Hawking Makes Waves At SETIcon

It seems that Dr. Hawking’s statements about nomadic ETIs being voracious hunters has created quite a stir in the mainstream science community.

Especially the crowd Uncle Seth Shostak is in charge of at the recent SETIcon in California:

Even if humanity could reach out to an intelligent alien civilization, scientists are polarized over whether we should.

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has argued that the extraterrestrials we contacted would be likely to harm us, a view that divided the experts here at the SETIcon convention.

“No one can say that there is no risk to transmitting,” John Billingham, former chairman of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, said via a statement read at the convention Sunday. “Personally, I agree with Hawking and think it may be unwise to transmit.”

However, Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute, said of aliens: “Even if they tend to be hateful, awful folks, can they do us any harm at interstellar distances?”

Up to now, the efforts of SETI have concentrated on receiving and recognizing signals from non-natural sources in space.

Hawking, 68, claimed that any civilization with which humanity could communicate is likely to be much older and more technologically advanced than ours. So they would probably have the ability, and possibly the motive, to eradicate humanity and strip-mine our planet for parts. It would be safer not to actively broadcast our presence, he said.

Billingham said listening for signs of life is safe, but sending out signals of our own could be asking for trouble. He recommended establishing an international conference to decide whether the whole world supported “active SETI,” or METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Canadian science-fiction author Robert Sawyer agreed that international opinion should be consulted before a small group of scientists made any “arrogant” choice on behalf of the planet.

“We’ve got to stop and think about this, whether this is a wise thing to do,” Sawyer said.

But Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, said such a conference is unlikely to be productive. “The idea that we can solve this problem with international consultation strikes me as naivete of the first order,” Shostak said.

He argued that the whole issue is moot because Earth has been radiating signals into space for decades.

Every radio and television broadcast in history has beamed out electromagnetic radiation to the cosmos — an effect scientists refer to as leakage. While these signals haven’t been particularly powerful or targeted to extraterrestrials, a sufficiently advanced civilization would have no trouble detecting them, Shostak said.

“This horse has left the barn,” he said. “Any society that could possibly be a threat to us can easily know at least that we’re here. There’s no point in losing sleep over this.”

Furthermore, he and other experts questioned the logic of an alien civilization wanting to attack Earth.

Vakoch said it would take quite a lot of time and energy for extraterrestrials to come all the way to Earth to wage war or try to extract resources from our planet. The cost of traveling here to collect them, not to mention transporting those resources back to the aliens’ home, would far outweigh the benefit, he said.

There’s a point missing about all the pros and cons of sending out strong beacon like signals into the Universe to draw attention to ourselves and I’m surprised these scientists haven’t even thought of it; Survival of the Fittest.

Yes, that old Theory of Evolution Paradigm in which the strongest of tooth, claw, nail and guile gets to continue to eat, breath, sleep and screw.

If the Universe is part of Nature, wouldn’t that rule apply?

Advanced aliens, presuming that they haven’t attained a technological singularity, but have technology of a Kardashev Type 1 civilization have indeed been observing us through nano-Bracewell type interstellar probes at a distance of say…four light years. Time enough to be real time, but a safe enough distance where they know we can’t get at them. Just yet.

All they would have to do is shoot a “relativistic missile” at us, like an asteroid, or Oort Cloud object that could be a “planet killer.”

The only reason they would need is to preserve their own safety; to kill a potentially powerful competitor before we could out compete them on the evolutionary stage.

Nothing personal. “It’s either us or you.”

IMO, Hawking’s close, but his reasons are wrong.

Do we dare let aliens know we’re here?

hat tip

14 responses

  1. I used to tell my newly hired that I could teach them what they needed to know, and if I in return, didn’t know something, I would say so. All I asked was the same of them. There was one rejoinder in this, if they did not have common sense, I could not teach them this. All of this talk reminds me of the post civil war era. Manifest destiny, beware the ignorant savages, and “Go West” all coming from Mr Hawking. I had a brilliant peer at one time, he could diagnose and create any device I needed in terms of electrical equipment, but outside of his area of expertise, he had no common sense. Mr Hawking needs to learn some humility and apply some uncertainty to his edicts.

    1. I would conjecture Bruce that Dr. Hawking figures since he’s been living on borrowed time for most of his life, he can espouse pretty much anything he wants.

      Whether his theory about ETI is worth two pennies being rubbed together is another matter.

      Since nobody has any idea what alien life is, intelligent or microbe, I’d say these guys’ opinions aren’t worth any more than your’s or mine.

  2. Hi dad2059,
    Hawking is exceptionally overrated.

    1. There’s no doubt that Dr. Hawking is a genius in his field.

      After all, how many people can do esoteric mathematics in their head on a daily basis?

      Now maybe he’s given quite a bit of thought to the ETI subject, but since alien life, or life in the Universe period eludes mathematical solutions (but the numbers are improving) his opinions are just that.


  3. “Mr Hawking needs to learn some humility and apply some uncertainty to his edicts.”

    Hawking comes by his assertiveness honestly, having earned it through a mental acumen that few can match. Whether I agree with his evolutionary stance or not, he’s miles ahead of his contemporaries in his field.

    Marine, I was watching some martial arts vids on U Tube, the other night. Now, you and I both understand how Hollywood works, especially ‘Chinese Hollywood’. These were the typical deal, too, with lot’s of floating and spinning and levitations, etc. Hilarious, it was, reading the comments by envious people trying to disparage the skill of the fighters, hoping to bring them down to their own level of little or no expertise! Every once in a while, a voice of reason would quip: “It IS Hollywood, you know!” That didn’t stop the detractors from whittling on the actors, though. Morons!

    I’ll pretend it’s 40 years, ago, and I’m still in the evolutionary rut. I was into Asimov, Hawking, Von Daniken, etc, and especially found Hawking to be the most clued-in of the works. His revelations on quantum mechanics and warped space-time went a lot further than the others, the latter borrowing heavily from his works. Stephen can be a prick, however, and likes to test his protege’s patience and sense of humor by running over their toes with his wheelchair! The guy’s the real deal, despite his affliction.

    Like the Highwayman, Hawking knows his shit, and that makes people nervous. I still think that he’s the closest there is to figuring out Who the “Theory of Everything” is. 😉

    “Hawking is exceptionally overrated.”

    Case in point.


    PS: I quote Leonard Nimoy, aka. Mr. Spock: “Only human arrogance assumes that (an ET signal) it must be meant for man.”

    He’s right. This planet’s society is a write-off. Who’d bother with it?


  4. You’ve got time to watch YouTube vids HW? Must be boring on the road, eh? 😀

    I think what most irks folks most about Hawking is his certitude and his “chops” to use it without fear of recrimination.

    Like I mentioned earlier, my guess is that he figures he earned his say, it’s up to others to agree or not with him.

  5. “You’ve got time to watch YouTube vids HW?”

    Are you kidding? Where else are you gonna find any half-decent programs in this day and age, outside of sick comedies, fucked-up-in-the-head “reality” shows, and out-of-control commercializing? And, the Highwayman, like Hawking, has earned for himself a certain distinction that allows him to get home the odd night, now, where his younger compatriots, being wet behind the ears, do not!

    Without recrimination? What do they have to offer in lieu of Hawking’s wisdom? Or Asimov’s? Let me answer that one for you… bugger-all! True, one may only relate what one knows to the unwashed and leave it to them to accept or reject. In a free society… *cough*… that’s the way it should be. However, I’ve yet to see anything really new in terms of replacing or modifying Hawking’s theories or views. Chances are that anything new would necessarily have to have been built upon his work.

    Anyway, like you’ve intimated in your unique, jar-headed way, I do not have an inordinate amount of time to spend researching every little theory that comes down the pipe, these days. For this, I rely upon you and your distinguished rag to keep me abreast of the latest happenings in the quantum, sci-fi and esoteric world, which, I religiously consult every weekend or evening that I find at home.

    Hey… check this one out, Flat-top…

    Jet Li kicks ass!

    You know, I hate to say it, but I think he’s got Bruce beat! Whaddya think?


    1. For this, I rely upon you and your distinguished rag to keep me abreast of the latest happenings in the quantum, sci-fi and esoteric world, which, I religiously consult every weekend…

      I’m honored HW. I do try to maintain a balance.

      I’m going back to school next week and I’m not sure how many posts I’m going to be able to do during the week. I’ve already cut back to posting four days and I’m still getting between 100 to 200 hits per day.

      All that despite the fact that I’ve haven’t had the time to commercialize this “rag” like I’ve wanted to.

      I guess time will tell.

  6. @Highwayman: he aint gonna beat him anyway! Watch this amazing video and wonder why he is a legend?

    1. 😆

      Well, unless Li can come up with something better, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong on this one!

      1. Jet Li is alright for modern times, but Bruce is still the man.

        There’s nothing like the classics!;

        So how’d we get from Hawking to Bruce Lee? 😆

  7. Enter the Dragon is my second favourite movie after the thirteenth floor’s sci fi. I love his movies not only because he fought only in movies but also he was a really really greatest martial artist ever. Perhaps, I could beat him on that.

  8. Hawking Makes Waves At SETIcon « Dad2059's Webzine of Science ……

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: