Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): A Featured Controversy from Issues & Controversies

Featured in Issues & Controversies:

Will the search for extraterrestrial intelligence prove fruitful? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies’ complete and unbiased coverage of this divisive issue. Here is a sample of the pro/con arguments on both sides of the issue.



The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has covered only a tiny portion of the Milky Way, and the absence of evidence for extraterrestrial life is not evidence of its absence. The sheer number of potentially habitable planets in the cosmos makes it probable that life on Earth is not alone. Contact with an alien civilization could alter the fate of humankind for the good.There is little evidence that life, let alone intelligent life, has formed on any planet but Earth. Even if life has arisen elsewhere, it is likely that any extraterrestrial civilization has long gone extinct or self-destructed. Protecting life at home is a better use of scientific resources, and contact with an alien civilization could spell catastrophe for humankind.


The pro/con article links to rich related resources that enhance the debate. Students and researchers can explore the “By the Numbers” data, primary sources that provide context, a debate video, NPR podcasts, editorials, a Reuters® newsfeed, a chronology, and a bibliography and further resources. Plus, discussion questions are provided to inspire critical thinking and analysis.

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The award-winning Issues & Controversies helps researchers understand today’s crucial issues by exploring hundreds of hot topics in politics, government, business, society, education, and popular culture. Updated weekly, with an extensive backfile, Issues & Controversies offers in-depth articles—each presenting both sides of an issue clearly, coherently, and without bias—made to inspire thought-provoking debates. Its straightforward presentation of the key facts, arguments, history, and current context of today’s most important and timely issues makes the database an ideal resource for research papers, debate preparation, and persuasive writing assignments.