SETI really?

Astronomers involved in a Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have spent at least 50 years looking into the heavens for a signal from some intelligent source.1 But really it seems to be more like YETI, meaning Yearning for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.2

Man does seem to have this innate desire to connect with some intelligent life other than here on Earth. Why is that? Possibly because God instilled in us the desire to connect with Him. We were created in the image of God and we yearn to connect with an Intelligence beyond us. But sin and hardened hearts have nullified our connection with the Creator and as a result I believe the unregenerate misinterpret that God-connectedness with the belief that intelligent life must exist elsewhere in the Universe.

So much so several large telescopes have been dedicated to the purpose of searching the heavens, particularly around stars with similar properties to our sun. One such radio telescope is the Allen Telescope Array as shown in Fig. 1. The SETI Institute sought private funds for an instrument that could be dedicated to searching the heavens, and in 2001 Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) agreed to personally fund the technology development and first phase of implementation, culminating in the construction of 42 antennas. In October 2007 the array began commissioning tests and initial observations.3

allen-array

Figure 1: Radio telescopes of the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek, California (USA). Credit: AP

Astronomers like those at the SETI Institute are hoping to find an Earth 2.0, like recently claimed,4 but with life, even intelligent life that could send a radio communication signal.1 They assume that life evolved once on Earth so why not elsewhere on similar planets in the Universe since there must be billions of them.5 That’s their reasoning anyway.

The detection

On August 29th 2016 an online news report was published titled “SETI has observed a ‘strong’ signal that may originate from a Sun-like star”.6 A radio telescope, the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, in southern Russia (Fig. 2), which is used in the SETI program, sometime in 2015, detected an 11 GHz microwave signal from a location in the direction of the star HD164595. It was hoped that this was one of those otherworldly intelligent creatures reaching out and as a result it was reported that “there is considerable excitement”6 over this new signal. According to the news report:6

the Italian astronomer Claudio Maccone and other astronomers affiliated with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence have detected “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”

ratan-600-radio-telescope

Figure 2: The RATAN-600 radio telescope, in Zelenchukskaya, Russia. Credit: Wikipedia (edited)

The star named HD 164595 has a mass about 99% of our sun’s mass and lays about 95 light-years from Earth. Based on cosmic evolutionary assumptions they give it an estimated age of 6.3 billion years, and it is known to have at least one planet, HD 164595 b, similar in size to Neptune, which orbits its star in 40 days. Other planets may exist; that is their primary hope and it is from one of those planets that this new signal has come.

After so many decades of no success, to the point many despair over the prospects of ever hearing from an extraterrestrial species, the signal was sufficiently “provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target.”6 The detection is important enough that it and the work needed to understand its origin was planned to be discussed at a SETI committee meeting during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on September 27. Well, that meeting has already begun. But we don’t need to wait for a report on the resolution.

The resolution

A friend emailed me the same day this news was published, and asked me what I thought. Immediately the 11 GHz signal frequency brought to mind my own satellite communication experience near X-band, actually in the range of 12 GHz to 14 GHz. So I said I suspect that it was from Earth–a signal from a satellite.

In the same news report6 of its discovery, Nick Suntzeff, a Texas A&M University astronomer, was asked about it and he said:

“If this were a real astronomical source, it would be rather strange.”

He apparently commented that he would not be surprised if the signal was due to some terrestrial origin, because it was observed in part of the radio spectrum used by the military.

“God knows who or what broadcasts at 11 GHz, and it would not be out of the question that some sort of bursting communication is done between ground stations and satellites.  I would follow it if I were the astronomers, but I would also not hype the fact that it may be at SETI signal given the significant chance it could be something military.”6

Only 4 days after the publication on September 2, 2016 an online article reveals the real story, the truth behind the ‘discovery’ of intelligent life.7 A news item buried in a press release from the Russian Academy of Sciences announced an interesting radio signal at a wavelength of 2.7 cm was detected in the direction of the star system HD164595 in Hercules in the year 2015. Then after subsequent data analysis and processing of the signal it was revealed that it is most probably terrestrial in origin.

It seems that it was from a Russian military satellite that no one knew or realized was out there. Alexander Ipatov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences told the Russian News Agency TASS:

“We, indeed, discovered an unusual signal,” he told TASS. “However, an additional check showed that it was emanating from a Soviet military satellite, which had not been entered into any of the catalogs of celestial bodies.”7

I could have almost said: “I told you so!”

But the lesson we should all learn from this is that beliefs do not add up to science. SETI is a failed research program because life does not happen by chance. The spontaneous origin of life is not a ‘cosmic imperative’. It is impossible for self-replicating molecules to organize themselves from some sort of biotic soup even if the soup did exist. The reason may be found in what modern genetics has shown us: life depends on the code written on the DNA molecules, not on the chemicals themselves. And where did the code come from? From an intelligent mind. So without the Creator God, where do the SETI scientists / philosophers expect the intelligent mind to come from, which is capable of creating from nothing the self-replicating code that builds self-replicating organisms?

The only Intelligent Source is the Creator God who made man in His own image (Genesis 1).

References

  1. J.G. Hartnett, Wow! Communications from little green men? April 5, 2016.
  2. D. Catchpoole, SETI—religion or science? August 18, 2006.
  3. J. Tarter, The Allen Telescope Array, SETI Institute, accessed 8 September 2016.
  4. J.G. Hartnett, Life on Earth 2.0—Really?, August 13, 2015.
  5. G. Bates, SETI—coming in from the cold of space, Creation 26(3):48–50, June 2004.
  6. E. Berger, SETI has observed a “strong” signal that may originate from a Sun-like star, August 29, 2016.
  7. K. Enochs, The Real Story: Alien Radio Signal, September 2, 2016.

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