Differences between SETI, Astrobiology, UFOlogy

17 08 2010

Based on some recent feedback, I’m tempted to pose a question to the cyberverse:

  • What differences do you see, if any, between SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), Astrobiology (study of locations and potential biochemistry of extraterrestrial life), and UFOlogy (study of UFOs)?

I ask this as a general point of discussion because some have expressed concern that working toward a preconceived methodology for xenoarchaeology, like I’ve been working on, will confuse Astrobiology, SETI, and the more pseudoscientific UFOlogy in the public mind.

So, what do you think?  Just how different is your perception of SETI, Astrobiology, and UFOlogy?  How legitimate a scientific pursuit are each?  How illegitimate?

Clearly, all three concepts are related.  Without Astrobiology, SETI and UFOlogy cannot logically exist.  UFOlogy implies “ETI,” but it makes some pretty incredible assumptions that in my mind remove it from the realm of hard science, or even speculative science, for that matter.

So, have at it.  Comments welcome.


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9 responses

17 08 2010
Steve Wilson

I think that in the conceptual space of UFOlogy, there’s a possible arena of legitimately scientific study of “unidentified flying objects” (in which the researcher remains agnostic about the origin of such).

I’m not sure that any UFOlogists are working in that narrow field however.

21 08 2010
astrowright

Steve – I agree. The problem with UFOlogy as a “field” as I see it is that those who engage in it have already accepted the existence of “alien visitations” to Earth as an a priori assumption. The rest, it seems, is seeking to validate that assumption. Else, why would UFOlogy not be pursued under the auspices of meteorology (as an unidentified atmospheric phenomenon) or aerospace engineering research (as unidentified human air/spacecraft)? -It seems to me that only after pursuing and eliminating these more reasonable approaches should less likely hypotheses (alien visitors) be seriously pursued.

24 04 2011
Boyan Angelov

I agree with your opinion too, I believe that UFOlogy is a redundant term, already encumbered with prejudice. Of course, I think that SETI and astrobiology are more related, but still astrobiology focuses on the more general topic, origin of life included.

off-topic: a great blog! I will keep an eye🙂

25 04 2011
astrowright

Thanks for the feedback and your kind sentiments, Boyan! Your thoughts are much appreciated, and I hope to keep engaging posts coming as I attempt to claw my way off this rock… =)

Cheers,
Ben

7 11 2011
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13 08 2014
Paul Budding

Steve and astrowright are wrong. Leslie Kean, a prominent Ufologist (who gets on any TV show she wants that concerns itself with UFO’s) is agnostic. Moreover, the lifelong prominent Ufologist, Don Berliner is also agnostic on UFO’s. I (personally) regard myself as someone who discusses and debates the subject matter and I lean towards a paradigm shift in secret… albeit a human one. Britain’s most famous Ufologist, Nick Pope, is agnostic.

24 03 2016
astrowright

Paul,

In my personal experience with some of those you mention, (I’ve not met them all), the agnosticism is more lip-service than true agnosticism. I consider myself truly agnostic — believing that deep time allows for the possibility that advanced extraterrestrial life exists and would have had opportunity to travel here… But I’ve seen no evidence to support that view (unexplained lights and human accounts are nowhere near enough). Many who claim to be agnostic tend to reveal themselves with shallow logic on the issue, e.g., “The lights must be caused by something, and if our craft can’t make those maneuvers, then they’ve got to be someone else’s” = aliens. The Zond satellite re-entry demonstrated that only 25% of eyewitness accounts are faithful, while the 25% on the other side of the bell curve are completely out-to-lunch. So, if you toss out eyewitness accounts and start to ask hard questions, “Do RADAR-based UFO ‘hits’ happen with equal or less frequency than the standard RADAR error rate,” the UFO ‘story’ starts to dissolve. Based on the data, the truly inquisitive agnostic would lean much farther away from the existence of UFOs as a sign of intelligent life than toward.

13 08 2014
Paul Budding

Furthermore, UAP is a scientific group of Ufologists (under a different name) that are all agnostic. So this quote of astrowright is unfair… “Else, why would UFOlogy not be pursued under the auspices of meteorology (as an unidentified atmospheric phenomenon) or aerospace engineering research (as unidentified human air/spacecraft)?” Personally, I think that the UAP wing are slanted away from the ETH as opposed to biased towards it.

24 03 2016
astrowright

This is a fair point (UAP slant), but even so, I maintain my point about the intrinsic bias of UAP requiring its own field of study. If ball lightning, etc., are still on the table, then more legitimacy would be earned by studying within existing scientific channels (e.g., meteorology).

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