The Biological Universe -A New Copernican Revolution?

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June 04, 2007

The Biological Universe -A New Copernican Revolution?

060317_dna_nebula_big_3In his masterpiece, The Ancestor's Tale, famed Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins reflected on the sheer wonder of the emergence of life on Earth and the evolutionary process:

"The universe could so easily have remained lifeless and simple -just physics and chemistry, just the scattered dust of the cosmic explosion that gave birth to time and space. The fact that it did not -the fact that life evolved out of literally nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing -is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice. And even that is not the end of the matter. Not only did evolution happen: it eventually led to beings capable of comprehending the process by which they comprehend it."

Steven Dick, NASA's chief historian and former astronomer of the United States Naval Observatory, has a vastly different view of the emergence of life in the universe: to Dick the emergence of life and the evolution of intelligence is literally pre-programmed by the laws and constants of physics, which function similar to cosmic DNA.

The emergence of life and intelligence, according to Dick, was coded into the cosmic playbook from the first moment of the Big Bang. Intelligent life is destined to eventually dominate the cosmos and ultimately to serve as the instrument of cosmic replication.

In his famous essay, and our World View at the Turn of the Millennium, Dick argues that at the dawn of the 21st century calls for us to take into account the Copernican principle that life on earth and humanity is in no way physically central in the universe: "we are located on a small planet around a star on the outskirts of the Milky Way galaxy."

The first concept, the question of life beyond our home planet, Dick explained in his essay, has exercised human imagination, and has stirred irrational fears, since the ancient Greeks, fears that in large part were responsible for the death more than 400 years ago, on February 17, 1600, when Giordano Bruno was summoned from his Inquisition prison cell in Castel S'ant Angelo across the Tiber from the Vatican, marched to the Campo dei Fiori, and burned at the stake in large part for his belief in an infinite number of inhabited worlds. So anathema, Dick writes, was the subject of other worlds that even historians of science avoided it until the 1970s.

This worldview of the cosmos as a biological universe is a revolutionary perspective as profound a revision in our way of think as the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions. It is a worldview that believes that "planetary systems are common, that life originates wherever conditions are favorable, and that evolution culminates with intelligence."

The Noble Laureate, Christian de Duve, describes the biological cosmos as: "The universe is not the inert cosmos of the physicists, with a little life added for good measure. The universe is life, with the necessary infrastructure around; it consists foremost of trillions of s generated and sustained by the rest of the universe."

Posted by Casey Kazan

and our World View at the Turn of the Millennium

Richard Dawkins, Darwin & the Big Questions -Video

Biocosm -A New Theory of Intelligence in the Universe


Professor/Doctor Richard Dawkins
is (insert superlative here) that the fact that we are and know it he ignores what he infers, scientific dogma. A "religion" that has no name (to steal from Paul). Physics, astronomy, theory, postulate, hypothesis etc. They all strive, push, pull, destroy, fold, spindle, mutilate and not only imply but are all most certainly a faith!
Yes I am a man (read person) that has a testimony or dogma but so is your fervent atheist!
Evolution is one of mans most porous sciences. It is a faith that has caused as must damage to humanity as any organized religion. I am sure that who ever stumbles upon this rant will think to themselves that in approximately 6000 years of "beliefs" more people have died at the hands of "true believers" (sorry Stan) but the most heinous damage the faith of evolution has caused is the lessening of our humanity by "knowing" that we are an omniversal accident! And as far as death please refer to the count of 56,000,000 (I am quite sure this number was pulled out of some accountant’s hat) in the war waged for "The purity of race" which continued past 1945 in China and the USSR.
The faith of evolution is just that, hope that we are the sum total of the cosmic dust from which we came. Awareness is relative to the witness without. He'll get back to you.

Like so many anti-atheists, Leonidas sets about to attack with confusion and does not put forth anything useful. He (my assumption, for the sake of the ladies) throws out all sorts of words and phrases that have real definitions which he chooses to ignore. How do you even attempt at a rebuttal of the first paragraph (or 2nd)? It is nonsensical.

Some people go out into the world and see how things work and how they are made. They are fascinated by the world around them and want to figure out what makes the world go round. We call them scientists. Other people are frightened by the world and need to believe in all sorts of fanciful things to avoid what is real. They go out of their way to insist the world is unknowable, that (insert their particular deity here) created everything and is taking care of everyone and we shouldn't ask so many questions. We call them theists. All of our knowledge stems from the curious mind. Even the theologian who figured out how to make a flower grow used rational thought to do it.

Evolution as a science is one of mankind's most brilliant achievements. And at the very least it offers a thought out explanation for how things are regarding life on our planet. What does theism offer as an explanation? Nothing.
Faith does not offer a reason for the way things are, and does not try. The sciences do. Ultimately what the Dawkins's and Harris's of the world are trying to get people to wake up to is not so much the atheism verses theism issue, but rational thought verses irrational thought; fact verses superstition. If you have read "The God Delusion' or 'The End Of Faith' (to name two of the most recent ), attacks like the above post are typical and are only briefly dealt with, then swept aside. There are many intelligent men with religious beliefs worthy of honest critique. These are the people Professor Dawkins challenges. And I have not seen a reasonable response from any of them.
I am an atheist not because I believe in "atheism". Atheism is merely the lack of theistic belief. It is the default position. I was born this way. I am an atheist because nobody has given me sufficient reason to embrace their particular faith.

I believe I understand the root cause of the viciousness of many of the above type attacks against atheists. Theists seem to have an understanding with the world about them that having a religious belief is something that shouldn't be challenged. And indeed that is a popular notion in our culture today. To all of those who do not choose to be called atheist, the theist feels they do not have to explain their beliefs. They may even feel somewhat secure in them around those people. But in the company of an atheist they know we wonder about their superstitions. They also know there position is not defensible and they know the atheist knows it. This makes for some rather cranky people. And as for the atheist who now and again get's cranky and starts asking the pointed questions, I'd say given the abuse at the hands of religion through out history, a little crankiness is to be expected.


Fascinating article! I chose to comment simply to commend the previous commenter Dave Welch for his eloquence. You articulate exactly how I feel. Particularly with respect to being an "atheist" be default from birth. To me it seems religion and faith only subside the human spirits otherwise unquenchable thirst for curiosity. It does this by providing answers to all of life’s questions with answers that aren't subject to conversational pressure, and can be espoused at face value without the encumbrances of having their arguments held up to evidence.

I firmly believe we can only see as far as we think, and religion limits our thinking by extinguishing curiosity. If our history (specifically the scientific community) was littered with theists, we would most certainly not enjoy the wealth of advancement we enjoy today. So I applaud Richard Dawkins and his message of standing in the awe of knowing, rather than of the awe of ignorance.

Dan, it is most heart warming to hear you speak the way you do. If the situation allowed, I'd buy you a coffee any day, if only to hear more about how you feel things should be.



Good article. I have also been an atheist from birth. Guess I was just born without the "faith" gene. I can't even perceive the concept of "deification".

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