The Privileged Planet How our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery

Synopsis

The Provocative Classic The Privileged Planet in a Fully Revised, 20th Anniversary Edition!

Are we just an accident of cosmic evolution? Is Earth a “lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark” as the late Carl Sagan put it? Or is there more to the story? In this provocative book, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards marshal a staggering array of scientific evidence to counter the modern dogma that Earth is nothing more than the winner of a blind cosmic lottery.
 
When The Privileged Planet was first published in 2004, it garnered both praise and rage. But its argument has stood the test of time. In this completely revised 20th anniversary edition, Gonzalez and Richards show how thousands of discoveries of extrasolar planets over the last two decades have only strengthened their case.
 
They take readers on a mind-expanding journey through our solar system and beyond. Along the way, they explore the mystery of total solar eclipses, the crucial role of water and carbon, the fine-tuning of physics that makes advanced life possible, and the beginning of cosmic time. From our cozy blue planet to the edge of the known universe, they show how earthlike planets are exquisitely fit not only to sustain life but to provide the best platform to discover the hidden wonders of the cosmos.
 
The Privileged Planet compels us to reconsider our place in the universe. Far from a cosmic fluke, our world is ingeniously designed not just for life but for discovery.

First Edition Synopsis

For centuries scientists and philosophers have marveled at an eerie coincidence. Mathematics, a creation of human reason, can predict the nature of the universe, a fact physicist Eugene Wigner referred to as the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences.” In the last three decades astronomers and cosmologists have noticed another, seemingly unrelated, mystery. Contrary to all expectations, the laws of physics seem precisely “fine-tuned” for the existence of complex life.

Could these two wonders actually be isolated pieces of a wider pattern? Both are prerequisites for science, yet what about the process of scientific discovery itself? What are its necessary conditions? Why is it even possible? Read any book on the history of science, and you’ll learn about magnificent tales of human ingenuity, persistence, and dumb luck. But that’s only part of the story, and not even the most important part. Our location is much more critical to science than it is to real estate. For some reason our Earthly location is extraordinarily well suited to allow us to peer into the heavens and discover its secrets.

Elsewhere, you might learn that Earth and its local environment provide a delicate, and probably exceedingly rare, cradle for complex life. But there’s another, even more startling, fact, described in The Privileged Planet: those same rare conditions that produce a habitable planet-that allow for the existence of complex observers like ourselves-also provide the best overall place for observing. What does this mean? At the least, it turns our view of the universe inside out. The universe is not “pointless” (Steven Weinberg), Earth merely “a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” (Carl Sagan) and human existence “just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents” (Steven Weinberg). On the contrary, the evidence we can uncover from our Earthly home points to a universe that is designed for life, and designed for discovery.

How our place in the Cosmos is designed for discovery