A character in Launch Out, a Philip Robert Harris science fiction novel which is set in the year 2010, is based on Dr. Finney: a University of Hawaii professor of anthropology who is also the President of the fictional Unispace Academy.
Currently an emeritus professor at UHM, Finney is also a distinguished research associate of the Bishop Museum. He and his wife Mila live most of the year in Hawaii.
Finney vividly remembers his advisor handing him a copy of Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific [published by the Polynesian Society in 1956], a book by New Zealander Andrew Sharp that suggested that Polynesian canoes were no good, that Polynesian navigation was lousy and that the Pacific had been settled randomly, accidentally. Finney, in Hawai‘i to do a master’s of anthropology on surfing, took umbrage—inside. “I was already in trouble doing a master’s thesis on surfing, which was considered renegade and lower-class then,” he explains. It was no time to hatch what professors might have considered wacky schemes, but silently Finney thought: Why not recreate a sailing canoe and prove Sharp wrong?
When Ben Finney was a University of Hawaii graduate student in 1958, working toward his master of arts degree and writing his dissertation on surfing, scholars were not yet in agreement that any canoe voyages over great distances on the Pacific Ocean had been intentional. The prevailing view was exemplified by a New Zealandhistorian with a low opinion of Polynesian navigation methods and canoes, Andrew Sharp, who believed that such voyages could only have been accidental.
Finney did not agree with this view and became determined to disprove it. He built the first 40-foot replica Polynesian sailing canoe while he was teaching at UC Santa Barbara in the 1960s. When it was finished, he shipped it to Hawaii, where ancient Hawaii scholar Mary Kawena Pukui named it Nalehia, which in the Hawaiian language means The Skilled Ones, for the grace with which its twin hulls rode the sea.
1988: "Will space change humanity?" (pp. 155–172) in J. Schneider and M. Leger-Orine, eds., Frontiers and Space Conquest: The Philosopher's Touchstone. Bingham: Kluwer Academic Press. ISBN 90-277-2741-4.
1996: "Colonizing an Island World" (pp. 71–116) in Ward H. Goodenough, ed., Prehistoric Settlement of the Pacific.Philadelphia: Diane Publishing Co. ISBN 0-87169-865-X
^Univelt book review of Philip R. Harris, Launch Out.Haverford: Infinity Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7414-1487-2. ASIN0741414872. (Page 372: “Dr. Ben Finney still maintained an office at the University of Hawaii. The distinguished anthropologist and author of From Sea to Space had been an ideal selection for the Unispace presidential post.”)
^Ben R. Finney and Eric M. Jones, “The Exploring Animal” (from p. 15) in Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience. “We homo sapiens are by nature wanderers, the inheritors of an exploring and colonizing bent that is deeply embedded in our evolutionary past… What makes us different from other expansionary species is our ability to adapt to new habitats through technology: We invent tools and devices that enable us to spread into areas for which we are not biologically adapted… However, it is not simply the technological ability to build spaceships, life support systems, and the like that will drive the expansion into space. Whereas technology gives us the capacity to leave Earth, it is the explorer's bent, embedded deep in our biocultural nature, that is leading us to the stars.”