Two of the United States’ top astronomers appeared before Congress this week, telling lawmakers that the chance of discovering life on other planets is nearly inevitable, and that it may happen within two decades.
According to ABC News, Dan Werthimer of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, called for more funding to be allocated to the search for extraterrestrial life, since he is “close to 100 percent” certain that primitive, microbial life exists elsewhere in the galaxy.
Speaking to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Wednesday, Werthimer – the director of SETI, which stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” – stated, “It would be bizarre if we are alone.”
Considering that scientists have discovered billions of Earth-like planets within our own Milky Way galaxy alone – and they are located within a “habitable” zone suitable for life – Werthimer suggested, “the universe is likely to be teeming with primitive life.”
As noted by the Huffington Post, Werthimer also submitted written testimony to lawmakers, in which he noted that the search for intelligent life also deserved more funding from Congress.
"In the last 50 years, evidence has steadily mounted that the components and conditions we believe necessary for life are common and perhaps ubiquitous in our galaxy," he said. "The possibility that life has arisen elsewhere, and perhaps evolved intelligence, is plausible and warrants scientific inquiry."
Meanwhile, the SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak agreed with his colleague, telling Congress that with trillions of planets in the galaxy, the chances are too good to discount the idea that alien life exists.
“If you extrapolate on the planets they discovered, there are a trillion planets in the galaxy. That’s a lot of places for life,” Shostak said, as quoted by ABC. “We know that the majority of stars have planets,” but what “fraction of stars has planets that are more like the earth? It might be one in five.”
“The chances of finding it I think are good and if that happens it will happen in the next 20 years depending on the financing,” he added in written testimony, according to BuzzFeed.
Werthimer stated that even if advanced alien life has been sending radio or laser signals throughout the galaxy, human technology is not capable yet of receiving them. But both scientists agreed that there’s no way aliens have already visited Earth.
“I don’t think that that would be something all the governments would have managed to keep a secret,” Shostak told Congress. “If they were really here I think everyone would know that.”