Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary science, bringing together discoveries in biology, astronomy, chemistry, and physics, among others. CTI’s Inquiry on the Societal Implications of Astrobiology brings the already interdisciplinary field of astrobiology into a wider conversation with scholars in the humanities, social sciences, the arts, philosophy, and theology. When these varied fields of discourse converge with the science of astrobiology a wonderfully rich set of conversations unfolds. This was evident in a recent Winter Symposium held at CTI, January 30-February 1, 2017. Carl Pilcher, former director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, presented work on the challenge of astrobiology for scientific investigations, while award-winning novelist Mary Doria Russell spoke to the challenge of astrobiology for the literary imagination.
Joining Pilcher and Russell on a closing panel were Andrea Hairston, a novelist who is the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College, and Nicolaas Rupke, a historian of science at Washington and Lee University and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study. The conversation among the panelists and CTI's current members was further enriched by the presence of several guests, including astrophysicist Ed Turner (Princeton), theologian Frederick Ware (Howard University), scholar of religion Seth Perry (Princeton), and physicist Adam Frank (Rochester).