Reflection | The Possibility of Extraterrestrial Life

The possibility of extraterrestrial life has gained more mainstream credibility recently. A respected former US intelligence official, David Grusch, told Congress he believes the government has long known of alien spacecraft visiting Earth. His testimony intrigued both sides of the political aisle.

The possibility of extraterrestrial life

Grusch did not claim direct evidence, but said colleagues had described injuries from aliens and cover-ups. His credibility comes from investigating unexplained flying objects for the Pentagon. Next to him sat a Navy commander who encountered a quickly-moving, tic-tac shaped craft in 2004 that defied physics as we know it.  

For those convinced we've been visited, this was welcome news. An Australian journalist who interviewed Grusch found him credible and said unidentified anomalous phenomena can no longer be ridiculed. Grusch left open whether visitors are actually aliens or beings who've always lived here. But any non-human intelligence would be momentous.

There's long been a divide between scientists searching space for life and enthusiasts claiming alien visits. That's blurring. A respected Harvard cosmologist, Avi Loeb, argues aliens have been here, notably an object called 'Oumuamua with an odd path through our solar system. This month he retrieved possible interstellar meteor fragments from the ocean floor.

Within academia Loeb is an outlier. But his credentials are solid, and he insists his extraterrestrial explanations make sense, unlike others strained attempts to dismiss possible alien signs.

Most scientists remain skeptical, seeing absence of evidence as telling. No clear signs of life have been found on Mars or elsewhere. But some allow curiosity about if we're alone leads them to support continuing the search.

Options range from listening for signals, looking for biosignatures, and seeking alien tech signatures that might be visible at great distances. But nothing definitive has been found despite 70 years of efforts.

A few scientists, like Loeb, speculate about alien life confidently. Most see overinterpreting limited data. Loeb is accused of embarrassing Harvard colleagues in his extraterrestrial advocacy. But he argues staying open-minded is key to discovery.

On the fringe, some like filmmaker Jeremy Corbell make dramatic UFO claims. But supposed spacecraft lights were likely flares, and Grusch's background raises questions about his objectivity. Still, most agree continued research on unexplained sightings is merited.

In the end, absence of evidence has always plagued the extraterrestrial field. At what point does that become meaningful? If life were common, we should be finding it, argues one skeptic. Others counter we may just lack the right tools so far. The gap between any aliens and humans is also likely enormous.

Earnestness in examining the possibility of aliens is arguably irresistible. But what might visitors make of our obsession, when it diverts focus from solving problems here on Earth?

Source: The Financial Times