The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science

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Overview

Throughout the twentieth century, from the furor over Percival Lowell's claim of canals on Mars to the sophisticated Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, otherworldly life has often intrigued and occasionally consumed science and the public. The Biological Universe provides a rich and colorful history of the attempts during the twentieth century to answer questions such as whether "biological law" reigns throughout the universe and whether there are other histories, religions, and philosophies outside those on Earth. Covering a broad range of topics, including the search for life in the solar system, the origins of life, UFOs, and aliens in science fiction, Steven J. Dick shows how the concept of extraterrestrial intelligence is a world view of its own, a "biophysical cosmology" that seeks confirmation no less than physical views of the universe. This book will fascinate astronomers, historians of science, biochemists, and science fiction readers.

Are there other histories, religions, and philosophies outside of those on Earth? Do extraterrestrials ponder the mysteries of the universe? The attempts to answer these often asked questions form one of the most interesting chapters in the history of science and culture...

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Biological Universe is a wonderful and excellent read, containing a wealth of carefully researched material, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to the SETI enthusiast— both amatuer and professional alike." Julian A. Hiscox

"The Biological Universe is a wonderful and excellent read, containing a wealth of carefully researched material, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to the SETI enthusiast— both amatuer and professional alike." Julian A. Hiscox

"The best book on extraterrestrial life that I have ever read." Patrick Moore, New Scientist

"The book is well documented and offers a wealth of leads to a variety of literature, much of it otherwise difficult to find....Few other areas of science have such fine, reliable, convenient, and literate accounts of their history." Joseph N. Tatarewicz, Science

"The book is well documented and offers a wealth of leads to a variety of literature, much of it otherwise difficult to find....Few other areas of science have such fine, reliable, convenient, and literate accounts of their history." Joseph N. Tatarewicz, Science

"...every reader should be grateful for a book that succeeds in enriching our knowledge of the historical and factual background needed for any serious discussion of these 'big questions.'" Stephen G. Brush, Nature

"Dick has produced the most thorough and thought-provoking book on this subject in years." Ben Bova, Mercury

"Dick's excellent book The Biological Universe, takes the reader through the historical and present debates over extraterrestrial life." Times Chronicle, Glenside News

"Dick has done and admirable job of openeing up fresh territory....Dick's pioneering history nicely rounds out Cambridge University Press's trilogy on the extraterrestrial life debate." Karl Hufbauer, Isis

"...rigorously informative...." Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521663618
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Edition description: 1 PBK ED
  • Pages: 600
  • Sales rank: 1,350,728
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. From the physical world to the biological universe: Democritus to Lowell; 2. Plurality of worlds and the decline of anthropocentrism; 3. The solar system: the limits of observation; 4. Solar systems beyond: the limits of theory; 5. Extraterrestrials in literature and the arts: the role of imagination; 6. The UFO controversy: on perception and deception; 7. The origin and evolution of life in the extraterrestrial context; 8. SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence; 9. The convergence of disciplines: birth of a new science; 10. The meaning of life; Summary and conclusion: the biological universe and the limits of science.

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