Open SETI Honors Myths

"To the modern mind the word "myth" suggests something made up and, by definition, not true: the myth of romantic love, for instance. We normally expect that anything told in the form of a myth is manifestly false and ought to be rejected as such. At the same time we vaguely sense that myth is a catalyst for experience, something that does not need to be literally true to inspire us or even compel us in directions we would not otherwise care to go, or dare to go. This ambivalence about myth is endemic to an age in which human imagination has been thwarted by technological magic and the sensational special effects of media in which we find ourselves immersed."

- John Lash

Most of our society is as unconcerned with its origins and place in the universe as would be a person wandering in a dream. That is, most individuals are unconcerned, and very few human organizations are devoted to these matters. Society deals with the problems and issues of the moment and of the near future. But there is only a shadowy background of myth to provide any context for it all.

Every ancient society found truth in its myths and modern society is no exception. Individuals within modern society tend to accept as their cosmological truth either what they believe to be the growing knowledge of science as reported by the media or taught by educators, or the scriptures of their religions.

But truth is not so easily attained. The scientific description of our reality is best understood as the result of a sociological process that has undergone many revolutions and will continue to do so.14 It is never absolute truth nor should we assume that it even approaches absolute truth. At times it looks more like lurching about than a steady or asymptotic approach to complete knowledge.

The average person does not have direct access to even such "truth" as science believes it holds--the literature of science--but rather is told about it by media27 and by educators who always add their own spin. And those who turn to religious scripture for truth often do not realize that this too is but the end result of sociological and political processes.

People do not understand this. They do not know that they have simply chosen their myth. They believe that they possess knowledge of their general cosmic situation, so far as is possible for anyone to obtain such knowledge, and that there is little point attempting to learn any more about it. People are also being taught, usually subliminally, about what is important and what is not. In fact, people's beliefs about what is true and what is important are fed to them by society's institutions. Thus people in their beliefs are vulnerable to manipulation at every level.52

Given the way in which it comes about, I do not assume that the modern scientific myth of Man's Place in the Cosmos (elucidated throughout Open SETI as Society's Common Approved Myth: The SCAM54) necessarily provides the most accurate depiction. It is only one of many, and there is value in looking at the myths of other cultures - the living ones as well as the extinct. When we do, we find information at variance with the modern myths. We find that some cultures either left for us or have carried forward into our time, a knowledge or a cultural memory of an interface with something "other" - something that gave them information that we in the modern west lack or cannot accept.1

There is another modern myth relating to man's cosmic situation. It is the myth of the UFO. By referring to the topic in this way, I am not implying that "the UFO is not real," any more than by calling the scientific description a myth am I saying that the scientific description is false. Myths are complex social phenomena and they usually are seeded by something. That "something" is accessed via the myth that has grown around it. Since the "something" behind the UFO myth could have much to do with man's cosmic situation, I suggest the reader give some consideration to that myth.30

Open SETI does not put much focus on the UFO, because that subject receives such heavy coverage elsewhere.

Science and The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Behind the science reporting and classroom teaching regarding man's origins and cosmic situation lie the efforts of archeologists, geneticists, cosmologists, astronomers, astrophysicists, and biophysicists. These groups, through applying their disciplines to observation and experiments, attempt to slowly but surely gain understanding.

In recent decades, scientists from several of these disciplines have abandoned the slow but sure approach in favor of a dedicated search for the presence in our Galaxy of what they describe as extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) or extraterrestrial intelligent societies (ETIS). They named their program The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). SETI fully subscribes to The SCAM.

In order to design effective instrumentation for the search, SETI (our shorthand designation for the scientists formulating and conducting SETI research) needed to define what it was looking for. Many concepts of what ETIS could be, or could be doing, were available. Brin (1982, 1999) gives an excellent review and discussion of the range of possibilities that have been considered by SETI proponents at one time or another.

Brin takes an extreme view for a SETI scientist: he assumes that interstellar travel is possible at subluminal speeds. This assumption leads to various scenarios in which the Galaxy becomes populated from one or more seed civilizations. But Brin claims that there is no "clear" or "strong" evidence that an ETIS has ever settled or colonized Earth. (He says nothing of evidence he would consider less than strong.) And Brin derides reports of UFO activity. These opinions he shares with the entire SETI community.

For reasons that are obscure but, to be generous, perhaps simply in the spirit of parsimony, SETI chose to go forward with the most conservative depiction of ETIS and ETI technology.32 SETI's position is that interstellar travel - by subluminal or superluminal means - is impossible. This is one of SETI's great mistakes. New models of physical reality that would be highly supportive of travel are now in the forefront of theoretical physics. SETI's position could increasingly be termed not conservative, but one of radical denial.

In the next section I will review some of the most intriguing developments in physics that ought to lead to a revision of how SETI operates.

Open SETI Preface SETI Physics 101