Astrobiology, History, and Society: Life Beyond Earth and the Impact of Discovery

Springer Science & Business Media
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This book addresses important current and historical topics in astrobiology and the search for life beyond Earth, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The first section covers the plurality of worlds debate from antiquity through the nineteenth century, while section two covers the extraterrestrial life debate from the twentieth century to the present. The final section examines the societal impact of discovering life beyond Earth, including both cultural and religious dimensions. Throughout the book, authors draw links between their own chapters and those of other contributors, emphasizing the interconnections between the various strands of the history and societal impact of the search for extraterrestrial life.

The chapters are all written by internationally recognized experts and are carefully edited by Douglas Vakoch, professor of clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute.

This interdisciplinary book will benefit everybody trying to understand the meaning of astrobiology and SETI for our human society.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
May 23, 2013
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Pages
375
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ISBN
9783642359835
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Language
English
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Genres
Body, Mind & Spirit / UFOs & Extraterrestrials
Psychology / Social Psychology
Religion / General
Science / Astronomy
Science / History
Science / Life Sciences / General
Science / Physics / Astrophysics
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Douglas A. Vakoch
In April 2010, fifty years to the month after the first experiment in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), scholars from a range of disciplines—including astronomy, mathematics, anthropology, history, and cognitive science—gathered at NASA’s biennial Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) for a series of sessions on the search for intelligent life. This book highlights the most recent developments in SETI discussed at that conference, emphasizing the ways that SETI has grown since its inception. The volume covers three broad themes: First, leading researchers examine the latest developments in observational SETI programs, as well as innovative proposals for new search strategies and novel approaches to signal processing. Second, both proponents and opponents of “Active SETI” debate whether humankind should be transmitting intentional signals to other possible civilizations, rather than only listening. Third, constructive proposals for interstellar messages are juxtaposed with critiques that ask whether any meaningful exchange is possible with an independently evolved civilization, given the constraints of contact at interstellar distances, where a round-trip exchange could take centuries or millennia.

As we reflect on a half-century of SETI research, we are reminded of the expansion of search programs made possible by technological and conceptual advances. In this spirit of ongoing exploration, the contributors to this book advocate a diverse range of approaches to make SETI increasingly more powerful and effective, as we embark on the next half-century of searching for intelligence beyond Earth.
Douglas A. Vakoch
Extraterrestrial Altruism examines a basic assumption of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): that extraterrestrials will be transmitting messages to us for our benefit. This question of whether extraterrestrials will be altruistic has become increasingly important in recent years as SETI scientists have begun contemplating transmissions from Earth to make contact.

Technological civilizations that transmit signals for the benefit of others, but with no immediate gain for themselves, certainly seem to be altruistic. But does this make biological sense? Should we expect altruism to evolve throughout the cosmos, or is this only wishful thinking? Is it dangerous to send messages to other worlds, as Stephen Hawking has suggested, or might humankind benefit from an exchange with intelligence elsewhere in the galaxy? Would extraterrestrial societies be based on different ethical principles, or would we see commonalities with Earthly notions of morality? Extraterrestrial Altruism explores these and related questions about the motivations of civilizations beyond Earth, providing new insights that are critical for SETI.

Chapters are authored by leading scholars from diverse disciplines—anthropology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, cosmology, engineering, history of science, law, philosophy, psychology, public policy, and sociology. The book is carefully edited by Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute and professor of clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. The Foreword is by Frank Drake.

This interdisciplinary book will benefit everybody trying to understand whether evolution and ethics are unique to Earth, or whether they are built into the fabric of the universe.

Douglas A. Vakoch
Feminist Ecocriticism examines the interplay of women and nature as seen through literary theory and criticism, drawing on insights from such diverse fields as chaos theory and psychoanalysis, while examining genres ranging from nineteenth-century sentimental literature to contemporary science fiction. The book explores the central claim of ecofeminism—that there is a connection between environmental degradation and the subordination of women—with the goal of identifying and fostering liberatory alternatives. Feminist Ecocriticism analyzes the work of such diverse women writers as Rachel Carson, Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Shelley. By including chapters from a comparable number of women and men, this book dispels the notion that ecofeminism is relevant to and used by only female scholars.
After uncovering the oppressive dichotomies of male/female and nature/culture that underlie contemporary environmental problems, Feminist Ecocriticism focuses specifically on emancipatory strategies employed by ecofeminist literary critics as antidotes, asking what our lives might be like as those strategies become increasingly successful in overcoming oppression. Thus, ecofeminism is not limited to the critique of literature, but also helps identify and articulate liberatory ideals that can be actualized in the real world, in the process transforming everyday life. Providing an alternative to rugged individualism, for example, ecofeminist literature promotes a more fulfilling sense of interrelationship with both community and the land. In the process of exploring literature from ecofeminist perspectives, the book reveals strategies of emancipation that have already begun to give rise to more hopeful ecological narratives.
Feminist Ecocriticism provides a novel integration of two important strands of contemporary literary criticism that have often failed to make contact: feminist criticism and ecocriticism. The openness of both feminist criticism and ecocriticism to multiple, even incompatible perspectives, without the insistence on unitary definitions of their fields, has given rise to a new hybrid discipline: feminist ecocriticism.
Douglas A. Vakoch
As we stand poised on the verge of a new era of spaceflight, we must rethink every element, including the human dimension. This book explores some of the contributions of psychology to yesterday’s great space race, today’s orbiter and International Space Station missions, and tomorrow’s journeys beyond Earth’s orbit. Early missions into space were typically brief, and crews were small, often drawn from a single nation. As international cooperation in space exploration has increased over the decades, the challenges of communicating across cultural boundaries and dealing with interpersonal conflicts have become all the more important, requiring different coping skills and sensibilities than “the right stuff” expected of early astronauts. As astronauts travel to asteroids or establish a permanent colony on the Moon, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, the duration of expeditions will increase markedly, as will the psychosocial stresses. Away from their home planet for extended times, future spacefarers will need to be increasingly self-sufficient, while simultaneously dealing with the complexities of heterogeneous, multicultural crews.

"On Orbit and Beyond: Psychological Perspectives on Human Spaceflight," the second, considerably expanded edition of "Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective," provides an analysis of these and other challenges facing future space explorers while at the same time presenting new empirical research on topics ranging from simulation studies of commercial spaceflights to the psychological benefits of viewing Earth from space. This second edition includes an all new section exploring the challenges astronauts will encounter as they travel to asteroids, Mars, Saturn, and the stars, requiring an unprecedented level of autonomy. Updated essays discuss the increasingly important role of China in human spaceflight. In addition to examining contemporary psychological research, several of the essays also explicitly address the history of the psychology of space exploration. Leading contributors to the field place the latest theories and empirical findings in historical context by exploring changes in space missions over the past half century, as well as reviewing developments in the psychological sciences during the same period. The essays are innovative in their approaches and conclusions, providing novel insights for behavioral researchers and historians alike.

Douglas A. Vakoch
Douglas A. Vakoch
Feminist Ecocriticism examines the interplay of women and nature as seen through literary theory and criticism, drawing on insights from such diverse fields as chaos theory and psychoanalysis, while examining genres ranging from nineteenth-century sentimental literature to contemporary science fiction. The book explores the central claim of ecofeminism—that there is a connection between environmental degradation and the subordination of women—with the goal of identifying and fostering liberatory alternatives. Feminist Ecocriticism analyzes the work of such diverse women writers as Rachel Carson, Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Shelley. By including chapters from a comparable number of women and men, this book dispels the notion that ecofeminism is relevant to and used by only female scholars.
After uncovering the oppressive dichotomies of male/female and nature/culture that underlie contemporary environmental problems, Feminist Ecocriticism focuses specifically on emancipatory strategies employed by ecofeminist literary critics as antidotes, asking what our lives might be like as those strategies become increasingly successful in overcoming oppression. Thus, ecofeminism is not limited to the critique of literature, but also helps identify and articulate liberatory ideals that can be actualized in the real world, in the process transforming everyday life. Providing an alternative to rugged individualism, for example, ecofeminist literature promotes a more fulfilling sense of interrelationship with both community and the land. In the process of exploring literature from ecofeminist perspectives, the book reveals strategies of emancipation that have already begun to give rise to more hopeful ecological narratives.
Feminist Ecocriticism provides a novel integration of two important strands of contemporary literary criticism that have often failed to make contact: feminist criticism and ecocriticism. The openness of both feminist criticism and ecocriticism to multiple, even incompatible perspectives, without the insistence on unitary definitions of their fields, has given rise to a new hybrid discipline: feminist ecocriticism.
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