Hutton, Richard Holt (1826–1897)

Richard Hutton

Richard Hutton was an English essayist and editor who, writing anonymously in the Spectator, argued against the proposal made by Francis Galton that an attempt be made to send signals to Mars (see communication, with the Moon and planets). He thought it unlikely that intelligent Martians exist or that, if they do, they have the same faculties as us or have reached the same level of development. Moreover, he argued, if communication were achieved, it would be detrimental to humankind because it would be yet another sign of our insignificance in the cosmos. We shall be ready to interact with other beings, he believed, only


... when we shall have mastered the tendency to regard our own insignificance as an excuse for treating our wills as impotent because they are not omnipotent, and our reason as all but imbecile because it is not omniscient.


His concerns auger some of those expressed more recently about SETI (see extraterrestrial intelligence, implications following first contact).