It used to be that if you asked an astronomer if there was intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, you’d get some sort of hedged response involving the vastness of the universe and statistical probabilities that you’d expect from a diligent scientist.
I’ve asked this question recently of a few astronomers from NASA, and also from the massive Keck observatory in Hawaii, and I’ve received a version of that same old response, but with a new preface that has become more common in recent years. It’s usually something like: “Well, we might be able to answer that question relatively soon.”
This past week, a few scientists took it a step further and gave the U.S. Congress a relative date by which they expect we’ll have discovered signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
“It is not hyperbolic to suggest that scientists could very well discover extraterrestrial intelligence within two decades’ time or less, given resources to conduct the search,” Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, said in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.