Comprehensive and critical study of the history of ultimate theories in physics and cosmology.
Throughout history, people have tried to construct 'theories of everything': highly ambitious attempts to understand nature in its totality. This account presents these theories in their historical contexts, from little known hypotheses from the past to modern developments such as the theory of superstrings, the anthropic principle and ideas of many universes, and uses them to problematize the limits of scientific knowledge. Do claims to theories of everything belongto science at all? Which are the epistemic standards on which an alleged scientific theory of the universe - or the multiverse - is to be judged? Such questions are currently being discussed by physicists and cosmologists, but rarely within a historical perspective. This book argues that thesequestions have a history and that knowledge of the historical development of 'higher speculations' may inform and qualify the current debate of the nature and limits of scientific explanation.
1. Beginnings of Modern Science ; 2. A Victorian Theory of Everything ; 3. Electrodynamics as a World View ; 4. Rationalist Cosmologies ; 5. Cosmology and Controversy ; 6. The Rise and Fall of the Bootstrap Programme ; 7. Varying Constants of Nature ; 8. New Cyclic Models of The Universe ; 9. The Anthropic Principle ; 10. Multiverse Scenarios ; 11. String Theory and Other Models of Quantum Gravity ; 12. Astrobiology and Physical Eschatology ; 13. Summary: Final Theories and Epistemic Shifts