Wandering about the Internet I stumbled upon this article by scientist and sci-fi author David Brin, which describes how the scientists behind the SETI program, which uses radio telescopes to sweep the galaxy in search of stray signals and communications from extra-terrestrial intelligences, want to shift their mission's emphasis away from passively listening for alien signals to broadcasting extremely powerful signals into space designed to attract anyone who might be interested in stopping by. (While it is true that any electromagnetic signal originating on Earth radiates into space for eternity, once you get a few light years out they become to faint to detect. The SETI scientists want to use their powerful radio telescopes to send a signal too loud to ignore.)
Brin and a number of other scientists think this is a spectacularly bad idea; since we have no idea what's out there, they feel it is much more prudent to listen to whatever conversation might be going on rather than start "shouting at the sky." History supports their position - indigenous people have never fared well against more technologically advanced invaders. It's tempting to dismiss Brin's point of view as a sci-fi writer's paranoid fantasy, but it should be pointed out that Brin commands a great deal of respect as a scientist, so much so that he helped author the SETI protocol for first-contact with an extra-terrestrial intelligence.
I'm with David Brin on this one - and if science and history aren't enough to sway the SETI scientists who want to pump up the volume I'll offer them another argument: the Earth is a bit of mess right now. No, really, look around. The gory clusterfuck in Iraq continues apace. The Middle East in general is unstable, to say the least. Most of Africa remains mired in nightmarish poverty and bloodshed. We teeter on the brink of environmental catastrophe. C'mon - do you really think we're in any shape for company?
My wife and I wouldn't dream of having people over unless we'd made damn sure the house was vacuumed, dusted, the bathrooms were clean and the dishes were out of the sink. Shouldn't we apply the same standard to the planet?
Let me put it another way: you're driving along and you pass a ramshackle disaster of a house - busted toilet on the lawn, rusted hulk of a car up on blocks in the driveway, the whole deal. Suddenly the bedraggled master of the house bursts from the front door waving his arms frantically with, what is that - blood? - all over his t-shirt, screaming at you to stop the car and come in for a cold one. You gonna do it?
Didn't think so.