Exploring the Origin, Extent, and Future of Life: Philosophical, Ethical and Theological Perspectives

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Where did we come from? Are we alone? Where are we going? These are the questions that define the field of astrobiology. New discoveries about life on Earth, the increasing numbers of extrasolar planets being identified, and the technologies being developed to locate and characterize Earth-like planets around other stars are continually challenging our views of nature and our connection to the rest of the universe. In this book, philosophers, historians, ethicists, and theologians provide the perspectives of their fields on the research and discoveries of astrobiology. A valuable resource for graduate students and researchers, the book provides an introduction to astrobiology, and explores subjects such as the implications of current origin of life research, the possible discovery of extraterrestrial microbial life, and the possibility of altering the environment of Mars.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The scientists and engineers who work on the Mars exploration program should read this book, especially on the ethical questions regarding the terraforming of the planet Mars. This book is also an interesting read for the general public, who are mildly interested in the origin of life and in search for extraterrestrial life, or even for people who have been searching for God in their personal endeavors." The Leading Edge

"...this volume is the product of a largely unprecedented and laudable collaboration between scientific and philosophical disciplines in approaching the growing field of astrobiology. Regardless of the readers' specialisation, this is an important 'turn-to' book for academic discussion on the inevitable philosophical, ethical and religious questions surrounding the search for life in the universe." - Leila Battison, Astrobiological Society of Britain

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521863636
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2009
  • Series: Cambridge Astrobiology Series, #4
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Constance M. Bertka is an Adjunct Professor at the Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC. Until recently, she was Director of the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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Table of Contents

1. Astrobiology in societal context Constance Bertka; Part I. Origin of Life: 2. Emergence and the experimental pursuit of the origin of life Robert Hazen; 3. From Aristotle to Darwin, to Freeman Dyson: changing definitions of life viewed in historical context James Strick; 4. Philosophical aspects of the origin-of-life problem: the emergence of life and the nature of science Iris Fry; 5. The origin of terrestrial life: a Christian perspective Ernan McMullin; 6. The alpha and the omega: reflections on the origin and future of life from the perspective of Christian theology and ethics Celia Deane-Drummond; Part II. Extent of Life: 7. A biologist's guide to the Solar System Lynn Rothschild; 8. The quest for habitable worlds and life beyond the Solar System Carl Pilcher; 9. A historical perspective on the extent and search for life Steven J. Dick; 10. The search for extraterrestrial life: epistemology, ethics, and worldviews Mark Lupisella; 11. The implications of discovering extraterrestrial life: different searches, different issues Margaret S. Race; 12. God, evolution, and astrobiology Cynthia S. W. Crysdale; Part III. Future of Life: 13. Planetary ecosynthesis on Mars: restoration ecology and environmental ethics Christopher P. McKay; 14. The trouble with intrinsic value: an ethical primer for astrobiology Kelly C. Smith; 15. God's preferential option for life: a Christian perspective on astrobiology Richard O. Randolph; 16. Comparing stories about the origin, extent, and future of life: an Asian religious perspective Francisca Cho; Index.

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