Stephen Hawking’s views about the dangers of contacting intelligent extraterrestrials are well-known. He has issued his warning openly many times during the past years during lectures, interviews and in documentaries. The Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti) has a different opinion.

The spark that renewed the 'clash'

Their disagreement has resurfaced after it was announced that the Breakthrough Listen project has identified eleven significant signs of intelligent alien life that are under investigation. The Breakthrough Listen project was established by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and it has been endorsed by people like Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg.

News about the renewed disagreement made headlines in Greek and other foreign media last week.

Stephen Hawking’s warning

Stephen Hawking has a pessimistic opinion regarding any possible future encounter between humanity and advanced intelligent extraterrestrials. At the moment, humanity does not possess the technology to find and contact intelligent extraterrestrials as, if they exist, they are thousands maybe even millions of light years away. Thus, he believes that if or when such an encounter occurs, it will be because a technologically advanced and intelligent extraterrestrial civilization has found and visited Earth.

In such a scenario, Hawking fears that humanity would have the same fate as the Native American peoples had after America was discovered by Columbus.

This means that the more technologically advanced civilization will take over, enslave or even wipe out the less technologically advanced civilization. In simple words, the well-known physicist believes that if intelligent extraterrestrials find us, they will not be friendly and this might be the beginning of the end of humanity.

People who disagree with him believe that he has reached this conclusion based on what humans would do and that extraterrestrials would not necessarily behave in the same way.

SETI’s more optimistic opinion

On the other hand, scientists at SETI have a completely different philosophy. They believe that a technologically advanced alien civilization that has the ability to travel great distances across space, has also reached a higher cultural and spiritual level.

SETI’s scientists believe that if or when an advanced extraterrestrial civilization reaches Earth, they will not be aggressive.

Space exploration for alien life

The possibility that alien life exists and that it will be found very soon has been given a lot of media attention lately, mainly due to NASA’s latest discoveries. These include the discoveries of Proxima Centauri B which is a planet not far from Earth, the giant "Warm Neptune" exoplanet and Saturn's moons Rhea and Titan, where what could be signs of alien life have already been discovered. Furthermore, many astronomers believe that the new James Webb Space Telescope will find proof of alien life soon after it is launched in October 2017.

Stephen Hawking has also made headlines during the past month with his controversial research regarding the existence of God and his warning that humanity must colonize a new planet within 100 years or risk extinction.

Scientific discussion about alien life has intensified recently. This has led many people to believe that humanity is very close to a breakthrough discovery.