Richard Dawkins wants to create a "cosmic tombstone" of humanity and blast it into space

The evolutionary biologist wants there to be a record of Shakespeare, Bach and more after we're extinct

Published October 24, 2014 5:05PM (EDT)

Richard Dawkins                   (Comedy Central)
Richard Dawkins (Comedy Central)

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins thinks that mankind should create a 'cosmic tombstone' and blast it into space in order to preserve a glimpse of humanity after we're extinct.

He spoke about this concept Thursday night during an event for his new documentary, "The Unbelievers," which he made along with theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. The event included a Q&A panel with the two scientists and stars of the documentary. According to the Guardian, Dawkins said:

The event included a Q&A panel with the two scientists, during which Dawkins said:

"I sometimes think that even now actually we should be sending out what you could call a ‘cosmic tombstone’ because eventually the human species is going to go extinct and it would be nice to think that Shakespeare and Bach and Darwin and Einstein – the achievements of the great humans of history – would not die with us. And so sending out a cosmic tombstone in the vague, faint, infinitesimal hope that it might one day be picked up, it really is infinitesimal by the way, I think that might well be a good idea."

The Guardian also reported that Dawkins quoted Lewis Thomas, author and former dean of Yale Medical School, who discussed sending music into space. Specifically, Thomas advocated for streaming Bach into space.

"Perhaps the safest thing to do at the outset, if technology permits, is to send music," Thomas thought. "This language may be the best we have for explaining what we are like to others in space, with least ambiguity."

This is not the first time scientists have had the idea of sending human artifacts -- music, mathematics, images -- into space. However, this previous mission was less about human preservation as it was about contacting other life-forms.

In 1977 the Voyager Golden Records were launched into space with NASA's Voyager 1. A NASA committee chaired by Carl Sagan selected the contents of the records, which included -- but was not limited to -- music by Bach, Stravinsky, Mozart and Chuck Berry, along with images from scientific concepts  to daily human life.

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" producer and widow of Carl Sagan Ann Druyan spoke to Radiolab about the making of the Voyager Golden Record. Later Druyan spoke about the making of that Radiolab episode.

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Atheism Lawrence Krauss Richard Dawkins Skeptic Space The Unbelievers Video