During my graduate school days at the University of Toronto (late 1960s) I took a short summer course, Advances in Planetary Physics, taught by astronomer Carl Sagan. Sagan was a rising star then and well on his way to becoming the science popularizer and communicator for which he later became famous. Most of the course and nearly all of the informal evening discussions focused on the possibility that extraterrestrial intelligent life existed and on the kinds of civilizations such beings would have established. In Sagan’s mind, there was absolutely no doubt that extraterrestrial intelligent beings (ETI) existed. Furthermore, he was convinced that on many planets in our galaxy ETIs had developed civilizations far more technically advanced than ours.
In many respects, SETI research is a waste of time, money, and talent. However, these latest SETI efforts are yielding greater insights into and appreciation for just how many plans, preparations, and preliminary steps—especially the carefully orchestrated introduction of certain forms of non-intelligent life—are needed to make possible a narrow time window during which an intelligent living species can exist on a planet, and how many more plans, preparations, and carefully orchestrated steps must be taken to enable such a species to launch and sustain a high-technology civilization. No such species and civilization are possible apart from the handiwork of a super-intelligent, super-powerful, super-benevolent Creator.6 If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it exists thanks to the miraculous interventions of that Creator. More.
See also: Don’t let Mars fool you. Those exoplanets teem with life!
How do we grapple with the idea that ET might not be out there?
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