Is SETI Science

The Pixie

Well-known member
This is prompted by comments by another poster; a creationist. To be honest, I am not sure quite what his position is, so I will not bother to link to it.

I take the position that SETI uses science, but is not itself science.

However, while looking at other views, I came across this blog post, itself prompted by a debate with a creationist, who claims that it is science, which seems a good jumping off point for discussion.

The blog post talks about falsifiability:

A hypothesis does not need to be falsifiable in the sense that it is possible to be proven 100% wrong. All that is necessary is that the hypothesis is testable – there is some observation or experiment that you can perform that will make the hypothesis more or less likely to be true.

Is that true? I started a thread a few days ago on this, where I said:

There are, I think, two things to consider here. The first is science as a corpus of knowledge, the second is science as a process. The former is what mankind broadly believes as the facts of science. Relativity, for example, is broadly accepted and part of mainstream science. It is taught in schools as a part of the body of knowledge. For a hypothesis to become a part of that in my view, it has to be falsifiable

From the blog post:

With regard to SETI the hypothesis is this – life arose spontaneously on Earth, there is nothing special about the Earth and therefore it is possible for life to arise elsewhere in the universe. It is possible that some of that life evolved intelligence, and some of that intelligence developed technology. One method for a technological civilization to communicate across stellar distances is through radio signals. Therefore, perhaps the Earth is being bathed at this moment with intelligent radio signals from other worlds.
Every link in that logical change is perfectly reasonable. The best way to test that hypothesis is to simply look. Looking is part of science. It is a valid way to test many hypotheses. It is not necessary to be able to prove that there are no intelligent radio sources anywhere in the universe in order for this endeavor to be properly scientific.

I think this is wrong. I agree that looking is part of science, but looking for something does not make it science. If I have lost my keys, looking for them is clearly not science! There is more to it being science than that. Perhaps a better analogy would be looking for a tumour in a cancer patient. A lot of science is used in the search, say a CT scan or MRI, but that alone does not make it science.

What is the eventual outcome of SETI? Either they discover a signal or they give up looking. The former will be world shattering news, but will it be science? I do not think so, because neither outcome is falsifiable; they are just statements of fact. We detected a signal/We did not detect a signal.
 

Torin

Well-known member
Do we need a sharp line between science and non-science to say that it is unscientific to "explain" the diversity of life by positing a magical space wizard? That sounds like a line drawing fallacy.
 

inertia

Super Member
Do we need a sharp line between science and non-science to say that it is unscientific to "explain" the diversity of life by positing a magical space wizard? That sounds like a line drawing fallacy.

You will like reading this from Wired.

Sociologists* identify the "line drawing fallacy" in your response above as "boundary work". Boundary work is about "designing and building fences around legitimate science and enforcing ideas about who counts as a scientist, who doesn’t, and why". For SETI and Ufologists, the reasons for this categorization exist because neither have a theoretical framework for explaining how aliens could construct space ships, or providing a model to properly search for scant clues of intelligent beings’ technosignatures, or detecting of a "technology whose nature we don’t yet, and may never, know".

NASA eventually got it right in my opinion.

- “SETI became a 4-letter S-word at NASA Headquarters,” notes a recent paper by prominent alien-hunting researchers. The National Science Foundation then banned SETI projects from its funding portfolio. Astrobiologists, wary of being put in the same doomed basket as SETI, sometimes inched themselves away, emphasizing the differences between their work and SETI: Little green men were silly. “Biosignatures,” chemical evidence of microbes, were serious. Looking for habitable planets was just what you’d do with a normal telescope. Studying how life arose on Earth has direct relevance to Earth!"

...then the Air Force with the University of Colorado got it right in my opinion.

"Those programs ended, and the ufology ostracism truly began, soon after the conclusion of Air Force–sponsored study from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1968. “Nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge,” the final report stated. It wasn’t wrong. Coupled with other factors, the report helped ensure that UFO research was consigned to the fringes."

A subject on the Fringe.JPG


* a soft science ( my line-drawing boundary here )
 
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Whateverman

Well-known member
What is the eventual outcome of SETI? Either they discover a signal or they give up looking. The former will be world shattering news, but will it be science? I do not think so, because neither outcome is falsifiable; they are just statements of fact. We detected a signal/We did not detect a signal.
I think you're being too restrictive here.

If SETI is successful, what it will have produced is a signal which appears to be extraterrestrial in origin; it will not have proven that aliens exist. This is roughly equivalent to almost every scientific experiment mankind has ever conducted, in which a hypothesis exits, is tested by the gathering of relevant data, which is then published for peer review.

SETI either will or will-not detect a suspected signal. To be clear, it has already detected strange signals prior to this date, and while I wont claim to have followed the news that closely, those signals have largely been discarded as either terrestrial or not-conclusive. That it uses the scientific method to do these things is all we need to know when deciding whether its search is scientific or not.
 

inertia

Super Member
I think you're being too restrictive here.

If SETI is successful, what it will have produced is a signal which appears to be extraterrestrial in origin; it will not have proven that aliens exist. This is roughly equivalent to almost every scientific experiment mankind has ever conducted, in which a hypothesis exits, is tested by the gathering of relevant data, which is then published for peer review.

SETI either will or will-not detect a suspected signal. To be clear, it has already detected strange signals prior to this date, and while I wont claim to have followed the news that closely, those signals have largely been discarded as either terrestrial or not-conclusive. That it uses the scientific method to do these things is all we need to know when deciding whether its search is scientific or not.

Unlike academically accredited scientists worldwide, SETI observers do not have a scientific model for the basis of their beliefs. They search throughout the spectrum of electromagnetic energy without a clue where they should "theoretically" apply their efforts, and don't understand the nature of the said alien environment required to produce a sentient, intelligent, technologically advanced species. Simply because a signal is unusual, that alone does not provide evidence of an advanced civilization.

There is a reason why nothing of scientific value has come SETI enthusiasts for many, many decades and why it is not a scientific discipline. The famous Drake Equation contains variables that cannot be assessed with any real precision because they are unknown, and it is a speculative guideline better suited for the field of Astrobiology where hypotheses based on existing theoretical constructs are formed for further investigation.

That said, it would be exciting to find a fossil on Mars.


 
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Slyzr

Well-known member
You will like reading this from Wired.

Sociologists* identify the "line drawing fallacy" in your response above as "boundary work". Boundary work is about "designing and building fences around legitimate science and enforcing ideas about who counts as a scientist, who doesn’t, and why". For SETI and Ufologists, the reasons for this categorization exist because neither have a theoretical framework for explaining how aliens could construct space ships, or providing a model to properly search for scant clues of intelligent beings’ technosignatures, or detecting of a "technology whose nature we don’t yet, and may never, know".

NASA eventually got it right in my opinion.

- “SETI became a 4-letter S-word at NASA Headquarters,” notes a recent paper by prominent alien-hunting researchers. The National Science Foundation then banned SETI projects from its funding portfolio. Astrobiologists, wary of being put in the same doomed basket as SETI, sometimes inched themselves away, emphasizing the differences between their work and SETI: Little green men were silly. “Biosignatures,” chemical evidence of microbes, were serious. Looking for habitable planets was just what you’d do with a normal telescope. Studying how life arose on Earth has direct relevance to Earth!"

...then the Air Force with the University of Colorado got it right in my opinion.

"Those programs ended, and the ufology ostracism truly began, soon after the conclusion of Air Force–sponsored study from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 1968. “Nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge,” the final report stated. It wasn’t wrong. Coupled with other factors, the report helped ensure that UFO research was consigned to the fringes."

View attachment 1714


* a soft science ( my line-drawing boundary here )

What about the dissipation of possible singles.
 

Martin23233

Active member

Hmmm why is it that evolution has just vanished (besides in the minds of the evo-devos)? Could it be that their false faith is just that ... a false faith in things that they can't prove? Ok..... ok.... having faith can be a good thing..even for darwinists... it just shows that one wants/needs to believe in something they can't prove ( and no showing a goatsbeard that is not spawning off previous goatsbeards is not and example of evolution... sorry Pix)
Evolution in the Darwin sense has been stuck... a stasis of no changes... ( besides some micro evo changes like the birdie beaks that Darwin documented as changing... WOW... just wow... that is amazing. But seriously any example of Macro Evo has been shot down ..so so easily.


However, it hasn’t turned out that way. Nature seems not to like such orderly schedules much. Evolutionary biologist Donald Prothero admits:

In four of the biggest climatic-vegetational events of the last 50 million years, the mammals and birds show no noticeable change in response to changing climates. No matter how many presentations I give where I show these data, no one (including myself) has a good explanation yet for such widespread stasis despite the obvious selective pressures of changing climate.
 
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