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Review: ‘Response to Ben McGee’ by Linda Billings

Linda Billings states bluntly that Ben McGee’s “call for proactive xenoarchaeological guidelines” is not “a productive contribution to the scientific search for evidence of extraterrestrial life or efforts to communicate clearly about it.” Much of her criticism is of terminological imprecision. I agree with her about the way the term “astrobiology” is used by McGee: at different times referring broadly to extraterrestrial life, and narrowly to intelligent extraterrestrial life. On the other hand, her apparent dismissal of the term “xenoarchaeology” for not appearing in dictionaries fails for several reasons: McGee had himself defined the term in his initial paper; such a prescriptive approach would stymie neologisms of all kinds; the use of the prefix xeno- to refer to extraterrestrial specialisations is uncontroversial – Billings would surely be aware of the term xenobiology, a less common … Read entire article »

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Review: ‘A call for proactive xenoarchaeological guidelines’, by Ben W. McGee

A call for proactive xenoarchaeological guidelines – Scientific, policy and socio-political considerations Space Policy, Volume 26, Issue 4, November 2010, Pages 209-213. Ben McGee’s paper in Space Policy calling for the development of guidelines for use in the event of the discovery of extraterrestrial artefacts seems uncontroversial to me. The SETI mainstream has its Declaration of Principles Concerning Activities Following the Detection of Extraterrestrial Intelligence after all. However from reading his blog I know that he received a strongly negative response from Linda Billings. I’ll discuss my own thoughts about McGee’s paper in this post, and get around to the response in the next few days. My first impression is of some imprecision in terminology, particularly in use of the word “astrobiology”. Instead of  ”artifacts of astrobiological activity” for instance, I would refer to artefacts of … Read entire article »

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