Rational Religion

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Why We're (probably) Never Going to Talk to Anybody Else Out There.


All over the country grassroots local groups of amateur and professional scientists are gearing up, commandeering old radio dishes - both obsolete satellite monstrosities and actual outdated research antennae - in a Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). 


It's a great effort, bound to produce a lot of interesting data and maybe even some real science.  After all, an early "official" version of the same thing discovered pulsars and opened a whole new area of theoretical astronomy.


But these good folks actually hope to hear radio signals from some other sentient race.  And, given the mathematical odds in favor of other life in the Universe, they may actually hear them, some day.


But I wouldn't hold my breath until we communicate with any of these people.


In the first place, the distances involved would most likely be prohibitive.  People have been doing this, on several levels, for a few decades now.  If we were going to hear any radio transmissions from nearby enough to start any kind of dialogue, we almost certainly would have them on tape by now. 


"Nearby," by the way, means somewhere within 40 or 50 light years; meaning that a two-way transmission for just one hello-who-are-you? would take 80 to 100 years.  (...Since we have not yet perfected any method of communication faster than light, and if modern physics is correct, we never will.)


Of course, there are myriad "ifs", all of which could eventually go either way, as we learn more and more about the Universe.


But think about it!  If we manage to run across somebody else's intelligently patterned signals in the electromagnetic spectrum, chances are excellent that they have also - and perhaps long since -- tuned in on ours. 


And think of what we are sending out there?!


Leaking off the face of our planet, in a million wavelengths, is the most appalling collection of intellectual and artistic trash imaginable!  Oh, sure there's some "good stuff," primarily our better music, I would judge; but the purely commercial least-common-denominator junk outweighs it many-fold. 


And our news broadcasts!   


Hours and hours of daily evidence -- for 80-odd years -- that the human race can't be trusted even to take care of itself in a civilized manner!


Given that evidence, who the hell would WANT to answer us?


If they have any idea who we are, any truly civilized species might declare radio silence forevermore, just to avoid the chance we might get clever enough to come visiting. 


And as for visiting us ??    All the UFO sightings and societies notwithstanding, let us be honest, here.  We're a galactic backwater, dominantly populated by a mobile, aggressive and fiendishly clever (though demonstrably not very bright) species of short-lived, short-sighted (but megalomaniacal!) protoplasmic weeds.


I doubt we would be very interesting to anyone just a little bit smarter than we; and we are far too dangerous a species to be played with. 


One possible explanation why we have not yet detected those intelligent signals from space?  They saw us coming a hundred years ago, and we've already been quarantined.