THE INNER LIMITS OF OUTER SPACE by John C. Baird

THE INNER LIMITS OF OUTER SPACE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gentle rebukes from a Dartmouth psychologist on the habit of hard scientists to ignore social scientists in their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). In the early chapters, Baird comments on the enthusiasts who believe the probabilities high that ""technologically advanced"" societies are to be found throughout the galaxy, and those who believe the evidence is already in: von Daniken and UFO witnesses. Then he takes to task plans for space colonies as a solution to global pressures. No doubt physics and engineering know-how could bring this off, but no thought has been taken of human nature and of examples of pioneers who were anything but benign and peace-loving. On the other hand, seeding colonies across the galaxy over future millennia might raise the probability of Alien encounters. Next, Baird focuses on psychology's contributions to our understanding of communication and memory. He says that the human brain sets limits on the kind of signals we can detect and the meaning we can extract from them--unless Aliens are very like us, their messages might be lost--and he alludes to studies of human language development and chimpanzee and dolphin communication, to illustrate the depth of communication barriers that exist across species even with a common biological heritage. With all the qualifications, one might suppose Baird to reject SETI as a waste of time and money. Not so. The search may have only a slim chance, but it is worth it in the hope of enlarging human potential (in a Maslovian, self-actualizing sort of way). More particularly, it will be worth it if behavioral scientists can contribute to, and in the process enrich, our understanding of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Univ. Press of New England