Why this book?
Everyone wants complex life to be common in the universe, because that’s way more interesting than an unimaginably vast collection of rocky and gassy spheres devoid of anything but chemicals or—maybe, every now and then—bacterial analogues. Scientists are human, too, so it’s probable that most scientific theories about extraterrestrial life are skewed toward optimism. Peter D. Ward, a paleontologist, and Donald Brownlee, an astronomer, team up in Rare Earth to issue a corrective to wishful thinking. In cogent, persuasive prose they build their case for why the planet Earth, as an incubator of complex life, might be very, very, very unusual. This is one of my favorite science books of all time, because it challenges the general reader to be more scientifically objective than many scientists, to be clear-eyed rather than starry-eyed.
Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe
Why should I read it?
2 authors picked Rare Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.
What is this book about?
What determines whether complex life will arise on a planet, or even any life at all? Questions such as these are investigated in this groundbreaking book. In doing so, the authors synthesize information from astronomy, biology, and paleontology, and apply it to what we know about the rise of life on Earth and to what could possibly happen elsewhere in the universe. Everyone who has been thrilled by the recent discoveries of extrasolar planets and the indications of life on Mars and the Jovian moon Europa will be fascinated by Rare Earth, and its implications for those who look to…