06 April 2009

A book we enthusiastically recommend

The first day of last February, it was a real pleasure and a privilege for me to meet in Washington DC. Professor Albert Harrison, Ph.D.

In that occasion, Dr. Harrison was so kind to make me the gift of two of his books. The first of them was “Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion and Folklore” (Berghahn Books, New York, 2007, 231 pages) of which I ended its reading on March 11, 2009.

Dr. Albert A. Harrison is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. He is co-author of "Living Aloft, Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight" (1985), "From Antarctica to Outer Space: Life in Isolation and Confinement" (1991) and author of "After Contact: the Human Response to Extraterrestrial Life" (1997) and "Spacefaring: The Human Dimension" (2001). He was a member of the International Academy of Astronautics' SETI Committee, and of NASA's Space Human Factors Engineering Science and Technology Working Group.

The description of the book by the producer says:

“We live in an era of exploding scientific knowledge about the universe, and our place and future within it. Much of this new knowledge conflicts with earlier wisdom, and some has frightening implications. Cosmic evolution, space exploration, the search for extraterrestrial life, and concerns about humanity’s future prompt us to seek new answers to old existential questions. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Are we alone? What will become of us? In our search for answers, we turn to science, religion, myth, and varying combinations thereof. Exploring an ambiguous region between recognized findings and unfettered imagination, Starstruck explores the multifaceted, far-reaching, and often contentious attempts of people with contrasting worldviews to develop convincing and satisfying interpretations of rapidly accumulating discoveries in physics, astronomy, and biology.”

I have found that this authorized comment made by Dr. Steve L. Ellyson, a Psychologist of Ohio, is totally adequate for the book, and I am glad to share it with you:

Harrison's Starstruck is an instant classic that is a must-read for anyone interested in our place in the universe and human's use of science, religion, and folklore as a means of finding meaning in our lives. Written in a style that is accessible to laymen as well as scientists (not a trivial feat), Harrison cuts through a wealth of information about what we know and what we don't know about fundamental questions that have been at the core of human existence. All the while, he maintains a sense of wonder and imagination as he addresses mankind's fascination with the cosmos, with extraterrestrials, with space exploration. Harrison, true to his psychological roots, gives us tentative answers when he can, but often raises more questions along the way. And that makes the book all the better. This is a book that I could not put down and I plan to read again.

I only can add that I was very impressed for the vastness of the work done by Dr. Harrison and for his scientific as well as sensitive criteria to deal with different subjects.

Milton W. Hourcade

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