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.
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; Bibliography; Index.