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The Biological Universe: The Twentieth Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate and the Limits of Science

By: Steven J Dick

578 pages, B/w plates, figs, tabs

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Mar 2000 | #108568 | ISBN: 052166361X
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £45.99 $61/€52 approx

About this book

Throughout the twentieth century, from the furor over Percival Lowell's claim of canals on Mars to the sophisticated Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, otherworldly life has often intrigued and occasionally consumed science and the public. Does 'biological law' reign throughout the universe? Are there other histories, religions, and philosophies outside of those on Earth? Do extraterrestrial minds ponder the mysteries of the universe? The attempts to answer these often asked questions form one of the most interesting chapters in the history of science and culture, and The Biological Universe is the first book to provide a rich and colorful history of those attempts during the twentieth century. Covering a broad range of topics, including the search for life in the solar system, the origins of life, UFOs, and aliens in science fiction, Steven J. Dick shows how the concept of extraterrestrial intelligence is a world view of its own, a 'biophysical cosmology' that seeks confirmation no less than physical views of the universe.

' ... we are challenged to think ... these challenges will be the book's strength and delight even for those who have not bothered with ET and all that.' Christopher J. Corbally, S. J., JHA 'As a source book this readable history is to be recommended, it is not just a science history but an intellectual and popular culture story.' Anders Hansson, Spaceflight 'As a source book this readable history is to be recommended, it is not just a science history but an intellectual and popular culture story.' Spaceflight 'The book ... contains useful historical references and many interesting comments, and will be appreciated by non-scientific devotees of the extraterrestrial life debate.' Irish Astronomical Journal 'Well researched and clearly written ... I recommend it to any who have more than just a passing interest in the history of the extraterrestrial life debate in the twentieth century.' Peter Stanley, Astronomy Now 'Steven J. Dicks masterpiece The Biological Universe... provides a wonderful account of the idea of life on Mars which abounded earlier this century and also discusses the role of the extraterrestrial in the literature ... This is a rare SETI book in that it can be easily digested by both the enthusiast and the professional alike. If I had to recommend a book for the serious SETI enthusiast to start with then The Biological Universe is it.' Modern Astronomer ' ... Dick, then, has written a large, ambitious and outstanding book.' Studies in History and Philosophy of Science


Introduction; 1. From the physical world to the biological universe: Democritus to Lowell; 2. Plurality of worlds and the decline of anthropocentrism; 3. The solar system: the limits of observation; 4. Solar systems beyond: the limits of theory; 5. Extraterrestrials in literature and the arts: the role of imagination; 6. The UFO controversy: on perception and deception; 7. The origin and evolution of life in the extraterrestrial context; 8. SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence; 9. The convergence of disciplines: birth of a new science; 10. The meaning of life; Summary and conclusion: the biological universe and the limits of science.

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