The history of ideas about extra terrestrial life

  • peterhousehold
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I'm interested in tracing the history of ideas about extra terrestrial life. Two questions in particular, firstly, the period 1920 to 1960. Is it the case that during this period it was impossible to be taken seriously as a scientist if you proposed to study extra terrestrial life? To quote Paul Davies, you might as well have expressed an interest in fairies? And is it the case that this was largely due to the discrediting of the canals of Mars?

Secondly, who was the first that can truly be said to have conceived of extra terrestrial life as we think of it? By which I mean that they conceived of the Moon, or planets, or stars, as actual places where the laws of nature pertain? Was it Thales, Animaxander and the atomists? Or Giordano Bruno? Or someone in between? Or later?

I've a list of books, and a few on my shelf, that I've not yet tackled. Keen to hear from anyone why shares this interest
12 years 11 months ago #84627

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The majority of Scientists are afraid to say that they dont know the answer's or they cant explain something.

Most scientists that do study ET Life keep it to themselves because unless you are in a black project you will not get funding, for anything, ever!

I very much doubt that the first person to concieve the idea of alien life did not come into contact with them, we named a dog a dog because we found a dog first then decided to name it, I doubt anyone concieved the idea of a dog THEN went to find one.

Most publishers will not publish books on the subject, its easier to find out information online but thats where the problem begins! there is so much information out there that the majority of it is a load of BS.

some decent published authors on the subject would be the likes of Maurice Chatelain, Ingo Swann, George H Leonard.

the trick is to have an open mind! Always!! :)
12 years 11 months ago #84629

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Hi Peter, good questions.
There is and were a number of scientists and groups of scientists from many disciplines, across universities and from military to individual scientists carrying out their own scientific investigations across many geographical regions over the last number of decades to do with the so called “UFOs” and possible Extraterrestrial connection. Some were involved in research what could be collectively termed SETV (Search for Extraterrestrial Visitation) over the last number of decades; pre 1960s are notably; “Project Magnet” the official Canadian UFO study group set up in December 1950 and headed by scientist Wilbert Smith.
Not strictly SETV but US official UFO investigations such as Project Sign (1948), Project Grudge (1949) and project “Blue Book” (1952 – 1969) which involved academics, scientists and military intelligence etc.
During the 60s (and into the 70s) “Project Starlight International” founded in 1964 in the USA and headed by Ray Stanford. “Project Identification” (university endeavour from 1973) in the USA headed by Harley Rutledge. Project Hessdalen in Norway (university endeavor) established 1983. Generally speaking you are correct in alluding to the equivalent of academic seppuku for those scientists who dare to let it be known that they wish to research such a controversial subject, hence the reason for the small number of “official” projects as above. I should of course mention SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) which grew from early endeavours such as project OZMA, META and BETA, Project SERENDIP etc. SETI continues today.

Regarding your second question, who knows for sure, however the extraterrestrial theme seems to have been around for a very long time and across many cultures including our own. It might be a good time to tackle those books and as Graham rightly states; to have an open mind. I include some links for your research, hope this helps.
Clear skies

I83 Cherryvalley Observatory

After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say; "I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER".
12 years 11 months ago #84634

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While I can't say that have an interest per se I think you have asked a couple of good questions.

Re question 1 (lack of credibility in researching extraterrestrial intelligence) - I don't really know, however, I believe it isn't generally profitable for science to pursue anything without some grounds to believe that one has some reasonable expectation of success. There are some subjects that scientists generally won't jepordise their careers researching - and I don't blame them. While, strictly speaking, all questions are valid - and worthy of seeking answers - you have to win a few cookies (make some progress) to have a career. Lack of research is also hindered by fringe areas having a good smackering of crackpots (those with a zealous need to "prove" something without applying due evidence-based reasoning). A professional scientist will, by and large, avoid any association with such areas (IMHO).

Re question 2 (concept of other worlds) David Darling has a nice intro to the subject:


On UFOs. While there are some wonderful photographs (I enjoyed the first link of your batch, Mike) and detailed reported sightings etc but the logic doesn't add up.

These visitors would have to be seriously well developed in their technology and understanding of science to travel the huge distances that are probably involved - and yet they seem to come here and do nose dives behind trees etc rather than gather global information from orbit (we live here and we're finding that we need to monitor from orbit). I have no doubt that there have been strange unexplained sightings by credible people - but visitations? While I cannot (strictly) rule it out (I try to keep an open mind) - I really, really doubt it.

12 years 11 months ago #84639

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