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The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915: A Source Book Paperback – October 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0268023683 ISBN-10: 0268023689 Edition: 1st

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The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915: A Source Book + Life on Other Worlds: The 20th-Century Extraterrestrial Life Debate + Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1st edition (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268023689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268023683
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“This source book, in fact, a monumental anthology, presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. . . . The book is designed to shed light on the question of the existence of extraterrestrials, and on those who sought to tackle the question.” —Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

“Who wrote about the possibilities and implications of intelligent extraterrestrial life? Thanks to this superb anthology one is prompted to ask, Who didn’t? Michael Crowe is no mere compiler of facsimile reprints of primary sources, but a scholarly editor. This source book is a wonderful addition to the teacher’s toolkit and should find a readership far wider than historians of science.” —ISIS

From the Back Cover

"This is a valuable book that is not available anywhere else. . . . Crowe's purpose is to let the reader see the original words of the authors who discussed other worlds. Crowe puts these documents in context by his substantial introduction and commentary. . . . Such a source book serves an important purpose, and is ideal for teaching and generating discussion in class. The subject is of increasing importance as we find more and more about the possibilities of extraterrestrial life through current disciplines such as astrobiology, bioastronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence." --Steven J. Dick, Director, NASA History Division, NASA

"Having established himself as the world's authority on the history of the debates about extraterrestrial life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Michael Crowe is perfectly positioned to produce this source book. The introductory commentaries on the excerpts from primary sources he has so judiciously selected reveal again and again that no one else knows this subject as well as he does." --Frederick Gregory, University of Florida

"The Extraterrestrial Life Debate gives new meaning to the word 'treasury.' Michael Crowe offers us more than 2000 years of golden materials--wrought by the astonishing alchemy of science, religion, philosophy, and sheer imagination--about a topic as alive today as it ever was: ET, with all his cousins and ancestors. The range of authors the book showcases, and the depth of context Crowe provides, will make his monumental anthology the starting point for future explorations of this rich vein of human thought." --Dennis Danielson, University of British Columbia

"There are loads of books on ET, but only a small number of them take a historical approach. . . . Anyone interested in the history of the extraterrestrial life debate will be interested in this book; it does complete in a certain way previous historical work done by Steven Dick and Michael Crowe by providing large portions of original texts rather than merely short quotations from them. . . . All the various perspectives, religious, literary, astronomical, philosophical, seem adequately represented. The multidisciplinary aspect of the debate comes across well from the authors selected." --Marie I. George, St. John's University

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steve R VINE VOICE on October 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Those interested in the history of ideas of extraterrestrial life (ETL)--and especially those who believe speculation on ETL began only in the 20th-century--may be happy to learn they are part of a tradition that goes back to antiquity. Michael J. Crowe, author of `The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900' now provides this primary Source Book containing selections of writings from the ancient Greeks through the beginning of the twentieth century, allowing readers to discover first hand what those in previous eras believed and debated about the possibility of extra-terrestrial intelligent life.

By reading these sources, we learn that notions of ETL were closely tied to contemporary theological, cultural and scientific beliefs. St. Augustine (354-430) for example argued against a notion of innumerable other worlds based solely on the Deity's own infinitude ("...if they imagine infinite spaces of time before the world, during which God could not have been idle, in like manner they may conceive outside the world infinite realms of space, in which...they must adopt Epicurus' dream of innumerable worlds...", p. 16); consider also Galileo (1564-1642), who suggested life on the moon was unlikely ("...the moon is alternately in sunshine and darkness for 15 continuous days of 24 hours...if our plants and animals...were plunged in [similar] cold and darkness, they could not possibly preserve themselves, much less produce and multiply. We must...conclude that, what would be impossible on our earth under the circumstances we have supposed to exist, must be impossible on the moon where those conditions do exist." p.53).
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Michael Crowe (along with Steven Dick) provides today's researcher with the knowledge he or she needs to understand the long story of debate regarding the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial neighbors. Crowe provides extensive excerpts from original sources dating from ancient Athens and running all through Western civilization. For centuries Christian theologians have been willing to move over and invite an alien to sit beside them in the church pew.
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