The Copernicus complex

Caleb Scharf

Why I looked at this book

The Copernican principle is the idea that humans are not privileged observers of the universe and this has become a criterion against which modern scientific ideas are tested. But some scientific discoveries have suggested that the universe is fine-tuned for our existence. Is trying to fit these into the Copernican principle stretching it too far? Maybe we do live in a special place or time. Is, for instance, positing a multiverse a valid way to fit observations with the Copernican principle or can it be thought of as a reductio ad absurdum argument against the principle. I'm looking to this book to discuss such issues.

First impressions

The book starts with a look at the history of the Copernican principle, asking how we got to the idea that we're not so special. When Anton van Leeuwenhoek peered through his microscope, the microbes he saw were viewed as something novel, but did anyone think it should change the way we saw ourselves? Certainly the idea that Earth isn't the centre of the universe goes back a long way. Aristarchus argued for a heliocentric universe but there was strong opposition to his idea.

I found it interesting to read, and it gets the book off to a good start, but I did think Scharf could have put forward more of his point of view early on to give more of an idea what the main arguments of the book will be.
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