Widening Perspectives The Intellectual and Social Benefits of Astrobiology, Big History, and the Exploration of Space

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Ian A. Crawford


Astrobiology is the field of science devoted to searching for life elsewhere in the Universe. It is inherently interdisciplinary, integrating results from multiple fields of science, and in this respect has strong synergies with ‘big history’. I argue that big history and astrobiology are both acting to widen human perspectives in intellectually and socially beneficial directions, especially by enhancing public awareness of cosmic and evolutionary worldviews. I will further argue that these perspectives have important implications for the social and political organisation of humanity, including the eventual political unification of our planet. Astrobiology and big history are also concerned with the future of humanity, and I will argue that this future will be culturally and intellectually enriched if it includes the exploration of the universe around us.

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Author Biography

Ian A. Crawford, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK

Ian Crawford is an astronomer turned planetary scientist, and is currently Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was a Vice-President of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society from 2017 to 2019. Ian’s research interests are mainly is in the areas of lunar science and exploration and the search for habitable environments on Mars. He has long believed that the perspectives offered by space exploration, astrobiology, and big history will yield important societal benefits on Earth. A more detailed summary of these interests, and a full list of publications, can be found at: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/geology/our-staff/ian-crawford.