The Life Era

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the second volume of a projected trilogy, Eric Chaisson, a research astrophysicist, furthers his efforts to develop the transdiscipline of cosmic evolution, the study of the changes in composition and organization of energy, matter, and life in the universe.

Chaisson begins with a precis of his first volume, COSMIC DAWN: THE ORIGINS OF MATTER AND LIFE. Synthesizing recent advances in biochemistry, astrophysics, and cosmology, he divides the history of the universe into three eras: Energy, Matter, and the current, just beginning, Life Era. The Life Era is marked by the evolution of intelligent life, able to comprehend what has occurred in the past and potentially able to control future events throughout the universe.

He then provides a brief overview of the history of the concept of change in Western thought, summarizing in chronological order the attitudes of some of the West’s greatest philosophers and scientists toward change. Chaisson evaluates these attitudes according to their sympathy with a transmutating universe as well as their relationship to current scientific theories of evolution, but he fails to place them in their historical context.

The second half of the book is taken up with Chaisson’s efforts to prove that his vision of the universe is based on solid scientific evidence rather than philosophical or theological principles and with a consideration of the implications of the Life Era for the future of the human race. Among the relatively short-term implications is the evolution of a global society. The long-term possibilities are more startling: The maturation of the Life Era might be signaled by the divorce of intelligence from matter and the domination of the material universe by Life.

This is both a summation of current scientific theories and a provocative philosophical tract which will provide all readers with something to ponder.