PREFACE: Reforming SETI from the Ground Up

A small group of scientists has captured humanity's dream of some day finding its place within a great cosmic/galactic community. Using some of the most conservative descriptions of reality and life in the universe offered by our modern western myths, this group of scientists formulates the parameters of possible extraterrestrial societies and prescribes the allowable ways by which they may be discovered, in a program they call The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, and they identify themselves as SETI scientists. SETI consists entirely of a simple search for electromagnetic signals of a certain type that the SETI scientists expect to be used by extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).

After more than forty years of searching, the SETI program has not succeeded in finding the kinds of signals it is searching for. SETI scientists explain that the signals they seek will be very difficult to find, if they exist at all, and that it is necessary to be steadfast and continue the search, indefinitely, almost as a permanent fixture of society. Throughout all of this time, SETI (a shorthand term I shall use for "SETI scientists") has never disavowed its original formulated models, or responded to any suggestion that it reexamine its principles.28

Indeed there has been no serious challenge to SETI's ideas. There have been complaints, quickly waved off, but no one has made the effort to carefully examine the foundations of SETI and learn whether SETI is truly on sound scientific ground.

Until now. On these pages you will find that critical examination and a proposal to replace the current program with a much broader quest: Open SETI. The Open SETI Initiative challenges virtually every aspect of the SETI program - its assumptions, its methodology, and its findings.

Open SETI faults the SETI program for willfully ignoring evidence of ETI that is already at hand.

The Open SETI Initiative calls for replacing the dysfunctional SETI program with a serious multidisciplinary study of evidence wherever it is found, "from the ground up".

It should be understood that SETI, the program, is a response to a need that is as transcendental as any human quest can be, for it is intimately concerned with the cosmological setting in which the human race had its origins. It posits the existence of intelligences that may have had billions of years of development. We come to that with perhaps billions of years behind us as well, but with only a few thousand years of developed technology and understanding. It would be wrong to expect that what we seek will be confined to the parameters we set on it out of our very limited perspective. Yet that is exactly the mistake made by the practitioners of SETI.

Readers familiar with the large and growing activities of SETI researchers and enthusiasts will wonder how so many of our brightest can possibly be as mistaken as I claim them to be. I will show how they got started on the wrong track originally, and how they substitute beliefs for the activity of questioning that would have been the first step to correcting their mistakes and reforming their programs.

In some respects - the resistance to outside information and ideas, the smug defense of narrow concepts, the ridicule of other belief systems - SETI engages in cultish behavior. The reader can observe this behavior simply by reviewing SETI literature and perusing SETI web sites.

Open SETI, Myth, Science, and SETI

Open SETI is a new and very radical approach to SETI. It moves from the top down -- that is, by allowing the pre-existing to enter our awareness and recognition, rather than over-planning an approach to what should be there and setting up acceptance criteria.

Open SETI invites the reader to first dissociate from modern society's ways of thinking and seeing things. From beyond our modern western technological outlook, one views humanity as a group of societies distributed over time and space, each with its particular way of seeing things and learning about itself and its place in the cosmos. Whatever way a society chooses, we call a myth, and we assert that the scientific picture of the world is also a myth. This is not to denigrate science, but to put it in its place, while elevating other myths for serious consideration.

Open SETI respects arcane and nonwestern myths. It also places great value on modern western approaches to understanding, including the scientific approach, but suggests other institutions that may be superior to science in the way they evaluate evidence of matters as far removed from ordinary human experience as ETI may be.

Open SETI takes an interest in the most advanced theories and instrumentation science can offer, while dismissing the ways in which science chooses how to use its capabilities.

Open SETI shows how conventional SETI fails to qualify as a scientific effort while ironically claiming that its detractors are unscientific.

In developing the case for Open SETI, I will present information that will be satisfying to scientists and engineers. In fact, I will begin with a review of the most forward developments in theoretical physics, as I believe we should at least lean in the direction of what would be commonplace reality to those whom we seek to know. But I will also provide vital information lying well outside the usual domains of science and engineering.

I will show you where surprising information bearing on the ETI question may be found. And I will show you how you can begin your own fruitful search for knowledge and even possibly your own search for those elusive, or not-so-elusive, electromagnetic signals.

And that is the initiative. It is for individuals and organizations to apply themselves to a very real SETI that recognizes evidence of ETI and subjects it to disciplined study.

One final prefatory note: some of the most important information in this website is provided in the Notes and in the appendices. I recommend you make use of the hyperlinks to read them. Most browsers will open them and also the literature references in separate windows; this will allow you to maintain your place in the main document.

Open SETI Introduction