Many Worlds:The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications

Many Worlds:The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications

by Steven J. Dick
     
 

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,

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
paper: 1-890151-42-4 A provocative collection examining science's impact on theology. Based on a 1998 conference sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, this collection of essays opens with the observation that the Copernican revolution looks insignificant when compared to the discoveries made about the earth and the universe in the last century: we now know, for example, that the universe is billions (not thousands) of light-years big; that it is expanding, not static; that our galaxy is just one of many, not the entirety of the universe. But from looking at modern theology, you wouldn't think anything had changed. The contributors (who include physicists, philosophers, historians of science, and theologians) suggest that cosmological advances might reshape the very fundamentals of theology. Paul C.W. Davies argues that if the universe turns out to be "biofriendly" (i.e., if given enough time and the right conditions, life will emerge as a matter of course), scientifically savvy thinkers may be compelled to reject atheism and embrace intelligent design theory. The contributors are especially interested in extraterrestrial life: philosopher Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that extraterrestrial intelligence will force Christians to do some hard thinking about original sin, the human soul, and the Incarnation. Some of the contributors conclude that new discoveries about extraterrestrial life will render our current conceptions of God useless, while others suggest that traditional ideas about God will still be relevant. A few of the essays are disappointing and utterly derivative—such as John Leslie's "Intelligent Life in Our Universe"(which doeslittle more than rehearse Platonic ideas about God) and Christian de Duve's banal assertion that though "advances of biology" have forced us to abandon "many myths . . . mystery remains, more profound and more beautiful than ever before." The essay by Anglican priest and physical chemist Arthur Peacocke—which assesses Jesus in "evolutionary perspective"—is the most satisfying, both scientifically sophisticated and theologically rich. An uneven anthology, with real gems (like Peacocke's) mixed in with many costume jewels.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781890151379
Publisher:
Templeton Press
Publication date:
05/28/2000
Edition description:
1
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.48(h) x 0.91(d)

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Meet the Author

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).

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