Skip to comments.The self-made universe (Paul Davis tries to explain the fine-tuned universe without God)
Posted on 06/20/2009 10:04:17 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Why does the universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life including intelligent life capable of asking that why question? Believers simply say that God did it, while scientists are trying to come up with complicated extradimensional multiverse theories to explain our lucky break.
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies takes a completely different tack in a new book titled "Cosmic Jackpot." He argues that the cosmos has made itself the way it is, stretching backward in time to the very beginning to focus in on bio-friendliness.
Davies admits that the idea has theological overtones - but that's nothing new for the London-born deep-thinker. He's perhaps best-known for provocative books such as "The Mind of God" and "God and the New Physics," and for holding forth on speculative topics such as whether physical constants are actually inconstant.
After years of teaching at universities in Britain and Australia, Davies moved to Arizona just last year to start up Beyond, a research center devoted to fundamental scientific questions: How did the universe begin? How did life arise? Where do humans fit into the grand scheme? What does it all mean?
"We've been up and running for only about three months, so its early days," he told me Wednesday. "But we have high hopes that this will become one of the worlds leading think tanks for confronting these foundational questions."
He's currently on a cross-country tour to promote the book; on Wednesday, he lectured at George Mason University near Washington, D.C., and tonight he's giving a talk in "the other Washington," at Town Hall Seattle (and I'm planning to see him there). During a half-hour telephone interview, Davies touched upon his key theme of the universe's curious bio-friendliness. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
CLICK ABOVE LINK FOR THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW...
(Excerpt) Read more at cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com ...
Why does the universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life including intelligent life capable of asking that why question?
Paul Davies of Arizona State University in his new book Cosmic Jackpot argues that the cosmos has made itself the way it is, stretching backward in time to the very beginning to focus in on bio-friendliness.
When asked by Alan Boyle why the universe is bio-friendly? Is it intelligent design, or blind chance, or none of the above?
Davies replies: There are three popular responses; the intelligent-design argument; the idea that if we had a final theory of physics, then all of the undetermined parameters in the laws would be fixed by that theory; and the third is the multiverse.
What I find lacking in the conventional intelligent-design argument, is that they appeal to something outside the universe that has to be accepted as given and cannot be proved. Id like to try to explain as much of the universe, including its bio-friendly laws of physics, from within the universe and in a way that doesnt appeal to something outside of it.
Even standard physics says the laws of physics are friendly for no reason, but have just been imprinted upon the universe at the time of the big bang from without, by some unknown mechanism. Again, the argument makes an appeal to something outside the universe, instead of something intrinsic to it.
For most people, the first interpretation is, Well, God did it. What Im saying is that that gets us nowhere at all. It just shoves the problem off to some other realm. But saying God did it is no worse than saying the laws of physics did it. They both basically appeal to something outside the universe.
The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so youre appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesnt actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off. But to say that the laws of physics just happen to permit life is no explanation either.
“The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained.”
Perhaps this individual should try reading the Bible.
Man goes to amazing lengths and grotesque mental contortions to shut God out of the party.
Just a quibble. Is it really fine tuned for life if life has only happened in one place in all this unimaginable vastness?
The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so youre appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesnt actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off.
Maybe. But it also doesn't take anything away from the scientist's challenge which is to figure out the all-important "how" and then for the more technical minded to figure out the almost as important "and how can we use it, and what can we make with it".
Sad what constitutes a “deep thinker” these days.
Is this satire?
That sentence is so inane I simply cant read past it.
A Saturday night live Skit to go with Tina’s Stupidity?
The premise of the fine-tuned universe assertion is that a small change in several of the approximately 26 dimensionless fundamental physical constants would make the universe radically different: if, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e. if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger), diprotons would be stable and hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium. This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably prevent the universe from developing life as it is currently observed on the earth.
The small value of the cosmological constant is telling us that a remarkably precise and totally unexpected relation exists among all the parameters of the Standard Model of particle physics, the bare cosmological constant and unknown physics.”
Astrophycisit John Polkinghorne ( now an Anglican priest) formulates the fine-tuning in terms of six principal constants:
1. N - the ratio of the strength of the electrical forces and the strength of gravity
2. Epsilon - defining how firmly atomic nuclei bind together
3. Omega - which measures the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the universe
4. Lambda - the “Cosmological Constant”
5. Q - the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull galaxies apart and their mass
6. D - the number of space-like dimensions in the universe
The arguments relating to the fine-tuned universe concept involve the anthropic principle, which states that any valid theory of the universe must be consistent with our existence as human beings at this particular time and place in the universe. In other words, even if the actual probability of our universe that supports intelligent life may be very low, the conditional probability of supporting intelligent life, given our existence in it, is 1. Even if there could be other universes, less “fine-tuned” and so devoid of life, there would be no one there to observe them.
Agreed. From what we've observed so far, life is extremely rare.
“What I find lacking in the conventional intelligent-design argument, is that they appeal to something outside the universe that has to be accepted as given and cannot be proved.”
Well, the little fact that the universe itself - including time and space - started with the Big Bang by definition means that something outside the universe caused the Big Bang...
Yup. There is a deeper question, too: The universe is very finely tuned for there to even be matter and energy, and on top of that for their to be “clumpiness” (ie, not a uniform blob), and there’s more. But all the necessary constants just HAPPENED to work out perectly for this all to happen. /sarc
“Just a quibble. Is it really fine tuned for life if life has only happened in one place in all this unimaginable vastness?”
The parameters of the general model are extraordinarily finely tuned for life—and physicists who have played a substantial role in refining the general model concede that. Miniscule changes in any of the parameters make life impossible. Intelligent design follows pretty naturally from this observation. That’s not me speaking, it’s one of the formulators of the multiverse theory.
Hence, all the activity in the physics community on “multiverses.” It’s a way out of having to resort to Intelligent Design. Of course the problem is formulating a falsifiable hypothesis about multiverses.
Maybe it never began? Maybe it just has always been? I think the human mind can conceive of eternity as it applies to the future, but not as it applies to the past.
No conflict here. Very comfortable with God as the source of existence. Very comfortable with Davies looking around scientifically. ‘Strange and beautiful universe.
“The problem with saying God did it is that...”
1. Admitting God exists/created means man must bow in humble worship to his Creator, or rebel in open pride, neither of which is a palatable option to many in the “scientific” community.
2. “We” lose “control,” which we really don’t have anyway, but like to think we do.
Why is admitting the truth a problem?
Good luck with that. I enjoyed Davies' work in college, especially "God and the New Physics", but he is chasing a great white whale here.
I side with Freeman Dyson and Stephen Hawking on this question. They accept Father Stanley Jaki's argument that Gödel's incompleteness theorem of mathematics must necessarily apply to physics also, and hence to all of science.
This means that the search for a self-contained, self-proving Theory of Everything to explain all of Nature is as futile as the quest for a perpetual motion machine or faster-than-light starship.
There is, was always, and will always be an Uncaused Cause outside the realm of the observable universe.