Cover image for Many worlds : the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications
Many worlds : the new universe, extraterrestrial life, and the theological implications
Dick, Steven J.
Publication Information:
Philadelphia, PA : Templeton Foundation Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 217 pages ; 23 cm
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BL241 .M255 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In "Many Worlds," renowned scientists in fields from physics to astronomy discuss the possibility of a cosmic evolutionary process that guides not only our universe, but other planets and universes as well. Physicist and author Paul Davies observes that if it turns out to be the case that the universe is inherently bio-friendly, then the scientific, theological, and philosophical implications will be extremely significant.

"Many Worlds" first focuses on what lessons might be learned from the latest knowledge of the origin and evolution of life. After establishing a well-grounded relationship between science and religion, authors such as Arthur Peacocke and John Leslie evaluate the intricate configuration of events that must occur to create a dynamic and chemically enriched environment capable of not only supporting life, but evolutionary processes as well. The final section addresses the provocative question of extraterrestrial life. What we may find could drastically change our relation to the universe and our creator.

As we reflect on the possibilities that the universe presents, author and contributor Christian de Duve aptly states, Many myths have had to be abandoned. But mystery remains, more profound and beautiful than ever before, a reality almost inaccessible to our feeble human means. Is our existence part of a divine scheme ingenuously designed to support life, or is it an extraordinary chain of accidents that culminate in a life-permitting environment? The scientific advancements of the past century cannot help but capture the imagination and inspire renewed hope for the future. This volume will add dimension and insight to these yet unanswered questions."

Author Notes

Dr. Steven J. Dick is the historian of science at the United States Naval Observatory and president of the International Astronomical Union's Commission 41 (History of Astronomy).

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

An eminent cast of scientists and science-and-religion writers is ultimately unable to achieve the loosely conceived goal of this conference volume: to discuss the theological implications of cosmic evolution and the possibility of extraterrestrial life and intelligence. Most essays read like opening statements rather than genuine dialogue. Readers may easily become disoriented by elliptical discussions of "the astounding facts of the new universe" while sifting through radically different portrayals of what science says about cosmic origins and biogenesis. These scientific debates are interesting in their own right, but the book lacks even a provisional consensus on these issues, so advocating the "religious implications" of discoveries in these fields is highly uncertain. Few contributors seem intimidated by this uncertainty, although physicist Freeman Dyson and Vatican Observatory director George Coyne, proponents of otherwise very different views, sound similar calls for humility. Several others, including editor Steven Dick and Jill Tarter, director of the private-sector continuation of SETI and the model for Ellie in the 1997 movie Contact, look forward to a time when humanity will outgrow its native spirituality, perhaps disposing of such notions as transcendence and faith. Overall, the volume falls short of the insight conveyed in ContactÄthat questions of ultimate meaning remain mysterious whether or not we find ourselves alone in the universe. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved