Practice What You Preach

Avi Loeb
6 min readSep 3, 2023

Over the past week, I received hundreds of emails inspired by the new findings from the expedition to the Pacific Ocean, as summarized in a new scientific paper, accessible here.

Below is a representative sample of these letters to illustrate that innovation in scientific research is worthwhile well beyond the self-centered pleasure offered by academic conformity, awards and honors. I am grateful to be given the privilege of following my childhood curiosity through the tools of science. This privilege allows me to figure out the world myself without the dogmatic chains of those who pretend to be the “adults in the room”.

We must keep in mind that doing science is not the same as talking about science. Many of the bloggers and science popularizers who push back against this innovative research did not write a single scientific paper over the past decade. The situation is akin to commentators telling the players in a soccer field how to pass the ball. Some of them call themselves “astrophysicists” even though they are not actually practicing scientific research in astrophysics. I am talking about science while doing the work of science. My latest papers can be accessed here. There is a big distinction that comes with practicing what you preach.

We must let evidence guide us to new knowledge about our cosmic neighbors, and not be trapped by our opinions. And if we fail to find the evidence for many decades after investing billions of dollars in the search, we will be exactly at the same point as dark-matter searches are right now. Despite their lack of success, these past dark-matter searches are legitimized within the mainstream of physics, even though they have much less resonance with the interests of the public than the search for extraterrestrial civilizations.

Here are some of the letters.

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“Dear Prof Loeb,

This email is to thank you sincerely for all the scientific work you have been doing over the past few years. More importantly, thank you for communicating to the public, and other scientists, what it means to be a true, honest scientist.

Since I was a child, I have always asked what, and why things are and how they work. Just like you, my curiosities have taken me many places.

I have a degree in biomedical sciences, optometry, and now I am pursuing medicine (MD). With 10 years of studying full time at university and continuing, I failed to see many scientists with such honesty and bravery as yours.

Your recent interviews, podcasts and articles highlight how science has lost its true meaning, which as you rightly pointed out should be about innovation, new knowledge, and an open-minded approach.

You are a fresh, logical, calming voice in a stormy sea of messy politics and pursuit of money in the name of science.

So thank you for your voice, you are an inspiration for me and many others to continue studying and applying myself honestly, and I hope one day I can combine my medical knowledge and physics in meaningful ways.”

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“Hola Dr Loeb.

Only writing to express my support and admiration of your work. The way I see it through the media, you integrate your science with society is inspiring to me.

Sincerely,

Radiologist Veterinary Medicine Doctor in Bogota, Colombia, South America. “

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“Dear Avi,

I just wanted to write you words of encouragement — what in Hebrew they call דברי חיזוק — to continue on the path you are on. You are doing something bold and novel and expanding the frontiers of science. Do not let the lesser minds, even the lesser minds of science, get you down. Life is always full of people who say “this cannot work” in the face of every new idea and every grand insight. What you are doing — closely looking at the evidence and making your own assessment of the data — is exactly what you should be doing.

Furthermore, the naysayers who scream out “why not follow the old process” of first doing peer review and then letting the public know, are deeply out of touch with the way our world is now operating — there is a deep spirit of the democratization of knowledge, and your posts and public distributions are part of that.

Many years ago, I wrote on innovation in Jewish Law. The book argues that every time a great innovation is attempted, it has two ideas behind it. The first is a novel methodology and the second is a novel solution. Both bring out the naysayers, even in the Jewish tradition.

You will accomplish your goal and you should march forward.

The rabbinic phrase is חֲזַק חֲזַק וְנִתְּחַזֵּק.

You will succeed.”

_____________________

“Dear Dr. Avi Loeb,

I am writing this note with immense gratitude and admiration for the incredible work you have been leading through the Galileo Project. Your dedication to legitimizing the study of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and your unwavering commitment to pursuing scientific truth have been truly inspiring.

The Galileo Project has not only brought legitimacy to a field that was often dismissed or relegated to the fringes, but it has also paved the way for rigorous and credible research into the existence of life beyond our planet. Your boldness in approaching this subject with the intent of conducting real science has ignited a sense of hope and excitement among those who believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

It is a testament to your vision and leadership that you have established the Galileo Project as an independent organization, free from the constraints of government politics and bureaucracy. This decision speaks volumes about your dedication to pure scientific inquiry and your commitment to pursuing knowledge without compromise.

Your efforts, along with those of your team, are shaping the future of scientific exploration and understanding. Through your work, you are not only expanding our understanding of the cosmos but also demonstrating the true essence of scientific inquiry — a pursuit driven by curiosity, evidence, and a genuine desire to uncover the mysteries that surround us.

Thank you, Dr. Loeb, for your tireless dedication to advancing our understanding of UAP and the potential for extraterrestrial life. Your work is a beacon of light in a field that often struggles to gain acceptance, and your contributions will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the way we perceive our place in the universe.

In my estimation, your endeavors place you in the esteemed company of historical figures such as Galileo, who, in their pursuit of scientific truth, reshaped our understanding of the universe. Your ongoing contributions to the study of UAPs will undoubtedly wield a significant impact on both contemporary society and the generations yet to come.

With deepest gratitude and respect,”

___________________________

Given these sentiments, I will maintain my course and update the public on results from doing science the way it should be done: guided by raw curiosity and anomalous evidence.

We are all in the same boat, the Earth. If we find a message in a bottle sent by cosmic neighbors on other boats, it will encourage us to explore further the vast oceans of interstellar space. Ad Astra!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, is scheduled for publication in August 2023.

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Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb is the Baird Professor of Science and Institute director at Harvard University and the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial” and "Interstellar".