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Picture of The History and Philosophy of Astrobiology

The History and Philosophy of Astrobiology

Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life and the Human Mind

Editor(s): David Dunér, Gustav Holmberg, Erik Persson
Contributors: Jean Schneider, Urszula Katarzyna Czyżewska, Mathias Osvath, Per Lind, Michael A. Arbib, Ludwik Kostro,

Book Description

Human beings have wondered about the stars since the dawn of the species. Does life exist out there – intelligent life, even – or are we alone? The quest for life in the universe touches on fundamental hopes and fears. It touches on the essence of what it means to formulate a theory, grasp a concept, and have an imagination. This book traces the history of the science of this area and the development of new schools in philosophy. Its essays seek to establish the history and philosophy of astrobiology as research fields in their own right by addressing cognitive, linguistic, epistemological, ethical, cultural, societal, and historical perspectives on astrobiology.

The book is divided into three sections. The first (Cognition) focuses on the human mind and what it contributes to the search for life. It explores the emergence and evolution of terrestrial life and cognition and the challenges humans face as they reach to the stars. The essays raise philosophical questions, pose ethical dilemmas, and offer a variety of approaches, including one from cognitive zoology, in formulating a theory of the universal principles of intelligence, the limits of human conceptual abilities, and the human mind’s encounter with the unknown.

The second section (Communication) examines the linguistic and semiotic requirements for interstellar communication. What is needed for successful communication? Are there universal rules for success? What are the possible features – and limitations – of exolanguages? What is required for recognizing a message as a message?

The third section (Culture) considers cultural and societal issues. It explores astrobiology’s organization as a scientific discipline, its responsibilities to the public sphere, and its theological implications. It reviews the historically important panspermia hypothesis, along with the popularization of astrobiology and its ongoing institutionalisation.

Through addressing these questions, we take our first steps in exploring the immense terra incognita of extraterrestrial life and the human mind.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-5035-3
ISBN-10: 1-4438-5035-7
Date of Publication: 01/10/2013
Pages / Size: 290 / A5
Price: £44.99


David Dunér is Professor of History of Science and Ideas and Researcher at the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University, Sweden. He was director of the research group “Astrobiology: Past, Present, and Future” at the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies at Lund University. Dunér is the main editor of this volume.