New Books in Science

Interviews with Scientists about their New Books

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episode 267: K. C. Smith and C. Mariscal, "Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology" (Oxford UP, 2020)


Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (Oxford University Press, 2020) focuses on the emerging scientific discipline of astrobiology, exploring many of the humanistic issues this multidisciplinary field is generating. Despite there being myriad scientific questions that astrobiologists have only begun to address, this is not a purely scientific enterprise. More research on the broader social and conceptual aspects of astrobiology is needed and this volume does an outstanding job of setting the course for important themes to be explored in the future. The authors of the chapters in the book ask questions such as: What are our ethical obligations towards different sorts of alien life? Should we attempt to communicate with life beyond our planet? What is "life" in the most general sense? Kelly C. Smith and Carlos Mariscal's important book addresses these questions by looking at different perspectives from philosophers, historians, theologians, social scientists, and legal scholars. It sets a benchmark for future work in astrobiology, giving readers the groundwork from which to base the continuous scholarship coming from this ever-growing scientific field.

John W. Traphagan is a professor in Department of Religious Studies and Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin.

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 2020-11-23  1h11m