If aliens are out there, how should Earthlings go about getting in touch with them?
A "protocol for messages." Hmm. Does this refer to the multilingual "Greetings from Earth!" messages that have been sent previously? Why would we ever assume that aliens have a language even remotely similar to ours? Are they our *evolutionary ancestors*?
The question has provoked arcane but furious debate among scientists searching for extraterrestrials. Because scientists haven't picked up signs of alien life near Earth [whew! At least they admit that!], the debate is essentially philosophical, revolving around such issues as who rightly speaks for humanity and whether humans want to draw the attention of possibly hostile life forms.
A dispute erupted recently among scientists over an effort to draft a protocol for messages going from Earth into space, reports David Grinspoon in Seed, a science magazine. Several scientists who believe that governments and other scientists should be consulted prior to any space-bound communications resigned in protest from a prominent study group on extraterrestrial intelligence.
Meanwhile, the search for intelligent life in the universe continues. A few astronomers have sent signals to distant stars since the 1970s, but the first aren't expected to reach their destinations for decades.