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Engaging the Cosmos

Astronomy, Philosophy and Faith

Neville Brown has authored twelve books or major reports, including The Future of Air Power (1986). With the award-winning Future Global Challenge (1977), he began to give economic, social and ecological factors salience in the quest for a peaceable world. This thrust has continued with New Strategy Through Space (1990) through to Global Instability and Strategic Crisis (2004). His History and Climate Change, a Eurocentric Perspective (2001) reviews the last two millennia. In 1990, Professor Brown was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Written by an experienced author with a strong background in both History and Earth Sciences, this text explores the philosophic implications of the dramatic developments now under way in astrophysics and astrobiology. How close may this progress, empirical and theoretical, bring us to a definitive understanding of ultimate realities? What could it connote for the future of the great religious obediences? What might it mean for the evolution of a planetary consciousness that could be the key to the survival of our overburdened world? Are there not alarming possibilities, yet also very positive ones? Not merely will this discussion take full but measured account of hard science in a manner accessible to lay people, but the arguments and observations presented will be set firmly in a deep historical perspective.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-903900-66-6
Hardback Price: £49.50 / $75.00
Release Date: July 2006
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-903900-67-3
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $32.50
Release Date: July 2006
Page Extent / Format: 320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


The Author

Part One: The Heavens in History
1 The Age of Stone
2 Hammurabi to Ptolemy
3 Late Antiquity to Copernicus
4 A Renaissance Continuum
5 The Cosmological Revolution

Part Two: The Life Dimension
6 Astrobiology
7 Consciousness

Part Three: Utopia Lost?
8 An End to Nature?
9 Retreat from Reason
10 Conflict in Heaven?

Part Four: A Dissolving Heritage?
11 Judaism Fulcral
12 Christ and the Humanists
13 Countervalent Islam
14 Indian Pluralism
15 Japanese Togetherness

Part Five: To Here from Eternity
16 Yearnings for Belief
17 Creative Convergence
18 Fulfilment Regained?


This is an unusual book which ranges across astronomy, philosophy and faith as the subtitle promises. It embraces a study of the value systems and concepts which have come from major religions and other structure of belief. Ultimately Professor Brown, seems to be fundamentally concerned with what human beings are and the meaning of human consciousness. His book, he says, ‘arises from a need to consolidate the forces of reason … but also to be infused with the virtues we see as aspects of reality.’ … The author embarks on this task by considering ideas from a very wide range of thinkers and actors throughout history: Moses, Plato, Jesus, Newton, Einstein, Kant, Maimonides, Mohammed and many others. He manages to do this without being, on the one hand, encyclopaedic, on the other fragmentary; this is a particularly notable feature of a book of only just over 300 pages.
... The interdisciplinary coverage of the book is extraordinary and rather exciting in its exploration of philosophic implications of the developments in our knowledge of the universe. Yet, in a sense, there is a simple directness in its ultimate propositions that it is a privilege to be a human being and that as Professor Brown puts it, relations will ‘improve between the great religious obediences; between them and philosophic obediences; and between all of these and the natural sciences.’ … well worth the effort for a wide range of readers, philosophers, scientists, and non-specialists.
Philosophy of Management

Neville Brown brings a distinctive voice and a lifetime’s reflection to the discussion of both science and spirituality. He provides an engaging compendium of information on human evolution, emphasising the critical role astronomy has played in redefining human self-perception. Eastern as well as Western cultures fall within his purview and he provides the grounds for welcoming the spiritual experimentation taking place within and across different religious traditions. This is a book for all who share his concern that in a shrinking world the choice between fanaticism and conciliation is becoming ever starker.
John Hedley Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science & Religion, University of Oxford

Professor Neville Brown has written a magisterial book on current relationships and debates involving astronomy, philosophy, and theology. His work on this broad and daunting topic is a highly creative and accessible analysis by a writer with unusual interdisciplinary strengths. He explores the interactions among the main religious faiths of the world, and between them and astrophysics and astrobiology. He examines the implications of this exploration for such questions as the concept of a ‘just war’, the non-weaponization of space, and effective measures of arms control.
... Professor Brown argues that the preservation of Nature could be one valuable consequence of a heightened dialogue and discussion among the world’s great faiths. And he has produced a work that has sweeping implications for social and political policy-making. Political, religious, and civic leaders – world-wide – would do well to heed this book’s message.
Milton C. Cummings, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

One can always be certain that any book by Neville Brown will exhibit breadth and depth of experience and learning. Engaging the Cosmos does
not disappoint. This book is absorbing. The narrative detail serves to place all the major historical information in a fascinating context.
... Neville Brown makes it natural that astronomy, philosophy and faith in their widest interpretation should be discussed together. Each reinforces the other in the development of the book. It is rare to find an author who is equally comfortable with modern astrophysics as with the motivations of the ancient world. If you want to know who is or was who in these fields you will find a discussion of them in this book. The issues are not left to ideals. We are brought to face issues of modern conscience and responsibility. Well worth reading.
Professor Yvonne Elsworth, School of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Birmingham

One is entitled to ask where the author is coming from. It is most succinctly put on p. 226: ‘those many of us who subscribe to no established faith but who would lay claim to a broad ethical concern and spiritual aspiration.’
... Thus, all the great belief systems, and many of the dottier ones, are examined in the light of what we know and don’t know about the universe, and of the state of humankind past and present; but even that goes only part way to describing what is set out in this book, for it is at its most fascinating when examining the concepts of Life and Consciousness. Are the two, as the book seems sometimes to imply, interdependent; or is there some deeper cosmic consciousness that is, indeed, the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything?
... What, then, of the future as Professor Brown sees it? While accepting that humankind is limited in its comprehension and the span of its logic – in both space and time – he finds that ‘it is a considerable privilege to be a human being’, and sees some hope in the convergence of the beliefs of ordinary folk who are not ‘prone to prejudicial irrationality and over-reactive violence’. Within that convergence, he suggests, ‘Value and belief systems will become more individual, more or less regardless of any person’s formal allegiance.’
Naval Review

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