Maybe communicating with extraterrestrials is a bad idea

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There’s trouble brewing in the world of extraterrestrial outreach.

Even as a government agency prepares to publish a report on unidentified aerial phenomena seen by U.S. Navy aircraft a year ago, scientists engaged in the search for other civilizations are apparently fighting among themselves.

An opinion piece in the Washington Post by physicist Mark Buchanan warns that we continue to try to contact alien civilizations at our peril.

(Recent official reports from the Pentagon and the Defense Department about objects flying at hypersonic speeds and so forth suggest aliens might be trying to contact us, but never mind.) 

Buchanan argues that any such alien beings, having found their way here, would likely be the superior race — and that would spell obvious doom for humans.

Why Buchanan assumes that advanced civilizations would be as hateful, aggressive and destructive as humans remains a mystery.


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He writes that we should consider ourselves fortunate that there is no evidence yet of contact with alien civilizations.

“Attempting to communicate with extraterrestrials, if they do exist, could be extremely dangerous for us.” 

Buchanan is not alone in these thoughts. Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomer Joe Gertz agrees with Buchanan and states that that all of our attempts at communicating with extraterrestrials could ultimately cause, “the reckless endangerment of all mankind.”

SETI is a California organization that has been combing the universe with radio telescopes for 60 years, hoping to hear anything that sounds like a signal from a planet orbiting stars other than our sun.

According to Buchanan, other scientists are impatient with SETI and are agitating for a program called METI — Messaging ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence — that will send powerful messages into the infinite, reaching out to other life forms.

Buchanan fears that even one misguided person with access to advanced transmitting technology could do something that would affect all of the earth.


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“That’s because any aliens we ultimately encounter will likely be far more technologically advanced than we are,” he writes.

“Many of these would likely have taken significant steps to begin exploring and possibly colonizing the galaxy,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan claims we’re at a stage of technological sophistication that demands strict regulation of all this alien business at national and international levels.

Regulation by whom he leaves unsaid, but having witnessed the global response to COVID-19, one assumes he does not mean any government bodies.

There are various theories as to why earthlings have not yet encountered aliens. Buchanan likes the most alarming one, which is that alien civilizations know how risky it is to send out signals and are smart enough to stay quiet: “Exposing yourself is an invitation to be preyed upon and devoured.”


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Fans of METI claim otherwise. American astrobiologist Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, reckons any advanced civilizations will have detected our radio signals by now and would have attacked already if that was their intention.

And what if advanced civilizations have answers to some of the earth’s problems, such as climate change?

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For now, both Buchanan and Gertz believe the time has come to involve more regular citizens in these discussions.

Getz wants laws and international treaties set up to govern these attempts at alien contact, with criminal consequences for those who continue reaching out to aliens.

  1. This photo illustration shows an unidentified flying object.

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Listening is enough for the moment, Buchanan concludes. Why take cosmic risks?

You know: It’s a cookbook!


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