Searching for SETI: The Social Construction of Aliens and the Quest for a Technological Mythos
Bozeman, John Marvin
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This dissertation uses Actor Network Theory (ANT) and Stark and Bainbridge's rational choice theory of religion to analyze an established but controversial branch of science and technology, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Of particular interest are the cultural, and sometimes religious, assumptions that its creators have built into it. The purpose of this analysis is not to discredit SETI, but instead to show how SETI, along with other avant-garde scientific projects, is founded, motivated, and propelled by many of the same types of values and visions for the future that motivate the founders of religious groups. I further argue that the utopian zeal found in SETI and similar movements is not aberrant, but instead common, and perhaps necessary, in many early-stage projects, whether technical or spiritual, which lack a clear near-term commercial or social benefit.
- Doctoral Dissertations