Talk about starting the new year right!
Actually, the event, titled The Detection of Extra-Terrestrial Life and the Consequences for Science and Society, is the first in a series to be held this year marking the 350th anniversary of the world's oldest scientific academy. Ten programs will be held in all. Their purpose is no less than "to raise and address the major scientific questions of the 21st century."
Given that The Royal Society is among the most prestigious scientific institutions on the planet (past and present members include Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Stephen Hawking), identifying the consequences of finding life beyond earth as a "major" question of our time is significant.
Presenters include cosmologist Paul Davies, astronomer Frank Drake, social psychologist Albert Harrison (author of After Contact: The Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life, one of the few serious treatments of the subject), and Ted Peters, a Lutheran scholar and author of "Anticipating Detection of Life in Space: AstroEthical Scenarios." Peters' presentation on January 26 is of special interest to me: "The Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life for Religion and Theology."
More information about the event and the preliminary program is posted here.
Readers may also be interested in Seeing Further, a volume edited by Bill Bryson describing the history and scientific contributions of The Royal Society. It was published by HarperCollins in the UK earlier this month.