Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs: AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
News & Events: Public LectureLife Elsewhere? Astrobiology, Science, and Society
27 March 2003
There is tremendous public and scientific interest in whether there is life elsewhere and what the distribution of life throughout the universe might be. This lecture will explore the scientific basis for thinking that life might be common, both in our solar system and beyond. The understanding of life based on our one empirical example -- on Earth - will be reviewed as well as the potential for life in other places in our solar system and possible abodes for life on planets around other stars. Astrobiology as a field will be used as a case for exploring the nature of science--both what science is and how science is practiced. In addition, astrobiology can also serve as topic to consider the social motivations for science and the significance of science as a form of our exploration of the world around us. At a time when the search for extraterrestrial life has become, de facto, the intellectual centerpiece of the NASA Space Sciences program, it is worth considering the reasons for public support for this research, the implications this area of investigation for the future of the space program, and the roles that basic scientific research about and exploration of the extent of life in the universe may have in shaping our broader culture.
- Bruce Jakosky, Ph.D. , Professor of Geological Sciences, Director, Center for Astrobiology, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder
- Jim Miller, Ph.D. , Senior Program Associate, Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, American Association for the Advancement of Science