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The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity To 1915: A Source Book / Edition 1

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Overview

This book presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. Introductions and commentaries accompany each source document, some of which are published here for the first time or in a new translation. Authors included are Aristotle, Lucretius, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Fontenelle, Huygens, Newton, Pope, Voltaire, Kant, Paine, Chalmers, Darwin, Wallace, Dostoevski, Lowell, and Antoniadi, among others. Michael J. Crowe has compiled an extensive bibliography not available in other sources.

These materials reveal that the extraterrestrial life debate, rather than being a relatively modern phenomenon, has extended throughout nearly all Western history and has involved many of its leading intellectuals. The readings also demonstrate that belief in extraterrestrial life has had major effects on science and society, and that metaphysical and religious views have permeated the debate throughout much of its history.

 

"This is a valuable book that is not available anywhere else. . . . Crowe's purpose is to let the reader see the original words of the authors who discussed other worlds. Crowe puts these documents in context by his substantial introduction and commentary. . . . Such a source book serves an important purpose, and is ideal for teaching and generating discussion in class. The subject is of increasing importance as we find more and more about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life through current disciplines such as astrobiology, bioastronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." —Steven J. Dick, Director, NASA History Division, NASA

 

"Having established himself as the world’s authority on the history of the debates about extraterrestrial life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Michael Crowe is perfectly positioned to produce this source book. The introductory commentaries on the excerpts from primary sources he has so judiciously selected reveal again and again that no one else knows this subject as well as he does." —Frederick Gregory, University of Florida

 

"The Extraterrestrial Life Debate gives new meaning to the word 'treasury.' Michael Crowe offers us more than 2000 years of golden materials—wrought by the astonishing alchemy of science, religion, philosophy, and sheer imagination—about a topic as alive today as it ever was: ET, with all his cousins and ancestors. The range of authors the book showcases, and the depth of context Crowe provides, will make his monumental anthology the starting point for future explorations of this rich vein of human thought." —Dennis Danielson, University of British Columbia

“There are loads of books on ET, but only a small number of them take a historical approach . . . Anyone interested in the history of the extraterrestrial life debate will be interested in this book; it does complete in a certain way previous historical work done by Steven Dick and Michael Crowe by providing large portions of original texts rather than merely short quotations from them. . . . All the various perspectives, religious, literary, astronomical, philosophical, seem adequately represented. The multidisciplinary aspect of the debate comes across well from the authors selected.” —Marie I. George, St. John’s University

“Extraterrestrials may not have invaded the Earth physically but for centuries they have done so mentally. In many a guise they have appeared not only in works of fiction but also in serious astronomical, philosophical and theological debate. It is impossible to open Michael Crowe's handsome and fastidiously prepared anthology of primary sources without being drawn into endlessly fascinating disputes concerning the possibility and character of extraterrestrial life. Savoring the many twists and turns in controversies that have extended far beyond the confines of popular astronomy, Professor Crowe has provided students and experts alike with a generous and indispensable resource. It is difficult to resist his invitation to investigate for ourselves the innumerable, and often surprising, ways in which the idea of intelligent life on other worlds has shaped and been shaped by perennial Earthly concerns.” —John Hedley Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor Emeritus of Science and Religion, University of Oxford

 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Who wrote about the possibilities and implications of intelligent extraterrestrial life? Thanks to this superb anthology one is prompted to ask, Who didn’t? Michael Crowe is no mere compiler of facsimile reprints of primary sources, but a scholarly editor. This source book is a wonderful addition to the teacher’s toolkit and should find a readership far wider than historians of science.” —ISIS

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268023683
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2008
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael J. Crowe is the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus in Humanities in the Program of Liberal Studies and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. He has published a number of books, including The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750–1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Pt. 1 Antiquity to Newton

1 The Debate in Antiquity 3

2 From Augustine to the Fifteenth Century 14

3 From Copernicus to Bruno 35

4 Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, and Pascal 51

5 Fontenelle and Huygens 72

6 Newton, Bentley, and Derham 109

Pt. 2 The Eighteenth Century

7 Astronomers and Extraterrestrials 129

8 Extraterrestrials and the Enlightenment 182

Pt. 3 From 1800 to 1860

9 Intensification of the Debate after 1800 233

10 Before the Whewell Debate 297

11 Whewell's Of the Plurality of Worlds and Responses 333

Pt. 4 From 1860 to 1915

12 New Approaches to an Ancient Question 369

13 The Late Nineteenth Century 438

14 The Controversy over the Canals of Mars 470

Conclusion 518

Appendix The History of Ideas of Extraterrestrial Life Research Program 522

Selected Bibliography 526

Permissions 542

Index 544

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