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Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact

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Part of Cambridge Astrobiology

  • Date Published: May 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108426763

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About the Authors
  • The search for life in the universe, once the stuff of science fiction, is now a robust worldwide research program with a well-defined roadmap probing both scientific and societal issues. This volume examines the humanistic aspects of astrobiology, systematically discussing the approaches, critical issues, and implications of discovering life beyond Earth. What do the concepts of life and intelligence, culture and civilization, technology and communication mean in a cosmic context? What are the theological and philosophical implications if we find life - and if we do not? Steven J. Dick argues that given recent scientific findings, the discovery of life in some form beyond Earth is likely and so we need to study the possible impacts of such a discovery and formulate policies to deal with them. The remarkable and often surprising results are presented here in a form accessible to disciplines across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

    • Explores the humanistic aspects of the discovery of extraterrestrial life, making use of philosophy, science, theology, anthropology, history, and science fiction
    • This subject is one of the most popular themes in astronomy, and this volume is accessible to a broad audience, including students of humanities, social, and natural sciences, and the interested general reader
    • Offers the first systematic view of the impact of discovering life beyond Earth, including controversial subjects such as METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
    • Presents a coherent case of what the implications of finding life might be and why we should tackle them now
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    • Winner, 2019 PROSE Award for Cosmology and Astronomy

    Reviews & endorsements

    'At last, a comprehensive and level-headed analysis of what it means for humanity should we discover alien life - an event that would utterly transform our worldview. Steven J. Dick, the world’s foremost scholar in this field, leads us from the lessons of history to the tantalizing promise of astrobiology’s emerging technologies. Admirably, he does not shy away from confronting the ethical, societal and theological ramifications that most commentators fudge. This is a ‘must-buy’ book for anyone who thinks seriously about the age-old question of whether or not we alone in the universe.' Paul Davies, Arizona State University, and author of The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?

    'We (primarily the space agencies and the scientific community of Astrobiology) are currently engaged in a grand exploration, seeking life beyond Earth. It is past time that we make plans for what the discovery of distant life - microbial, intelligent, or other - would mean for terrestrial life. What will be the impacts as we destructure one set of world views and restructure another? What do we know about humans and their institutions that will help us plan proactively for a transition to a biological universe, if and when that occurs? What policies must we pre-enact to guide any first contact to an outcome deemed satisfactory by all concerned? These are just some of the questions posed by Steven J. Dick in this scholarly and fascinating book that makes the case for the further inclusion of the humanities and social sciences within Astrobiology. While many of these questions are now unanswerable, this work provides a roadmap for how we might arrive at what is knowable in advance of a discovery.' Jill Tarter, SETI Institute

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108426763
    • length: 394 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 178 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.93kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction. When biospheres collide
    Part I. Approaches:
    1. History
    2. Discovery
    3. Analogy
    Part II. Critical Issues:
    4. Can we transcend anthropocentrism?
    5. Is human knowledge universal?
    6. How can we envision impact?
    Part III. Impact!:
    7. Astroculture: transforming our worldviews
    8. Astroethics: interacting with alien life
    9. Astropolicy: preparing for discovery
    10. Summary and conclusions: at home in the biological (or postbiological) universe

  • Author

    Steven J. Dick
    Steven J. Dick is one of the best known and most qualified writers on topics relating to humanity's thoughts on extraterrestrial life. He held the 2014 Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress. In 2013 he testified before Congress on the subject of astrobiology. He served as the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History at the National Air and Space Museum from 2011–2012, and as the NASA Chief Historian and Director of the NASA History Office from 2003–2009. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, and is author or editor of 20 books, including The Biological Universe (Cambridge, 2008). He was awarded the 2006 LeRoy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society. In 2009 the International Astronomical Union designated minor planet 6544 Stevendick in his honor.


    • Winner, 2019 PROSE Award for Cosmology and Astronomy

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