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The Finetuned Universe and the Emergence of Life The Finetuned Universe and the Anthropic Principle
by Sam Vaknin
06/30/09
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"The more I examine the universe, and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the Universe in some sense must have known we were coming." - Freeman Dyson

"A bottom-up approach to cosmology either requires one to postulate an initial state of the Universe that is carefully ?ne-tuned - as if prescribed by an outside agency - or it requires one to invoke the notion of eternal in?ation, a mighty speculative notion to the generation of many different Universes, which prevents one from predicting what a typical observer would see." - Stephen Hawking

"A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." - Fred Hoyle

(Taken from the BioLogos Website)

I. The Fine-tuned Universe and the Anthropic Principle

The Universe we live in (possibly one of many that make up the Multiverse) is "fine-tuned" to allow for our existence. Its initial conditions and constants are such that their values are calibrated to yield Life as we know it (by aiding and abetting the appearance, structure, and diversity of matter). Had these initial conditions and/or constants deviated from their current levels, even infinitesimally, we would not have been here. Any theory of the Universe has to account for the existence of sapient and sentient observers. This is known as the "Anthropic Principle".

These incredible facts immediately raise two questions:

(i) Is such outstanding compatibility a coincidence? Are we here to observe it by mere chance?

(ii) If not a coincidence, is this intricate calibration an indication of (if not an outright proof for) the existence of a Creator or a Designer, aka God?

It is useful to disentangle two seemingly inextricable issues: the fact that the Universe allows for Life (which is a highly improbable event) and the fact that we are here to notice it (which is trivial, given the first fact). Once the parameters of the universe have been "decided" and "set", Life has been inevitable.

But, who, or what set the parameters of the Universe?

If our Universe is one of many, random chance could account for its initial conditions and constants. In such a cosmos, our particular Universe, with its unique parameters, encourages life while an infinity of other worlds, with other initial states and other constants of nature, do not. Modern physics - from certain interpretations of quantum mechanics to string theories - now seriously entertains the notion of a Multiverse (if not yet its exact contours and nature): a plurality of minimally-interacting universes being spawned repeatedly.

Yet, it is important to understand that even in a Multiverse with an infinite number of worlds, there is no "guarantee" or necessity that a world such as ours will have arisen. There can exist an infinite set of worlds in which there is no equivalent to our type of world and in which Life will not appear.

As philosopher of science Jesus Mosterín put it:

"The suggestion that an infinity of objects characterized by certain numbers or properties implies the existence among them of objects with any combination of those numbers or characteristics [...] is mistaken. An infinity does not imply at all that any arrangement is present or repeated. [...] The assumption that all possible worlds are realized in an infinite universe is equivalent to the assertion that any infinite set of numbers contains all numbers (or at least all Gödel numbers of the [defining] sequences), which is obviously false."

But rather than weaken the Anthropic Principle as Mosterín claims, this criticism strengthens it. If even the existence of a Multiverse cannot lead inexorably to the emergence of a world such as ours, its formation appears to be even more miraculous and "unnatural" (in short: designed).

Still, the classic - and prevailing - view allows for only one, all-encompassing Universe. How did it turn out to be so accommodating? Is it the outcome of random action? Is Life a happy accident involving the confluence of hundreds of just-right quantities, constants, and conditions?

As a matter of principle, can we derive all these numbers from a Theory of Everything? In other words: are these values the inevitable outcomes of the inherent nature of the world? But, if so, why does the world possess an inherent nature that gives rise inevitably to these specific initial state and constants and not to others, more inimical to Life?

To say that we (as Life-forms) can observe only a universe that is compatible with and yielding Life is begging the question (or a truism). Such a flippant and content-free response is best avoided. Paul Davies calls this approach ("the Universe is the way it is and that's it"): "The Absurd Universe" (in his book "The Goldilocks Enigma", 2006).

In all these deliberations, there are four implicit assumptions we better make explicit:

(i) That Life - and, more specifically: Intelligent Life, or Observers - is somehow not an integral part of the Universe. Yielded by natural processes, it then stands aside and observes its surroundings;

(ii) That Life is the culmination of Nature, simply because it is the last to have appeared (an example of the logical fallacy known as "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"). This temporal asymmetry also implies an Intelligent Designer or Creator in the throes of implementing a master plan;

(iii) That the Universe would not have existed had it not been for the existence of Life (or of observers). This is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle and is consistent with some interpretations of Quantum Mechanics;

(iv) That Life will materialize and spring forth in each and every Universe that is compatible with Life. The strong version of this assumption is that "there is an underlying principle that constrains the universe to evolve towards life and mind." The Universe is partial to life, not indifferent to it.

All four are forms of teleological reasoning (that nature has a purpose) masquerading as eutaxiological reasoning (that order has a cause). To say that the Universe was made the way it is in order to accommodate Life is teleological. Science is opposed to teleological arguments. Therefore, to say that the Universe was made the way it is in order to accommodate Life is not a scientific statement.

But, could it be a valid and factual statement? To answer this question, we need to delve further into the nature of teleology.

(continued)


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