The Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations

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Number of Civilizations

Search for Exoplanets      

Search for Intelligence

Exoplanet Religion          

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Confirmed Exoplanets:   3869


Extraterrestrial Civilizations

Finding an extraterrestrial civilizations would tell us we are not alone in the Galaxy. It would show us that intelligent life can survive the many threats it faces, that complexity is not a liability, and that the universe is not solely the habitation of single-celled organisms. Our search starts with an estimate of the probability of there being such civilization and whether they might be within range for communication. [More . . .]

Extra-Solar Planets

One approach of in our search for civilizations beyond the solar system is to scan the skies for evidence of planets capable of supporting life. With ground-based and space-based telescopes we have found many  exoplanets circling stars beyond the sun. We recognize that if such a planet has evolved a civilization it may not decide to broadcast its presence. We therefore look for clues in its atmosphere that might indicate the presence of life and intelligence [More . . .]

Picture of Galaxy

In its initial mission the NASA Kepler spacecraft has detected  4,585 planets in its initial scan of 156,000 stars in a small region of the Cygnus and Lyra constellations in the Milky Way galaxy. Of these, 2337 have been confirmed by other telescopes. Among the overall total, 290 planets are within the habitable zone of their star. As there are over 200 billion stars in our galaxy, this initial scan of a small region suggests that the galaxy may contain at least 50 billion planets. Of these, millions may be in the habitable zone around their star. Recently, ground telescopes have discovered three planets within the habitable zone of a nearby red dwarf star. The Hubble Space Telescope suggests these may have water.

Extraterrestrial Intelligence:

We recognize that some of the planets in our Milky Way galaxy may support civilizations that have advanced well beyond our own stage of development. This has led to a surge in interest in detecting whether such civilizations may be broadcasting their presence. Under an effort referred to as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), the main technique is examination of radio waves or light from outer space for signs of intelligent content.  [More . . .]


On Earth many transmissions are broadcast by religious groups, and religion is both a stabilizing feature for individual civilizations and a source of conflict between civilizations. We should therefore be prepared for religious content in SETI  [More . . .]

Reconciling Science and Religon

For civilizations to be within communication distance of each other, they need to be stable, with lifetimes of hundreds of thousands of years. One source of instability is the conflict between religion and science. A resolution of this conflict might be recognition that we live in a dual universe where eternity interfaces with spacetime. [More . . .]

Humanistic Texts

Appreciation of the variety of thought on a planet and how it seeks achievement of a stable society can be gained by exploring experiences of the many cultures on our own planet. These eventually led to the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A key question is whether an equivalent declaration has appeared in other planetary civilizations and led to a comparable Galactic Declaration. [More . . .]

(Photo courtesy NASA Kepler Mission/ Carter Roberts)

Updated 9/5/2017 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to investigating the possible role of science and religion in communications from advanced extraterrestrial civilizations.