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 22.  Extraterrestrial Cultures


"I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith -- it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe."
          -- from Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert A. Heinlein2643

"The Gowachin: the frog people of Tandaloor whose concept of Law is the strangest in the ConSentiency. To them, ritual (form) is the foundation upon which Law stands, but Law must change to meet each new condition. They do not even trust their own Law, believing that even the most high-minded people will use legalisms for their own benefit. The Courtarena where they try their cases can be a scene of carnage. The losing Legum (lawyer) forfeits his life. Any jurist or client who makes a misstep can be dispatched. This is a situation which makes for infrequent trials and memorable court performances."
          -- Frank Herbert,3026 on The Dosadi Experiment (1977)2615

"I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. Our only hope of understanding it is to look at it from as many different points of view as possible."
          -- J. B. S. Haldane (1928)974

God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.
"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.
"Certainly," said man.
"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God. And He went away.
          -- from The Sirens of Titan (1961) by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.2211

"Every sentient creature sees beauty in a different way."
          -- Tec, in Janet O. Jeppson’s The Second Experiment (1974)2164



At last we arrive at the apex of anthropologist Leslie White’s "cultural pyramid" -- the ideological and philosophical strata in alien societies. This cultural subsystem encompasses religion, ethics, logic, worldviews and aesthetics. In the present chapter we shall attempt to deal with these symbolic articulations of the nature of the universe which we may encounter in extraterrestrial societies on other worlds.

Xenologists attempt such an analysis with some trepidation, for they heed the warning of sociobiologist E.O. Wilson that many human concepts of ethics, aesthetics, law, philosophy, and religion may be at least partly traceable back to our primitive biological heritage. If this is so, then our human notions of "culture" may be grossly anthropocentric at an extremely fundamental level. As Wilson suggests:

Although the hundreds of the world’s cultures seem enormously variable to those of us who stand in their midst, all versions of human social behavior together form only a tiny fraction of the realized organizations of social species on this planet and a still smaller fraction of those that can be readily imagined with the aid of sociobiology theory.3198


Last updated on 6 July 2013