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Finding Our Place in the Universe on the Page and Screen

Yale Press Log
October 17, 2011

In our age of calculators, computers, and the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, most questions are pretty easy to answer. Why is the sky blue? What is the cube root of 1331? Who was Fredrick the Great of Prussia?

Still, in some areas, uncertainty lingers—even though we have more information at our disposal than ever before. Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker pose several of these lingering questions at the beginning of their book Journey of the Universe. “Where did we come from? Why are we here? How should we live together?” they ask, going on to offer an elegant response in the form of a history of the universe that draws on science and a broad religious and humanist tradition.

Swimme and Tucker, an evolutionary philosopher and a historian of religions respectively, take the reader on “a journey into grandeur that no previous generation could have fully imagined,” describing a human destiny modeled on the patterns of the universe in which each of us embraces the larger Earth community to come up with creative and cooperative solutions to the problems we face. Scientific terminology—nucleotide, cellular membrane, protostar—is not avoided; rather, it is framed in the context of a story to which we all can relate. Swimme and Tucker lead the reader from the vastness of the cosmos to the particularities of life on earth, drawing out similarities: how the life cycles of stars resemble the development of each human being, and how supernovae show us the way in which the very existence of life depends on moments of breathtaking destruction.

Swimme and Tucker’s book is part of their larger Journey of the Universe project, which also includes a film that richly renders the story of the universe they describe. Film screenings around the country are scheduled throughout the next few months, leading up to the film’s national broadcast on PBS in the beginning of December. To learn more about the film, check for screenings in your area, or watch the trailer and visit the Journey of the Universe website.


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