The Infinite Staircase

As more and more people step away from a traditional religious framework and seek fresh answers that work for the evolving world, ethics shouldn’t lose its ground. In his forthcoming book, The Infinite Staircase: What the Universe Tells Us About Life, Ethics and Mortality, Geoffrey Moore is offering readers a complete look at how the universe has evolved and our ethical place within it. As Moore says in the book, “Our core sense of good and bad does not come from above. It is neither transcendent nor divine. Rather, it is inherent in our mammalian upbringing.”

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Why I Wrote This Book

Some time ago I became fascinated by a whole series of narratives about how things came to be.  The Big Bang.  Darwinian natural selection.  Molecular biology of the cell.  Memes.  Emergence and complexity.  Each was compelling in its own right, but what was the overarching narrative that brought them all together?  How did we actually get from the Big Bang to the Big Mac?  That’s what I wanted to see if I could figure out.

To begin with, how did we get from the Big Bang to the first sign of life on Earth?   Nick Lane’s books were a big help here.  Then the question was, given a world full of bacteria and not much else, how did consciousness ever emerge?

Daniel Dennett had some interesting ideas, but at the end of the day, I found I had to make my own way.  Then the question was, how did language emerge, and what impact did it have?  Here I was closing in on my graduate work in literature and thus was feeling increasingly confident.  All that teed me up for the big finale: At the end of the day, when you pull it all together, can you come up with a theory of everything?  Here I reconnected with an old friend, Stephen Pepper’s World Hypotheses, a book that had a big impact on my PhD dissertation and one I had taught to undergraduates at Olivet College in a course called Conceptual Models.  That provided the foundation for the top stair in my infinite staircase.

So, with a lot of help from these friends, I did feel as if I had pieced together an end-to-end story of how we got from there to here.  But so what?  What did any of this have to do with the business of living?  That started a whole new train of thought, effectively the second half of the book.  The kickoff was the realization that there could be no transcendental authority for morality.  That was a blow.  We need morality to live a decent life.  But without a transcendental authority, we have to build our strategy for living from the bottom up, starting with our mammalian heritage, then graduating to our uniquely human frame of reference.  That was a journey I had never made before. 

And that led to the book as it is today.  It is my best effort at answering two sets of questions most people ask themselves at one point or another in their lives.  The first one is, what is going on around me?  What have I got myself into?  What sense can I make of it?  And then second, assuming there is some sense to make of it, what am I supposed to do?  How am I supposed to act?  Where can I find meaning?  Does meaning even exist?

This book represents my best shot at answering those questions.  Now that I have put it out there, I am very interested to learn what you think.  I hope you will contribute to the dialog in the comments sections of the accompanying articles for this book.

Geoffrey Moore

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