Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Ouch, Huge Sky Survey Shows No “Alien Technosignatures”

David Klinghoffer
Murchison Widefield Array
Photo: A portion of the Murchison Widefield Array, Australia, by Pete Wheeler, ICRAR, via EurekAlert!

Gizmodo reports:

A groundbreaking survey of over 10 million star systems has failed to detect signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Astronomers working with the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in Western Australia were unable to detect alien technosignatures while surveying millions of star systems in the Vela constellation, according to new research published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. The authors of the new study, Chenoa Tremblay from CSIRO and Steven Tingay from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), were hunting for low radio frequencies similar to those produced by our own civilization. 

Located in a radio-quiet zone of the Australian outback, the MWA, with its 256 array tiles, has a frequency range between 80 and 300 MHz.

“The MWA is a unique telescope, with an extraordinarily wide field-of-view that allows us to observe millions of stars simultaneously,” explained Trembley in a Curtin University press release. “We observed the sky around the constellation of Vela for 17 hours, looking more than 100 times broader and deeper than ever before. With this dataset we found no technosignatures — no sign of intelligent life.”

I say “ouch” on behalf of materialists, atheists, and Darwinists. Ten million stars and not a hint of alien civilization. 

Cool Either Way

You see, proponents of intelligent design are cool either way. If there are intelligent aliens, their biology would itself have to reflect a designer’s purpose. It would probably have to be much like ours. As Discovery Institute biologist Michael Denton has argued, the universe itself is designed to accommodate beings built on something similar to our own plan: “The unique fitness of nature for carbon-based life and intelligent beings of our biology is an empirical discovery, no matter how many cogent arguments a skeptic might introduce to counter any claim that the fitness is the result of design.” See his recent series here.

But materialists require a very different scenario, where life, including intelligent life, springs up like weeds, without purpose, reflecting no such design. One famous estimate predicts “a million civilizations in our galaxy at or beyond the earth’s present level of technological development.” In an unplanned cosmos, alien intelligence ought to be evident and discoverable. As science historian Michael Keas has noted, the hope of intelligent ETs is a quasi-spiritual one, offering the possibility of future “ET enlightenment,” salvation from the stars. An iconic depiction of this is the final sequence in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Steven Spielberg sweetly captures our native human longing for transcendence, answered emphatically when the aliens arrive. As the Gizmodo reporter puts it, “Finding aliens in this gigantic galactic haystack is a truly daunting proposition, but we have to keep looking.” Notice the imperative in that last phrase.

Design theory can accommodate a unique status for human beings in the cosmos, or not. For materialism to be true, we must not be special. The truth, which has never pointed in that direction, hurts.