The House Science Committee held a hearing this week on “Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Universe.” In other words, aliens.
But alien hearings are hardly new to the House Science Committee, or the Congress as a whole. In fact, in the past year there have been more hearings in the House Science Committee on aliens then climate change. You know, climate change, that shift in weather patterns and temperatures that is already affecting all of us (West Antarctica ice sheet, it’s been real).
To be exact, the House Science Committee has had 15 hearings on space, three on aliens and two on climate change.
And that’s part of a larger trend in the House. From the National Journal:
“In this session of Congress, House committees tasked with covering U.S. energy and science have held a total of seven hearings to discuss climate change. By contrast, the two chambers have held a combined 19 hearings about space exploration in that same time period.”
The Senate doesn’t have a great record either, though it’s not clear how many of the hearings on “space exploration” specifically pertained to aliens:
“The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has held three hearings this session on climate change, while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has not had a hearing devoted to the topic since 2012."
At yesterday’s hearing, Dr. Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI institute, described the future for the search for extraterrestrial life, and spoke about the importance of his work. "It's very easy to make fun of this," Shostak said. "On the other hand, it would have been very easy to make fun of Ferdinand Magellan's idea to sail around the earth, or Captain Cook to map the South Pacific."
And to be fair, there were some serious questions about astrobiology research asked during the hearing. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson asked if this research has contributed to other scientific fields.
But most of the questions throughout the hearing were less serious. For example, "Have you watched Ancient Aliens and what is your comment on the series?" Rep. Chris Collins asked. (For those curious Shostak said that he took issue with the premise of the show).
H/T National Journal