almost every species that has ever existed is extinct; extinction is the rule, survival is the exception.

We seem to crave privilege, merited not by our works but by our birth, by the mere fact that, say, we are humans and born on Earth. We might call it the anthropocentric – the ‘human-centered’ – conceit. This conceit is brought close to culmination in the notion that we are created in God’s image: The Creator and Ruler of the entire Universe looks just like me. My, what a coincidence! How convenient and satisfying!

Every time a scientific paper presents a bit of data, it’s accompanied by an error bar – a quiet but insistent reminder that no knowledge is complete or perfect. It’s a calibration of how much we trust what we think we know. If the error bars are small, the accuracy of our empirical knowledge is high; if the error bars are large, then so is the uncertainty in our knowledge.

The Apollo pictures of the whole Earth conveyed to multitudes something well known to astronomers: On the scale of the worlds – to say nothing of stars or galaxies – humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal

You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.

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