Review: The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was originally Glasgow University Gifford Lectures for the theme The Search for Who We Are in 1985. Sagan does a great job explaining difficult concepts clearly and with compelling evidence. Unfortunately, in several places I also knew about the contrary evidence which undermines his position. That they were not addressed very much disappointed me.

I mentioned this book in my Evidence blog post a few days ago. The search for proof is never ending because new information leads to new questions not satisfactory answers. So why do we continue to search? Because we want to know. Maybe we even feel entitled to know. (I also mentioned it in my Missing Hydrocarbons when I learned the point methane condenses is way out near Saturn not Earth, so why does Earth have life?)

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Staying Beneath the Radar

The xenophobes around us have cause to celebrate. We are making it difficult for aliens to find us. As Frank Drake explains for in an article, our improvements in transmissions means less bleeds out into space. The parallel he makes is alien civilizations may only have a 60 year blip where they pushed massive amounts of radio activity into space as well? We have not found them because they like us have a more advanced or not yet enough technology.

SETI was founded in 1984. Frank Drake above is the director for one of the SETI projects and the creator of the Drake Equation (1961). The above changes the perspective on fc which is “What percentage of intelligent races have the means and the desire to communicate?” Drake’s idea to solve this is to look for optical transmissions. So now we are going target them with a nuclear lasers. Nice. It would be ironic if the gamma radiation we attribute to quasars is really aliens far away asking if we hear them.

Its interesting to me the radio signals we broadcast into space only go out to about 50 light years. I found a map with stars within 50 light years. There are approximately 2,000 within this reach with 133 about a bright as the Sun. Several of these nearby stars have planets. I guess time will tell whether we get a reply whether “Live long and prosper” or STFU.