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The Twentieth Century History of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate: Major Themes and Lessons Learned

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

Abstract

In this chapter we provide an overview of the extraterrestrial life debate since 1900, drawing largely on the major histories of the subject during this period, The Biological Universe (Dick 1996), Life on Other Worlds (Dick 1998), and The Living Universe (Dick and Strick 2004), as well as other published work. We outline the major components of the debate, including (1) the role of planetary science, (2) the search for planets beyond the solar system, (3) research on the origins of life, and (4) the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). We emphasize the discovery of cosmic evolution as the proper context for the debate, reserving the cultural implications of astrobiology for part III of this volume. We conclude with possible lessons learned from this history, especially in the domains of the problematic nature of evidence, inference, and metaphysical preconceptions; the checkered role of theory; and an analysis of how representative general current arguments have fared in the past.

Keywords

  • Solar System
  • Planetary System
  • Martian Atmosphere
  • Martian Meteorite
  • Extraterrestrial 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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Dick, S.J. (2013). The Twentieth Century History of the Extraterrestrial Life Debate: Major Themes and Lessons Learned. 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_7

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