The possibility that humans are not alone in the Universe and might in the future come in close contact with other intelligences is one of the most intriguing questions of human history and has deep implications for our understanding of the Universe and ourselves. In this book the subject is dealt with in an interdisciplinary way, giving the scientific and technological implications, discussing the philosophical and religious connotations and rebuffing the pseudo-scientific statements.
Based on our current scientific understanding of the Universe, the possibility of extraterrestrial life is discussed, summarizing cosmic, chemical and biological evolution. What we now know of the Universe suggests that life is common and extraterrestrial intelligent life is a possibility.
The problem of searching for extraterrestrial intelligent beings is often reduced to radiotelescope technology or the possibility of decoding a possible message. In many cases the idea of ETIs is loaded with anthropomorphism. The author discusses problems such as: what is intelligence? What is consciousness? Should we expect ETIs to be conscious beings and other philosophical issues. The future perspectives for humankind opened by long range spaceflight are also examined and the possibilities of true contact with other intelligent beings are considered.
At the heart of this book is an examination of the viability of future astronautics which would enable closer human contact with ETI than through radio messages taking thousands of years to reach their destination. The possibility of faster-than-light space travel is considered.
The book addresses readers with an interest in general science, but also those with a humanist background, interested in the great philosophical debate about human nature, in particular the question of whether there is other intelligent life in the Universe, and the author counterbalances recent theories such as `rare earth'.
The historical and philosophical perspectives.- The religious perspective.- The bio-astronomical perspective.- The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.- The search for extraterrestrial stupidity.- The possibility of contact.- Epilogue.- Appendix.
From the reviews: "Books on astrobiology and alien intelligence ! are beginning to multiply rapidly. ! Genta (mechanics, Politecnico di Torino, Italy) brings in a different dimension by adding the religious and philosophical aspects of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence in an excellent treatment that covers both sides of each issue. ! He also offers a very interesting discussion on how biology and morphology relate to the possible evolution of intelligence. ! For anyone interested in the search for extraterrestrial intelligences. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels." (P. R. Douville, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (7), 2008) "It has been a pleasure to read ! this beautifully written book which begins with two brief but fascinating chapters on 'The Historical and Philosophical Perspectives' and 'The Religious Perspective' of extraterrestrial intelligence. ! This highly intelligent and beautifully written book is highly recommended to all readers ! ." (Fernande Grandjean and Gary J. Long, Physicalia Magazine, Vol. 30 (4), 2008) "It first gives an account of our current scientific understanding of the origins of the Universe, Galaxy, Solar System, planets, Earth, Moon, and life on Earth. ! It is a solemn, scholarly, and intensively serious book, carefully and very well-written in English. ! Every reader, even those who are not especially enthused by the prospect of extraterrestrials, is likely to appreciate this splendid portrait of humankind's cosmic origins and of how we fit into the grand scheme of existence." (Peter V. E. McClintock, Contemporary Physics, Vol. 50 (3), May-June, 2009)