Astrobiology and Society
Co-Chairs: Margaret Race (SETI Institute) and
Kathryn Denning (York University, Canada)
Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: “How did life begin and evolve?” “Is there life beyond Earth?” and “What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?” Prior to the development of modern science, these questions were largely in the realm of philosophy, theology, and ethics. NASA’s Astrobiology Program is now bringing the tools of science to bear on these questions, and exploring the intersection between the science of astrobiology and its humanistic, societal implications.
The objective of the Astrobiology and Society Focus Group is to bring together interested researchers across a broad range of expertise including ethics, sociology, theology, and philosophy, as well as the science of astrobiology, to address the social implications of astrobiological discoveries now and in the future. Initially, through a series of virtual and in-person meetings, this Focus Group will place its emphasis on understanding the societal response to and implications of the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life. The Group will consider not only the implications of astrobiology advances on society, but also, the potential effects of societal views or actions on astrobiology research and exploration.
The Focus Group will build on NAI’s strong IT capabilities in remote communication and collaboration (videocons, virtual workshops, online resources and databases, etc.) to integrate input from scholars in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and policy areas as we explore society’s response to rapid advances in astrobiology. A primary activity of the Focus Group will be to develop an online literature database and other resources/information for researchers interested in societal issues, and to disseminate research findings to professional audiences within and beyond the astrobiology community via journal articles, specially developed conference presentations, and interactions with E/PO specialists.
The Focus Group has been holding virtual meetings throughout 2012 and 2013. To express your interest in joining, please fill in your information here.
The co-chairs of the Astrobiology and Society Focus Group have contributed a white paper to the NSF Directorate for the Social , Behavioral and Economic Sciences (NSF/SBE) 2020 effort to identify “grand challenge questions that are both foundational and transformative”.