The reaction to Avi Loeb’s new book Extraterrestrial (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021) has been quick in coming and dual in nature. I’m seeing a certain animus being directed at the author in social media venues frequented by scientists, not so much for suggesting the possibility that ‘Oumuamua is an extraterrestrial technological artifact, but for triggering a wave of misleading articles in the press. The latter, that second half of the dual reaction, has certainly been widespread and, I have to agree with the critics, often uninformed.
Image credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo.
But let’s try to untangle this. Because my various software Net-sweepers collect most everything that washes up on ‘Oumuamua, I’m seeing stark headlines such as “Why Are We So Afraid of Extraterrestrials,” or “When Will We Get Serious about ET?” I’m making those particular headlines up, but they catch the gist of many of the stories I’ve seen. I can see why some of the scientists who spend their working days digging into exoplanet research, investigate SETI in various ways or ponder how to build the spacecraft that are helping us understand the Solar System would be nonplussed.
We are, as a matter of fact, taking the hypothesis ...