[view]Contemporary Review: "New Cosmology and God's Universe" by Charles Foster, March 2012
[view]The Huffington Post: "A Cosmic Book with Human Insight" by Deepak Chopra, September 12, 2011
[view]Tikkun Magazine: "Cosmic Wonder, Human Opportunity" by Matthew Fox, March 28, 2011
[view]Foreign Policy Journal: "Think Cosmically, Act Globally, Eat Locally", by Johan Galtung,February 22, 2011
New Cosmology and God's Universe
by CHARLES FOSTER, Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. Contemporary Review
By weight, we are 90 per cent stardust and 10 per cent hydrogen. The iron atoms in our haemoglobin came mostly from exploding White Dwarfs. When we look up at the light from distant galaxies we are seeing something that has not existed for perhaps a billion years.
In terms of physical size, everything there is has to be about the size it is, because of how physical laws act on objects. We humans are at the centre of all possible sizes. We are at the centre of several other things, too. We are halfway through the lifetime of our sun, and at the midpoint of the existence of complex life on earth. Biological complexity has been around for about a billion years. It will last about another billion years, and then the earth will become a desert. We are uniquely positioned to appreciate our own place in the cosmos. This is the best time that there ever has been or ever will be for astronomical observation. Never again will there be so many galaxies visible. The expansion of the universe has accelerated, and the most distant galaxies will shortly vanish for ever over the horizon.
We're exhilaratingly favoured and yet we carry on shuffling, with our eyes to the ground. Some cling desperately to old models of existence, as hopelessly out of date as the ancient Egyptian notion that the god Geb, whose body is the flat earth, is prised by the sky from his sister-lover Nut, whose body is embedded with the stars. But most have no model at all, or a model so eclectic that there is no one to share it with.
Our cosmological conservatism is striking. Until very recently it was thought that the Milky Way was the Universe. The eighteenth century astronomer William Herschel mapped it. It was all very cosy. And then something vertiginous happened. In 1924 Edwin Hubble discovered that some of the nebulae that Herschel had placed in the Milky Way were actually galaxies massively far outside it. Our galaxy was suddenly just one amongst billions. There was every reason to feel small and afraid.
By and large, however, we do not. That, perhaps, is because we do not allow ourselves to feel anything at all, or to look hard enough at the queasy facts that would force us to feel. If we try to justify ourselves, we typically say that fact and meaning are separate. Religion conspires in this deception. This is historically understandable. When Galileo was persecuted by the church for his cosmological observations, scientists (for instance Descartes) adopted a policy of non-interference with religion. This was to save their own skins, not because they had reasoned their way to the conclusion that science and religion were non-overlapping magisteria. This suited the religious establishment too: it protected religion from the embarrassment of its assertions being contradicted by scientific advance.This convenient but cowardly detente persists. But it can no longer be sustained.
Humanity is in an unusual position. The old certainties of literalistic religion have, for most people, evaporated. In the past, everyone knew how he fitted into the big cosmic picture. Now there is either semi-sublimated doubt or sheer wackiness. This is the background of Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack's magnificent, passionate and urgent book. They contend that knowledge of our context — of our intimate relations with the stars, of the immense antiquity of the visible universe, of the mysterious interplay of the invisible Dark Matter and Dark Energy that shape everything, of our privileged place on this very special planet - can make us feel properly at home 'in the universe; can give us a sense of belonging and relevance. For them, it is not that myth and fact can and should co-exist: it is that they are, vitally and liberatingly, one and the same. For them, cosmology and ontology cannot be divided without great and damaging violence. But this is no reductionist tract. There is no call to sling out the religious mindset, but simply to inform it with the facts. The book is suffused with awe, humility and concern.
The descriptions of immensely complex scientific ideas are always lively and accessible. They are supplemented by superb illustrations. If this were simply a textbook of modem cosmology, it would be splendid. But it is much more than that. It is a call (not a hectoring, preachy call, but a call nonetheless), to act on what we know, before it is too late. For there is yet another reason why this is a crucial time in human history: for the first time ever we have the power to destroy our planet. Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack give us some good reasons why we should not do so, and suggest some mechanisms for avoiding disaster. H.G. Wells once wrote: 'Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.' Quite right. Catastrophe seems at the moment to be ahead, but this book can help to narrow the gap.
A Cosmic Book with Human Insight
by Deepak Chopra, The Huffington Post
September 12, 2011
I found my eyes opened, along with my mind, by an intriguing book, The View from the Center of the Universe, by Joel R. Primack, a distinguished physicist at the University of California Santa Cruz, and his wife, Nancy Ellen Abrams, an excellent writer. There have been a spate of books extending our concept of the universe and how human beings fit into it. In an earlier post I listed some of the most exciting concepts that are potentially revolutionizing cosmology, among them, that we live in a conscious universe, that the universe is a living thing, and that evolution drives the cosmos. Primack and Abrams continue to explore such ideas in their newest book The New Universe and the Human Future.
But they also campaign persuasively for a meaningful universe, contending that we no longer live in the ancient or medieval conception of the cosmos and not the empty, meaningless universe of Newton. "The lack of a meaningful universe is a modern mental handicap." They are not aiming to reclaim old religious ideas, however. "There is a real dissonance between the colorful, volatile, science-expanded world we actually inhabit and the monotonously recycled language that religions use to describe 'ultimate reality.'" So what kind of meaning do Primack and Abrams find in the cosmos? Their book answers this question through a totally engaging and very readable exploration of "the new universe" explained by quantum physics and contemporary astrophysics... read full review
Cosmic Wonder, Human Opportunity
by Matthew Fox, Tikkun Magazine
March 28, 2011
THE NEW UNIVERSE AND THE HUMAN FUTURE: HOW A SHARED COSMOLOGY COULD TRANSFORM THE WORLD
by Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack
Yale Press, 2011
This book is in every sense of the word, a prophetic book. Its message ranks right up there with those of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel. Like the prophets, it is at times poetic, demanding, grounded, soaring, empowering, and always awe-inspiring.
Rabbi Heschel says the essence of the prophet's work is to interfere, and Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams are doing nothing if they are not interfering. They are interfering with apathy, couch-potato-itis, anthropocentrism, and despair by inspiring us with the newly found reasons we have for waking up, getting involved, and resisting dumb media, amoral education, and frozen religious ideologies. They inspire us to do what prophets do: give birth to justice from a newly born heart, a newly born consciousness. And to shout the dangerous paths, the ways of folly, we are on. This book does all that and more.
I should offer a disclaimer here. I know and truly love Joel and Nancy. I know their marvelous book, The View from the Center of the Universe and recommend it to everyone I know. I know their sterling credentials as teachers of the new cosmology and the great respect Joel carries in the scientific community. Above all, I know their humility. While helping us access new scientific knowledge to recover our sense of the Cosmos, they also show up at spiritual events, dance circle dances, laugh with us lay people (meaning non-scientists), chant, meditate, make music, write poetry, and just plain participate. I like that about them. They are human beings as well as scientists. They are not preaching from an ivory tower or to the scientific choir alone (though they have the courage to take on the cynics and pessimists in that circle). Their message is for all of us: "Wake up before it is too late. Drink in the new good news of the universe. Join and build up a 'cosmic society.'"
Wisely the authors point out that human consciousness evolves from self-awareness, to tribe, to religion, to nationality, to species, to Earth, and ultimately to Cosmos. We, like the universe, need to keep expanding (I think of Meister Eckhart: "God is delighted to watch your soul enlarge.") We can so easily get stuck in any one of these smaller groupings — self (narcissism), tribe (tribalism), religion (my God can beat up your God/goddess), nation (who is the empire de jour? We are number one and the exceptional one). But Gaia and her pain is calling us beyond all these earlier identities to embrace Earth, which needs so much embracing today, and now Cosmos as well. We don't have to abandon the earlier soul periods; we can incorporate them into this great act of growing our souls, expanding our consciousness. We can love self without being narcissistic; we can love our tribe without being tribalistic and hating other tribes; we can embrace a religious path without denying others theirs; we can be Americans (or Egyptians or Argentinians) without having to go to war to prove we are superior. Of course we are on a path of consciousness expansion. After all, this universe is biased in favor of expansion. This is a scientific fact... read full article
by Ron Cowen, Science News
August 27, 2011
Living only for the present, using up natural resources, polluting the environment without considering future generations — can humans ever change? Lawyer and popular-culture lecturer Abrams and her husband Primack, an astrophysicist noted for his work on dark matter, argue that people might, if only they learned a little cosmology.
Echoing the words of Joseph Campbell, who studied the myths of ancient and modern peoples, the authors argue that the world needs a modern understanding of human beginnings — a common story. The origin of the universe — with concepts such as the Big Bang, cosmic inflation, dark matter and dark energy — could become this overarching story for all humankind.
Abrams and Primack are careful to explain that they're not discounting religion as a way for people to connect with each other and understand the meaning of the universe. But the authors believe that by understanding concepts of cosmology, a more global understanding of the human role in the cosmos will emerge.
"We need to feel in our bones that something much bigger is going on than our petty quarrels and our obsession with getting and spending, and that the role we each play in this very big something is what really defines the meaning and purpose of our lives," they write.
The authors tell the cosmology story well and illustrate it with stunning images, in the book and online at www.new-universe.org. But it's unclear whether a universal understanding of cosmic origins can ever take hold, since those who disagree may never pick up the book in the first place.
by William Kowinski, North Coast Journal
August 11, 2011
“If we had a transnationally shared, believable picture of the cosmos, including a mythic-quality story of its origins and our origins — a picture recognized as equally true for everyone on this planet — we humans would see our problems in an entirely new light, and we would almost certainly solve them.” That’s the urgent contention of these coauthors, an astronomer and a cultural philosopher who teach down the coast in Santa Cruz. This book sketches what that picture might look like, and advocates for its importance.
By their account, the universe looks a lot different to astronomers than it did just a few years ago. Using ancient myths and familiar images as well as some sparkling, even startling terminology, they outline the double dark theory: a universe of mostly dark matter, in which space is driven apart by dark energy. But structures of different size respond to different forces, and in our mid-range physical universe, we are in the “tame space” of our local group of galaxies, which are actually coming together.
“Most of the universe is not made of atoms” and “stardust is the rarest material in the universe.” Only within the galaxies is there complexity, and “we civilized, intelligent beings are the most complex things we know of in the entire universe.” Something to consider as we destroy our civilization and destroy much of the life evolved on our planet... read full article
Pensare cosmicamente, Agire globalmente, Mangiare localmente
by Johan Galtung, Uomoplanetario.org
March 3, 2011
È lo slogan di due professori dell'Università di California a Santa Cruz, l'astrofisico Joel R. Primack, e sua moglie, la filosofa della cultura (e cantante) Nancy Abrams. Il loro bel libro, The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World [Il nuovo universo e il futuro umano: come una cosmologia condivisa potrebbe trasformare il mondo, ndt], basato sulleTerry Lectures a Yale dell'ottobre 2009, sarà pubblicato da Yale University Press in aprile.
Il loro motto – con l'aggiunta cosmica al "pensare globalmente, agire localmente" coniato da René Dubos, ecologo franco-americano – è uno sforzo innovativo per risolvere il problema formulato da Joseph Campbell in The Inner Reaches of Outer Space [Le distese interiori del cosmo, TEA , Milano 2003, ndt]: "ciò che al mondo moderno serve più d'ogni altra cosa è una storia che unifichi". La loro risposta, storia, narrativa, "Storia di una nuova origine", è la storia dell'universo, ben più profonda che soltanto un Big Bang e un'espansione dell'universo in accelerazione. Raccontata in splendida prosa, attraente per la mente e il cuore... read full article
Think Cosmically, Act Globally, Eat Locally
by Johan Galtung, Foreign Policy Journal
February 22, 2011
TRANSCEND Media Service, Feb. 21 – The above title is the slogan advocated by two University of California Santa Cruz professors, the astrophysicist Joel R. Primack, and his wife, the cultural philosopher (and singer) Nancy Abrams. Their fine book, The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World, based on the Terry Lectures at Yale October 2009, will be published by Yale University Press in April.
Their motto – adding cosmos to "Think Globally, Act Locally" coined by René Dubos, the French-American ecologist – is innovative effort to solve the problem formulated by Joseph Campbell in The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: "what the modern world needs more than anything else is a story that unifies". Their answer, story, narrative, "A New Origin Story", is the story of the universe, much deeper than just Big Bang and accelerating expansion. Told in beautiful prose, appealing to brain and heart... read full article
A Cosmic Book with Human Insight
by Deepak Chopra, SFGate
September 12, 2011
I found my eyes opened, along with my mind, by an intriguing book, The View from the Center of the Universe, by Joel R. Primack, a distinguished physicist at the University of California Santa Cruz, and his wife, Nancy Ellen Abrams, an excellent writer. There have been a spate of books extending our concept of the universe and how human beings fit into it. In an earlier post I listed some of the most exciting concepts that are potentially revolutionizing cosmology, among them, that we live in a conscious universe, that the universe is a living thing, and that evolution drives the cosmos... read full article
[view]Santa Cruz Weekly: "UCSC Scholars Link Cosmology to Human Fate" by Traci Hukill Tue, Apr 19, 2011
Expanding Inner and Outer Space
by MARA SENESE, HOPE
March 6, 2012
I am becoming more and more aware that the key movement in these times is the expansion of our thinking and awareness – on many levels. Don’t miss the two videos in this post- they are definitely mind stretching – or is mind blowing !
Keep your eyes open for articles about new discoveries, experiments and explorations in space. The photos coming from NASA – like this Nebula pictured here – are beautiful and haunting. New theories about our Cosmology are all over the main-stream newspapers, but are not often translated into what these discoveries mean to us as human beings or our understanding of who we are and where we are!
According to one blog that I read, “We are currently experiencing a paradigm shift in scientific thinking and explanation, away from reductionist and constructivist approaches. This shift is the result of the introduction of computers and the internet. Scientific researchers are now capable of collecting and processing much more information than ever before, and advanced modeling techniques allow them to develop and test scientific theories in ways that were simply not possible 20 or even 10 years ago.”
Joel R. Primack & Nancy Ellen Abrams gives us some clues about all this in their highly acclaimed books. I have only read articles about their work but have been fascinated with it since 2008. Their new book The New Universe and the Human Future gives us a fresh and exciting view of the beauty of the Universe and the potential role that we, as humans, have in these times. The website for this book is full of fascinating articles, interviews, reviews and stunning photographs from outer space. It is worth spending some time there. You will leave amazed and refreshed. A review of the book calls it poetic, demanding, grounded, soaring, empowering, and always awe-inspiring ...read full article
New Cosmos, New Wisdom?
by MARCUS T. ANTHONY, 22C+
November 12, 2011
Star Trek and the Cosmos
by Capitan Future, The Soul of Star Trek
August 10, 2011
Star Trek in its Roddenberry Era stories worked hard to keep up with scientific discoveries about the universe, as well as the more advanced theories. But Capitan Kirk's 23rd century was based on views of the universe from over 40 years ago, and Picard's 24th century on the universe as known or theorized about a quarter century ago.
But according to a new book, The New Universe and the Human Future by Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack (Yale Univ. Press), the astronomers' and physicists' knowledge of the universe (or "scientific cosmology") has advanced a great deal since the end of the 20th century. So how does our shared Star Trek universe hold up?
I don't mean Trek's strange new worlds and new civilizations -- none of those have been found, despite the evidence of hundreds of planets around other stars. But in how the universe works, and what's in it?... read full article
Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack look to restore humanity's rightful place in the universe
by WALLACE BAINE, Santa Cruz Sentinal
April 21, 2011
You want a big-picture conversation? And by "big," I don't mean merely elephantine, or continental, or even planetary. We're talking as big as "big" gets, essentially encompassing the sum total of human experience. We're talking even bigger than the universe, or at least the universe as we think we know it.
That's the picture that Santa Cruz's Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack are drawing in their new book "The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World." While the rest of us are paying attention to the iPad, "American Idol" and Donald Trump, Abrams and Primack are making a spectacular claim -- that the most significant moment in human history may be ... right now... read full article
UCSC Scholars Link Cosmology to Human Fate
By Traci Hukill, Santa Cruz Weekly
ucsc_scholars_link_cosmology_to_human_fate April 19, 2011
In an interview with C-SPAN last August, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was asked what non-lawyer, alive or deceased, he'd like to share the bench with. The swing voter in the nation's highest court hemmed and hawed. He'd interview Plato, he deadpanned, but wouldn't hire him. His old high school classmate Joan Didion might be a good choice. When he finally settled on two names, both were scientists, and one was UC–Santa Cruz astrophysics professor Joel R. Primack, a specialist in the formation of galaxies and the nature of the confounding, universally present substance known as dark matter.
"If, in my own lifetime and maybe in yours, we could discover the nature of dark matter, we would have a unified theory of creation for the first time in human history," Kennedy said. "And that would solidify the bonds of humankind."
That's a big job for science to do. But Kennedy had read The View from The Center of The Universe, the 2006 book Primack wrote with his wife, UCSC philosophy professor Nancy Ellen Abrams. That volume, based on the popular course the couple started teaching at UCSC in 1995 (now cancelled because of budget cutbacks), addressed the idea that for the first time in the hundreds of years since science split from religion, humans have the opportunity for a unified understanding of their place in the universe. More than that, Abrams and Primack's first book suggested that humans enjoy a privileged place in the cosmos thanks to long-ago tiny accidents of chance and substance: eons later, we really are the perfect composition and size for intelligence, and we are very likely unique in the universe. That combination of data and reassurance could add up to a new globally accepted creation story, they posited—a shared story that could "solidify the bonds of humankind," as Kennedy put it... read full article
'This Cosmically Pivotal Moment'
by Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams, Santa Cruz Weekly
April 19, 2011
In Chapter 5 of their provocative new book "The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World," UCSC scholars Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack make the case that we are living at the "midpoint of time on multiple timescales." First is the cosmic timescale. "There will never again be so many galaxies visible," they write, because the universe is expanding and galaxies are disappearing over the horizon of what we can see. Second, our solar system is about halfway through its expected lifespan of about 10 billion years, which will end with our sun puffing up into a red giant. Third, we are halfway through the roughly 1-billion-year period when complex life on Earth can exist; in another 500 million years the ever-warming sun will make us a desert planet. And fourth, they write, humanity is at a pivotal moment in the sense that it's approaching the end of a period of very rapid growth and can now, if it chooses, change its behavior to create a more sustainable future on Earth. Portions of the chapter are excerpted below... read full article
The Malia-Sasha Horizon & the Cosmological Commons: Ecojustice
by boatsie, Daily Kos
April 18, 2011
I sure wasn't expecting to hear about how the daughters of the President of the United States might offer a novel solution for incentivising the climate justice movement last month when I attended a talk on "The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World."
But I have to say I was awed and inspired beyond expectation by the presentation in the planetarium of San Francisco's Academy of Science. The presenters, Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel R. Primack, who co-authored the book of the same name, shared a concept of cosmology which catapulted my nuanced worldview into a light-bending projection through baryonic matter! Recasting my image of myself into that of a highly energized and participating elementary particle in an ever-expanding universe... read full article