Cosmic Heritage

Evolution from the Big Bang to Conscious Life

  • Peter Shaver

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vii
  2. Peter Shaver
    Pages 1-16
  3. Peter Shaver
    Pages 17-33
  4. Peter Shaver
    Pages 35-41
  5. Peter Shaver
    Pages 43-53
  6. Peter Shaver
    Pages 65-70
  7. Peter Shaver
    Pages 71-80
  8. Peter Shaver
    Pages 81-88
  9. Peter Shaver
    Pages 89-96
  10. Peter Shaver
    Pages 97-103
  11. Peter Shaver
    Pages 105-115
  12. Peter Shaver
    Pages 117-136
  13. Peter Shaver
    Pages 137-152
  14. Peter Shaver
    Pages 153-177
  15. Peter Shaver
    Pages 179-195
  16. Peter Shaver
    Pages 197-202
  17. Peter Shaver
    Pages 203-223
  18. Peter Shaver
    Pages 225-227
  19. Peter Shaver
    Pages 243-245
  20. Back Matter
    Pages 247-268

About this book


This book follows the evolutionary trail all the way from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago to conscious life today. It is an accessible introductory book written for the interested layperson – anyone interested in the ‘big picture’ coming from modern science. It covers a wide range of topics including the origin and evolution of our universe, the nature and origin of life, the evolution of life including questions of birth and death, the evolution of cognition, the nature of consciousness, the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the future of the universe. The book is written in a narrative style, as these topics are all parts of a single story. It concludes with a discussion on the nature and future of science.

 “Peter Shaver has written engagingly for anyone curious about the world we inhabit.  If you'd like to know how the Universe began, where the chemical elements originated, how life may have started on Earth, how man, ants and bacteria are related to each other, or why we humans think, you will enjoy this panoramic book and its clear presentation” – Martin Harwit, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, Cornell University, NY, and former Director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington.   

"Who is not interested in the big questions "How did it all start? Where do we come from? Where do we go? Are we alone?" This book addresses theses questions in an entertaining way based on our knowledge of modern science. It opens our horizons towards understanding the history of the universe and the origin and evolution of life in the context of cosmic evolution." Dr. Gerda Horneck, DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Cologne, Germany.  

"A very elegant, open-minded book that opens the door for informed discussion of the continuity of evolutionary processes from the big bang to the emergence of the mind...  stimulating and highly engaging reading" – Ryszard Maleszka, Professor of Molecular Genetics, Australian National University, Canberra. 

"Peter Shaver has produced a remarkable book. He covers an immense range, offering a splendid overview of the intricate processes that connect us to the universe, and which allowed complex life to emerge from simple beginnings" – Martin Rees, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge and Astronomer Royal.

“Where did the universe come from? What is life and how did it begin? How did complex life-forms evolve? How did consciousness arise? Are we alone in the universe? Questions don't get any bigger than these. In this beautifully concise account, astrophysicist Peter Shaver asks these questions and more and assesses how far modern science has come to providing answers. Anyone who has ever wondered who we are and where we came from should read this book” – Stephen Simpson, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney. 

“This is a well written, marvellous book for a very broad audience which covers much of current scientific thought in a concise way.  The author successfully shows how many of the great philosophical issues that have fascinated humanity for centuries from the origin of the world, the evolution of life to the nature of consciousness are gradually being shifted from the domain of philosophy or speculation to that of rigorous science.” – Lodewijk Woltjer, former Director General of the European Southern Observatory and former President of the International Astronomical Union. 


Emergence of Consciousness Evolution of Life Evolution of brain Evolution of complex life forms Evolution of consciousnes Evolution of the Universe explained Origin of Life The big questions of science

Authors and affiliations

  • Peter Shaver
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011
  • Publisher Name Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-642-20260-5
  • Online ISBN 978-3-642-20261-2
  • Buy this book on publisher's site