At the heart of the attacks on Iowa State University astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez is the book The Privileged Planet, which he co-authored with Jay Richards. We now know that Gonzalez’s authorship of this book played a role in his denial of tenure. It also provoked more than 120 of Gonzalez’s faculty colleagues to sign a petition in 2005 denouncing intelligent design and urging all other faculty members to do the same. Ironically, the book has garnered praise from an impressive list of scientists, including some prominent supporters of biological evolution. Consider just a few of The Privileged Planet’s endorsements and ask yourself whether the ideas raised in this book presented any kind of valid reason for removing Gonzalez from his university:
Is our universe a blind concatenation of atoms, evolution a random walk across a meaningless landscape, and our sense of purpose a pathetic shield against a supremely indifferent world? Or does the universe and our place within it click into place, repeatedly? These starkly different views open up immense metaphysical and theological questions, and at least part of the answer must come from science and the unfolding triumphs of cosmology, astronomy, and evolution.
In a book of magnificent sweep and daring Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards drive home the arguments that the old cliché of no place like home is eerily true of Earth. Not only that, but if the scientific method was to emerge anywhere, the Earth is about as suitable as you can get. Gonzalez and Richards have flung down the gauntlet. Let the debate begin; it is a question that involves us all.
Simon Conway Morris
Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology, University of Cambridge
Author of Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
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.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus
Not only have Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards written a book with a remarkable thesis, they have constructed their argument on an abundance of evidence and with a cautiousness of statement that make their volume even more remarkable. In my opinion, their Privileged Planet deserves very careful attention.
Michael J. Crowe
Cavanaugh Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame
Author of The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750-1900
Impressively researched and lucidly written, The Privileged Planet will surely rattle if not finally dislodge a pet assumption held by many interpreters of modern science: the so-called Copernican Principle (which isn’t actually very Copernican!). But Gonzalez and Richards’ argument, though controversial, is so carefully and moderately presented that any reasonable critique of it must itself address the astonishing evidence which has for so long somehow escaped our notice. I therefore expect this book to renew–and to raise to a new level–the whole scientific and philosophic debate about earth’s cosmic significance. It is a high class piece of work that deserves the widest possible audience.
Professor of English, University of British Columbia
Editor, The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking
In this fascinating and highly original book, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards advance a persuasive argument, and marshal a wealth of diverse scientific evidence to justify that argument. In the process, they effectively challenge several popular assumptions, not only about the nature and history of science, but also about the nature and origin of the cosmos. The Privileged Planet will be impossible to ignore. It is likely to change the way we view both the scientific enterprise and the world around us. I recommend it highly.
Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Physics, Pennsylvania State University
Member, National Academy of Sciences
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