Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


Chapter 20.  Xenosociology


"Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe and their relation to one another."
          -- - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180), from Meditations

"We humans fight best in armies, gregariously, where the risk is reduced; but we generally disapprove of murderers, and of almost all private combat. With the great cats, it would have been just the other way around. As a matter of fact, few of us delight in really serious fighting. We do love to bicker; and we box and knock each other around, to exhibit our strength; but few normal simians are keen about bloodshed and killing -- we do it in war only because of patriotism, revenge, duty, glory.

"A feline civilization would have cared nothing for duty or glory, but they would have taken a far higher pleasure in gore. If a planet of super-cat-men could look down upon ours, they would not know which to think was the most amazing: the way we tamely live, five million or so in a city, with only a few police to keep us quiet (while we commit only one or two murders a day, and hardly have a respectable number of brawls); or the way great armies of us are trained to fight, not liking it much, and yet doing more killing in wartime and shedding more blood than even the fiercest lion on his cruelest days."
          -- Clarence Day, in This Simian World (1936)76

"...we may be unable to convey to him what human emotions such as anger or love mean to us. Perhaps he will be able to follow our explanation in an intellectual way but be unable to feel or identify with experiences that for us are deep-seated."
          -- Ronald Bracewell, in The Galactic Club (1975)80

"For three years, twelve hours a day, five days a week, approximately ten months of each year, I lived the life of an extraterrestrial. I began to study human behavior from an alien point of view. I was becoming alienated, and I didn’t realize it."
          -- Leonard Nimoy (1975)1939



Xenosociology, very broadly, is the study of alien social systems. Besides the general issue of social evolution on other worlds, xenosociologists must also study the development of alien psychology (including aggressive behaviors, motivations, emotions and personality), mating systems and modes of parental care, the emergence of early technologies, and various social evolutionary questions such as the origin of agriculture and the possibility of stateless societies elsewhere in the Galaxy.

Despite the fascinating character of such issues, the xenosociological literature is surprisingly sparse. Worse, much that has been written is superficial or poorly thought out. There appear to be two fundamental reasons for this deficit.

First, the human social sciences today are in a comparatively early phase of development. Until very recently, sociological research tended to proceed along specialized and anecdotal rather than generalized and systematic lines. But a general, synthetic science of culture is exactly what we need to place xenosociology on a firm theoretical footing.

Second, sociological truths are largely statistical. Given certain specified biological and environmental conditions, we cannot predict with certainty the exact societal form which may emerge. Social systems are far too complex, too interrelated, too randomized to admit of any straight forward prognostications.

In view of these difficulties, and the vastness of the universe of all social possibilities, no attempt will be made in this short chapter to integrate the full matrix of physiological, psychological, sociological and environmental combinations. The permutations of cause and effect are numerous,2957 and deserve at least an entire book to themselves. Rather, we seek here only to lay the foundations of basic xenosociological theory.

Today, a whole new generation of "cultural determinists" -- the sociobiologists -- has adopted the position that there exist basic natural forces which guide the evolution of psychology and society on any world.* Sociobiologists believe that behavior, as well as biology, undergoes natural selection. But where genes directly control body morphology, their influence on behavior is far more subtle and plastic. Each species, say the sociobiologists, is predisposed to exhibit certain general behaviors such as emotionality, aggressiveness, sociability, and so forth. This means that an alien race, given a particular environment and biology, will be restricted to certain general classes of social behavior. To use a rather fanciful analogy, genes can tell you which stadium to attend but not the rules of football that will be used nor which teams will be playing.

So where do we start? According to the Hypothesis of Mediocrity, most alien life will originate on a planetary surface. Prior to the introduction of advanced technology, extraterrestrial biological evolution, behavioral patterns and primitive technologies will be strongly influenced by the immediate planetary environment. Sociobiologists see the prime movers of early social evolution as of two kinds: Genetic and ecological.565 For this reason, xenosociologists find it necessary to examine the bases of biological evolution and ecological factors to fully comprehend the nature of alien minds and societies.


* See especially Barash,3333 Caplan,3328 Dawkins,2322 and Wilson.565,3198


Last updated on 6 December 2008