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SETI: A Critical History

Some important events in the history of SETI

SETI: A Critical History is a copy of the following PhD thesis, reproduced here with permission:

SETI's Scope
How the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Became Disconnected from New Ideas About Extraterrestrials

by Mark A. Sheridan
Drew University
May 2009

© 2009 by Mark A. Sheridan (email)
All rights reserved
Opening quote
>> Some important events in the history of SETI

1. Introduction

Part I. Constructing SETI

2. SETI science
Intelligent life in the Universe
The principle of mediocrity
SETI constructed within the boundaries of the traditional ETI discourse
3. SETI as popular science
ETI portraiture as a rhetorical site
Popular expositions of ETI science
SETI and the scientific community

Part II. Expanding the ETI discourse

4. The rehabilitation of "mind"

5. The Soviet critique of SETI
Differences in attitudes toward ETIs
Differences in temperament
Differences in intellectual traditions
6. The evolutionists' critique of SETI
Dueling improbabilities
"New" evolutionists
Eiseley: the possibility of non-humanoid ETIs
Simpson: making SETI's assumptions overt
Talking the talk
Byurakan-II: deepening the evolutionists' critique and expanding SETI's response
Dobzhansky: deterministic thinking
7. The philosophers' critique of SETI

8. Plausible non-humanoid ETIs
ETIs with non-humanoid sensorial
Neutron star beings
Superconductor ETIs

Part III. Implications of the expanded ETI discourse for SETI

9. Reactions to the "nature"-based critiques
Project Cyclops
The Morrison workshops
Name change
10. Inflection
SETI's standing in the scientific community
Pascal's wager
Signs of wearying
Commission 51
The inflection point in popular culture
Giving up the ghost
11. Evanescence
1993: annus horribilis
SETI in the popular culture
12. Conclusion

Bibliographical essay

SETI: Primary and secondary sources
ETI discourse: Secondary sources
ETI discourse: Primary sources
Texts that directly discuss ETIs
Popular expositions of ETI science
Hard science fiction featuring ETIs
ETI portraiture in American film and television
1959 Cocconi & Morrison's paper on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)
1960 Frank Drake conducts the first SETI search
1961 Byurakan-I, the Soviet Union's first SETI conference
1966 Shklovskii's and Sagan's Intelligent Life in the Universe
1969 Kaplan's Byurakan-I follow-up text
1970 National Aeronautic and Space Administration's (NASA) first SETI conference
1971 Project Cyclops
Byurakan-II, the first international SETI conference
1974 NASA approves its first SETI funding
1975 The "Morrison workshops"
The Library of Congress report on SETI submitted to Congress
1976 NASA establishes a SETI Program Office under Billingham
Shklovskii publishes his skepticism about SETI
1978 Congress approves its first SETI funding
1979 NASA holds Life in the Universe conference
Proxmire awards a "Golden Fleece" to SETI
Congress fails to appropriate approved funding for SETI
1982 Proxmire succeeds in eliminating all SETI funding
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends a modest SETI program
1983 NASA begins the "R&D" phase of its SETI program
1984 The International Astronomical Union's (IAU) first Commission 51 conference
1990 NASA's SETI program approved
1992 NASA's SETI program begins searching
1993 Funding for NASA's SETI program cancelled
1995 SETI Institute's Project Phoenix continues part of NASA program
2007 Allen Telescope Array begins SETI-style searches

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