The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, may becoming more mainstream, as evidenced by this week's House Science and Technology Committee hearing, which included testimony by two well-known SETI hunters, Seth Shostak and Dan Werthimer.
But the hearing took an odd turn when U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, had the floor.
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"I think I might ask the question everyone in this room wants to ask," Collins said. "Have you watched ‘Ancient Aliens' and what's your comment about that series?"
The television show, broadcast on The History Channel, explores purported extraterrestrials' visits to Earth over millions of years.
Shostak, senior scientist at the California-based SETI Institute, started off diplomatically.
"The public is fascinated with the idea that we may be being visited now, or may have been visited in the past, the so-called UFO phenomenon," he said.
Then he got down to business:
"I personally don't share the conviction that we are being visited. I don't think that that would be something that all the governments of the world had managed to obfuscate - to keep secret. I don't believe that.