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The Societal Impact of Extraterrestrial Life: The Relevance of History and the Social Sciences

Part of the Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics book series (ASTROBIO)

Abstract

This chapter reviews past studies on the societal impact of extraterrestrial life and offers four related ways in which history is relevant to the subject: the history of impact thus far, analogical reasoning, impact studies in other areas of science and technology, and studies on the nature of discovery and exploration. We focus particularly on the promise and peril of analogical arguments, since they are by necessity widespread in the field. This chapter also summarizes the relevance of the social sciences, particularly anthropology and sociology, and concludes by taking a closer look at the possible impact of the discovery of extraterrestrial life on theology and philosophy. In undertaking this study we emphasize three bedrock principles: (1) we cannot predict the future; (2) society is not monolithic, implying many impacts depending on religion, culture and worldview; (3) the impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial life is scenario-dependent.

Keywords

  • Human Genome Project
  • Analogical Reasoning
  • Objective Knowledge
  • Societal Impact
  • Microbial Life

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 12.1
Fig. 12.2

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Dick, S.J. (2013). The Societal Impact of Extraterrestrial Life: The Relevance of History and the Social Sciences. In: Vakoch, D. (eds) Astrobiology, History, and Society. Advances in Astrobiology and Biogeophysics. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-35983-5_12

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