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Post Scriptum: Extraterrestrial intelligence as an interdisciplinary challenge

"UFOs and extraterrestrials" are quite an arguable subject, which has occupied scientists and amateur researchers since decades. While UFO-researchers are not getting tired to provide "clear evidence" for an unknown phenomenon, sceptics notoriously doubt about the existence of such kind of evidence. Both sides are sharing the same scientistic concept of science, assuming that scientific facts are objectively accessible and that an exact study of these facts will reveal the truth about natural phenomena. Accordingly, both sides are quite frustrated that the other side is refusing to acknowledge the existence, respectively the non-existence of these facts.

In contrast to the above concept of science we will follow the approach, that science as a process depending on historic, cultural and philosophical assumptions is rather constructing facts than discovering them. For example the Greek philosopher Aristarchus of Samos concluded from observations of the planets that the earth is going around the sun. However, in his time there was no need for alternative world views and so his considerations did not rise any attention. A modern example for the cultural influence on scientific observations took place in the 19th century, when numerous astronomers observed canals on Mars, which were supposed to be created by a Martian civilisation. These observations have been evoked by a zeitgeist, shaped by the new genre of science fiction literature. Thanks to modern telescopes and space probes today we know that canals on Mars have never existed.

That means that facts do not objectively exist, but they are rather constructed by an observer. From this perspective, science is not a process producing an unambiguous kind of truth, but it is rather a continuous way of correcting errors (see chapter 3 of the book). This is particularly true for such an enigmatic subject as extraterrestrials, which can not be accessed in a strictly controlled manner - assuming that intelligent beings are possessing the capability of bluffing and cheating. Therefore, the extraterrestrial hypothesis is not falsifiable (which on the other hand means that it can´t be logically proven) but it can to all intents and purposes be a subject of scientific study. In order to be able to evaluate potential evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence, we should consult as many scientific disciplines as possible:

Natural science


Cultural theory



Supporting argument

(1) SETI, SETA: Attempts to identify ET artefacts against noise.

(3) Sceptical argument is biased against the ETH in order to protect an orthodox order or worldview.

(5) Humans as 'non-fixed animals' (Arnold Gehlen), find themselves forced to create orders. Extraterrestrials are confronting humans with a maximum of contingency and thus become a taboo.

(7) Number of habitable exoplanets. Timescales available for development of civilisations.

(9) All knowledge is based on hypothesis. The ETH is a hypothesis. ("Anything goes.")

Sceptical argument

(2) Ufology: Attempts to match observations with established concepts of reality.

(4) The ETH is representing a heterodox worldview. The social purpose of such alternative worldviews is to challenge an existing order.

(6) Extraterrestrials as a modern myth: Things like UFOs are a manifestation of spiritual longing in a disenchanted world

(8) Distance of interstellar travel. Timescales to survive by civilisations.

(10) The ETH is not falsifiable. Occam's razor prefers conventional explanation against the ETH.

The above table is making no claim to be complete. Additional columns could be added for psychology or biology, for example. Arguments, which are not clearly routed in a particular discipline, are not contained in the table. For example the practical argument that extraterrestrials would have contacted us for ages, if they were visiting our planet and the counter-argument that extraterrestrials might be so different from us that we could neither understand nor notice them. Most existing studies have been conducted in the sections 1, 2, 4 or 6 with occasional consideration of arguments from the sections 7-10. For further studies we propose to consider argument from all sections – at least in the conclusion. We are aware that most studies conducted in the fields 4 and 6 have no interest in ontological evidence, i.e. in extraterrestrials, but rather in cultural phenomena. However, the argument provided in the upper row, especially those in the fields 3 and 5, can be considered as a blind spot of such kind of research: Who ever is deconstructing cultural phenomena such as conspiracy theories (extraterrestrials are dealing with the US government) or neo-creationist ideas (human history is controlled by extraterrestrials) should take into account that also the own "scientific" point of view is depending on ideological presuppositions.

Some readers may be surprised by the classification of Ufology in the row of sceptical argument. We are aware that some proponents in this field are intending to provide supporting argument. However, the table is not regarding individual intentions, but rather the logical structure of the argument. And the logic of Ufology is rather conservative: In order to identify something, we have to compare it to something that is already known. It is impossible to learn anything new that way: If something is identified, existing knowledge is confirmed; if something is not identified, the scientific process stops. In order to make the extraterrestrial hypotheses valuable for science, we have to allow to consider this hypothesis at first. Particularly, the humanities could benefit from such kind of paradigm shift. The uneasiness we are experiencing in the notional confrontation with the radical different, is allowing interesting conclusions about our cultural and anthropological constitution.

But also the natural sciences have produced some remarkable data and observations in recent decades, such as the famous Wow!-Signal, radar observations and photos of atmospheric luminous anomalies. A reflexive interpretation of these data requires to consider argument provided in the sections 3-10. However, as long as we live in a scientific culture where pure specialists without any proven qualification for interdisciplinary reflection decide about funding and publications, a reasonable discourse about the topic appears hard to achieve.

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