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Was the Universe Made Just for Us?

caltrek

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Report this Oct. 14 2009, 8:33 am

So in philosophy I take what is called the materialist position: that life, and then conciousness, are emerging qualities that developed from the "material" world of energy and matter. This is contrasted with say the idea that God created the universe out of nothing.

So being a non-believer in God I still go to Bible study, mostly because of the strong Christian convictions (and confusions) of my wife. So anyway, we have this new pastor who has started us off with a discussion of Genesis. A major theme in his approach is that science is now confirming the validity of the story of Genesis. Further, he is arguing for the anthropic principle that the universe seems pecularly designed to allow intelligent life to exist on earth and only on earth. This he cites as evidence for a creator.

So when I saw this article, I just had to post it here and see what kind of comments I receive. So please read the article and then tell me what do you all think I should tell this new pastor.

The National

"Imagine you have been sentenced to death and that you're about to be executed. A dozen soldiers in a firing squad face you from a short distance. Your eyes have been covered. The order to shoot is given; you hear the shots fired. But after a few seconds, you realise that you are still alive and perfectly fine. The shooters have all missed you ¿ or maybe they fired blanks.

What would your reaction be? Do you tell yourself: there is nothing to explain; I am fine; case closed? Or do you start to think that there is something behind this lucky event; my life must have been saved for a reason?

This is the nice allegory first used by the philosopher John Leslie to describe the situation that scientists have found in the universe after discovering that many features of our cosmos are astoundingly fine-tuned to our existence, or to the emergence and evolution of life, more generally.

Indeed, if the physical features that make up the universe had been drawn at random, the probability that they would have values allowing for life and intelligence to appear (at some point in time and space) would be ridiculously small, one in billions of billions of billions.

Many thinkers have recognised this discovery as an extremely important one, probably the most significant one at least since the discovery of the expansion of the universe.

And the evidence for such 'fine-tuning' of the universe has been accumulating for more than a century now. But the 'anthropic' principle ('anthropos' meaning 'human' in Greek), declaring the universe to be particularly fit for life and for humans has been around for some time.

Is this new or particularly important? Well, after the Copernican revolution, which removed Earth and humans from the central position in the universe, it came as a shock to the western elites to realise that the universe, instead of being completely oblivious to humans, was in fact particularly suited for life, consciousness, and intelligence.

Most importantly, it was no longer the old fitness argument, stating that the temperature, pressure, gravity and environment of the Earth was 'just right' for our existence and activity; it was now a question of the very foundations of the universe, the parameters and physical laws upon which everything was built.

In short, if the characteristics of the physical universe (and by physical, one includes the chemical, the biological, the geological) had been just a little different from their actual values, not only would we not be here to wonder about them, in most cases the universe itself would not have developed its various forms, structures such as galaxies, stars and planets would not have formed, and objects and organisms would mostly not have come into existence.

Let me give a few simple examples of this fine-tuning. If gravity had been slightly weaker in the universe, stars would have never formed, and hence carbon, oxygen, and other crucial ingredients of life would have never been made (except for hydrogen, all these elements are made inside stars); if gravity had been slightly stronger than what it is in the cosmos, the universe would have collapsed upon itself sometime after the Big Bang but before the formation of galaxies, stars and planets.

Electricity is a similar case; if its basic brick, the electron, had a slightly smaller charge, chemical reactions would have been too slow, and it would have taken forever to produce any complex molecules (such as DNA, which carries the code of life). If the electron's charge had been slightly larger, chemical reactions would have necessitated larger amounts of energy to proceed, something that was rarely, if ever, available in the cosmos.

And there are many other examples of this kind, which include the value of the speed of light and the universe's rate of expansion. The relative strength of the nuclear and electromagnetic forces are constrained to unimaginable precision ¿ sometimes to one in 10120 (one followed by 120 zeros).

My favourite example is the realisation that our universe could only have three dimensions of space and one of time.

First, one must recall that the three dimensions of our world had elicited commentaries and explanations by several thinkers in our history, going at least back to Ptolemy.

Immanuel Kant had realised that there was a direct relation between this fact and the 'inverse square' law of gravitation, although he considered the three-dimensionality of space to be a consequence of the other, and not the other way around.

Others (for example, William Paley in the early 19th century) had also done some analysis of the possible mathematical forms of the law of gravity and concluded that only in two or three dimensions could planetary orbits be stable Kant thus concluded that the inverse square law in nature was another example of divine programming.

But it was Paul Ehrenfest who in 1917 showed that the stability of orbits of planets, atoms and molecules, as well as other properties of waves and nature, were possible only in a space of three dimensions.

Finally, in a more recent development, serious claims have started to be made to the effect that this fine-tuning is found not only in the fundamental aspects of the universe but also in cosmic, astronomical, geological, and other aspects of our circumstantial presence on Earth.

In other words, astronomical and geological features of Earth and its relation to the Sun and the Moon in particular are extraordinarily designed."

(I have heard, for example, that the moon was needed to create tides, which in turn were needed as an intermediate zone where aquatic organisms could evolve to the point where they could become totally land based - caltrek).

lanceromega

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Report this Oct. 14 2009, 11:18 am

Quote (caltrek @ Oct. 13 2009, 9:33 am)
So in philosophy I take what is called the materialist position: that life, and then conciousness, are emerging qualities that developed from the "material" world of energy and matter. This is contrasted with say the idea that God created the universe out of nothing.

So being a non-believer in God I still go to Bible study, mostly because of the strong Christian convictions (and confusions) of my wife. So anyway, we have this new pastor who has started us off with a discussion of Genesis. A major theme in his approach is that science is now confirming the validity of the story of Genesis. Further, he is arguing for the anthropic principle that the universe seems pecularly designed to allow intelligent life to exist on earth and only on earth. This he cites as evidence for a creator.

So when I saw this article, I just had to post it here and see what kind of comments I receive. So please read the article and then tell me what do you all think I should tell this new pastor.

The National

"Imagine you have been sentenced to death and that you're about to be executed. A dozen soldiers in a firing squad face you from a short distance. Your eyes have been covered. The order to shoot is given; you hear the shots fired. But after a few seconds, you realise that you are still alive and perfectly fine. The shooters have all missed you ? or maybe they fired blanks.

What would your reaction be? Do you tell yourself: there is nothing to explain; I am fine; case closed? Or do you start to think that there is something behind this lucky event; my life must have been saved for a reason?

This is the nice allegory first used by the philosopher John Leslie to describe the situation that scientists have found in the universe after discovering that many features of our cosmos are astoundingly fine-tuned to our existence, or to the emergence and evolution of life, more generally.

Indeed, if the physical features that make up the universe had been drawn at random, the probability that they would have values allowing for life and intelligence to appear (at some point in time and space) would be ridiculously small, one in billions of billions of billions.

Many thinkers have recognised this discovery as an extremely important one, probably the most significant one at least since the discovery of the expansion of the universe.

And the evidence for such 'fine-tuning' of the universe has been accumulating for more than a century now. But the 'anthropic' principle ('anthropos' meaning 'human' in Greek), declaring the universe to be particularly fit for life and for humans has been around for some time.

Is this new or particularly important? Well, after the Copernican revolution, which removed Earth and humans from the central position in the universe, it came as a shock to the western elites to realise that the universe, instead of being completely oblivious to humans, was in fact particularly suited for life, consciousness, and intelligence.

Most importantly, it was no longer the old fitness argument, stating that the temperature, pressure, gravity and environment of the Earth was 'just right' for our existence and activity; it was now a question of the very foundations of the universe, the parameters and physical laws upon which everything was built.

In short, if the characteristics of the physical universe (and by physical, one includes the chemical, the biological, the geological) had been just a little different from their actual values, not only would we not be here to wonder about them, in most cases the universe itself would not have developed its various forms, structures such as galaxies, stars and planets would not have formed, and objects and organisms would mostly not have come into existence.

Let me give a few simple examples of this fine-tuning. If gravity had been slightly weaker in the universe, stars would have never formed, and hence carbon, oxygen, and other crucial ingredients of life would have never been made (except for hydrogen, all these elements are made inside stars); if gravity had been slightly stronger than what it is in the cosmos, the universe would have collapsed upon itself sometime after the Big Bang but before the formation of galaxies, stars and planets.

Electricity is a similar case; if its basic brick, the electron, had a slightly smaller charge, chemical reactions would have been too slow, and it would have taken forever to produce any complex molecules (such as DNA, which carries the code of life). If the electron's charge had been slightly larger, chemical reactions would have necessitated larger amounts of energy to proceed, something that was rarely, if ever, available in the cosmos.

And there are many other examples of this kind, which include the value of the speed of light and the universe's rate of expansion. The relative strength of the nuclear and electromagnetic forces are constrained to unimaginable precision ? sometimes to one in 10120 (one followed by 120 zeros).

My favourite example is the realisation that our universe could only have three dimensions of space and one of time.

First, one must recall that the three dimensions of our world had elicited commentaries and explanations by several thinkers in our history, going at least back to Ptolemy.

Immanuel Kant had realised that there was a direct relation between this fact and the 'inverse square' law of gravitation, although he considered the three-dimensionality of space to be a consequence of the other, and not the other way around.

Others (for example, William Paley in the early 19th century) had also done some analysis of the possible mathematical forms of the law of gravity and concluded that only in two or three dimensions could planetary orbits be stable Kant thus concluded that the inverse square law in nature was another example of divine programming.

But it was Paul Ehrenfest who in 1917 showed that the stability of orbits of planets, atoms and molecules, as well as other properties of waves and nature, were possible only in a space of three dimensions.

Finally, in a more recent development, serious claims have started to be made to the effect that this fine-tuning is found not only in the fundamental aspects of the universe but also in cosmic, astronomical, geological, and other aspects of our circumstantial presence on Earth.

In other words, astronomical and geological features of Earth and its relation to the Sun and the Moon in particular are extraordinarily designed."

(I have heard, for example, that the moon was needed to create tides, which in turn were needed as an intermediate zone where aquatic organisms could evolve to the point where they could become totally land based - caltrek).

With billions of billions of galaxies, trillions upon trillion of stars. Even if the odds was one in a septillion, some where all these conditions would be met.

That and the fact that if the theory of continues inflation is correct, there has been almost and infinite amount of earlier universe, each with their own set of physical constants, some being barren, other filled with life. Of course in the universes that are just right, they too would have felted gifted. Like a person who hits the lottery and claim that god answer their prayers.

The psychological effect of concidents were at the root of Jung's Synchronicity . The anthropic' principle is Synchronicity on a cosmic Scale.

Face it we got lucky baby.  :cool:

GrandLunar2007

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Report this Oct. 14 2009, 11:31 am

I have heard of this theme as well.

Truth be told, it is US that have adapted to live in this universe, not vice versa.

This is quite the gem:
Quote
A major theme in his approach is that science is now confirming the validity of the story of Genesis. Further, he is arguing for the anthropic principle that the universe seems pecularly designed to allow intelligent life to exist on earth and only on earth.


Genesis says that everything was created in six days. Also in Genesis, we see the Earth was made before the sun was.
Genesis says nothing on nucleosynthesis (the making of elements by nuclear processes, be it fusion or neutron capture), supernova, the fossil record, or DNA.
And as we later read in Genesis, snakes appearently could talk.

Science shows us the Earth is much older than what Genesis says, not to mention the universe.
We also see other stars like our sun, and other planets.

The pastor is jumping the gun on the situation with intelligent life.
Yes, Earth is the only place with intelligent life. That we know of.
The galaxy is a big place, with 100 billion stars or so. We're just starting to find Earth-like planets (in size, that is, AFAIK).
We just need more time. And maybe more powerful instruments.

Also don't forget that in our solar system, we have two main canidates for life; Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa (a few other places also make the list, but these two are the most promising).
If life is confirmed on either of these worlds, it will show that life has risen more than once in a single star system. And that could further the case for intelligent life to be found elsewhere.

Finding intelligent life won't be easy. Our main method is to detect radio signals. That's mainly how the Galileo probe found intelligent life on Earth, as part of an experiment.
In the vast distances of space, this is tricky.

One can only hope we have the methods for listening in on what's out there.

Admiral_JTK

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Report this Oct. 14 2009, 1:23 pm

Quote (caltrek @ Oct. 14 2009, 8:33 am)
Was the Universe Made Just for Us?

Theodore Arroway:
"....the Universe is a pretty big place....And the one thing I know about nature is, it hates to waste anything. So I guess I'd say if it is just us, it seems like an awful waste of space."

Carl Sagan:
"There are over 400 billion stars just in our Milky Way galaxy alone - one galaxy of countless billions of other galaxies in the universe. It would be not only infinitely arrogant, but also inconceivable to the highest degree to say that our star, would be the only one to host intelligent life in all the universe."

4_of_20

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Report this Oct. 16 2009, 1:09 am

Nah, there'd be something there. There's life on mars ain't there? I've stated numerous times my disbelief at meeting something the same state of development as us, who perceives the universe in the same way (ie. Star Trek aliens), but don't doubt their existence.

I love the anthropic principle though. Ask the question man first asked himself when it first became sentient, "Why am I here?" and apply the anthropic principle, and you have the answer "Who'd be asking, if you were not here?" In science, the simplest answer id most often the right one (if this means relativity and quantum mechanics are simple though, then I must be slower than I thought! )

GrandLunar2007

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Report this Oct. 16 2009, 9:34 am

Quote
There's life on mars ain't there?


Not that we've seen so far.

But we still have more to explore there.

4_of_20

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Report this Oct. 19 2009, 5:12 pm

Ah yeah, there's water, so we ASSUME there's life. That's right, ey?

caltrek

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Report this Oct. 20 2009, 8:57 am

Quote
Also in Genesis, we see the Earth was made before the sun was.


Again, in ancient Hebrew poetic form they often coupled (or so the argument goes) the first and fourth stanza, the second and fifth stanza, and the third and sixth stanza. So reading it in strict sequence is to miss the poetic quality that was "intended".

Quote
And as we later read in Genesis, snakes appearently could talk.

:laugh:

Quote
Science shows us the Earth is much older than what Genesis says, not to mention the universe


See above.

I present his counter arguments not because I agree with them, but just to be fair and to explain his reasoning. In first highlighting his beliefs, I left out these arguments of his, so it is entirely reasonable for Grand Lunar to have raised these objections. Moreover, there are literalists who do insist that six days means six days in the modern sense etc.

What the pastor is arguing for is a reconciliation of science with the Christian religion. This is a more "liberal" position than what many fundamentalists come up with, so he is at much at variance with them as Grand Lunar and I are.

His philosophy does still bias his approach toward science: he insists on a beginning point for the universe and therefore argues against some ideas that are coming forward to explain the mechanism that created the Big Bang. He insists that consciousness is something that came from somewhere other than evolution on the grounds that science cannot presently explain how consciousness works, etc.

If interest continues in this thread (as demonstrated by posts from the rest of you), stay tune for further reports on his (and my) arguments.

GrandLunar2007

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Report this Oct. 21 2009, 7:29 am

At least the pastor isn't making literal claims on what the Bible says.
He's at least open to more liberal ideas.

Did you present him with my counter on Earth being the only planet with intelligent life?
If that's his main point, then if intelligent life is found elsewhere, then his argument doesn't hold up.

I can't say much about conscienceness, except for how fragile it is.
If I was a creator, I'd make our brains more sturdy, and not succeptible to things like anurisms or Alzheimer's disease.

4_of_20

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Report this Oct. 23 2009, 4:00 am

The only science I know of that can explain away some of the metaphysical nonsense is the holographic principle.

In it, reality is but the interference pattern of the consciousness and the universe. The universe is a 2 dimensional panel containing information about the universe and the particles contained within it, stored in the same way an image is on holographic film (which isn't important, but I'll explain it if you ask). The conscious is some sort of energy field consisting of the thought of all living things.

In some interpretations this acts as the universes consciousness, and intelligent beings are simply beings complex enough to process some of this information individually. It offers a nice, religion free, way to think of spooky things like re-incarnation and ghosts and shit....

lanceromega

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Report this Oct. 23 2009, 4:24 pm

Quote (4_of_20 @ Oct. 22 2009, 5:00 am)
The only science I know of that can explain away some of the metaphysical nonsense is the holographic principle.

In it, reality is but the interference pattern of the consciousness and the universe. The universe is a 2 dimensional panel containing information about the universe and the particles contained within it, stored in the same way an image is on holographic film (which isn't important, but I'll explain it if you ask). The conscious is some sort of energy field consisting of the thought of all living things.

In some interpretations this acts as the universes consciousness, and intelligent beings are simply beings complex enough to process some of this information individually. It offers a nice, religion free, way to think of spooky things like re-incarnation and ghosts and shit....

close, the holographic principle would have the universe we see around us as being a 4 dimensional boundary of a 5 D universes.

4_of_20

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Report this Oct. 23 2009, 5:51 pm

Five dimensions, thanks.

But the "spiritual" aspects remain the same, as far as I understand.

lanceromega

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Report this Oct. 26 2009, 10:34 am

Quote (4_of_20 @ Oct. 22 2009, 6:51 pm)
Five dimensions, thanks.

But the "spiritual" aspects remain the same, as far as I understand.

don't know.. I donot generally delve into the spritual aspects of these matters. Especially when in light that the whole spritual moment of the 1920 and 30's claim that the 4th dimension ( 5th really) was the realm of the soul and pretty much the whole spirtual moment was debunk by Harry Houdini..

caltrek

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Report this Oct. 26 2009, 11:18 am

Quote (ZeroArmour @ Oct. 16 2009, 3:53 am)
I have only this to say...
:laugh:

This all reminds me of the joke about the difference between dogs and cats.

The dogs say: "Humans feed me, protect me and offer me shelter. They must be Gods."

The cats say: "Humans feed me, protect me and offer me shelter. I must be God!"

I do love cats.

4_of_20

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Report this Oct. 26 2009, 10:13 pm

I love cats too. That jokes perfect. My cat-loving room-mate is coming home in three hours, I'm sure to repeat it! (It's been six months since he's had a cat, the longest time ever for him. Now when he's bored, he looks up cats on YouTube and talks to cats that aren't there... crazy! )

Harry Houdini debunked the spiritual movement? How? I would have thought a magician would prefer his audience to believe in a touch of the mystical, so as to distract them from the "real" methods in which they perform their feats!

Yeah, I only brought up holographic principle because it is the ONE model I know of the universe were such things as re-incarnation and an "afterlife" are possible. Manly cause of conservation of energy, and the fact that the universe needs a source of intelligence in order to exist. I don't believe it, I don't doubt it, I merely await more evidence before I convict myself to it, as any science enthusiast would.

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