Publication Abstracts

Cameron 1971

Cameron, A.G.W., 1971: Recent advances in astronomy and space sciences. Ann. New York. Acad. Sci., 184, 20-25, doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1971.tb41301.x.

The astronomical sciences have had rather little impact on our day-to-day lives, but from ancient times their philosophical impact has been very great. Primitive man could see that there were many unreachable things in the skies about which he knew nothing; undoubtedly the appearance of the heavens had much to do with the formulation of primitive religions. In recent centuries, as we have learned more and more about the universe and our place in it, man has seemed to occupy an ever-decreasing position of importance in his total universal environment. The skies no longer turn solely about the earth; the other stars no longer turn solely about our sun. The sun has become a normal undistinguished star situated in our galaxy, and our galaxy is but one of billions of similar galaxies strewn throughout space, with no indication that our own position in space has any special significance.

The pace of discovery in astronomy and space science has been particularly hectic during the last decade, and this has led to an intense intellectual ferment in the field. In this article, I will skim quickly over a few of the highlights of the research discoveries that have been made, and at the end I will try to indicate what our present philosophical outlook is toward the universe in general.