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The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery

Guillermo Gonzalez, Jay Richards

Regnery Publishing, Inc., (Hardcover Edition), 464 pages, 2004

Item# B086
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ISBN: 0895260654

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena�Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light." (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994)

Is Earth merely an insignificant speck in a vast and meaningless universe, as Carl Sagan suggested? On the contrary, in The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay W. Richards present a staggering array of evidence that exposes the hollowness of this modern dogma. They demonstrate that our planet is exquisitely fit not only to support life, but also gives us the best view of the universe, as if Earth-and the universe itself-were designed both for life and for scientific discovery. In fact, Earth is a lot more significant than virtually anyone has realized.

In this provocative book, readers are taken on a scientific odyssey from a history of tectonic plates, the wonders of water, and solar eclipses, to our location in the Milky Way, the laws that govern the universe, and the beginning of cosmic time.

You will discover:

  • How Earth is precisely positioned in the Milky Way-not only for life, but also to allow us to find answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe
  • " Striking ways in which water doesn't behave like most other liquids-and how each of its quirks makes it perfectly fit for the existence of creatures like us
  • The harmony of Earth and the Moon: how they work together to sustain Earthly life as one intricate system-and how that system produces the best solar eclipses just where there are observers to see them
  • How Earth's atmosphere helps protect us from harmful radiation, yet has a tiny window open to the radiation crucial for life and scientific knowledge
  • How Jupiter and Saturn protect Earth from cataclysmic destruction
  • Why the best scientific evidence refutes the misnamed Copernican Principle-the widely held idea that there is nothing special about Earth or its place in the universe
  • How the laws and constants that govern the universe must be narrowly fine-tuned for the existence of any complex life
  • Copernicus: how the popular idea of his achievement and its significance contains more ideologically skewed myth than historical fact
  • Why the sheer number and size of galaxies does not mean that Earth's capacity to sustain life is just the result of blind chance

The Privileged Planet's astounding findings should lead any individual to reevaluate entrenched assumptions about the universe-and even to reconsider our very purpose on what so many have dismissed as nothing more than an accident of cosmic evolution.

In a book of magnificent sweep and daring, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards drive home the argument that the old clich� of no place like home is eerily true of Earth. Not only that, but if the scientific method were to emerge anywhere, Earth is about as suitable as you can get.

"This thoughtful, delightfully contrarian book will rile up those who believe the 'Copernican Principle' is an essential philosophical component of modern science. Is our universe designedly congenial to intelligent, observing life? Passionate advocates of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) will find much to ponder in this carefully documented analysis."
- Owne Gingerich. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolution of Nicolaus Copernicus

"Not only have Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards written a book with a remarkable thesis, they have constructed their argument on an abundance of evidence and with a cautiousness of statement that make their volume even more remarkable. In my opinion, The Privileged Planet deserves very careful attention."
- Michael J. Crowe. Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and author of The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900

"In a book of magnificent sweep and daring Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards drive home the arguments that the old clich� of no place like home is eerily true of Earth. Not only that, but if the scientific method was to emerge anywhere, the Earth is about as suitable as you can get. Gonzalez and Richards have flung down the gauntlet. Let the debate begin; it is a question that involves us all."
-- Simon Conway Morri, Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology, University of Cambridge, Author of Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe

"Impressively researched and lucidly written, The Privileged Planet will surely rattle if not finally dislodge a pet assumption held by many interpreters of modern science: the so-called Copernican Principle (which isn't actually very Copernican!). But Gonzalez and Richards' argument, though controversial, is so carefully and moderately presented that any reasonable critique of it must itself address the astonishing evidence which has for so long somehow escaped our notice. I therefore expect this book to renew-and to raise to a new level-the whole scientific and philosophic debate about earth's cosmic significance. It is a high class piece of work that deserves the widest possible audience."
-- Dennis Danielson, Professor of English, University of British Columbia, Editor, The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking

"Gonzalez and Richards have written a book that is at once inspiring, illuminating, and beautiful. Although the 20th century insights in quantum physics should long ago have dispelled the simplistic idea that nature is nothing more than matter in motion, The Privileged Planet suggests that scientific discovery is embedded in the very structure of the cosmos. With uncommonly engaging prose, they offer a virtual tour of the marvels of modern science and the discoveries science has brought to light, from geology to cosmology. The authors also suggest intriguing answers to ubiquitous "cosmic questions": Why have we been able to discover so much about the world around us in such a short time? Is extraterrestrial life common, or is it quite rare? What is Earth's place in the cosmos? Does the universe exist for a purpose? Only those interested in these questions-but who isn't?-should read this book."
-- George Gilder, Author of the bestselling book Telecosm. Founder, Gilder Technology Report

"In this fascinating and highly original book, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards advance a persuasive argument, and marshal a wealth of diverse scientific evidence to justify that argument. In the process, they effectively challenge several popular assumptions, not only about the nature and history of science, but also about the nature and origin of the cosmos. The Privileged Planet will be impossible to ignore. It is likely to change the way we view both the scientific enterprise and the world around us. I recommend it highly."
-- Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Physics, Pennsylvania State University, Member, National Academy of Sciences.

"This new book is an excellent and timely contribution to the broadening and increasingly important discussion of origins."
-- Henry F. Schaefer III, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry. Director, Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry, University of Georgia. Five-Time Nobel Prize Nominee

"Privileged Planet is simply a beautifully written piece of work: so lucid and compelling in its presentation that even the most lay of laypersons will fly through its pages, barely able to put the book down. And when is the last time that hard science has delivered such an optimistic, even joyful message? For Gonzalez and Richards have made the incontrovertible case that this earth of ours is not just some flyspeck of inconsequentiality in a meaningless universe, but holds a rare, even honored place, and that we, its inhabitants, are especially privileged to be here."
-- Joshua Gilder, Former White House speech writer. Author of Heavenly Intrigue: Brahe, Kepler and the Birth of Modern Science

About the Authors
Jay W. Richards
Jay W. Richards is Vice President and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He received his Ph.D. with honors in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he was formerly a Teaching Fellow. He is the author of many academic articles, popular essays, and op-eds, on topics as diverse as science, philosophy, and theology. He is editor and contributor, with William A. Dembski, of Unapologetic Apologetics: Meeting the Challenges of Theological Studies (InterVarsity Press 200), editor and contributor with George Gilder of Are We Spiritual Machines?: Ray Kurzwell vs. the Critics of Strong AI (Discovery Institute Press, 2002), and author of The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Immutability, and Simplicity (InterVarsity Press, 2003)

Guillermo Gonzalez
Guillermo Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Iowa State University, He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1993 from the University of Washington. He has done post-doctoral work at the University of Texas, Austin and at the University of Washington and has received fellowships, grants and awards from such institutions as NASA, the University of Washington, Sigma Xi (scientific research society) and the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Gonzalez has extensive experience in observing and analyzing data from ground-based observatories, including work at McDonald Observatory, Apache Point Observatory and Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory. He has also published over sixty articles in refereed astronomy and astrophysical journals including Astronomy and Astrophysics, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astrophysical Journal and Solar Physics. His current research interest in astrobiology focuses on the "Galactic Habitable Zone" and captured the October 2001 cover story of Scientific American.

Another area of his research is focused on analyzing and interpreting ground-based photometric and spectroscopic observations of low and intermediate mass stars in relation to current theories concerning the late stages of stellar evolution and the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

Table of Contents

Section 1. Our Local Environment
Chapter 1: Wondering Eclipses
Chapter 2: At Home on a Data Recorder
Chapter 3: Peering Down
Chapter 4: Peering Up
Chapter 5: The Pale Blue Dot in Relief
Chapter 6: Our Helpful Neighbors

Section 2. The Broader Universe
Chapter 7: Star Probes
Chapter 8: our Galactic Habitat
Chapter 9: our Place in Cosmic Time
Chapter 10: A Universe Fine-Tuned for Life and Discovery

Section 3. Implications
Chapter 11: The Revisionist History of the Copernican Revolution
Chapter 12: The Copernican Principle
Chapter 13: The Anthropic Disclaimer
Chapter 14: SETI and the Unraveling of the Copernican Principle
Chapter 15: A Universe Designed for Discovery
Chapter 16: The Skeptical Rejoinder

Conclusion: Reading the Book of Nature

Appendix A: The Revised Drake Equation

Appendix B: What about Panspermia

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