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Es, A.J.J. van

Department of Theoretical Philosophy

The Existence of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

The Idea behind Searching for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

This thesis starts with the question how thinking about extra terrestrial intelligence came into existence. The idea is an interplay between cosmology and philosophy, before Enlightenment these two disciplines were merged. The historical overview starts with Epicurean philosophy being the first to posit the possibility of multiple worlds. The idea was rejected by Aristotle. Still both Aristotle and Plato developed philosophical principles that influenced the thinking about extra terrestrial life.

De Copernican revolution in astronomy opened a new view on the Universe. The thesis shows how this new perspective, combined with ideas from antiquity resulted in the idea of multiple worlds harboured with intelligent life. And how this idea  was widely accepted.  Philosophers until Kant have contributed to the idea on the existence of extra terrestrial intelligence and strengthened the idea. The idea consisted of three principles: uniformity of nature, teleology and the ‘Great Chain of Being’. After Enlightenment astronomy and philosophy become separate disciplines.

After reconstructing  and analysing the idea behing extra terrestrial intelligence, the thesis continues with a search to what extend the principles making up the idea still influence our current thinking about  extra terrestrial life. The Drake Equation, considered to be the current paradigm for SETI is used as the guidance. It is shown that many of the principles are still employed or influence current science. This has impact on the current SETI research. The conclusions criticizes current SETI research and present directions for widening the scope of the research to increase the chances of success in finding extra terrestrial intelligence.

Last modified:07 September 2015 4.56 p.m.
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