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George F. R. Ellis (2004)

George F. R. Ellis, Professor emeritus of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in general relativity theory. His first book, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, written with Stephen Hawking in 1973, is a standard reference work on the subject. His most recent investigations question whether or not there was ever a start to the universe and, indeed, if there is only one universe or many.

Ellis's work on the origin of the universe, evolution of complexity, the functioning of the human mind, and how and where they intersect with areas beyond the boundaries of science, has been covered in such books as On the Moral Nature of the Universe, written with Nancey Murphy. He believes that kenotic behavior is "deeply imbedded in the universe, both in ethics and in other aspects of our lives" and that it is the only way to achieve what might otherwise be "rationally impossible."

Ellis has written that "ethics is causally effective," referring to the power that it has to change the world, and "provides the highest level of values that set human goals and choices." He argues that ethics, like mathematics, is a part of the universe that we discover rather than invent, and that there are deep ethical truths built into the physical universe. Directly challenging the notion that the powers of science are limitless, Ellis notes the inability of even the most advanced physics to fully explain factors that shape the physical world, including human thoughts, emotions, and social constructions such as the laws of chess. He comments that this is not a claim on behalf of vitalism, but rather a statement of fact as regards present day science.

Ellis's recent books include The Universe Around Us, comparing the natural and life sciences, and The Far-Future Universe, from the proceedings of a 2002 Pontifical Academy of Sciences symposium examining cosmological, biological, human, and theological aspects of the future.

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