The Far-Future Universe

Eschatology from a Cosmic Perspective

Edited by George F. R. Ellis

Published in Association with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Vatican

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 four hundred 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, Paul Davies, and A. Graham Cairns-Smith.

Preface / vii
Mary Ann Meyers

Part 1: Issues and Questions: An Overview

1. Introduction / 3
George F.R. Ellis

2. Seeking the Future: A Theological Perspective / 12
George V. Coyne, S.J.

Part 2: Cosmology/Physics

3. The Far, Far Future / 23
John D. Barrow

4. Eternity: Who Needs It? / 41
Paul Davies

5. Time of the Universe / 53
Michael Heller

6. Living in a Multiverse / 65
Martin J. Rees

Part 3: Biology

7. Exotic Genetic Materials and the Extent of Life in the Universe / 89
A. Graham Cairns-Smith

8. Time without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe / 103
Freeman J. Dyson

9. Life in the Universe: Is Life Digital or Analogue? / 140
Freeman J. Dyson

10. Does Biology Have an Eschatology, and If So Does It Have Cosmological Implications? / 158
Simon Conway Morris

Part 4: Humanity

11. Deep Time: Does It Matter? / 177
Stephen R.L. Clark

12. Games That End in a Bang or a Whimper / 196
Steven J. Brams and D. Marc Kilgour

13. Artificial Intelligence and the Far Future / 207

Margaret A. Boden

14. Cosmic Eschatology versus Human Eschatology / 225
Owen Gingerich

Part 5: Theology

15. Cosmology and Religious Ideas about the End of the World / 235
Keith Ward

16. Cosmos and Theosis: Eschatological Perspectives on the Future of the Universe / 249
Jurgen Moltmann

17. Eschatology and Physical Cosmology: A Preliminary Reflection / 266
Robert John Russell


18. Natures of Existence (Temporal and Eternal) / 316
George F.R. Ellis

Appendix: Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) / 355
Stephen R.L. Clark

Contributors / 371

Index / 377