Podcast: Should We Search for Extraterrestrial Life?

Here is a podcast if you like the debate format so you can listen to both sides before settling on your own position. Intelligence Squared has great discussions involving experts on a multitude of topics, but few touch upon astronomy. Hence, this is an episode worth sharing.

Here is the set up for this debate:

For decades, scientists around the world have dedicated their lives — and research dollars — to one question: Is there anyone else out there? In the early 1970s, NASA joined the hunt with its own program to search for extraterrestrial life, or SETI for short. When that was defunded by Congress, private efforts took hold. But just what have decades of SETI brought us? And how should we approach the search in those to come? For SETI’s supporters, finding other intelligent life in the cosmos is a fundamentally human endeavor. It probes our understanding of the cosmos, what it means to live and survive on Earth and beyond, and just where our species fits into the greater universe. But others warn that SETI is a distraction from other scientific endeavors that, at best, diverts critical resources and, at worst, will open a can of worms humanity isn’t ready to deal with. Just what would happen if we actually find other beings? Are we mature enough as a society to respond? In this episode, we ask the essential extraterrestrial question: to search or not to search? 

The two experts debating this topic are:

  • Jill Cornell Tarter is an American astronomer best known for her work on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Tarter is the former director of the Center for SETI Research, holding the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute.
  • Paul M. Sutter is a cosmologist and community outreach coordinator with the Department of Astronomy at Ohio State University. Sutter is also the chief scientist at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio.

I expect most of those visiting this page already have a strong opinion on this topic, but it is worth listening to the debate among these two experts anyway. Enjoy.