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

Guillermo Gonzalez
Jay W. Richards

"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.

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Today, most scientists and philosophers claim that Earth is an ordinary speck of dust adrift, without purpose or significance, in a vast cosmic sea.

This idea (popularized by the late astronomer Carl Sagan) is an outgrowth of the naturalistic philosophy that has dominated science for the past 150 years. Yet, remarkable evidence–unveiled by contemporary astronomy and physics–may now tell a very different story.

Building upon the overwhelming success of Unlocking the Mystery of Life (widely acclaimed as the most effective refutation of Darwinian theory ever produced), this hour-long documentary explores the scientific evidence for intelligent design and purpose in the universe. In the process, Earth is revealed as far more than the product of time, chance, and random natural processes.

We now know that a rare and finely-tuned array of factors makes Earth suitable for complex life. We depend on our planet's oxygen-rich atmosphere, its large moon, its planetary neighbors, and its precise location within the solar system and Milky Way galaxy. But the story does not end here. For the same factors that make a planet like Earth hospitable to life also provide the best conditions for scientific discovery.

Is this correlation merely a coincidence? Or does it point to a deeper truth about the purpose of the cosmos and the reality of a transcendent designer? The answer could dramatically affect 21st century science.

Through stunning computer animation, interviews with leading scientists, and spectacular images of Earth and the cosmos, The Privileged Planet explores a startling connection between our capacity to survive and our ability to observe and understand the universe. A connection that points directly to the work of a creative mind and plan.

This extraordinary documentary will be a focal point in the excalating debate between evolution and design.

2004
(Hardcover) Regnery Publishing, 464 pp.

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

In a book of magnificent sweep and daring, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards drive home the argument that the old cliché 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.

Recommendations
"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.

"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.

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