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Civilizations Beyond Earth: Extraterrestrial Life and Society

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Civilizations Beyond Earth

Extraterrestrial Life and Society

Edited by Douglas A. Vakoch and Albert A. Harrison†

240 pages, 11 tabs & figs, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-211-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2011)

ISBN  978-1-78238-315-4 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (August 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-212-2 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Nominated for the 2011 Eugene M. Emme Astronautical Literature Award

“At a time when new planets are being discovered around other stars at an unprecedented rate, this collection provides a much needed guide to the human impact of discovering we are not alone in the universe.”  · International Journal of Anthropology

For years sections of the SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] community have bemoaned the fact that the social sciences are often sidelined in favour of the hard sciences when it comes to SETI discussion. Civilizations Beyond Earth starts to redress the balance, edited skillfully by Douglas Vakoch, the only sociologist on staff at the SETI Institute in California, and Albert Harrison, a psychologist from the University of California.” ·  Astronomy

“…a fascinating collection of essays examining how humanity might react to extraterrestrials…While [the book] is academically rigorous, it’s also remains an essential introduction for anyone interested in SETI, xenobiology and UFOs.”  ·  ForteanTimes


Astronomers around the world are pointing their telescopes toward the heavens, searching for signs of intelligent life. If they make contact with an advanced alien civilization, how will humankind respond? In thinking about first contact, the contributors to this volume present new empirical and theoretical research on the societal dimensions of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Archaeologists and astronomers explore the likelihood that extraterrestrial intelligence exists, using scientific insights to estimate such elusive factors as the longevity of technological societies. Sociologists present the latest findings of novel surveys, tapping into the public’s attitudes about life beyond Earth to show how religion and education influence beliefs about extraterrestrials. Scholars from such diverse disciplines as mathematics, chemistry, journalism, and religious studies offer innovative solutions for bridging the cultural gap between human and extraterrestrial civilizations, while recognizing the tremendous challenges of communicating at interstellar distances. At a time when new planets are being discovered around other stars at an unprecedented rate, this collection provides a much needed guide to the human impact of discovering we are not alone in the universe.

Douglas A. Vakoch is Professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, as well as Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute. He serves as Chair of both the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Study Group on Interstellar Message Construction and the IAA Study Group on Active SETI: Scientific, Technical, Societal, and Legal Dimensions. His books include Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CETI), Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective, and Ecofeminism and Rhetoric: Critical Perspectives on Sex, Technology, and Discourse.

Albert A. Harrison† was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. In addition to researching the societal dimensions of astrobiology and SETI, he studied human adaptation to spaceflight and spaceflight-analogous environments. His books include After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life; Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion, and Folklore; Spacefaring: The Human Dimension; Living Aloft: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight; and From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement.

Download Douglas Vakoch's talk "How Do We Explain Aesthetics to Extraterrestrial Civilizations" from The Main Public Broadcasting Network.

Subject: Anthropology (General) Sociology Archaeology


List of Figures

Introduction: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence as an Interdisciplinary Effort
Albert A. Harrison and Douglas A. Vakoch


Chapter 1. Are We Alone? Estimating the Prevalence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Seth Shostak

Chapter 2. Encountering Alternative Intelligences: Cognitive Archaeology and SETI
Paul K. Wason

Chapter 3. The Lifetimes of Scientific Civilizations and the Genetic Evolution of the Brain
Alan J. Penny

Chapter 4.L’ on Earth
Kathryn Denning


Chapter 5. Can SETI Fulfill the Value Agenda of Cultural Anthropology?
Donald E. Tarter

Chapter 6. American Attitudes about Life beyond Earth: Beliefs, Concerns, and the Role of Education and Religion in Shaping Public Perceptions
George Pettinico

Chapter 7. Cultural Beliefs about Extraterrestrials: A Questionnaire Study
William Sims Bainbridge

Chapter 8. The Science and Politics of SETI: How to Succeed in an Era of Make Believe History and Pseudoscience
Albert A. Harrison


Chapter 9. Cultural Aspects of Interstellar Communication
Carl L. DeVito

Chapter 10. Cosmic Storytelling: Primitive Observables as Rosetta Analogies
Harry Letaw, Jr.

Chapter 11. Direct Contact with Extraterrestrials via Computer Emulation
William Sims Bainbridge

Chapter 12. The Inscrutable Names of God: The Jesuit Missions of New France as a Model for SETI-Related Spiritual Questions
Jason T. Kuznicki

Chapter 13. ET Phone Darwin: What Can an Evolutionary Understanding of Animal Communication and Art Contribute to Our Understanding of Methods for Interstellar Communication?
Kathryn Coe, Craig T. Palmer, and Christina Pomianek

Chapter 14. A Journalistic Perspective on SETI-Related Message Composition
Morris Jones

Notes on Contributors

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