Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-21T09:58:32.728Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

16 - Is there anything new about astrobiology and society?

from Part IV - Practical considerations: how should society prepare for discovery – and non-discovery?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2015

Jane Maienschein
Affiliation:
Arizona State University
Steven J. Dick
Affiliation:
Library of Congress, Washington DC
Get access

Summary

At the intersections of biology and society, scholars have long explored ethical, legal, policy, economic, and other social issues, while also placing emerging science in the context of history and philosophy of science. One tradition has focused on the impact of scientific developments on society, reflecting on eugenics, recombinant DNA, reproductive technologies, human subjects experimentation, genetically modified foods, and other issues in largely reactive ways. Others are trying to anticipate where the science will be going and to outline issues that society is likely to face. Synthetic biology and technologies such as human reproductive cloning raise additional questions about whether we should forbid some science altogether. Stem-cell research or genetic engineering of food and people raise questions about appropriate regulatory responses. Experiments with pathogens and sequencing genes of dangerous organisms raise questions about control of knowledge. The National Science Foundation's Program on the Science of Science Policy explores issues of how science policy gets made and what factors influence the decisions.

Astrobiology falls into this complex world of biology and society, and here I ask: “Is there anything new under the Sun?” Or, more precisely, “Is there anything new under and beyond the Sun?” Have we already heard all the issues and are now just applying them to astrobiology in particular? Or are there special features of astrobiology that call for new thinking or raise new questions? Providing answers requires thinking about the presumed domain of astrobiology, then its implications, which in turn benefits from a look at the context of issues of biology and society more generally.

The domain of astrobiology

NASA defines astrobiology as “the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.” Further: “This multidisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry and life on Mars and other bodies in our Solar System, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in space” (NASA 2014a). The “astro” is only part of the story, which includes the origins and evolution of all life.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Beauchamp, Tom L. and Childress, James F.. 2013. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Chew, Matthew K. and Laubichler, Manfred D.. 2003. “Natural Enemies: Metaphor or Misconception?Science, 301: 52–53.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). “Eugenics Archive.” Online at http://eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics/list3.pl.
Collins, James P. and Crump, Martha L.. 2009. Extinction in Our Times. Global Amphibian Decline. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Creager, Angela N. H. 2013. Life Atomic: A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Des Marais, David J., Nuth, Joseph A. III, Allamandola, Louis J., et al. 2008. “The NASA Astrobiology Roadmap.” Astrobiology, 8: 715–730. Online at https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2013/09/AB_roadmap_2008.pdf.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Dick, Steven J. 1998. Life on Other Worlds: The 20th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Dick, Steven J. 2013. Testimony before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, US House of Representatives. December 4. Online at http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-astrobiology-search-biosignatures-our-solar-system-and-beyond.
Dick, Steven J. 2014. “Analogy and the Societal Implications of Astrobiology.” Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy, 12: 210–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dick, Steven J. and Strick, James E.. 2005. The Living Universe. NASA and the Development of Astrobiology. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Quoting from the NASA Astrobiology Roadmap released 6 January 1999. Online at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/roadmap/.Google Scholar
HFEA 1990. “Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.” Online at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/37/contents.
Kevles, Daniel J. 1985. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. New York, NY: Knopf.Google Scholar
Meltzer, Michael. 2012. When Biospheres Collide: A History of NASA's Planetary Protection Programs. Washington, DC: NASA.Google Scholar
NASA. 2014a. “Astrobiology.” Online at http://science.nasa.gov/planetary-science/astrobiology/
NASA. 2014b. “A Brief History of Animals in Space.” Online at http://history.nasa.gov/animals.html.
NASA. 2014c. Online at (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/851.html)
NASA CASIS. 2013. “NASA, CASIS Make Space Station Accessible for Stem Cell Research.” Online at http://www.nasa.gov/press/2013/december/nasa-casis-make-space-station-accessible-for-stem-cell-research/-.U-TqTUj-LXc.
National Academy of Sciences. 2002a. Scientific and Medical Aspects of Human Reproductive Cloning. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Sciences. 2002b. Stem Cells and the Future of Reproductive Medicine. Washington: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Sciences. 2005. Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Washington: National Academies Press.
Pauly, Philip J. 1996. “The Beauty and Menace of the Japanese Cherry Trees: Conflicting Visions of American Ecological Independence.” Isis, 87: 51–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Race, Margaret, Denning, Kathryn, Bertka, Constance M., et al. 2012. “Astrobiology and Society: Building an Interdisciplinary Research Community.” Astrobiology, 12: 958–965.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×