your ideas very insightful and agree with you that there may not be huge benefit to searching for life elsewhere. However i think we must ask ourselves does the risk of searching for life elsewhere outweigh the potential rewards? For the most part i completely agree that the probability of us finding significant life elsewhere may be slim, and even if we do, it might not mean a whole lot to everyday life. The reward that i see is in the search. Advancing our ability to search and find life elsewhere is crucial to advancing our technological abilities. This is not something we should give up, simply because we may not discover something impactful to your average joe.
i agree with Kenneth that this was a great read. You state great and valid point over how it the search for life might prove dangerous to our own existence as well questioning how relevant new species of blank are found.
Although i find myself disagreeing with your overall sentiment of the post, I think the search for life is exactly what earth needs: a long term challenge; a goal.Something to strive towards and set in motion with the thoughts of future generations. while i do agree the fund could be put towards short-term objections i disagree with pulling the funds on a project with long-term benefits as well that money spent in the name of science isn't wasted as long as something is learned.
I like your blog as a whole. I kind of agree with what you are talking about. Sometimes i feel like we are wasting a lot of time and money trying to seek life elsewhere. I feel like if we spent the money that is invested into this field on things here on earth that it would be more beneficial. This is a good post. I would only suggest talking about specific fields to invest in instead of on seeking extraterrestrial intelligence.
Nice ideas Collin! Do you think we can gain any other knowledge by conducting a search for life? Can that knowledge help humanity?