Many Worlds

The New Universe, Extraterrestrial Life, and the Theological Implications

Edited 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, 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.

Contributors include:

  • Christian de Duve
  • Paul C. W. Davies
  • Bernd-Olaf Küppers
  • Christopher P. McKay
  • Martin J. Rees
  • Lee Smolin
  • Arthur Peacocke
  • John Leslie
  • Freeman J. Dyson
  • Jill Cornell Tarter
  • Ernan McMullin
  • George Y. Coyne, SJ
  • Steven J. Dick

INTRODUCTION / vii

PART I ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF LIFE

Lessons of Life / 5
Christian de Duve

Biological Determinism, Information Theory, and the origin of Life / 15
Paul C.W. Davies

The World of Biological Complexity: The Origin and Evolution of Life / 31
Bernd-Olaf Kuppers

Astrobiology: The Search for Life Beyond the Earth / 45
Christopher P. McKay 

PART II HUMANITY’S PLACE IN COSMIC EVOLUTION

Life in Our Universe and Others: A Cosmological Perspective / 61
Martin J. Rees

Our Relationship to the Universe / 79
Lee Smolin

The Challenge and Stimulus of the Epic of Evolution to Theology / 89
Arthur Peacocke

Intelligent Life in Our Universe / 119
John Leslie

PART III EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE AND OUR WORLD VIEW

The Many Worlds of Neurology / 135
Freeman J. Dyson

SETI and the Religions of the Universe1 / 143
Jill Cornell Tarter

Life and Intelligence Far from Earth: Formulating Theological Issues / 151
Ernan McMullin

The Evolution of Intelligent Life on Earth and possibly Elsewhere: Reflections from a Religious Tradition / 177
George V. Coyne, S.J.

Cosmotheology: Theological Implications of the New Universe / 191
Steven J. Dick

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY / 211

INDEX / 213