Are you ready for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?

May 7, 2014

Mankind is still not ready for contact with a supposed extraterrestrial civilization, a study has found (credit: José Antonio Peñas/Sinc)

Some SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scientists are considering “Active SETI” to detect possible extraterrestrial civilizations.

Psychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre, professor at the University of Cádiz (Spain) questions this idea, based on results* from a survey taken by students, which revealed a general level of ignorance about the cosmos and the influence of religion on these matters.

Some astrophysicists, such as Stephen Hawking and David Brin, have warned of the risk that this implies for humanity, since it could favor the arrival of beings with more advanced technology and dubious intentions.

The ethical and sociological implications of this proposal have now been analyzed by de la Torre, 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?”

Public is clueless about ET

He 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, the likelihood of contact with extraterrestrials, and religious questions — for example, “do you believe that God created the universe?”

The results, published in the journal Acta Astronautica, demonstrates that “the knowledge of the general public of a certain education level about the cosmos and our place within it is still poor,” said De la Torre. “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. In this respect, we need a new Galileo to lead this journey.

“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’?.” He believes that this matter should not be monopolized by a handful of scientists: “It is a global matter with a strong ethical component in which we must all participate.”

* Results will be posted here when available.

Abstract of Acta Astronautica paper

  • Study identifies the relevance of consciousness in Space awareness.
  • New model for consciousness in relation to Space is proposed.
  • An empirical approach is used to assess level of Space awareness in college students.
  • Subjects showed low levels on Space awareness and high levels on religious beliefs.
  • The relationship between results and impact of SETI is also discussed.

This study presents a new approach to the concept of cosmic consciousness integrated in current neuroscience knowledge and discusses implications for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It also examines different aspects related to consciousness and how it may play a key role in the understanding of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and life in the Universe and its implications. Subjects (n=116) were college students from Spain, the United States, and Italy. Subjects responded to a questionnaire comprising five different sections: (A) religious beliefs, (B) environment and general opinion, (C) astronomy, (D) contact, and (E) attention and perception. The results showed the importance of several modular aspects that affect Space awareness in humans. Preliminary results are discussed with regard to current neuroscience, factor analysis, and possible implications for the understanding of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. The roles of education, new search strategies, and possible contact scenarios are also discussed.