from Exopolitics Website
The discovery of exoplanets is stimulating scientific discussion
life and its scientific and societal implications
The proceedings of a scientific conference that studied the societal consequences of extraterrestrial life has just been released.
Organized and hosted by the Royal Society in October 2010, the conference was titled, "The Detection of Extra-Terrestrial Life and The Consequences for Science and Society."
The conference received wide international attention when one of the participants, Dr Mazlan Othman, was wrongly described as being on the verge of being appointed by the UN to become Earth's Official Liaison to Extraterrestrial Life.
In the published proceedings, Othman sets the record straight. She believes that the UN already has a mechanism in place to deal with the detection and contact with extraterrestrial life, but work needs to be done in formalizing this by UN member states.
Other conference participants endorse
Othman's recommendation, and further believe that the time has come
to study the societal consequences of extraterrestrial life.
Beginning with the premise that extraterrestrial life is almost certain to exist, Professor Stephen Hawking raised scientific eyebrows with claims in his 2010 television series that extraterrestrials are likely to be resource predators. The existence of exoplanets is opening the floodgates to scientific speculation about extraterrestrial life, and programs in astrobiology are becoming increasingly popular.
Princeton University, for example, just
first astrobiology program and took
an interdisciplinary path. However, Princeton's program is only
focused on a strictly scientific study of the consequences of
extraterrestrial life, and eschews any social science or societal
They stressed the importance of determining the possible motivations of extraterrestrial life and any search for such life:
Dr. Dominik and Prof. Zarnecki went on to point out the importance of having in place the political mechanism by which humanity can responsibly deal with the future detection of extraterrestrial life:
Their view was supported by the current head of UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs, Dr Mazlan Othman who said:
So where to from here?
The Royal Society and like-minded scientific bodies such as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, are likely to continue hosting meetings discussing extraterrestrial life and its societal consequences - an endeavor some believe falls under the rubric of 'Exopolitics':
More universities are likely to follow the path of Princeton and offer interdisciplinary astrobiology programs that use methods from the natural sciences for discussing extraterrestrial life; and perhaps, in the near future, open the door to formal discussion of its societal consequences.
But what about those interested in a
comprehensive study of the societal implications of extraterrestrial
life, and evidence that such life is currently visiting Earth in the
here and now?
While the Exopolitics Institute's program is not yet accredited with any tertiary organization, this is expected to change as it expands in size and offerings over the next 18 months.
Spring 2011 semester, which
features two courses, "Introduction to Exopolitics" and "Developing
the Road to Disclosure", begins next week on January 17.
Together with ad hoc programs and courses offered by the Exopolitics Institute and other educational bodies, the general public can begin comprehensively studying the consequences of extraterrestrial life in all its aspects, scientific, societal, religious and political.