In The View from the Center of the Universe, Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams attempt to create a new mythos, that is, a story that explains our world, based on science. Actually, I think they did a better job of explaining what they are trying to say in their various interviews than in the book.
The book is a good introduction things like dark matter, dark energy, and how the different elements were forged in different kinds of stars. It gives the history of our solar system, including the cycle of Snowball Earths, about 1-2 billion years ago, and the suggestion that life may be a way of using up the chemical energy of the Earth.
The book is less successful on the spritual side, for example when they try to appropriate Kabbalah to imagine the origin of the universe. I preferred their own, more original metaphors, like the Cosmic Casino. The last third, where they try to synthesize the cosmic outlook into a guide for how to live life on Earth is the least successful. They circle around various arguments argue that since we are intelligent life and aware of the universe around us, it matters what we do.
Again, when they speak, their message is much clearer: We should not feel insignificant in the face of the Universe, but precious. We are made of the rarest elements in the universe. We live at the center of time on Earth. We are at the center of possible sizes in the universe, as are probably all intelligent life in the cosmos.
Regarding intelligent aliens, they ask, Are we alone? Are you alone when you’re with an insect? A dolphin? They argue that searching for intelligent aliens is really a search for ourselves.
Whatever it is that we require in an alien race before we’d be willing to say that the existence of such aliens has dissolved our cosmic aloneness–that is the essence of humanity. . . . The qualities that we would require of such aliens are what a long-lived civilization on Earth should aim to cultivate in ourselves.
How would you construct our mythos?
Next week: Programming the Universe