Where did we come from? Are we alone? Where are we going? These are the questions that define the field of astrobiology. New discoveries about life on Earth, the increasing numbers of extrasolar planets being identified and the technologies being developed to locate and characterize Earth-like planets around other stars are continually challenging our views of nature and our connection to the rest of the universe.
In Exploring the Origin, Extent, and Future of Life, philosophers, historians, ethicists, and theologians provide the perspectives of their fields on the research and discoveries of astrobiology. A valuable resource for graduate students and researchers, Exploring the Origin, Extent, and Future of Life provides an introduction to astrobiology, and explores subjects such as the implications of current origin of life research, the possible discovery of extraterrestrial microbial life and the possibility of altering the environment of Mars.
"[...] offers valuable ethical perspectives from both atheist and religious points of view and essentially provides a philosophical framework from which current and future astrobiologists may work [...] Regardless of the reader's specialisation, this is an important 'turn-to' book for academic discussion on the inevitable philosophical, ethical and religious questions surrounding the search for life in the universe."
- Leila Battison, University of Oxford
"[...] scientists and engineers who work on the Mars exploration program should read this book, especially on the ethical questions regarding the terraforming of the planet Mars [...] This book is also an interesting read for the general public [...]"
- Geosciences Journal
1. Astrobiology in societal context Constance Bertka
Part I. Origin of Life
2. Emergence and the experimental pursuit of the origin of life Robert Hazen
3. From Aristotle to Darwin, to Freeman Dyson: changing definitions of life viewed in historical context James Strick
4. Philosophical aspects of the origin-of-life problem: the emergence of life and the nature of science Iris Fry
5. The origin of terrestrial life: a Christian perspective Ernan McMullin
6. The alpha and the omega: reflections on the origin and future of life from the perspective of Christian theology and ethics Celia Deane-Drummond
Part II. Extent of Life
7. A biologist's guide to the Solar System Lynn Rothschild
8. The quest for habitable worlds and life beyond the Solar System Carl Pilcher
9. A historical perspective on the extent and search for life Steven J. Dick
10. The search for extraterrestrial life: epistemology, ethics, and worldviews Mark Lupisella
11. The implications of discovering extraterrestrial life: different searches, different issues Margaret S. Race
12. God, evolution, and astrobiology Cynthia S. W. Crysdale
Part III. Future of Life
13. Planetary ecosynthesis on Mars: restoration ecology and environmental ethics Christopher P. McKay
14. The trouble with intrinsic value: an ethical primer for astrobiology Kelly C. Smith
15. God's preferential option for life: a Christian perspective on astrobiology Richard O. Randolph
16. Comparing stories about the origin, extent, and future of life: an Asian religious perspective Francisca Cho
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Constance M. Bertka is an Adjunct Professor at the Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC. Until recently, she was Director of the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).