Chapter 1
Carl Sagan, Raw and Uncensored

Over the course of what most people would call a spectacularly successful career, Carl Sagan became a trusted scientist to a generation largely raised by parents who were disillusioned by Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War. For reasons entirely justified, our parents were suspicious of politicians, big government, and scientists who they saw as little more than pawns of the militaryindustrial complex. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a young, cool, and very articulate astronomer began popping up on college campuses, the Johnny Carson show, and other places talking about the virtues of the scientific method, the best process ever invented for determining what is true and what isn’t. He didn’t speak down to us; he related to us—and he made sense. He made non-scientific people like me believe that we were capable of understanding what science was all about—that it wasn’t the bogeyman that people like me were hearing from our religious leaders, or that young people were learning from their parents. Quite the opposite. Science, he insisted, was humankind’s best hope for the long-term survival of our species.

 

Through advanced technology, Sagan assured us that we could clean up our polluted planet, control runaway population growth, achieve global peace, and bring nations and people together in common cause. We could explore space, visit other planets, and start colonies on the Moon and Mars. Carl Sagan, more than any other person on Earth, psychologically and intellectually prepared an entire generation to receive with open arms all the breathtaking possibilities of the modern computer age.

 

But people who think they know Carl Sagan invariably know him the way that influential individuals and powerful institutions in charge of his legacy want them to know him. All along, throughout the course of his 40-year professional career, Carl Sagan believed that advanced extraterrestrials exist and that they have been to Earth. Carl Sagan was an ancient alien theorist, convinced that human civilization was a gift from visiting aliens.

 

The truth is that from 1956, when Sagan was a 22-year-old whiz kid at the University of Chicago hobnobbing with Nobel laureates, until December 20, 1996, the day of his death, Sagan not only believed in ancient aliens, he single-handedly built a scientifically rigorous model that makes it possible for ancient alienism to hopefully, one day soon, become a legitimate field of inquiry.

 

In 1956, years before the SETI radio telescope experiment was launched, Carl Sagan saw clearly what NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics were either unable or unwilling to grasp: that in a 14-billion-year-old Universe and a 10-billion-year-old Milky Way Galaxy, if advanced aliens exist anywhere, they should have already discovered and visited the four-billion-year-old pale blue dot— Sagan’s term—that we humans call Earth. A simple theorem developed by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi as early as 1943 remains to this day a powerful argument in favor of Sagan’s suspicions. Fermi’s paradox notes the high probability of life evolving on many planets over vast stretches of time and space, and that many, many advanced extraterrestrials should exist, but so far, we have not seen any proof of or had contact with any such alien civilizations. The sheer number of statistically probable alien civilizations contrasted with the complete lack of any proof of any alien existence famously moved Fermi to ask, “Where are they?” Today, more than a half century after the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence began, we still don’t know whether we are alone in the universe or if we have cosmic company. Sagan was optimistic:

 

Studies of the origin of the solar system and of the origin of the first terrestrial organisms have suggested that life readily arises early in the history of favorably situated planets. The prospect occurs that life is a pervasive constituent of the universe. By terrestrial analogy it is not unreasonable to expect that, over astronomical timescales, intelligence and technical civilizations will evolve on many life-bearing planets.

 

Sagan thought that in a few centuries, humans will have developed the technology for interstellar travel. If that is true, he pondered, shouldn’t aliens, having civilizations possibly millions of years older and millions of year more advanced than ours, have already been to Earth? In the 10-year period between 1956 and 1966, he wasn’t writing popular books, appearing on the Johnny Carson Show, or hawking the virtues of space exploration to the masses; he had his nose set to the grindstone, engaged in the most ambitious project of his life: to build an airtight science-based argument that Earth has been visited by advanced extraterrestrials.

 

Ancient Alien Theorist

 

If you watch ancient alien documentaries on television, you hear the phrase ancient alien theorist mentioned over and over. A theorist is someone who develops and espouses a theory, which the dictionary defines as:

 

Theory (def.)

 

1. The analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another.

2. A belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action.

3. An ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances.

4. A plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or principles offered to explain phenomenon.

5. A hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation.

6. An unproved assumption.

7. Abstract thought.

 

A theorist, according to the scientific definition of the word, is a lot more than a guy with an opinion. They invariably hold multiple advanced degrees from reputable institutions, an extensive curriculum vitae, and they usually sit at or near the top of their chosen discipline. A good example is Stephen Hawking, the English theoretical astrophysicist who formerly held Isaac Newton’s Lucasian Chair in the Royal Society, who has made significant contributions to the science of black holes. Contrast this with the ancient alien theorists of television documentaries, who never cite their academic credentials or professional accomplishments—because they don’t exist.

 

Carl Sagan was an ancient alien theorist in the same way that Stephen Hawking is a theoretical astrophysicist. He held advanced degrees in multiple disciplines from institutions like Harvard and the University of Chicago. A complete list of his academic and scientific awards and achievements would require pages. Though his specialty was astronomy, he had an amazing cross-disciplinary education that qualified him to speak out on a broad range of subjects relevant to space and to Earth. By any measure, Sagan had the perfect qualifications to be an ancient alien theorist—and that wasn’t by accident. He chose to major in astronomy and biology, areas that would serve to enhance his credentials as an ancient alien theorist and equip him with the knowledge and skills that would be needed to find hard evidence to confirm his controversial hypothesis.

 

In 1962, years before Carl Sagan became the famous astronomer and extraterrestrial hunter that millions grew to know and love, he held another title: visiting assistant professor of genetics at Stanford University. Carl Sagan a geneticist? Yes indeed. Along with an advanced degree in astronomy, Sagan held an earned degree in biology from the University of Chicago.

 

The head of the genetics department—in fact, the man that Stanford hired to established it—was Nobel Prize winner Joshua Lederberg (1925–2008). Knowing that Sagan’s Miller Research Fellowship in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, was about to end, Lederberg persuaded NASA to grant Sagan a short-term appointment as assistant visiting professor in his new school of genetics in Palo Alto, just across the bay. Lederberg had a keen interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial existence, and, from his willingness to allow Sagan to write the Stanford Paper in his department and under his oversight, was clearly enamored of the possibility that visiting extraterrestrials may have influenced the human genome in a way that both qualitatively and quantitatively separates humans from other animals. His lasting contribution to modern astronomy is that he coined the term exobiology, which is currently one of NASA’s hottest new disciplines.

 

While he was at Berkeley, funded in part NASA grant NSG126-61, Carl Sagan researched and wrote “Direct Contact Among Galactic Civilizations by Relativistic Interstellar Spaceflight.” In 1962, under Lederberg’s oversight at Stanford, Sagan eventually published the paper that laid out the scientific foundation for his ancient alien theory. In the Abstract, Sagan clearly stated his claim “that there is the statistical likelihood that Earth was visited by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization at least once during historical times.” In the Stanford Paper, Sagan arrives at the conclusion that “approximately 0.001 per cent of the stars in the sky will have a planet upon which an advanced civilization resides” and “statistics . . . suggest that the Earth has been visited by various galactic civilizations many times (possibly ~10 ) during geological time.”

 

 In the late 1950s and 1960s there were scientists in the Soviet Union who interacted with Sagan on the possibility of past alien visitations, but he was the only legitimate ancient alien theorist in the West to develop a formal model that included a search strategy and then present it to his peers in the form of a scientific paper for their consideration. It was subsequently peer reviewed and published in a respected scientific journal, Space and Planetary Science. The extraordinary and completely unexpected pronouncement of past alien visitations to Earth, by one of the preeminent SETI theorists in the world, sent shockwaves throughout the astronomy community. Yet, in a vivid example of how Sagan was decades ahead of everyone else in the field, the Stanford Paper was a combination of existing SETI theory, hard science, and compelling logic. It is a model crafted by a scientist who expected it to be evaluated by his peers in the scientific community.

 

Perhaps it seems contradictory that Sagan was also an iconic skeptic who spent his entire life debunking UFO claims, dismissing then-current UFO sightings as unreliable , thus rejecting the modern UFO craze as pseudoscience. But ancient legends related to the early Sumerians, including some recorded in the Old Testament, led him to a stunningly different conclusion about the possibility of past alien visitations: Some of the gods of antiquity could have been, and more than likely were, visitors from outer space.

 

As Sagan narrowed the scope of his treatise, he refined his hypothesis by moving from a detailed explanation of how humans might someday achieve interstellar spaceflight, to positing that godlike aliens were physically on Earth, our Earth, establishing a human civilization through the Sumerians. Sagan’s own ethic, now popularly known as the Sagan Rule, was that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. His hope was for a discovery of direct evidence that would independently corroborate his hypothesis. His suggestion was that confirmatory empirical data might be found on the Moon, or possibly in ancient manuscripts. Man has since been to the Moon and they didn’t find any evidence of alien activity. But what about ancient manuscripts?

 

The Land of Sumer

 

Most people erroneously believe that ancient alienism began in 1968 with the publication of Erich von Däniken’s Chariot of the Gods?, which is why most people have the false impression that the subject is inherently pseudoscientific. But the truth is that 10 years earlier, in the late 1950s, Carl Sagan, working off a collaboration with Russian scientists and Nobel Prize–winning geneticist Joshua Lederberg, formulated a mature and science-based theoretical model that had extraterrestrials mastering interstellar spaceflight, exploring the Milky Way Galaxy, and visiting Earth at regular intervals.

 

In 1966, in Intelligent Life in the Universe, Sagan expanded on his controversial theory by suggesting that an alien signal of some sort might be found in ancient manuscripts related to the Sumerians, people of an unknown origin and with an unknown language who built the world’s first high civilization; the Sumerians attributed their advancements to teachings from half-fish, half-human creatures, the Apkallu:

 

Some years ago, I came upon a legend which more nearly fulfills some of our criteria for a genuine contact myth. It is of special interest because it relates to the origin of Sumerian civilization. Sumer was an early—perhaps the first—civilization in the contemporary sense on the planet Earth. It was founded in the fourth millennium B.C. or earlier. We do not know where the Sumerians came from. Their language was strange; it had no cognates with any known Indo-European, Semitic, or other language, and is only because a later people, the Akkadians, compiled extensive Sumerian-Akkadian dictionaries.

 

The successors to the Sumerians and the Akkadians were the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians. Thus the Sumerian civilization is in many respects the ancestor of our own. I feel that if Sumerian civilization is depicted by the descendants of the Sumerians themselves to be of nonhuman origin, the relevant legends should be examined carefully. I do not claim that the following is necessarily an example of extraterrestrial contact, but it is the type of legend that deserves more careful study.

 

Taken at face value, the legend suggests that contact occurred between human beings and a non-human civilization of immense powers on the shores of the Persian Gulf, perhaps near the site of the ancient Sumerian city of Eridu, and in the fourth millennium B.C. or earlier. There are three different but cross-referenced accounts of the Apkallu dating from classical times. Each can be traced back to Berosus, a priest of Bel-Marduk, in the city of Babylon, at the time of Alexander the Great. Berosus, in turn, had access to cuneiform and pictographic records dating back several thousand years before his time.

 

Berosus, a Greek historian and Chaldean priest, wrote three books on the history and culture of ancient Babylonia, including the legend of Oannes. The Oannes myth meets Sagan’s criteria for a potential “contact myth,” textual evidence that includes “a description of the morphology of an intelligent non-human, a clear account of astronomical realities for a primitive people, or a transparent presentation of the purpose of the contact,” indicators Sagan believed should be investigated as possible alien intervention:

 

At Babylon there was (in these times) a great resort of people of various nations, who inhabited Chaldæa, and lived in a lawless manner like the beasts of the field. In the first year there appeared, from that part of the Erythræan sea which borders upon Babylonia, an animal destitute of reason, by name Oannes, whose whole body (according to the account of Apollodorus) was that of a fish; that under the fish’s head he had another head, with feet also below, similar to those of a man, subjoined to the fish’s tail. His voice too, and language, was articulate and human; and a representation of him is preserved even to this day.

 

This Being was accustomed to pass the day among men; but took no food at that season; and he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct cities, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometrical knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and showed them how to collect the fruits; in short, he instructed them in every thing which could tend to soften manners and humanize their lives. From that time, nothing material has been added by way of improvement to his instructions. And when the sun had set, this Being Oannes, retired again into the sea, and passed the night in the deep; for he was amphibious. After this there appeared other animals like Oannes, of which Berossus proposes to give an account when he comes to the history of the kings.

 

The rise of an advanced civilization from primitive clans, who for centuries had struggled for survival in mud-bogged villages, was so meteoric that it was almost as though aliens had dropped out of the sky and taught it to them whole cloth. Unlike the norm in history, nothing was borrowed or stolen from neighboring civilizations, because there were no other civilized people.

 

Sumerologist Samuel Noel Kramer brings the contrast in sharp relief. He writes of the Sumerians:

 

In spite of the land’s natural drawbacks, they turned Sumer into a veritable Garden of Eden and developed what was probably the first high civilization in the history of man.

 

They devised such useful tools, skills, and techniques as the potter’s wheel, the wagon wheel, the plow, the sailboat, the arch, the vault, the dome, casting in copper and bronze, riveting, brazing and soldering, sculpture in stone, engraving, and inlay. They originated a system of writing on clay, which was borrowed and used all over the Near East for some two thousand years.

 

Be he philosopher or teacher, historian or poet, lawyer or reformer, statesman or politician, architect or sculptor, it is likely that modern man will find his prototype and counterpart in ancient Sumer.

 

The Sumerians were the first, and, in many respects, they were the best. Empires that followed added almost nothing to what they inherited from the Sumerians. What they invented and developed remains, to this day, the vestigial contributions of a species gifted with extraordinary intelligence and ambition—and, as Carl Sagan was convinced, no small amount of help from visitors from outer space. In a nutshell, the Sagan Model proposes that advanced extraterrestrials, perhaps millions of years ago, mastered interstellar spaceflight. They likely visited our planet thousands of times over the course of its evolution. Then, some 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, they made their most dramatic move. While we humans were still living like animals in small hunter-gatherer clans, godlike aliens came to Earth and taught the Sumerians writing, architecture, agriculture, animal husbandry, law, mathematics, engineering, and basic principles of moral conduct that individuals and families must have if they are to survive and thrive as city states and nation states. And, oh, by the way, they also taught the Sumerians how to make beer!

 

Sagan, never timid, was confident enough to ask hard questions that led to cryptic conclusions: If advanced aliens are god-like, and the gods of human religions are alien-like, what’s the difference?

 

And: Could some of the gods of the ancients have been visiting aliens, and, if so, which ones, and where would confirmatory evidence most likely be found?

 

And: If alien interstellar spaceflight is scientifically impossible, as NASA and prevailing scientific thinkers insisted at that time, why does science call Fermi’s Paradox a paradox? Why hasn’t it been universally dismissed as just a really dumb statement?

 

These are scientifically legitimate questions that SETI, 50-plus years later, still refuses to grapple with in depth, even though they have the same intellectual and scientific gravitas as the Drake Equation, the foundational principle of modern SETI theory. Though almost everyone disagreed with Sagan, and many openly called him and his ideas kooky, his research was so thorough and his arguments so compelling that no one was confident enough to challenge the core arguments he developed in an academically approved manner. In fact, an official NASA publication from 1977 states: “We cannot rule out the possibility that we might stumble onto some evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence while engaged in traditional archeological or astronomical research, but we feel that the probability of this happening is extremely small [emphasis added].”

 

Some of Sagan’s peers within the scientific community, men like Frank Drake, rather than engaging the Stanford Paper head on, went behind Sagan’s back by attacking it parenthetically. Without mentioning Sagan by name, they insisted that interstellar spaceflight that would carry aliens from their planet to ours, or some day in the future transport humans to where aliens live, was physically and forever impossible because overwhelming technological challenges and Einstein’s cosmic speed limit meant that aliens could not have physically traversed the vast distances of space to get from their planet to ours.

 

This consensus opinion led to the false impression that Sagan was proposing that aliens traveled from their planet to ours in about the span of a human lifetime, and that they did it in a nuts-and-bolts spacecraft that more or less resembled a 1960s NASA rocket ship. This was a complete fabrication and absolutely not what Carl Sagan believed. By pure innuendo, through scientific gossip, these screwy ideas were being falsely attributed to Sagan and then quietly promulgated throughout the astronomy community.

 

But let’s face it: Anyone who believes in ancient aliens has to be able to explain how they got to Earth before speculating on what they did while they were here, and that means engaging in the interstellar spaceflight debate. Sagan understood this with absolute clarity, which is why the focus of his Stanford Paper addresses longevity, propulsion systems, velocities, distances, and colonizing strategies, not how aliens helped the Egyptians build the pyramids.

 

Think of an attorney representing ancient alienism in a court of law before a jury of skeptics. His first challenge would be to convince the jurors that it is scientifically possible for advanced extraterrestrials to have physically reached Earth. If he succeeded, he could then move on to step two, which would be to produce empirical evidence that they have been to Earth. Finally, if he got that far, step three would be to talk about what they did while they were here. Popular ancient alien theorists are making their case backward. They need to stop, take a deep breath, and go back to the beginning, where Sagan was. Only after we win step one can we advance to step two, and only after we win step two can we advance to step three.

 

A good step one argument is that if the human species, barely 400 years into the Scientific Age, is now contemplating going to the stars, how can anyone in good conscience deny the high probability that advanced extraterrestrials millions of years ahead of us, long ago mastered interstellar spaceflight and have already been to Earth? Plenty of reasons were given why humans couldn’t travel to the stars, but no one wanted to address a key point in the Stanford Paper—that if, barely 400 years into the Age of Science, humans were even talking about it, what might aliens a million years more advanced than us be capable of?

 

Carl Sagan, the greatest alien hunter of all time, was convinced that spacefaring aliens have visited Earth on numerous occasions, but it is important to note that he didn’t believe in the ancient aliens of popular culture—the ancient aliens prominently displayed on supermarket tabloids and on the History Channel. Like many other scientists and academics, Carl Sagan thought that finding direct and irrefutable evidence of advanced extraterrestrial existence would rank among the most important discoveries in human history. But as a trained scientist and a leader in the skeptic movement, Sagan spent a lifetime debunking the evidence cited by tabloid ancient alien leaders like Erich von Däniken and Zecharia Sitchin. It must be noted that Carl Sagan was as sympathetic as any trained scientist could possibly be to pop culture ancient alien advocates; his only grievance was that they violated scientific standards with impunity. Still, he never contested their underlying thesis: that aliens have been to Earth. It was an observation that he agreed with. But as a working scientist, he had no choice but to keep a respectful distance.

 

Carl Sagan believed in ancient aliens—but he attacked those who were publicly advocating for ancient alienism. How can this be? Sagan was convinced that he was doing ancient alienism a favor by demanding that anyone who claims to be an authority on the subject abide by scientific principles that were established in the 17th century by men like Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, who brought the Scientific Age into existence. He knew that setting a lower standard for ancient alienism than that demanded of other scientific claims would do long-term harm to the genre. Even worse, it would invite skeptics to associate ancient alienism with such patently pseudoscientific theories as young Earth creationism, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and unicorns. Is that the neighborhood that serious ancient alien theorists want to live in? Sagan didn’t think so.

 

Sagan freely admitted that he had no hard evidence that would enable his ancient alien theory to be scientifically confirmed by independent testing and analysis. Without the original source materials in hand, this was uncertain testimony that the naysayers could dismiss as myth, which is what they have done. So what did Sagan do? He formally advanced his theory, advocated a search strategy, and then shut the hell up. Of course, he was hoping for a serious engagement with the scientific community that would have provided him the opportunity to defend his research, and that his search strategy would be implemented. But unlike most controversial scientific articles, the Stanford Paper never prompted a formal rebuttal from fellow scientists through peer-reviewed and published papers. By all scientific protocols, that should have happened, but it didn’t.

 

The Stanford Paper was produced with the help of a NASA grant, which made NASA a partner with fiduciary interest. In 1963, after Sagan completed his document, it would have been normal and proper for NASA experts to study the paper to see what it got for its money. The absolute absence of any official follow-up analysis or response from NASA regarding the Stanford Paper is passive evidence of a concerted effort by NASA to distance itself from scientific research conducted with its commission and under its oversight by one of its own astronomers.

 

Though the Stanford Paper was subsequently peer reviewed and published, Sagan was roundly criticized by fellow astronomers. Frank Drake called it “bad science.” Others used even harsher invective. Sagan’s controversial theory that extraterrestrials, the Apkallu, may have appeared to the Sumerians and taught them the ways of civilization was universally rejected on the grounds that interstellar spaceflight was impossible. Carl Sagan was personally vilified for even daring to broach the subject, and his subsequent denial of tenure at Harvard University, and, later, his rejected application for membership in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on two different occasions, were almost certainly due to his belief in ancient aliens.

 

An even harsher penalty was that the dissemination of his research at Stanford was so effectively suppressed that few people today know of its existence. For all intents and purposes, Sagan’s Stanford Paper became as lost a manuscript as any that may be currently buried under the burning sands of Iraq and Iran. Today, it is probably fair to say that not one in a thousand people who think they know Carl Sagan’s work are aware of its existence, and even fewer know that what he wrote in 1962 about interstellar spaceflight and past alien visitations to Earth, he continued to believe with great passion until his death in 1996 at the age of 62. The historical record is absolutely clear and unequivocal: Carl Sagan was a highly skilled ancient alien theorist. So how is it humanly possible for such an important fact about such a famous person to have been kept a secret for such a long period of time? No one spoke of it, no one critiqued it, and no one referenced it. Through the years, as Sagan became famous, nothing was ever said of that paper.

 

Why is NASA not recognizing Sagan’s work?

 

The simple truth, I believe, is that the Pentagon, NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics have colluded in a conspiracy of silence to keep Carl Sagan’s research and lifelong belief in ancient aliens away from the public eye. NASA, I am convinced, fully understood that Sagan’s theories about ancient aliens were scientifically robust— technically and mathematically unassailable. My charge is that in 1964, NASA officials, under the direction of the Pentagon, made the fateful decision to suppress the writings and muzzle the voice of a young Carl Sagan regarding his belief in ancient aliens.

 

The motive behind this outrage was simple: For Carl Sagan, a NASA astronomer, to openly state that Earth, not space, may be the best place to look for hard evidence of extraterrestrial existence was a heresy that undermined NASA’s very existence. Looking for signs of extraterrestrials in space was a NASA cash cow that brought it global attention. And NASA’s space-orientated search for life in the Universe has immense value for the Pentagon and the militaryindustrial complex. Something had to be done to preserve NASA oversight of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

 

But one of NASA’s most brilliant young astronomers concocted a scheme that, five to ten thousand years ago, had advanced extraterrestrials on Earth, interacting with humans. Everyone knew that extraterrestrials, if they exist, live on distant worlds in other solar systems. By definition they are creatures of the cosmos, which was NASA’s specialty. NASA is an agency that has its eyes to the sky, not on Earth. Its top employees, highly skilled astronomers, astrophysicists, and astrobiologists, have their attention fixed on space, not on terra firma. Sagan’s strategy to look for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence was based here on Earth. If implemented, Sagan’s Earth-based search strategy would reroute public interest and financial support in ETI away from the space sciences—and from NASA and the Pentagon—to disciplines like archeology and anthropology. At that time, NASA was still an embryonic organization with an uncertain future. In all probability, some individual, or, more likely, some group of individuals, inside the Pentagon felt they needed to disparage Sagan’s Earth-based search strategy before it had a chance to gain traction and compete against it.

 

Not surprisingly, the SETI Institute, which features the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, also has shown no interest in spreading the news that Sagan was an ancient alien theorist. NASA and SETI are equally determined to keep the search for extraterrestrial intelligence from slipping away from them and into the domain of Earth-based sciences like anthropology, archeology, ethnology, and ancient manuscript analysis. Though Sagan died two decades ago, his fame still gives SETI a measure of credibility that it would not otherwise have. To have the name and reputation of Carl Sagan associated with ancient alien theory, which is where it properly belongs, rather than radio telescopes, would effectively pull the plug on what has been one of SETI’s most effective promotional assets. That experiment began in 1960, and in the first few decades public enthusiasm was at a near fever pitch. Hollywood stars, business moguls, politicians—everyone, it seemed, was on the SETI bandwagon. For decades, NASA and its semi-autonomous subsidiary, SETI, relied on Sagan to be their face and voice to the world. With the charm and eloquence of a JFK and the raw intelligence of an Albert Einstein, Sagan defended the use of radio telescopes to intercept extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) signals that NASA and SETI were convinced were being beamed our way. Has the public been led to believe that Carl Sagan supported SETI’s attempt to intercept an alien signal with radio telescopes? Absolutely. Was Carl Sagan convinced from the beginning that the odds that a radio telescope search would be successful were basically nil? Without a doubt.

 

NASA scientists need to swallow their pride, revisit Sagan’s research, and test any Earth-based empirical evidence that may confirm that Sagan was right. In short, the world needs more pure theoretical scientists like Carl Sagan, and fewer parochial scientists who clearly seem more intent in securing government funding for their pet projects than in finding the answer to the most important question any human can ask: Are we alone?

NEXT: Chapter 2 SETI East vs SETI West