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Life on Other Worlds: The 20th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate / Edition 1

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Overview

The concept of extraterrestrial intelligence is a worldview of its own, a "biophysical cosmology" that seeks confirmation no less than physical views of the universe. It is, however, a subject at the very limits of science, and scientific attempts at confirmation therefore illuminate the nature of science itself. This history is not only important for an understanding of the nature of science, but is also central to any forward-looking concept of religion, philosophy, and numerous other areas of human endeavor. Extraterrestrial life will be one of the predominant themes of science in the 21st century.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Dick, an astronomer and historian of science at the US Naval Observatory, offers an antidote to the sensationalism surrounding the search for extraterrestrial life in this overview of the history of theories of life on other planets, recent advances in planetary science, and the latest thinking on the likelihood of life in outer space. He also demystifies the agenda of sensationalists who seek to impose their own radical cosmology based on conjecture rather than scientific fact. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"Amazingly comprehensive, as well as highly entertaining...I almost wish it would put an end to the outpouring of books on the subject; nothing more need be written, until the feared/long-hoped for moment of Revelation!" Sir Arthur C. Clarke

"Life on Other Worlds is a wondersome synthesis of scientific criticism, historical narrative and socio-philosophical analysis of a theme that has captured the human imagination since the first stargazers." Joshua Lederberg, The Rockefeller University

"First published in subject until new discoveries lead closer to or futher away from the moment when we know how alone we are in the universe" The Astronomical Society of the Pacific

"...chapters on the search for planets outside our solar system, UFOs and the SETI project...pack a good deal of information and make skillful use of tables and figures...illustrations throughout." Publisher's Weekly

"Amazingly comprehensive, as well as highly entertaining...I almost wish it would put an end to the outpouring of books on the subject; nothing more need be written, until the feared/long-hoped for moment of Revelation!" Sir Arthur C. Clarke, CBE

"Life on Other Worlds is a wondersome synthesis of scientific criticism, historical narrative and socio-philosophical analysis of a theme that has captured the human imagination since the first stargazers." Joshua Lederberg, The Rockerfeller University

"One of the most exciting stories of the twentieth is the search, observational and theoretical, for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Steven Dick in his Life on Other Worlds has told that story with accuracy, clarity, and thoroughness. He is to be congratulated for this achievement, especially for the accessibility of his presentations and for the balance with which he has handled a history that at many points has been filled with controversy." Michael J. Crowe, University of Notre Dame

"...Steven Dick has written an intelligent and sober book." National Post

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521620123
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 From the Physical World to the Biological Universe: Democritus to Lowell 6
1.1 The Cosmological Connection 7
1.2 Philosophical Explorations 15
1.3 Scientific Foundations 17
2 Life in the Solar System 25
2.1 Lowell and Mars: The Search for Intelligence, 1894-1924 26
2.2 The Search for Martian Vegetation, 1924-1957 44
2.3 The Space Age: Lowell's Legacy Overturned 53
2.4 Reprise: Martian Fossils and European Seas 65
3 Solar Systems Beyond 70
3.1 Skepticism: Close Encounters of the Stellar Kind 71
3.2 Turning Point: 1943-1958 78
3.3 Optimism: Observation to the Rescue 88
4 Extraterrestrials in Literature and the Arts: The Role of Imagination 106
4.1 The Invention of the Alien: Verne, Wells, and Lasswitz 107
4.2 The Development and Uses of the Alien: Burroughs to Bradbury 116
4.3 The Alien Comes of Age: Clarke to E.T. and Beyond 125
5 The UFO Controversy and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis 137
5.1 The Rise of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis 138
5.2 The Peak of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, 1965-1969 150
5.3 Aftermath: The Nature of Evidence and the Decline of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis in Physical Science 159
6 The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Extraterrestrial Context 169
6.1 Origins of Life and Extraterrestrial Life: A Space Age Symbiosis 170
6.2 Evolution and Extraterrestrials: Chance and Necessity Revisited 192
7 SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence 200
7.1 Cornell, Ozma, and Green Bank: The Opening of the Electromagnetic Spectrum for SETI 201
7.2 A Rationale for SETI: Optimists, Pessimists, and the Drake Equation 212
7.3 A Strategy for SETI: The Development of Observational Programs 222
8 The Meaning of Life: Implications of Extraterrestrial Intelligence 236
8.1 Perceptions of Cultural Impact 237
8.2 Astrotheology 245
8.3 Life and Purpose in the Universe: The Anthropic Principle 254
9 Summary and Conclusion: The Biological Universe 261
9.1 The Triumph of Cosmic Evolution 261
9.2 The Biological Universe as Cosmological Worldview 265
9.3 The Problem of Evidence and the Limits of Science 266
9.4 The Cultures of Science 269
9.5 Exobiology as Protoscience 270
9.6 Cultural Significance of the Debate 271
Select Bibliographical Essay 274
Index 279
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