This paper explores the role of Darwin’s approach to the study of life in developing the core research program of astrobiology. Presently, there is little historical scholarship regarding the broad discipline of astrobiology, and, particularly, the relationship between the disciplines of biology and astrobiology. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that Darwin’s biological inquiry inspired further research into uncovering the origin and conditions for life in the universe, as well as how his research influences the modern astrobiological research program. This analysis of the impact of Darwin’s research on the discipline of astrobiology was accomplished by examining how Darwin’s approach to the study of life on Earth inspired other scientists to postulate a universal origin of life. Darwin’s unanswered question of where life began inspired the development of the Panspermia Theory, which marks the first significant theoretical development in the emerging discipline of astrobiology, and thus demonstrates the influence of Darwin’s theoretical work on modern astrobiological inquiry. Darwin’s laws of biology influenced Alexander Oparin’s research into the conditions for life on Earth, and his work in turn contributed to the development of the core methodology of the astrobiological research program. While scholars chiefly examine the impact of the Space Race in regard to the institutionalization of aerospace research, this paper argues that the creation of these institutions facilitated formal astrobiological experimentation inspired by the Darwinian search for the conditions for life in a universal context. This paper examines the development of the discipline of astrobiology from a historical perspective in order to analyze the role that Darwinism played—and continues to play—in shaping the modern astrobiological research program.
Holstein, Andrea, "Darwin's Universe: The Darwinian Foundation of the Discipline of Astrobiology" (2017). 2017 Undergraduate Awards. 16.