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4273-14

Philosophical Perspectives on the Problem of Extraterrestrial Signal Detection

by

Arthur C. Fricke

 

 

Abstract

SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is, from a philosophical perspective, a unique scientific activity.  Given that SETI researchers purport to study a phenomenon that has yet to be demonstrated, some commentators have claimed that the field cannot in fact be called "scientific" at all, and/or cannot be legitimately differentiated from the study of UFOs, ancient astronauts, and other speculative phenomena commonly associated with pseudoscientific endeavors.  Drawing from work in the philosophy of science, particularly the philosophies of Karl Popper and Paul Feyerabend, this paper will examine whether SETI can be considered a properly scientific activity.  It will explore how basic SETI hypotheses can be framed in a philosophically well-grounded, logical manner.  Finally, this paper will survey some of the practical implications that different overall philosophical groundings may have for specific established approaches to the problem of intelligent extra-terrestrial signal detection, and argue for supporting widely divergent technical and theoretical detection efforts.

Keywords

philosophy of science, history of science, extraterrestrial intelligence

  • The paper (author Web site)

 

Author Biography

Arthur C. Fricke is a doctoral candidate at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Dept. of Science and Technology Studies.  He holds BS degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, and worked for several years as an environmental engineer before returning to graduate study.  He is currently conducting NSF-sponsored research on the philosophical, cultural, and social dimensions of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

 

Author Affiliation

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Dept. of Science and Technology Studies
Sage Labs
Troy , NY 12180
USA
Phone: 518/792-7588
Fax: 518/276-2659
Email: fricka@rpi.edu

 

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