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On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing on astrobiology and to discuss questions related to extraterrestrial life. The Committee heard testimony from Dr. Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, and Dr. Dan Werthimer, the director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley. The two men discussed the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and fielded questions from the assembled representatives that ranged from thoughtful to ignorant.
The big news out of the hearing—and the part that made headlines—was Shostak’s and Werthimer’s assertion that there is a 99.99% chance that life exists elsewhere in the universe. This might have been news to the media, but it has been a well-supported scientific view for decades.
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) asked the two their thoughts on Project Bluebook, which as a high U.S. government official Posey would presumably be in a better position to know about than two scientists from California. Shostak told Posey that he is skeptical about alien contact but noted that a large and steady percentage, about one third, of Americans have believed in alien visitation since the 1960s. Nevertheless, he pointed to the fact that nearly seven decades after the so-called Roswell incident there remains not a single shred of proof aliens came to earth.