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NASA Seeks Standards for ET Life Claims

The agency wants to develop a credibility scale so we know what to pay attention to

What with everything from Oumuamua to phosphine on Venus claiming our attention, NASA thinks it’s time to develop some standards for what constitutes a credible claim about extraterrestrial life:

“The discovery of a potential biosignature in [a planet’s] atmosphere is important, but it’s just the start,” said Green in an interview. “You have to examine potential false positives, whether there are [non-biological] ways to form the chemical, whether the measurement is an artifact of your instrument, whether the environment on the planet is conducive or hostile to life, whether water is present.”

Applying such a chain of reasoning could result in a kind of credibility scale for the general public to turn to when they read about new results in astrobiology. “What we envision is a scale to be worked through by the community; a more formal assessment of confidence they can use to describe how far along in detecting life a finding might be.”

Green and Mary Voytek, senior scientist for astrobiology at NASA, began seriously discussing the need for new life detection reporting guidelines last year, then brought in a number of NASA colleagues.

Marc Kaufman, “NASA Wants Standards for Evaluating Claims of Extraterrestrial Life” at Air & Space (July 20, 2021)

Such a standard might help guide decisions. What about the people who have insisted that the White House is hiding space aliens? They doubtless sound less credible than the Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who insisted that Oumuamua is an extra-terrestrial solar sail. But on what are we basing that decision? Social class? If not, what? For that matter, what about the Pentagon’s recent admission that there are phenomena out there that we just can’t explain?

Guidelines are certain to be disputed but they would at least provide a basis for reasonable discussion. That might lead to more and better public education on the issues.

You may also wish to read: What if the UAP (UFOs) are much simpler life forms than we think? Why assume, if the unexplained phenomena are ET, that they are more advanced than we are? What if the opposite is true?

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NASA Seeks Standards for ET Life Claims