May 23, 2014 I Micah Hanks

Astronomer’s Advice to Congress About Alien Life May Surprise You

Don't worry... this isn't another article that will begin with that lame and redundant little catchphrase of X-Files fame (yeah, you know the one we're talking about, so quit playing dumb). But whether or not the truth is out there anyplace within reach, leading astronomers seem to think that the prospects for finding alien life just might be.

In a recent presentation before the U.S. House Committee, Seth Shostak and Dan Werthimer of California's SETI Research Center argued that the search for alien life elsewhere in the cosmos "is plausible and warrants scientific inquiry."

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Seth Shostack

The Independent reported Thursday that,

“In the last fifty years, evidence has steadily mounted that the components and conditions we believe necessary for life are common and perhaps ubiquitous in our galaxy,” said Werthimer in his written testimony.

“There may even be primitive extraterrestrial life in our own solar system, perhaps on a moon of Jupiter or Saturn. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, is thought to have a liquid water ocean beneath its icy surface, perhaps a good environment for life as we know it.”

The discussion before U.S. lawmakers regarding alien life and it's likelihood for existence is hopeful for many, particularly those who have long posited that there may indeed be evidence that supports the existence of extraterrestrials, as well as their possible visits to planet Earth.

During a two year period between 1966 and 68, the University of Colorado UFO Project (informally called The Condon Committee in reference to the head of the committee, Edward Condon) sought to determine whether any scientific evidence existed to support the existence of unidentified flying objects. The United States Air Force's Project Bluebook had spent more than a decade gathering data on UFO sightings and other purported encounters, and with hope of wiping their hands of the project, by 1966 had begun to search for a scientific panel that would review the data Bluebook had collected.

The famous determination by Condon and his experts had been damning in UFO circles: despite a modicum of compelling data, none presented a strong case for the existence of extraterrestrial UFOs. Hence, any further scientific inquiry into the matter seemed to be little more than a costly misadventure, at very best. UFO theorists to this day often cite the Condon committee's resolute dismissal of any reality behind UFOs as a death knell for future serious scientific inquiry into UFO phenomenon.

J. Allen Hynek, once a skeptic and USAF scientific advisor turned believer, had argued that the Condon Committee's determinations did little for scientific inquiry into the UFO puzzle, complaining that Condon and his review board had "avoided mentioning that there was embedded within the bowels of the report a remaining mystery," and that they "had been unable to furnish adequate explanations for more than a quarter of the cases examined." However, similar scientific determinations that have played down the UFO enigma have occurred elsewhere over the years, including those carried out by the U.S. based RAND Corporation, as well as the British Ministry of Defense. 

Will there be a future for the study of alien life that may exist in our universe? Perhaps the answers (very literally) lay in the stars on this one.


Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.

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