The Far Future Universe: Eschatology from a Cosmic Perspective

The Far Future Universe: Eschatology from a Cosmic Perspective

by George F. R. Ellis, Templeton Foundation
     
 

Will our universe continue to expand 100 billion years from now? Does human life and all intelligence inevitably come to an end as the universe evolves? Could our present space be converted catastrophically into a new kind of space governed by different physical laws? Can we construct a theology of the future universe? Would the continuation of the universe for…  See more details below

Overview

Will our universe continue to expand 100 billion years from now? Does human life and all intelligence inevitably come to an end as the universe evolves? Could our present space be converted catastrophically into a new kind of space governed by different physical laws? Can we construct a theology of the future universe? Would the continuation of the universe for eternity be a good thing? Nearly 400 years ago, Galileo ground the Dutch “spyglass” and looked to the stars. His discoveries raised questions about the origin of the universe—questions that today, with our high-powered optical instruments, have become even more audacious. In Rome, at the Casina Pio IV, once a summer residence of Pope Pius IV and with links to Galileo, a group of scientists and theologians recently gathered to exchange research-in-progress, ideas, and opinions about the far future.

The Far-Future Universe presents eighteen provocative essays offering speculations on various scenarios for the future, from the perspectives of cosmology, physics, biology, humanity, and theology, including:
  • John D. Barrow, research professor of mathematical science, who notes: “When there is an infinite time to wait then anything that can happen, eventually will happen. Worse (or better) than that, it will happen infinitely often.”
  • Paul Davies, British theoretical physicist, who addresses the question: “Eternity: who needs it?,” poses six cosmological models, and examines the implications of each for the ultimate fate of the universe.
  • A. Graham Cairns-Smith, honorary senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow, who considers exotic genetic materials and distinguishes between “life as we know it” and “life in general.”

Other contributors consider global time, artificial intelligence, religious ideas about the end of the world, and the nature of existence. Stimulating, challenging, and exciting, these visions of the far future are a starting point for further reflection and speculation.



About the Author

George F. R. Ellis is as widely respected for his anti-apartheid Quaker activism as for his contributions to cosmology. For the past decade, he has been a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town while lecturing throughout the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. The many prizes he has been awarded include the Star of South Africa Medal, which was presented to him in 1999 by President Nelson Mandela. Co-author with Stephen W. Hawking of The Large Scale Structure of Space Time (1973), he has also written more than 200 scientific papers and eight major books.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
How might religious descriptions of an afterlife, the age to come or eternity be interpreted in terms of current scientific knowledge and speculation about the long-term future of humanity and the universe? This collection brings together theologians, philosophers and scientists (most of them physicists) to discuss the significance of cosmic time-scales which, for the future as well as the past, seem to dwarf the human horizon. Several of the best-known writers on such topics, including John Barrow, Paul Davies, Robert John Russell and Freeman Dyson, are represented here-the latter by both his 1979 paper "Time Without End" and a new response to recent critics. Theologian Jergen Moltmann, aiming to "turn the subject upside down," contributes an authoritative but innovative discussion of the themes and implications of Christian eschatology for the future of the universe. Anthologies produced from conference proceedings-this time co-sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and the Vatican Observatory-are not unusual in the theology-and-science field. But this collection is stronger than most due to the quality of the individual pieces and the fairly well-defined topic. One limitation of this format is that most essays reflect the contributors' initial perspectives, rather than any ensuing exchange of ideas or clarification of terms. Readers interested in how different viewpoints might cohere or conflict will largely have to tie the loose ends together themselves. Still, this is a valuable contribution to the growing literature on theology and science. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781890151904
Publisher:
Templeton Press
Publication date:
11/28/2002
Pages:
408
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

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