Science, Society, and the Search for Life in the Universe
Astrobiology is the relatively new, but fast growing scientific discipline that involves trying to understand the origin, evolution, and distribution of life within the universe. It is also one of the few scientific disciplines that attracts the public’s intense curiosity and attention. This interest stems largely from the deep personal meaning that the possible existence of extraterrestrial life has for so many. Whether this meaning relates to addressing the “Big Questions” of our existence, the possibility of encountering life on other planets, or the potential impact on our understanding of religion, there is no doubt that the public is firmly vested in finding answers.
In this broadly accessible introduction to the field, Bruce Jakosky looks at the search for life in the universe not only from a scientific perspective, but also from a distinctly social one. In lucid and engaging prose, he addresses topics including the contradiction between the public’s fascination and the meager dialogue that exists between those within the scientific community and those outside of it, and what has become some of the most impassioned political wrangling ever seen in government science funding.