The meaning of life

From The Guardian:

Brockman John Brockman is the PT Barnum of popular science. He has always been a great huckster of ideas. These days he acts as literary agent for many of the world’s greatest minds, including Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, and achieves for some of them the kind of publishing advances that it takes great mathematicians to compute. As a favour, perhaps, or because they are genuinely intrigued or flattered to be in the company of their peers, every year a good number of these thinkers respond to a question posed by Brockman. In 2004 the question was: ‘What do you believe is true, even though you cannot prove it?’

The 100-odd responses to this question make up this book, which is compelling and repetitive by turns. Mostly, the correspondents are concerned with the two great time-honoured questions: is there life anywhere else in the universe? And, are we anything more than flesh and blood? Despite this denial of a single self, there are plenty of formidable egos on display. Craig Venter, the man who tried to patent our DNA, the Book of Life, and make his fortune from it, believes that all life is a ‘panspermic event’; that primordial microbes were sent in a directed rocket ship from an alien galaxy to colonise the earth, a big bang if ever there was one. We, in turn, are constantly pansperming, launching a zillion microbes back into space.

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