Recently, you may have seen mention in the SETI news of a Brazilian group of amateur astronomers prepared to launch "Extracom," an Active SETI effort that they claim is "the first private extraterrestrial communication initiative." Their initial announcement proclaimed that "it is time to join the great galactic community. It is time to speak freely from Earth to the whole universe." Extracom spokesman Mr. Eraldo B. Marques says of the project:
We wanted to shine a little light in the heads of those who might never have thought of it (If we can do it in Brazil, just imagine what you can do in the right side of the map!)...
We think it is a selfish position and a waste of precious time just to be waiting for a message (from the ETI's extracom) while not giving out anything in exchange ... Had a project like ours been launched by Frank Drake's team in the late 60's we could be closer to the moment of receiving a reply by now.
EXTRACOM ... expresses a legitimate and sincere desire of doing something great and meaningful, in an independent way. You can call it an liberal enterprise designed to celebrate the individual freedom.
We are ... a group of passionate free thinkers and private researchers. One of our manifest goals is exactly to be an off-academy group.
The authors are involved in SETI research here in Brazil for several years. One of us (Claudio Brasil) is the official Brazilian Regional Coordinator of the SETI League, with a Web page indexed in the main Brazilian search engines and regular appearances in the press. He also edits "Comunidade SETI," the first (and as far we know, the only) SETI newsletter in Brazil. Mauro Cavalcanti maintains the Toucan* Web site on SETI & Exobiology, lauched in 1998. We have been in frequent contact with each other over the last two years, but had never heard about the "Extracom" project or the GIRA group until recently, nor has anyone from that group contacted us.
We hereby state that the "Extracom" group does not represent the full SETI community in Brazil and that we do not endorse the positions of that group at all. We welcome collaborative work and are open to cooperate on a constructive basis with anyone committed to serious SETI research here in Brazil, but cannot agree with the positions stated by that group.
We are strongly committed to a professional approach to SETI, holding an academic, scientifically well-founded, view of the subject (besides the above mentioned newsletter edited by Claudio Brasil, we are also currently engaged in the preparation of a multi-authored volume on SETI, that will be the first book of the genre in Brazil). Therefore we do NOT want to keep an "off academy" position, and indeed are both working full time (while not in SETI research, unfortunately!) at large public research institutions (Claudio Brasil is a physicist at Instituto de Pesquisas Energeticas e Nucleares, Universidade de Sao Paulo, and Mauro Cavalcanti is a fellow research biologist at Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro).
We do not agree that the current SETI research (both microwave and optical) is a "selfish position and a waste of precious time." We also want to fully honor the pioneering efforts of Dr. Frank Drake, and it is our firm hope that someday in the (near?) future his Project Ozma will be enlisted among the greatest scientific efforts of all times (if not for its results, for it having laid the foundations of the truly scientific SETI.)
While we also share "a sincere desire of doing something great and meaningful," we do NOT want to do so in an "independent way." Cooperation and concerted efforts are truly essential in an activity of such overwhelming importance as SETI. We see science (including scientific SETI) as a worldwide collective enterprise, and not as "a liberal enterprise designed to celebrate the individual freedom" of someone (THAT would be a "selfish position"!) As a constructive human activity, science "celebrates the individual freedom" by recognizing each true contribution made by a scientist to the mankind's knowledge pool, after a quite healthy process of peer-reviewing and careful evaluation and independent confirmation of every bit of evidence. As Carl Sagan (and, by the way, several of the major philosophers of science) pointed out, this is what makes science a self-correcting enterprise and clearly distinguishes it from religious belief.
In this connection, it is our opinion that such "independent" SETI initiatives as Project Phoenix, Project Argus, and COSETI should not be misunderstood and overstated as "liberal enterprises designed to celebrate the individual freedom," as they are indeed a consequence of the regrettable lack of official support to SETI research by the major public scientific institutions. We therefore endorse all initiatives to restore public support to scientific SETI, such as the Petition to Restore NASA SETI Funding issued by Tobias Daniel Wabbel.
Furthermore, we feel that initiatives involving "active contact" are not in accordance with the Decision Process for Examining the Possibility of Sending Communications to Extraterrestrial Civilizations document drafted by the IAA SETI committee, which explicitly states:
No communication to extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent by any State until appropriate international consultations have taken place. States should not cooperate with attempts to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence that do not conform to the principles in this Declaration ... if a decision is made to send a message to extraterrestrial intelligence, it should be sent on behalf of all Humankind, rather than from individual States.
We think these recommendations should apply not only to individual States but also to private organizations and individual persons.
Last, but hopefully not least, we also do not believe that a map has any "right sides" (what is the "right side" of a planet, anyway?)
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this page last updated 4 January 2003
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