CfA Colloquium Schedule Fall 2006
 14 December 2006

14 December 2006

Speaker: Steven Dick (NASA Headquarters)

Title: Astrobiology and the Biological Universe

Abstract: Four hundred years ago two astronomical world views hung in the balance, the Earth-centered and the Sun-centered. Today astronomy faces a similar choice between two grand world views: a purely physical universe, in which cosmic evolution commonly ends in planets, stars and galaxies, and a biological universe, in which cosmic evolution routinely results in life, mind and intelligence. Astrobiology is the science providing the data to make this critical choice.

This 20th century overview shows how we arrived at the concept of cosmic evolution, and how it has become the "grand narrative" of our time, Genesis for the Third Millennium. We examine how our astronomical world view has changed over the last century, and show how planetary science, planetary systems science, origins of life studies and SETI have combined to form the new discipline of astrobiology, for which NASA is the primary patron. Whether we live in a mostly physical universe or in a biological universe will have profound consequences, no less than the Copernican theory. Astrobiology also looks to the future of life; taking a long view, it is possible we may live in a postbiological universe.


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