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The High Priestess of SETI Speaks

When the "high priestess" of SETI speaks, people listen. Or, at least they should.

Dr. Jill Tarter, the long-time director of SETI and the model for the character "Ellie Arroway" in Carl Sagan's seminal monument to radio SETI, Contact,  recently made some comments that are not only long overdue, but considering the dramatic shift they may signal in official NASA thinking, have been stunningly ignored.

Speaking in a space.com interview segment on "Fermi's Paradox," Tartar made a number of observations that will seem exceedingly tame to readers of these pages, but are nothing short of heresy to the established paradigms of what is and is not "acceptable" science. "Fermi's Paradox" is the notion that if there was ET life in abundance, such beings would have long ago colonized -- or at least visited -- our solar system. The "Paradox" is in the assumption that no evidence exists for such visitations. We of course, beg to differ.

In the interview, Tartar simply pointed out the obvious -- that with so little of the solar system actually observed in high resolution imagery (less than 1% of Mars, for instance, has been mapped in high-res) it is foolish and arrogant to assume that no evidence exists for a "prior habitation" of certain solar system real estate. She further pointed out that a search for "artifacts" would be a perfectly reasonable means by which we might overturn the logically fallacious assertions of Fermi.


Given that the traditional SETI crowd has previously reacted to the idea of planetary SETI (the search for artifacts) in about the same way that a vampire reacts to the sight of a crucifix, we took Tartar's break with tradition as a hopeful sign. What interests us the most about this turn of events is not that it in any way clarifies or advances our agenda -- we've been pointing out the same things now for upwards of two decades -- but the timing of her dramatic shift.

Coming as these comments do, on the heels of our own political sources informing us that "things are about to change inside NASA," the timing seems more than interesting. This source, the one that some of our critics have insisted does not exist ... but who has still managed to give us a heads-up well in advance of both the recent Cydonia daytime IR images AND last year's Face MGS close-up, has recently informed us that word has come down from the highest levels of our own government that it is time for "the lid to come off Cydonia," among other long held secrets. While there continues to be "fevered" internal debate about just how much and under what circumstances to reveal, we understand that contrary to official NASA statements, not only does significant new data concerning Cydonia exist, but it is "too good" to allow it to be released publicly ... at least, just yet.

It is against this unique "inside perspective" that we must view not only Tartar's astonishing public about-Face, but also Enterprise principal investigator Richard C. Hoagland's recent two-hour phone conversation with NASA's Dr. James Garvin -- the head scientist of NASA's on-going Mars programs. Garvin confirmed essentially the same thing, that NASA had been told to "get with the program" vis--vis Mars and possible artifacts. Clearly, Tartar is simply following the lead handed down from on high, and raising the bar for NASA itself ... to scientifically and publicly legitimize the "new" idea of searching for ET artifacts on NASA imagery ... in addition to still listening for "ET to phone NASA."

Politically, it also makes sense that this "heresy" would first come from SETI, as opposed to NASA itself. SETI is a supposedly "independent agency," spun off from NASA because the Space Agency several years ago found the search for ET just a little too embarrassing to stomach. Of course, we all know that in reality, SETI is about as independent from NASA as the old Soviet Bloc slave nations were from Mother Russia. The truth is that SETI is a "front" for NASA -- to give them plausible deniability when the SETI folks suddenly "find" what we've been pointing out for decades. This way, the SETI crowd can lead NASA into the whole issue of "artifacts in our own backyard" without any uncomfortable questions supposedly being asked about "why it took so long" ... and why NASA wasn't more on the ball on the most important social and scientific issue of all time.

So clearly, the "Isis" of radio astronomy is doing exactly what she's been paid to do, and what she does best -- listening -- but in this case, to the new (?) political winds of change. Unfortunately, just as Sagan's masterwork predicted, there are still flat-Earthers and Neanderthals within and outside NASA, who will balk at any attempt to upset the status-quo, no matter from what source the orders come. They have responded predictably to both Tartar's fairly stunning admission, and the new Cydonia daytime IR imagery we have just pried out of NASA's reluctant clutches. Predictably, as they've done on previous occasions, these reactionaries have immediately tried to squash any scientific or public interest in either.

Two cases in point -- SETI's Seth (Set) Shostak and space.com's Leonard David.

David, who never seems to tire of writing stories concerning the Face on Mars that are nothing more than tired retreads of official NASA press releases, has chimed in with a new piece of yellow journalism which establishes him firmly once again in the regressive, anti-science camp. As he always does, David mischaracterizes the arguments of the independent researchers by completely ignoring the fact that the Face is only one of many enigmatic structures on the ground at Cydonia. Instead, he prefers to simply parrot NASA's absurd perspective that the Face is "windblown," while pretending that all the rest of the fascinating Cydonia anomalies --  let alone their extraordinary mathematical arrangement -- don't even exist. He compounds this absurdity by suggesting that the daytime IR data -- at 100 meters-per-pixel (100% worse resolution than the 25-year-old Viking data) -- somehow "closes the case" on the Face's artificiality. This, despite the fact that even at that resolution, the bizarre nature of some of the Cydonia artifacts, like the D&M pyramid, is still readily apparent.

The only real support for his position that he offers is to rehash the phony "MOLA image" of the Face that NASA tried to float in last year's hit piece on the May 2001 Face image (and that we totally deconstructed in our rebuttal -- see "How to Make a 'Mountain' Out of a MOL(A) Hill").

Shostak, Tartar's ostensible colleague at SETI, has also chimed in again ... with his usual claptrap about the Face merely being another Martian "butte." We thought that notion was put to rest last year, when NASA tried (with disastrous results) to compare the Face to Middle Butte Mesa, in Idaho (without, we remind you, even furnishing a satellite image for comparison!). Instead, "butte" seems to serve as some sort of new mantra for the "see no evil" crowd -- as in maybe "covering your butte."

What both of these perspectives amount to, in terms of a scientific argument, is ... nothing. What David, Shostak, and certain regressive elements in NASA want to do is reduce this seminal scientific question to the level of ... a Rorschach Test! Neither David or Shostak's position is based on anything other than "an opinion" that the Face "doesn't look like a Face." Such an opinion, regardless of who it comes from, does not amount to an empirical argument.  Our opinion of course, is different -- yet the two positions are hardly equitable. Our "opinion" is supported by many years of actual measurement, by a wide variety of scientists, of real analysis and prediction, coupled with the ultimate in the process of contemporary science -- peer-reviewed publication (Carlotto's repeated papers on the subject, for example). Which is the way things are supposed to be evaluated in science these days. What we and our colleagues have proposed (and tried to follow) is that the question itself be evaluated by the same standards as any other question in contemporary science -- not by the process of issuing "official fiats" (dismissive press releases) in an increasingly desperate effort to combat rising scientific or public interest in the "Mars question" each time new "artifact data" is grudgingly forced out of NASA.

That, of course, is the one thing that the likes of David and Shostak have never even tried to do. Never have either of these Brainiacs even addressed, let alone tried methodically to disprove, troublesome issues like "the symmetry and geometry of the D&M ... the presence of the 'eyeball and tear duct' on the City side of the Face ... the possibility that the Face may be damaged on one side, yet sits astride an exquisitely symmetrical platform ... or, especially, our own decade-old prediction that two halves represent two distinct visages."

If they did, they'd quickly have to Face the fact that our position is scientifically much stronger than theirs ... and gaining ground. So instead, they just try to reduce the whole issue to "one man's opinion vs. another's" -- which assures they'll never be "proven" wrong.

So what's going on? Why is space.com on the one hand publicizing Tartar's break with the ostrich crowd, while simultaneously printing David's plagiarized NASA press releases? Why is Shostak trying so desperately to divert attention from the very kind of scientific study of "extraterrestrial artifacts in this solar system" that his boss is now actively legitimizing?

The Hyperdimensional Message of "Contact," and the Hyperdimensional Message of Cydonia. If it's good enough for Carl, why isn't it good enough for SETI?

The answer will be pretty hard to swallow for our critics. The simple truth is, we're winning.

Every new bit of data we get from Mars not only supports and expands our core hypothesis, it reinforces the scientific integrity of our work. Between the Cydonia question, Hyperdimensional Physics, and the Mars Tidal Model, our predictions just keep coming true. Eventually, no matter how hard they try, the likes of Shostak, David and Malin just don't have enough fingers to stick in all the holes of their leaky logic. Maybe "Isis and Seth" need to sit down, have a beer and get the hint that our dear departed friend Carl was trying to give everybody in his opening scene in Contact, when he made sure the special effects team stuck a representation of the Face on the globe of Mars during the films opening sequence.

Video frame capture from "Contact" DVD showing opening sequence depicting the Face on Mars

Face it -- it is a Face.

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Copyright 1996 - 2013 Richard C. Hoagland+ All Rights Reserved