The Impact of ET Contact: Europe’s Scientists Discuss The Future of Humans in Space

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By Editorial Team Published on August 1, 2008 13:13
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"The 'Columbian Exchange' that took place around 1492 changed the Western way of conceiving the globe; it forcefully challenged its theology; it allowed for a free flow of bacteria, germs and microbes that almost wiped out the American peoples." Luca Codignola -Professor of History, University of Genoa

Ror the first time in Europe, historians, philosophers and sociologists are banding together with space scientists to share their thoughts and ideas on how humankind will be taking our first steps in Outer Space.

The 'Humans in Outer Space - Interdisciplinary Odysseys' conference held last fall in Vienna was the first forum where scholars from a humanities background together with scientists could discuss humankind's presence in space from non-traditional perspectives.

The benefits of creating such a cross-disciplinary forum is that it was able to give guiding insight into how humankind will face possible issues, issues that can be best addressed in the light of modern understanding of historical events, including the philosophical and theological consequences of contacting alien intelligences, the marketing of space exploration, and the legal frameworks that will be needed if space-faring nations are to cooperate peacefully.

Among the fascinating questions asked was the possible impact of vastly superior forms of extraterrestrial intelligence on the world's religions. Shermer's Last Law (coined by Michael Shermer, author of the Skeptic column for Scientific American) states that "Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God." Jill Tarter of the SETI Institute believes that contact with a superior extraterrestrial intelligence could have a devastating effect on the world's religions, with the unintended result of united earthlings and converting them to a new cosmic faith.

Professor Luca Codignola, a historian at the University of Genoa, expressed his interest in what history can tell us about the challenges we may face if space explorers make contact with alien civilizations. He drew correlations with the so-called "Columbian Exchange" that took place around 1492. 'It changed the Western way of conceiving the globe; it forcefully challenged its theology; it allowed for a free flow of bacteria, germs and microbes that almost wiped out the American peoples,' he explained.

'The science community does not really seem to be aware of the fact that a number of issues and concerns that they are dealing with, such as the consequences of meeting with unknown pathogens, are known and have long been studied by historians and ethnologists,' Prof. Codignola offered.

The conclusions from these sessions will be documented in a position paper entitled 'Vienna Vision on Humans in Outer Space,' which the Daily Galaxy will publish.

Prof. Kai-Uwe Schrogl, Chair of the conference, commented: 'Mankind's future in outer space will require a comprehensive view, including the input in particular by the humanities and social sciences, as well as the reflection of the manifold trans-utilitarian aspects that make space exploration a province of all mankind.

Casey Kazan

Story Links:

  • http://ec.europa.eu/research/headlines/news/article_07_10_18_en.html
  • http://www.sil.si.edu/silpublications/dibner-library-lectures/extraterrestrial-life/ETcopy-KR.htm
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