After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life

After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life

After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life

After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life

Synopsis

Albert Harrison examines in detail the psychological, sociological, political, and cultural dimensions of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. By so doing, he firmly establishes that the behavioral and social sciences are as integral to the search as are the physical and biological sciences that have dominated the field up to now. This book offers a useful conceptual framework for rational discussion of extraterrestrial life forms, and provides a detailed analysis of likely human reactions to the detection of extraterrestrial life. Among the many examples that Harrison develops are: how psychological, social, and cultural factors shape people's views about the likelihood of intelligent extraterrestrials and the value of undertaking the search; how our understanding of life on Earth provides a useful framework for thinking about life elsewhere in our galaxy; how historical precedents give us a basis for forecasting human response to "contact"; how agencies such as the CIA inadvertently strengthen the impression of "government cover-up"; and why there is little risk that we will run afoul of an "evil empire." Harrison sketches our responses to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence as individuals, as nations, and as humanity, and concludes that we have good reason for cautious optimism about the progress of the search and the aftermath of contact.

Excerpt

Recently, while rummaging through family memorabilia, I uncovered my earliest documented work on extraterrestrial intelligence. In a letter to my mother dated three days short of my tenth birthday, I described in great detail entering a drawing contest sponsored by the host of a local television show recorded for posterity as "Doodle with Galligan." The contest involved sketching people from other planets. The letter was richly illustrated with my rendition of Galligan's example and my own contest entry.

Galligan's extraterrestrial had a body reminiscent of an elongated egg, three otherwise conventional legs and feet arranged as a tripod, no neck, and a smiling human face. It was encased in a tight space suit that had external earphones attached to an antenna of sorts, not unlike the headphone radios used by some joggers today. My extraterrestrial was even more human in appearance. It differed from the average person only in having nine fingers on each hand (inspired, no doubt, by the genetic anomaly of one of my fellow fourth graders) and bulky space suit (inspired, perhaps, by those of the first lunar astronauts as drawn for the children's newspaper The Weekly Reader). Both Galligan and I must . . .

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