Fitness of the Cosmos for Life
“Fitness of the Cosmos for Life” was a multifaceted program established by a philanthropic organization to explore the question of whether analogs exist in biochemistry that broadly correspond to "fine tunings" in physics and cosmology. The program also commemorated the 90th anniversary of the publication of Harvard biological chemistry professor Lawrence J. Henderson's Fitness of the Environment (1913).
Ellipsis was awarded a grant from the funding organization to manage the project, from the development of an academic symposium through the publication of an edited volume. This program brought together outstanding research leaders from physics and cosmology with their counterparts in biochemistry — along with a carefully selected group of historians, philosophers, theologians, and special experts — to explore Henderson's "biocentricity" hypothesis from the perspective of apparent "fine-tunings" of various constants of nature discovered in physics and cosmology and to investigate whether a different set of questions might be pursued in biochemistry.
Ellipsis organized the two-day “Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning” academic symposium at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in October 2003. Following the conference, we managed editorial development of the resulting book, Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning, which was published by Cambridge University Press (UK) in 2008, the second book in Cambridge’s “Astrobiology Series.” In addition, we administered the program’s $240,000 conference-/book-development grant for the funding organization, the John Templeton Foundation.
Photo: Shuguang Zhang, participant.
Symposium Planning and Management
- Worked with the project leaders to organize the "Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning" symposium held October 11-12, 2003, at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Issued invitations and participant instructions and managed all communications.
- Handled all meeting logistics and provided on-site management of the event.
Website / Marketing Content Development
- Developed the symposium website content.
- Edited and produced collateral materials.
Book Development and Editing
- Assisted the volume editors in developing the 24-author volume, Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning, that resulted from the symposium.
- Provided book-development, editorial, and administrative guidance and support.
- Created the book proposal, secured a publisher (Cambridge University Press, UK), and served as the primary liaison between the publisher, volume editors, and authors.
- Developed author guidelines, managed the flow of chapter drafts, secured permissions, compiled the front matter, and prepared the content for submission to the publisher.
- Coordinated the production process on behalf of the volume editors and authors, addressing copyediting queries, reviewing page proofs, and managing the flow of author corrections.
Grant Management and Reporting
- Developed the budget, hired vendors, issued payments, and tracked finances.
- Submitted grant reports according to the funding organization’s requirements.
Ellipsis was honored to work with the following individuals on this project:
- Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics — Symposium chair, moderator, and host
- George M. Whitesides, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University — Symposium co-chair, co-host, and Foreword author
- John D. Barrow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge — Symposium speaker, volume editor, and chapter author
- Simon Conway Morris, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge — Symposium speaker, volume editor, and chapter author
- Stephen J. Freeland, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County — Symposium speaker, volume editor, and chapter author
- Charles L. Harper, Jr., Vision-Five.com Consulting (formerly of the John Templeton Foundation) — Program developer and volume editor
- And 27 additional leading authorities in the fields of chemistry, biology, zoology, biochemistry, planetary and earth sciences, physics, astronomy, history of science, philosophy, and theology who participated in the symposium, authored chapters for the resulting book, or both: Jayanth R. Banavar, Department of Physics, Pennsylvania State University (co-author with Amos Maritan); Julian Chela-Flores, The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, and The Institute of Advanced Studies, Caracas; J.R.R. Fraústo da Silva, Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa (Technical University of Lisbon), Fundação Oriente Lisbon (co-author with R.J.P. Williams); Paul C. W. Davies, Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Arizona State University, Tempe; Christian de Duve, Christian de Duve Institute of Cellular Pathology, Brussels; Michael J. Denton, Department of Zoology, University of Sindh, Pakistan; Albert Eschenmoser, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich; Gerald Gabrielse, Department of Physics, Harvard University, and ATRAP Collaboration with CERN; John F. Haught, Department of Theology, Georgetown University; Evelyn Fox Keller, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; William Klemperer, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University; Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore; Abraham (Avi) Loeb, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Amos Maritan, Dipartimento di Fisica G. Galilei, Universita’ degli Studi di Padova (co-author with Jayanth R. Banavar); Ernan McMullin, Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame; Everett L. Mendelsohn, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University; Harold J. Morowitz, Department of Biology, George Mason University (co-author with D. Eric Smith); Martin A. Nowak, Center for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University; Edward T. Oakes, Department of Theology, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein; Guy Ourisson, Centre de neurochimie, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg; Dimitar D. Sasselov, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Jeffrey P. Schloss, Department of Biology, Westmont College, Santa Barbara; D. Eric Smith, Santa Fe Institute (co-author with Harold J. Morowitz); Jack W. Szostak, Harvard Medical School and Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Patrick Thaddeus, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; R.J.P. Williams, Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, University of Oxford (co-author with J. R. R. Fraústo da Silva); Shuguang Zhang, Center for Biomedical Engineering and Center for Bits and Atoms, Massachusetts Institute of Technology