Astrobiology White Paper poster presented at NASA AbSciCon 2017

… and the second AbSciCon 2017 poster ‘Astrobiology and Society. A White Paper on Societal Implications of Astrobiology Research in Europe Today’ by Klara Anna Capova, David Dunér, and Erik Persson is also available online: www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2017/eposter/3159.pdf

Abstract

ASTROBIOLOGY AND SOCIETY IN EUROPE TODAY. THE WHITE PAPER ON SOCIETAL IMPLICATIONS OF ASTROBIOLOGY RESEARCH IN EUROPEAN CONTEXT
Klara Anna Capova*1, David Duner2, Erik Persson3,4

1 Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK, Email: k.a.capova@durham.ac.uk
2 Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden
3 Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, USA Email: erik.persson@fil.lu.se
4 The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Sweden

The poster presents recent work of Working Group 5 Philosophy and History of Science, is a Trans Domain European COST Action Life-ORIGINS TD1308 and introduces the latest draft of the White Paper on societal implications of astrobiology research in European context, ‘Astrobiology and Society in Europe Today.’ The poster provides overview of sections related to contributions of astrobiology to society, advancement of science in Europe, environmental protection and the quest for sustainability, as well as societal challenges from astrobiology, and potential conflicts of interest between astrobiology and commercial use of space. Furthermore, it will illustrate the contemporary perceptions of astrobiology by general public and the timely role of an organised initiative in astrobiology education and popularisation of science.

Students’ Attitudes to Astrobiology poster presented at NASA AbSciCon 2017

The first poster entitled ‘Students’ Attitudes to Astrobiology. Attitudes towards scientific search for extraterrestrial life among Swedish high school and university students’ by Erik Persson, Klara Anna Capova, and Yuan will be presented later today at the AbSciCon 2017.

E-poster is available online: www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2017/eposter/3156.pdf

Abstract

STUDENTS ATTITUDES TO ASTROBIOLOGY. ATTITUDES TOWARDS SCIENTIFIC SEARCH FOR EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL LIFE AMONG SWEDISH HIGH SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
Erik Persson1,2, Klara Anna Capova*3, and Yuan Li4,

1 Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, USA Email: erik.persson@fil.lu.se
2 The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Sweden
3 Department of Anthropology, Durham University, UK, Email: k.a.capova@durham.ac.uk
4 Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden

The paper presents results of a recent study looking into the attitudes towards the scientific search for extra-terrestrial life among high school and university students in Sweden. The analysis has revealed that (a) the great majority of students believe that extra-terrestrial life exists; (b) most students regard searching for extra-terrestrial life to be fairly important; (c) very few students think that searching for extra-terrestrial life is something we should actively avoid; (d) the most common motive for assigning a high priority to search for extra-terrestrial life, is that it is interesting; and the most common motive for assigning a low priority is the opinion that such knowledge would not be practically useful or that the money would be better spent elsewhere; (e) most students do not think they are very well informed regarding the search for extra-terrestrial life. At the same time, however, a higher percentage of the students who judge themselves to be well informed also believe that extra-terrestrial life exists. We have also found some differences between sub-groups (men/women, high school students/university students and different fields of study), but the differences are with few exceptions small in comparison to the overall trends, and typically matters of degree rather than direction.

Astrobiology Conference AbSciCon 2017 in Mesa, Arizona

Excited to be at the Astrobiology Conference AbSciCon 2017 in Mesa, Arizona and ready to present my recent work during the poster session. Many thanks to the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University for making this trip possible. A PDF of the AbSciCon Program is available online.

Conference Information
AbSciCon 2017 is the next in a series of conferences organized by the astrobiology community. The theme for AbSciCon 2017 is “Diverse Life and its Detection on Different Worlds.” Mars and icy worlds in our solar system are increasingly recognized as habitable, even as increasing numbers of exoplanets in their stars’ habitable zones have been discovered. The focus is shifting from identification of habitable worlds, to detection of life on them.

Visiting Researcher Fellowship with Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies at Lund University

I am very pleased to accept the position of Visiting research fellow with the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies at Lund University in Sweden. I am looking forward to joining ‘A Plurality of Lives’ research group in April and to working on societal aspects of astrobiology and current concepts of life beyond Earth.

Theme A Plurality of Lives
A few decades ago both the creation of new life and the discovery of extraterrestrial life would have been seen as science fiction. Today, the scientific community generally agrees that it is a question of when, not if, any of these endeavours will be successful. In spite of this, there are reasons to believe that we are ill-prepared for the challenges, as well as the opportunities, that the emergence of a plurality of lives – life with different origins – undoubtedly will create. Research groups around the world are currently busy trying to invent new life in the laboratory or looking for extraterrestrial life.

Further, medical science is moving in a direction of turning humans into what sometimes is described as post-humans. These areas have one thing in common, namely that they might, within our lifetime, provide us with a Second Origin of life. In the case of astrobiology, it might be a matter of life that is as old as earth life or older, but when discovered it would still be new to us. In the other cases, it would be a matter of inventing life that did not exist before. The emergence of a plurality of lives will have profound effects on a wide range of issues that all depend on how we look at life, from how to frame research questions in chemistry, biology and astrobiology via legal and political questions, to philosophical and theological perspectives.

Only a thoroughly interdisciplinary project can tackle the basic question behind all these challenges, that is, how will the emerging plurality of lives change how we conceive of and understand life? Please see the Plurality of Lives page on the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies website.

Klara joined the Working Group on Astrobioethics

I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to become one of the SOC members of the International WG on Astrobioethics.

One of the main tasks of the Working Group will be to analyse the potential societal and ethical implications related to astrobiology, taking into account the complexity of the connections between its main scientific issues and goals (see, for instance, the NASA Astrobiology Institute Astrobiology Roadmap), and considering the synergies between both bioethical and geoethical approaches (from microbes to humans and from the Earth to space environments). To find out more and keep up with the latest news please like the International Working Group on Astrobioethics Facebook page.

The International Association on Geoethics is the only organisation linking geosciences and ethics, which incorporates in its official definition the significance of astrobiology: “Studies on planetary geology (sensu lato) and astrobiology also require a geoethical approach”. For more please see the IAGETH definition of geoethics.

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‘Astrobiology in the Age of Social Media’ video now on YouTube

Klara’ talk Astrobiology in the Age of Social Media: The ‘science of the unknown’ and the sociocultural dimension of transformative ideas delivered at the Habitability in the Universe: From the Early Earth to Exoplanets conference in Porto is now available online on YouTube.