Cosmic Perspectives and the Myths We Need to Survive

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Charles H. Lineweaver

Abstract

Big history can be defined as the attempt to understand the integrated history of the cosmos, Earth, life and humanity. Cosmic perspectives and biological evolution are the main scientific ingredients that can convert and broaden history into big history. The aim of this paper is to describe a dilemma that such a scientific, Darwinian big history must face:  the inevitable incompatibility between an objective scientific search for truth and an evolutionary compulsion for brains to harbor useful fictions — the myths we need to survive.  Science supports both sides of this dilemma.  New and improved cosmic perspectives can’t just be scientifically accurate.  To be of use they must leave room for the myths we humans need to survive. But, what are those myths?  I discuss and question whether the following ideas qualify as such myths: a belief in an objective meaning for human life, humanism/speciesism, human free will and stewardship of the Earth.

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Author Biography

Charles H. Lineweaver, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University

Charles H. Lineweaver received a BA in History from the State University of New York at Binghamton, an MA in English from Brown University, a BS in physics from Ludwig-Maximillians Universitat and a PhD in physics from University of California, Berkeley. An astrophysicist and astrobiologist, his research involves the cosmological prerequisites for the formation of terrestrial planets and life, the statistical distribution, composition and habitability of exoplanets, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the entropy of the universe and cancer.