Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Are we ready for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?


The SETI project scientists are known for tracking possible extraterrestrial signals, but now they are also considering sending messages from Earth telling of our position.

A researcher from the University of Cádiz (Spain) questions this idea in view of the results from a survey taken by students, revealing the general level of ignorance about the cosmos and the influence of religion when tackling these matters.

The study suggests that mankind is still not ready for contact with a supposed extraterrestrial civilization.

Credit: José Antonio Peñas/Sinc

The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is an initiative that began in the 70s with funding from NASA, but that has evolved towards the collaboration of millions of Internet users for the processing of data from the Arecibo Observatory (Puerto Rico), where space tracking is carried out.

Now the members of this controversial project are trying to go further and not only search for extraterrestrial signs, but also actively send messages from Earth (Active SETI) to detect possible extraterrestrial civilisations. Astrophysicists, such as Stephen Hawking, have already warned of the risk that this implies for humanity, since it could favour the arrival of beings with more advanced technology and dubious intentions.

The ethical and sociological implications of this proposal have been analysed by the neuro-psychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre, professor at the University of Cádiz and participant in previous projects such as Mars 500 or space psychology topical team project financed by the European Space Agency, who wonders: "Can such a decision be taken on behalf of the whole planet? What would happen if it was successful and 'someone' received our signal? Are we prepared for this type of contact?"

To answer these questions, the professor sent a questionnaire to 116 American, Italian and Spanish university students. The survey assessed their knowledge of astronomy, their level of perception of the physical environment, their opinion on the place that things occupy in the cosmos, as well as religious questions – for example, "do you believe that God created the universe?" – or on the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrials.

The results, published in the journal 'Acta Astronautica', indicate that, as a species, humanity is still not ready for trying to actively contact a supposed extraterrestrial civilisation, since people lack knowledge and preparation. For this reason, SETI researchers are recommended in this study to look for alternative strategies.

"This pilot study demonstrates that the knowledge of the general public of a certain education level about the cosmos and our place within it is still poor. Therefore, a cosmic awareness must be further promoted – where our mind is increasingly conscious of the global reality that surrounds us – using the best tool available to us: education," De la Torre emphasised. "In this respect, we need a new Galileo to lead this journey".

It was deduced from the questionnaires, which will soon be available to everyone on line, that university students and the rest of society lack awareness on many astronomical aspects, despite the enormous progress of science and technology. It also revealed that the majority of people consider these subjects according to their religious belief and that they would rely on politicians in the event of a huge global-scale crisis having to be resolved.

"Regarding our relation with a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life, we should not rely on moral reference points of thought, since they are heavily influenced by religion. Why should some more intelligent beings be 'good'?," added the researcher, who believes that this matter should not be monopolized by a handful of scientists: "In fact, it is a global matter with a strong ethical component in which we must all participate".



Gabriel G. De la Torre. "Toward a new cosmic consciousness: Psychoeducational aspects of contact with extraterrestrial civilizations". Acta Astronautica 94 (2): 577–583, 2014.

SINC | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Foundation Observatory SETI Science Technology conscious ethical matter species strategies

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>