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Science re-ups its interest in aliens

The “cryptoterrestrial hypothesis” raises eyebrows—and questions

A radio telescope in China's Guizhou province to search for extraterrestrial life, September 24, 2016 Associated Press/Photo by Liu Xu/Xinhua

Science re-ups its interest in aliens

Aliens could be on the moon, underground, or disguised as humans, according to a paper by researchers at Harvard University and a biology professor at Montana Technological University. The publication—more of a speculative treatise than an academic study—has renewed public interest in the search for extraterrestrial life.

In the paper, the researchers studied accounts of “unidentified anomalous phenomena” or UAPs, the updated scientific term for UFOs. They hypothesized that intelligent, nonhuman beings called cryptoterrestrials may be “concealed in stealth.”

The paper described four different types of possible intelligent beings: human cryptoterrestrials (remnants of an ancient human civilization), hominid cryptoterrestrials (technologically advanced nonhuman species, like “descendants of unknown, intelligent dinosaurs”), former extraterrestrials (aliens who arrived on Earth and concealed themselves), and magical cryptoterrestrials (“earthbound angels,” like fairies or elves). A UFO expert told Fox News that the report appeared to be a thought experiment and not an attempt to prove its claims.

Humans as far back as the ancient Greeks have considered the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Astronomers and researchers now believe that modern technology could enable scientists to answer the question of whether aliens exist. And in searching for extraterrestrial life, scientists hope to learn more about human life, too.

“None of those earlier societies could ever hope to find the aliens, but we could,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, based in California. “We really could pick up a signal tomorrow or tonight.”

One of the common methods of searching for alien life is the use of antennas known as radio telescopes to monitor for signals from other civilizations. Some scientists theorize that intelligent life would be able to build a transmitter capable of sending signals, and humans might be able to intercept the signals.

Astronomer Frank Drake pioneered this method in 1960 while leading a government-funded research project at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia. Scientists say this technology and other advancements make searching for aliens feasible.

“It was the first SETI research project.” Shostak said. “We’re the first generation that can actually do a search for not just life, but intelligent life.”

Researchers continue to use and improve on Drake’s method. Radio telescope antennas are bigger now than in 1960, and the receivers that detect signals can monitor more frequencies at a time. This means it is quicker to comb through the cosmos in the hopes of finding aliens.

“Our hunt for E.T. depends heavily on that technology,” said Shostak. “So the search keeps getting better and better.” He is certain that aliens exist. “I can hardly believe that the smartest things in the universe are Homo sapiens,” he said.

Scientists looking for extraterrestrial life still have to grapple with a lack of evidence. Jacob Haqq Misra, director and senior research investigator at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, a nonprofit based in Seattle, said that recent public speculation about evidence of aliens does not hold weight in the scientific community.

“I think as far as all scientists are concerned, we have not at all found extraterrestrial life,” Misra said. He is unsure if scientists will find aliens or not. But that’s what makes the search exciting for him. He also hopes to answer questions about our solar system while studying other solar systems.

“Let’s say, we search and we find no evidence of life,” he said. “That makes this all the more special to understand why this planet supports life.”

Jay Richards is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, now based in Seattle, Wash. He is skeptical if aliens exist, but he believes it could be possible.

“My view is that the question of life elsewhere is an open question precisely because God can do lots of different things,” he said. “God could create a universe in which life is teeming, or a universe in which life exists in one spot, say, on the surface of the Earth.”

The Bible does not specifically address the question of aliens, Richards pointed out. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of U.S. Christians and 85 percent of U.S. atheists or agnostics say their best guess is that life exists on other planets.

Richards believes Christians should not reject the idea of aliens based on theological grounds.

“If there’s some amazing discovery that awaits us, we should dispose ourselves to be open to the evidence,” he said. “And I’m confident that whatever the answer is, it’s not going to contradict our core beliefs as Christians.”

Elizabeth Moeller

Elizabeth Moeller is a breaking news intern for WORLD and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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