About My Research

Thank you for visiting this site.  My research focuses on the culture and ethics of space exploration, with an emphasis on the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), the moral implications of active SETI or METI (messaging extraterrestrial intelligence), and colonization of the solar system (and beyond, although that is unlikely to happen any time soon).  I have been interested space exploration since I was a young boy growing up during the 1960s in a cultural environment heavily influenced by the Apollo program and Star Trek.

In general, my research has focused on the relationship and intersection between culture, religion, and science.  There are two broad streams to my research:  space exploration and Japanese culture and society.

My training involves studies in three different disciplines: anthropology, social ethics and religion, and political science.  I received my BA in political science from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, my MAR in ethics from Yale University, and my PhD in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh.  I did my postdoctoral research as a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.  At Pitt, I was fortunate to study under L. Keith Brown, who has been visiting and learning about Tōhoku since he lived there in 1961.

I am a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and also in the program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin.  I spend my summers as a visiting professor in the Waseda University Summer Session, where I also lead a group of students on a field trip to Iwate.  The Waseda Summer Session is a wonderful program for students to get a deep introduction to Japan.

In my spare time, I play jazz drums in two different groups in Austin, my own trio, The Botolph Jazz Trio, and the John Groves Jazz Organ Trio.  For me, music accomplishes many of the same things that research does–it helps develop an understanding of humanity.   Jazz and social behavior have a lot in common.  They both involve performance using a predetermined structure upon which people improvise as they interact and exchange ideas.  In jazz we call that predetermined structure changes and in society we call it culture.  Both jazz and culture are forms of collective improvisation that generate novel ideas and new ways of seeing the world.

Note: photographs on this website are from NASA and JAXA photo collections.