IN THE MAIL: George Basalla’s Civilized Life in the Universe: Scientists on Intelligent Extraterrestrials.

The cover is pretty cool, and there’s a lot of interesting history on the topic of scientists’ thoughts on extraterrestrial life. I found Basalla’s technological relativism a bit unconvincing — alien science, if it exists, may look different from ours in some ways, but he almost makes it sound as if physical laws are cultural artifacts, which no amount of postmodern argument can make true, or even persuasive. What’s more, he doesn’t really engage the point made by Ernst Fasan years ago in his Relations With Alien Intelligences: While it’s possible to imagine aliens with whom we have nothing whatsoever in common, the aliens we’d be most likely to deal with — as competitors or friends — are those who are more like us.