RARE EARTH by Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee. Copernicus Press, New York, 2000. $27.50.

Reviewed by Joseph Odom, L.Ac.

Rare Earth is a fascinating look at our place in the cosmos. Astrobiologists Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee argue that complex life may be extremely rare in the universe. They support their thesis with up-to-date, carefully reasoned, science.

I found the book difficult to put down. It is fascinating reading—from explanations of simple organisms which can survive in extreme conditions and how, therefore, DNA may be actually prevalent in the Universe, to the conditions necessary for higher life to evolve.

The authors present a case that Drake's equation, which calculates the number of habitable planets, fails to take into account important factors. For example, most stars exist near the centers of galaxies. Here too much activity, such as nearby stars going nova regularly, occurs for planets to have a long enough time without a catastrophic event for higher life to evolve.

They put forth the idea that there are only relatively small "habitable zones" in space. Adding to this is the importance of such things as an iron core planet to provide magnetic fields, the dynamics of plate tectonics, and nearby bodies providing gravitational attraction—all necessary for the evolution of life as we know it.

Higher life is, according to Ward and Brownlee, an extremely improbable occurrence in this Universe. Rare Earth was for me a rare book which made me reexamine beliefs in our place in the larger plan. It is superbly written and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in any aspect of science, as well as one who wants to expand our conscious connection with Earth.

Published by Maya del Mar. Copyright © 2000, 2001 Maya del Mar.
Web site design by Susan Pomeroy.