> on October 7, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Credit: Mark Wilson

The White House on Monday said that the U.S. government "has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race."

The unusual announcement was made in response to two petitions that are part of the White House's "We the People" initiative, in which it responds to citizens' online petitions if they gain enough support. The statement on extraterrestrial life, issued by Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, was given in response to two petitions. One, which calls on the government to disclose any "knowledge of or communications with extraterrestrial beings," has received over 5,000 signatures. A second, which asks for the government to "formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race," has received over 12,000 signatures. 

"Many scientists and mathematicians have looked with a statistical mindset at the question of whether life likely exists beyond Earth and have come to the conclusion that the odds are pretty high that somewhere among the trillions and trillions of stars in the universe there is a planet other than ours that is home to life," Larson also wrote in his response. "Many have also noted, however, that the odds of us making contact with any of them—especially any intelligent ones—are extremely small, given the distances involved."

According to MSNBC, one of the groups promoting the petitions, the Paradigm Research Group, said the response by a "low-level staffer" was unacceptable. 

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