small logo Editorial Response

Searching for Extraterrestrial Idiots?
by Dr. Alexander Zaitsev, IRE (alzaitsev @

This short note is in response to Peter Backus' editorial "Three SETI Myths," on the SETI League web site at Dr. Backus identifies Myth # 4:

"SETI is Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence"

I have long been a proponent, practitioner, and advocate of deliberate Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or METI. See, for example, my Guest Editorial "Transforming SETI into METI," online at It has been suggested in a friendly fashion by Michael Michaud (see, David Brin (see, the authors and apologists of the Rio and San Marino Scales (see, and others, that sending deliberate messages to probable Aliens is a dangerous and foolish adventurism. It could be, they suggest, that SETI scientists have yet to detect signals from our cosmic neighbors, precisely because the extraterrestrials recognize the dangers of transmission. In short, my colleagues contend, one must be an idiot to risk transmitting into space.

If only idiots transmit, then by implication, those of us on Earth who propose or practice METI must be idiots. Still, we continue to practice observational SETI, hoping some other civilization will transmit our way, the possible risks notwithstanding. So, from my colleagues' arguments, does it not follow that the true interpretation of the SETI acronym is:

"Search for Extraterrestrial Idiots"?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of The SETI League, Inc., its Trustees, officers, Advisory Board, members, donors, or commercial sponsors.

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