Astronomy

Extraterrestrial Life Fact or Fiction



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"Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts."
-Henry Adams, American Novelist and Historian

Modern belief in extraterrestrial life and UFO's all began back on June 24, 1947 when pilot Kenneth Arnold observed disk-shaped aircraft flying near Mount Rainier, Washington. As the years past the sightings continued, and government investigations concluded nothing unusual was going on and gave the same explanations time and time again. However, reports from those who don't buy the governments explanations and the opinions of some dissenting prominent insiders have continued to elevate the interest in the phenomenon. But does extraterrestrial life exist? I am a skeptic and I will lay out my case as to why I am as such.

First, we can use calculations and go on probability (starting with the 72 sextillion or 7 X 10 to the 22nd power, stars in the observable universe) and the numbers will come out in favor that you may very well find life on another system. Having said that though, using calculations to come up with probabilities of something happening is still just that...a probability and not an exact science.

Secondly, what about the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or SETI? It has been over 30 years since volunteer, Dr. Jerry R. Ehman, scribbled his famous phrase of "WOW" over a strong signal printout and SETI has produced nothing significant since (or before the WOW signal, in fact) then. SETI, is in fact, considered by many, as nothing more than UFOlogy or the study of UFOs considered to be pseudoscience by many in the scientific community. Even those who were once highly supportive of SETI have been forced to re-evaluate their position. For example, Peter Schenkel, while remaining a supporter of SETI, has written that "in light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest and to take a more down-to-earth view...We should quietly admit that the early estimates-that there may be a million, a hundred thousand, or ten thousand advanced extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy - may no longer be tenable."

Third, what about Roswell? For all the excitement Roswell has produced there is little to back it up. One of the biggest problems for Roswell supporters is the problem with all the witness accounts is that they all came a minimum of 31 years after the Roswell events in question, and in many cases were recounted more than 40 years after the fact. Memories that have sat idle in one's head for that amount of time are of questionable reliability but are also subject to contamination from other accounts they may have heard through through the three to four decades before coming forward. The eyewitnesses are just the tip of the iceberg in the case of Roswell but thats a whole other argument for another article.

In ending, there is a lot of speculation that alien life exists but little proof to actually back it up. A fact is something that can be proved and/or that is subject to falsification using the scientific method...the belief in extraterrestrials is neither fact nor fiction because there is no solid evidence in either direction. The bottom line is this: believers are going to believe in big-headed but little bodied spacemen no matter what and th skeptics are not going to believe in extraterrestrials until they land their starcraft flush on the 50 yard line during the middle of the Superbowl.

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