Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials by George BasallaCivilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials by George Basalla

Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials

byGeorge Basalla

Hardcover | December 15, 2005

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This book is a selective and fascinating history of scientific speculation about intelligent extraterrestrial life. From Plutarch to Stephen Hawking, some of the most prominent western scientists have had quite detailed perceptions and misperceptions about alien civilizations: JohannesKepler, fresh from transforming astronomy with his work on the shape of planetary orbits, was quite sure alien engineers on the moon were excavating circular pits to provide shelter; Christiaan Huygens, the most prominent physical scientist between Galileo and Newton, dismissed Kepler'sspeculations, but used the laws of probability to prove that "planetarians" on other worlds are much like humans, and had developed a sense of the visual arts; Carl Sagan sees clearly that Huygens is a biological chauvinist, but doesn't see as clearly that he, Sagan, may be a cultural/technologicalchauvinist when he assumes aliens have highly developed technology like ours, but better. Basalla traces the influence of one speculation on the next, showing an unbroken but twisting chain of ideas passed from one scientist to the next, and from science to popular culture. He even traces the influence of popular culture on science--Sagan always admitted how much E. R. Burroughs'Martian novels influenced his speculations about Mars. Throughout, Basalla weaves his theme that scientific belief in and search for extraterrestrial civilizations is a complex impulse, part secularized-religious, and part anthropomorphic. He questions the common modern scientific reasoning thatlife converges on intelligence, and intelligence converges on one science valid everywhere. He ends the book by agreeing with Stephen Hawking (usually a safe bet) that intelligence is overrated for survival in the universe, and that we are most likely alone.
George Basalla is Professor of History at the University of Delaware (Emeritus).
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Title:Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent ExtraterrestrialsFormat:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 6.3 × 9.29 × 0.91 inPublished:December 15, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195171810

ISBN - 13:9780195171815

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Table of Contents

1. Trio of Ideas2. Life on the Moon3. From the Moon to the Planets4. The Ascension of Mars5. Percival Lowell: Champion of Canals6. Mars Unveiled7. Carl Sagan: Mars and Beyond8. Life in an Expanding Universe9. The Trajectory: CETI to SETI to HRMS10. Mirror Worlds11. AfterwordSources of Quoted MaterialBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"This is not a book for spectators. Basalla's prose challenges readers' preconceptions at almost every turn. Whether or not they agree with his analysis, they will eagerly join him in the tussle of ideas."--Fred Boortz, Chicago Sun-Times