Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Civilizations Beyond Earth

By Morris Jones

How does the public feel about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and what will happen if we actually discover that we’re not alone?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

For more than half a century, astronomers have been searching for intelligent life in space. The search has mostly been conducted with the use of radio telescopes, patiently waiting for a transmission from another civilization.

The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has mostly been the domain of physicists, astronomers and engineers. But how does the public feel about this, and what happens if we actually discover that we’re not alone? Enter the social sciences, ready to provide answers to some hard questions.

Emeritus Professor Albert Harrison from the University of California is a psychologist who has recently co-edited “Civilizations Beyond Earth” (Berghahn Books, 2011). Harrison and co-editor Dr Douglas Vakoch have drawn more than a dozen contributors from different disciplines to look at the social aspects of communicating with extraterrestrials.

Albert Harrison recently discussed his work on this book, and SETI research, with Australasian Science.

What prompted you to co-produce “Civilizations Beyond Earth”?
When SETI began, the physical scientists involved in the search realized that their efforts had tremendous implications for humankind, and sought to involve anthropologists, historians, political scientists, psychologists, and sociologists. SETI is a truly interdisciplinary effort that bridges the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

“Civilizations Beyond Earth” is available through Berghahn Books ( and other retailers. Dr Morris Jones has contributed a chapter to the book.