Religion and Astrobiology in Culture and Society (RACS) Network


LAUNCH EVENT: Tuesday, 21st September 2021 (Zoom) 

We are excited to announce a new multidisciplinary scholarly network, bringing together those interested in the academic study of the social and cultural dimensions of the intersection between religion and astrobiology. We are currently seeking new members of the Network, to join our founding group of leading scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences (see below). 

Of all the topics in the purview of science/religion, this is arguably the one with the greatest cultural traction. While the (non)religious implications of extraterrestrial life, intelligent or otherwise, have been debated by philosophers and theologians for centuries, recent developments in astrobiology, exoplanet discovery, SETI, and a dawning new age of space exploration are prompting renewed, wider interest. Such subjects have, however, been deeply explored within popular culture, for example in science fiction (e.g., Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, C. S. Lewis, Frank Herbert, Star WarsStar Trek), computer games (e.g., Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri), bestselling books and hit documentary series (e.g., Erich von Däniken,  Ancient Aliens). 

Albeit with some notable exceptions (e.g., re. new religious movements), there has been surprisingly little, sustained study of these subjects among scholars in the social sciences and humanities. Furthermore, there has also been little opportunity for those interested in pursuing these and allied areas of research to meet, speak, exchange ideas, and/or collaborate with others in different disciplines – and importantly, with astronomers, astrobiologists, and planetary scientists who are interested in the (non)religious and other socio-cultural ‘receptions’ of this work.  


We therefore invited any interested scholars to join the RACS network, and to participate in our (mostly online) seminars, symposia, book clubs, and discussion groups over the next two years. We are also planning a conference in Houston, Texas, in 2023, and a number of publication and collaborative grant application opportunities to further advance work in this area. We are especially keen to hear from Early Career Researchers. Those wishing to join should please email the project team using the form on our contact page, briefly introducing themselves and their particular research interests within the ‘social and cultural aspects of the intersection of religion and astrobiology’. 


We will formally launch the RACS Network online on Tuesday, 21st September, at 4pm (London) /10am (Houston). This is intended to be an informal event, introducing the project team, explaining more about the vision of the Network, and outlining future events. It will also be an opportunity for Network members to start getting to know each other and their work, and to share ideas for future events and initiatives to be held under the auspices of RACS. Successful applicants to join the Network (see above) will be emailed the Zoom link a few days prior to the launch event itself. 

Stephen Bullivant (PI) Richard Playford (co-I) Janet Siefert (co-I) 

This project is funded by the International Research Network for Science and Belief in Society, based at the University of Birmingham and funded by the Templeton Religion Trust.  

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