SOURCE: Science & Spirit

January 15, 2007 14:00 ET

Did Our Universe Evolve?

Science & Spirit Explores the Origin of the Cosmos

QUINCY, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 15, 2007 --Is our universe the product of random encounters and mutations in a cosmos bursting with chemicals? Modern science, says George V. Coyne, S.J., director emeritus of the Vatican Observatory, has "revealed a cosmos that is shaped by the interaction of chance, necessity, and opportunity." To understand this universe, science and religion must both play a role, he believes -- challenging one another while staying within the boundaries of their given discipline: How life originated is a scientific question, he says, while theology accounts for why there is something rather than nothing.

But what about where life originated? "For many physicists," writes William Orem, "it's hard to talk about the laws of nature without acknowledging the fact that they are precisely what is needed to make the universe capable of producing life in the first place." Orem, who writes for NPR's "A Moment of Science," traces the strengths and shortcomings of the "anthropic principle," which postulates that the universe is fine-tuned for life, and "string theory," which posits parallel universes and extra dimensions. While string theory "has yet to be experimentally tested or falsified," Orem explains, "there are a great many who believe it has features of mathematical interest, which may be key to someday solving some of the deepest mysteries of the universe."

Orem also interviews Max Tegmark, an associate professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and scientific director of FQXi, the Foundational Questions Institute. Tegmark, famous for cutting-edge research probing the origin of the cosmos, hopes FQXi will help to legitimize frontier science that otherwise might not get funded. "Maybe," he says, "we humans can actually talk sensibly about the universe as a whole and how things might have begun 14 billion years ago."

The current issue of Science & Spirit also features:

--  A look at how baby boomers are reinventing retirement
--  The costs -- physical, emotional, and financial -- of America's sleep
    deprivation epidemic
--  Recent research that suggests early humans and chimpanzees interbred,
    and the potential of future hybrids
--  A roundup of books on ethical eating and the moral quandaries behind
    our food choices
    
Science & Spirit is published six times a year by Heldref Publications. It is sold on newsstands and by subscription, and can be viewed online at www.science-spirit.org.

Contact Information

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    Marc Kaufman
    617-847-5931