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 23.  Abodes of Life:  The Search Begins


"The conditions of life are indeed narrow, special, restricted; intelligent, organic life must, relatively speaking, be a rarity in the universe, but we lack the information that would enable us to affirm with any confidence that such life is only to be found upon this world of ours. Heavy as the odds are against any particular world being an inhabited one, yet when the limitless extent of space is considered, and the innumerable numbers of stars and systems of stars, it seems but reasonable to conclude that though inhabited worlds are relatively rare, the absolute number of them may be considerable."
          -- E. Walter Maunder, in Are the Planets Inhabited? (1913)599

"There are stars billions of years older than the Sun. The very oldest stars lack heavy metals; probably their planets are similarly lacking. Such very old stars are inhospitable environments for the development of technological civilizations. But some stars one or two billion years older than the Sun have no such attendant difficulties. It is surely possible that there are at least a few civilizations hundreds of millions or billions of years in our technological future."
          -- Carl Sagan, in The Cosmic Connection (1973)15

"It must not be supposed that the normal fate of intelligent races in the galaxy is to triumph."
          -- Olaf Stapledon, in Star Maker (1937)1946

"The universe that lies about us, visible only in the privacy, the intimacy of night, is incomprehensively vast. Yet the conclusion that life exists across this vastness seems inescapable. We cannot yet be sure whether or not it lies within reach, but in any case we are a part of it all. We are not alone!"
          -- Walter Sullivan, in We Are Not Alone (1966)702



In previous chapters we have devoted much time to alternative alien biochemistries, physiologies, technologies, behaviors and cultural forms. Our discussion now turns from consideration of particular extraterrestrial races to the examination of the possibilities of interaction among them. When man meets alien, the human aspects of the event will be of monumental significance. Xenologists will be called upon to answer a number of very difficult questions. For instance, what is the optimum first contact procedure, both from the human standpoint and from the mutual perspective? How should we behave -- and how shall we -- when the fact of contact becomes widely known? What are the tradeoffs between physical security and the possibility of fantastic technological advancement and cultural enrichment? What is the best way to achieve understanding and community with a totally alien yet highly intelligent race of beings from another world, and what are the implications of their technology (or lack thereof)? Are there strong rationales for contacting other sentient species in the Galaxy? Why should They bother contacting us?

Before addressing these and many other fascinating issues, xenologists must consider a preliminary query: What are the chances that first contact ever will occur? In other words, is life, in general, distributed abundantly or sparsely throughout the cosmos? To answer this threshold question it is necessary to theorize in an informed manner upon the likelihood of extraterrestrial life, intelligence, and culture in our Galaxy, including its distribution and probable frequency. Much in the estimates which follow is highly speculative, but the methodology appears basically sound and yields a variety of curious results. (See especially Bond and Martin,3223 Bracewell,1041,80 Freeman and Lampton,1306 Hohlfeld and Terzian,2385 Kreifeldt,1263 Oliver and Billingham,57 Sagan,1317,22 Shklovskii and Sagan,20 Stull,3241 Sullivan,702 Tang,3087 von Hoerner,1054 and Wertz.1611)

Such studies -- sometimes called Galactic Demographics by xenologists -- are the primary concern of this brief introductory chapter.


Last updated on 6 December 2008