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Attitudes towards the scientific search for extraterrestrial life among Swedish high school and university students

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2018

Erik Persson*
Center of Theological Inquiry, 50 Stockton Street, Princeton 08540, New Jersey, USA The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Klara Anna Capova
The Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Lund, Sweden Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham, UK
Yuan Li
Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Author for correspondence: Erik Persson, E-mail:


The aim of this study is to increase our understanding of the attitudes towards the scientific search for extraterrestrial life among high school and university students in Sweden. The most important results of the analysis are that: (a) the great majority of students believe that extraterrestrial life exists; (b) most students regard searching for extraterrestrial life to be quite important or very important; (c) very few students think that we should actively avoid searching for extraterrestrial life; (d) the most common motive for assigning a high priority to search for extraterrestrial life is that it is interesting, the most common motive for assigning a low priority is that such knowledge would not be practically useful, or that the money would be better spent elsewhere; (e) most students do not think they are very well informed regarding the search for extraterrestrial life. A higher percentage of the students who judge themselves to be well informed also believe that extraterrestrial life exists. We have also found some differences between subgroups (men/women, high school students/university students and different fields of study), but the differences are with few exceptions small in comparison with the overall trends, and they mostly differ in degree rather than direction.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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