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Science

Science's Alternative To an Intelligent Creator 683

Posted by kdawson
from the theory-of-anything dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Discover magazine has an interesting article on the multiverse theory — a synthesis of string theory and the anthropic principle that explains why our universe seems perfectly tailored for life without invoking an intelligent creator. Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. While most of those universes are barren, some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life. The idea that the universe was made just for us — known as the anthropic principle — debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter proposed that a purely random assortment of laws would have left the universe dead and dark, and that life limits the values that physical constants can have. The anthropic principle languished on the fringes of science for years, but in 2000, new theoretical work threatened to unravel string theory when researchers calculated that the basic equations of string theory have an astronomical number of different possible solutions, perhaps as many as 101,000, with each solution representing a unique way to describe the universe. The latest iteration of string theory provides a natural explanation for the anthropic principle. If there are vast numbers of other universes, all with different properties, at least one of them ought to have the right combination of conditions to bring forth stars, planets, and living things." So far xkcd is simulating just one single universe.
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Science's Alternative To an Intelligent Creator

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  • imagine (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:10AM (#25784597)

    a universe without first posts

    • Re:imagine (Score:4, Funny)

      by owlnation (858981) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:13AM (#25784639)
      The fact that first posts exist is conclusive proof that no-one is running the Universe.
      • God (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bonch (38532) on Monday November 17, 2008 @01:32PM (#25789141)

        One of the things that confuses me about this article is its assumption that science is providing an alternative to an intelligent creator. If there are multiple universes, doesn't the question shift to who made the multiple universes? If there are infinite universes, how and why is there an infinity of physical universes existing in the first place? As far back as science goes in describing the origins of things, people will ask, "Okay, but who or what set up the whole process in the first place?" These questions will never be answered and will always exist as long as we do.

        For me, it's weird and disturbing to think there's just this bunch of physical universes here for no reason. It almost feels more illogical that it would exist out of the blue than for there to be something that "made" it all. We'll get better and better at describing the actual physical processes of what created our universe and possibly others, eventually accurately describing the Big Bang and maybe even what came before, but that will always raise the question in my mind, "Great, but I still don't know how or why the hell all these processes are here in the first place! Why is all this stuff here?!" It's a maddening question.

        • Re:God (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Danse (1026) on Monday November 17, 2008 @02:04PM (#25789703)

          For me, it's weird and disturbing to think there's just this bunch of physical universes here for no reason. It almost feels more illogical that it would exist out of the blue than for there to be something that "made" it all.

          That doesn't help either, because then the question becomes, "well if there is some creator of our universe, then who or what created the creator?" Something must have come before this, and something before that, and something before that, ad infinitum. I think it's just one of those questions that will remain unanswered. I don't think the answer really matters. We'll learn as much as we can about our universe because it helps us in practical ways and because we're just naturally curious.

          • Re:God (Score:4, Informative)

            by kelnos (564113) <<ude.llenroc> <ta> <32tjb>> on Monday November 17, 2008 @02:38PM (#25790277) Homepage
            It's turtles, all the way down.
        • Re:God (Score:5, Funny)

          by Lazyrust (1101059) on Monday November 17, 2008 @02:48PM (#25790469)
          In the first universe, God created people, intelligent and curious people. But he didnt create science. So instead of people praying to God to fix their marriage, save their dog, help them win the lottery, , they prayed to him asking him "why?" and after hearing "why?" about 12*10^1000000 time, God said.. "Christ on a crutch, I cant take this whiny 'why?' shit anymore!" So he destroyed that universe. And created this universe, and God said "ok, screw that praying to me and asking me "why?" shit over and over. I'll give them science. Then they can ask themselves that question. And leave me alone. So I can get Season 4 of Seinfeld done finally and send it back to Netflix."

          Then, a few trillion years later, God finished every season of Gunsmoke, (all 633 episodes) thanks to TV Land reruns. And people were whining about science, so he said "What the hells wrong with these people? They keep whining to me about how science is wrong. I better do something about this, or I'll never get through all the episodes of Lassie." So he created Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, and Slashdot was born. The whining moved to Slashdot comments and God said, "This is good."

    • It's extremely disingenuous to call a hypothesis a principle, especially when the hypothesis is as controversial as this one.

      I lack the credentials to argue whether or not the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life is a valid one, but overbearing terminology like this makes me extremely wary of people arguing in favor of the hypothesis.

      • by MindKata (957167) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:40AM (#25784885) Journal
        "the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life"

        ... And if there are multiple parallel universes, then in all universes that are not suited to life, there will be no life to ask, "why isn't this universe suited to life". So only in the universes that are suited to life, could there be lifeforms asking, why is this universe suited to life.

        Asking therefore "that the universe was made just for us", is clearly totally wrong. Its not about us at all. Its just that life can survive and exist in this universe.
        • by PiSkyHi (1049584) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:27AM (#25785393)

          If only most scientists actually stopped and checked even their most basic concepts for paradoxes, people wouldn't spend so long debating such obvious statements.

          Time is another one. Follow the paradoxes in that one and having time travel ends up proving that such a universe universe would be incapable of remembering your relative position and velocity at all.

          There was a thread about philisophy last week. A general lack of it is exactly why so much of science has gaping holes that people stare far too long into.

          • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:03PM (#25787631) Homepage

            The problem with paradoxes is simple. If you throw out any theory with paradoxes, you can start by dumping :
            -> big bang theory
            -> quantum mechanics
            -> relativity
            -> newtonian physics

            There wouldn't be much left :

            Indeed if scientist respected the laws of mathematics there would be no paradoxes in physics. Any theory containing even a single paradox would be thrown out the window immediately, like they are in mathematics. You could simply say time travel has the potential to create paradoxes ... and is therefore impossible ...

            It wasn't to be : It wasn't very practical with physics theory. After all, the big bang theory requires FTL travel (faster than light) and a "limited" suspension of at least causality, along with changing a few universal constants here and there (in fact even Genesis is more likely : suppose an "eternal" being, alive or not created our universe, and you don't have any causality problems. Who created the creator ? Nobody, he's always been. Mathematically that's simple to express and quite consistent. Of course the 7-days stuff of Genesis is a bit more problematic). Oops. Physicists weren't quite ready to dump that one.

            Newton's physics would be thrown out, due to the black body radiation paradox (has nothing to do with black holes). But as long as nothing was there to replace it, nobody really thought throwing it out was a good idea.

            Relativity would get thrown out due to Schwarzchild geometry (black holes), and quantum mechanics would get thrown out for a hundred reasons, it's "known paradox count" is somewhat of an embarrassment really.

            So physics just "tries to get along" with paradoxes, which never works in practice, so basically experiments just like to get close to paradoxes, because in the real world they don't exist. Therefore the paradoxes we're seeing in theories are really something that's not described, rather than a real paradox. Sometimes we really can't get close enough to take a look, which is the case with black holes, or the edge of the universe (if there indeed is one, like the big bang theory predicts), in that case we're stuck, and the only option is to search for the needle in the haystack some other place.

            That obviously brings the problem which paradoxes are acceptable and which aren't. Nobody's given even a basic answer to that one though. Apparently paradoxes are acceptable as long as they only manifest in places we know nothing about.

            Paradoxes are also the real reason for the claim "passing through a black hole makes anything possible", which is simply another way to say that once you've proven 1=2, you can prove anything, no matter how wrong. Of course the problem is in our understanding of black holes, which is mathematically inconsistent, the problem is not that inside black holes anything is possible. Same goes for any other paradox in physics.

            Of course many people believe that since there are many "paradoxes" in physical theories, especially quantum mechanics, everything is really possible, if you only think hard enough about it. However history does show us that every single time we approached a paradox in experiment, it turned out our theories produced the paradox, and the world disagreed with our theories.

            You can resolve the black body paradox of Newton's theories yourself. Google the "black body radiation problem" (the third link is nice). Then heat up a piece of metal until it glows. According to Newton's physics if you do that, the universe should explode (calculate this for yourself). Or to put it mathematically, the energy output in radiation should "approach infinity", which is another way of saying "this should produce a huge bang". There you've just explored one of the great historical paradoxes. All paradoxes are like this.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by PiSkyHi (1049584)

              The problem with paradoxes is simple. If you throw out any theory with paradoxes, you can start by dumping : -> big bang theory

              I agree on that one.

              -> quantum mechanics

              Lost me there, quantum mechanics beautifully captures the logic of timeless superposition of all possibilities in uncertainty. Paradoxes are both true and false here and existence is a question of resolution.

              -> relativity

              No, I don't agree here either. Here, time is the process by which existence itself changes - if existence were always true, nothing could change - change is both creation and destruction in 1, relativity is the realm of certainty in spacetime. It is the question of time's existence

        • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:28AM (#25785403) Journal

          "the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life" ... And if there are multiple parallel universes, then in all universes that are not suited to life, there will be no life to ask, "why isn't this universe suited to life". So only in the universes that are suited to life, could there be lifeforms asking, why is this universe suited to life.

          Asking therefore "that the universe was made just for us", is clearly totally wrong. Its not about us at all. Its just that life can survive and exist in this universe.

          Imagine how tough it would be if we were to live in one of those Universes that were not suitable for life! I guess we should thank God that he put us in this one.

          Phew!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by the_womble (580291)
        If we did not exists, we would not be able to debate the question - we are a biased sample.

        I do not think anyone has the credentials to argue whether this universe is particularly suited to life - who knows what life forms might exist if the universe were different?

        The science vs religion headline is not useful. scientific knowledge of ultimate origins may possibly eventually shed some light on God, but not right now. The argument for God's existence from the anthropic principle is a "God of the gaps" (

        • by epee1221 (873140) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:00AM (#25785827)

          If we did not exists, we would not be able to debate the question - we are a biased sample.

          There. That's the important part. The whole point of the anthropic principle is that we shouldn't be surprised to find ourselves in a universe that allows intelligent life. If the universe didn't support it, we wouldn't find ourselves in it.

          The argument for God's existence from the anthropic principle is a "God of the gaps" (a phrase I found in one of Russell Stannard's books on the subject) argument.

          The argument for God's existence through the anthropic principle is simply "doing it wrong." The point of the anthropic argument is to remove the supposed necessity for an intelligent creator.

          Is this testable in any way? If so, is it science?

          No, the anthropic principle is not science. Of course, it also doesn't rely on the existence of multiple universes.

        • by MaxwellEdison (1368785) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:05AM (#25785887)
          This is like a two brook trout debating whether or not deserts exist.
      • by digitig (1056110) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:34AM (#25786303)
        The problem is with the singular and definite "The Anthropic Principle". There are at least four Anthropic Principles, the Weak, Strong, Participatory and Final Anthropic Principles (WAP, SAP, PAP and FAP). The Weak Anthropic Principle is so uncontroversial it's virtually a platitude. At the other end of the scale the Final Anthropic Principle is so way out that Martin Gardner suggested it would be better renamed the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle, if only that had a convenient abbreviation. A lot of the argument over "The" Anthropic Principle comes about because people are arguing about different Anthropic Principles.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AlecC (512609)

        No, the principle is still a principle. The principle is that "It is unsurprising that an observer finds his universe suitable for life since only universes suitable for life can contain observers". This is true regardless of how many universes exist and how many of them have life in them. The principle classifies meta-universal models into two classes: one in which there are many different universes, and the existence of life in some of them is unsurprising (but some cause for many universes must be given)

    • Re:imagine (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdot@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:28AM (#25785407) Homepage Journal

      Interesting premise, after you realize that without first posts, there wouldn't be ANY posts at all.

  • Now comic book geeks are going to be quoting physics theory they don't understand to quantify arguements about Earth-1 versus Earth-2 grounds to why the old pre-Crisis DC universe was better. Comic book guys rejoice !
    • Does that mean that when the next continuity ret-con occurs, I'll get fused with Hal Jordan's soul and get a green lantern ring?
  • This is news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anmida (1276756) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:14AM (#25784643)
    This is news? I thought that this idea has been around for a while, or at least it was the logical conclusion of having a multiverse. A livable universe doesn't exist "just for us," it just so happens that out of all of them, at least one of them would end up hospitable. Kind of like planets and solar systems.
  • My brane hurts. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:15AM (#25784651)
    Is that really "101,000," which is hardly an "astronomical" number, or is it supposed to be 10^1000? The article was correctly quoted, and with a quick search I couldn't find another source for the number of possible multiverses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gardyloo (512791)

      You're right -- that's not an astronomical number. However, the article implies that's a rough estimate of the number of families of solutions to the situation; each of those families will have uncountable numbers of parameter-driven solutions. I imagine that many of those families may have overlapping domains, so that half of the universes described have strictly increasing entropy, half of those have light speed as a universal speed limit, only a few of those utilize our particular Lorentz transformation,

      • Re:My brane hurts. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:47AM (#25785667)

        I imagine that many of those families may have overlapping domains, so that half of the universes described have strictly increasing entropy,

        Our universe doesn't have strictly increasing entropy. Entropy can and does decrease occasionally. It's simply that there are many more high-entropy states than low-entropy states, so a given system is much more likely to be in a high-entropy state at any given moment than in a low-entropy state; it follows that if the universe was in less than maximally entropic state at any given moment, it is more likely going to be in a higher-entropy state than a lower or equally entropic state at any other moment (future or past; the latter is something people often overlook).

        I don't think it's possible for this to change, no matter what physics are at work behind the scenes. Entropy is really just a measure of how "special" some state is; the lower the entropy, the more special and unique the state. For entropy to be more likely to decrease than to increase in time would require there to be more special than non-special states, which doesn't make sense.

        half of those have light speed as a universal speed limit,

        Again, I don't think this can change. Lightspeed as the limit follows from symmetry; specifically, it follows from the fact that all observers are equal, despite their movement in respect to each other. Since modern physics - including string theory - is built on such symmetries, such a solution would conflict with its own premises.

        only a few of those utilize our particular Lorentz transformation,

        Since Lorentz transformation is simply a mathemathical description of the above mentioned symmetry, I don't think they can change either.

        One could find that a whole series of families of solutions seem to describe our universe, except for some minor variations in the laws which can't hold.

        Based on the above, I don't think that anything besides the values of various constants can vary from universe to universe. But I'm not a physicist, so I could be wrong.

    • Re:My brane hurts. (Score:4, Informative)

      by MikaelC (584630) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:55AM (#25786623)
      It is 10^1000. From another source [sciencedaily.com]:

      "The string theorists predict that there are perhaps 10^1,000 [ten raised to the power of one thousand] different types of universes that can be formed that way," Linde said.

  • Again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:17AM (#25784669) Homepage
    I could swear that this has got to be the third time Discover has run almost this exact same story, but I unfortunately recycled about ten years of the magazine this summer.
  • The universe really was made just for me!

  • Anthropic Principle (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andr T. (1006215) <andretaff&gmail,com> on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:21AM (#25784715)

    The latest iteration of string theory provides a natural explanation for the anthropic principle.

    And now, quoting Caroline Miller [wikipedia.org]:

    The Anthropic Principle is based on the underlying belief that the universe was created for our benefit. Unfortunately for its adherents, all of the reality-based evidence at our disposal contradicts this belief. In a non-anthropocentric universe, there is no need for multiple universes or supernatural entities to explain life as we know it.

    I think Occam's razor fits just right here. If we don't need a zillion universes, why would we say they exist?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:37AM (#25784867)

      Caroline Miller is simply wrong. The anthropic principle does not say this. It says that, given that we exist, our universe must be the way it is. That fits Occam's razor just fine.

      Multiverses, OTOH, are just bollocks. I'm with you on that. Although ... Occam's razor says one should not "multiply" possibilities without reason, and here we are exponentiating them :)

      • by Andr T. (1006215)

        It says that, given that we exist, our universe must be the way it is.

        You're right. It seems that Caroline Miller was talking about other extensions of the original idea which carry the same name. From wikipedia:

        The anthropic principle has led to more than a little confusion and controversy, partly because several distinct ideas carry this label. All versions of the principle have been accused of providing simplistic explanations which undermine the search for a deeper physical understanding of the universe. The invocation of either multiple universes or an intelligent designer are highly controversial, and both ideas have received criticism for being untestable and therefore outside the purview of contemporary science.

    • I think Occam's razor fits just right here. If we don't need a zillion universes, why would we say they exist?

      Because the odds of 1 universe getting created that has the right properties for any complex systems to exist are beyond astronomical. The odds of something as complex as solar systems even less likely. And things as complex as life even more remote.

      So, basically in that case you are stuck with two matters of faith. The anthropic principle or a creator. Neither is provable through the scientific met

      • by Matt Edd (884107) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:23AM (#25785345)

        Because the odds of 1 universe getting created that has the right properties for any complex systems to exist are beyond astronomical. The odds of something as complex as solar systems even less likely. And things as complex as life even more remote.

        Reference please? Seriously... because many scientists disagree. Vic Stenger (http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/) argues that the chance of complex life appearing given random fundamental constants is about 50 percent. That doesn't seem to astronomical to me.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:21AM (#25784717) Homepage Journal

    The anthropic princple in general just says that the Universe is the way it is because if it were not nobody would be here to see it. That does not imply that it was 'made for us', it just means that because we are seeing it, conditions are the way they are.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yewbert (708667)

      Exactly.

      My first thought was that this hypothesis doesn't "provide[s] a natural explanation for the anthropic principle," so much as provide a natural explanation obviating the anthropic principle (part of that being, don't make teleological assumptions where not needed).

      On the other hand, being a cynic, I have occasionally subscribed to the misanthropic principle - that the universe was made the way it is just to make us miserable.

  • by bihoy (100694) * on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:22AM (#25784725)

    In my view science can explain only what we can observe, directly or indirectly. Is it ever possible for mankind to discern the true nature of God from our limited vantage point? Where did this multiverse come from? Is the mutliverse itself some part or aspect of God?

    • by Speare (84249) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:45AM (#25785625) Homepage Journal

      I find preachy Creationists to be highly annoying. But I also find shrill atheists to be highly annoying. Not all scientists are atheists, and not all theists are anti-science. Religion and Science are both a part of this world just as much as politics and money. Get over it, they're not going away in the next couple millennia.

      For those who must say that God exists, try this: science is for understanding how we exist, spirituality is for understanding why . It's far more mind-boggling for a God to have worked out the delicacy of our whole existence in advance by designing the laws of physics that would play out Correctly all the way from Big Bang to Big Crunch, than it would have been if we were just modeled directly in clay and moved around like puppets at the slightest whim. For those of you who must take the "seven days" literal view of Genesis, then consider this: since God's view of time is not the same as ours (Psalm 90:), we may indeed still be in His Sixth Day (day of Man), awaiting His Seventh Day (day of Rest) (Revelations 20:).

      For those who must say that God does not exist, try this: your position is just as unprovable as theirs, and yet raising your voice to argue your point is just as pointless as theirs. There is no arguing with religion. It's not that they are right, it's that the whole exercise is just as bad for the blood pressures of everyone involved. Yes, continue to fight for equality of position and separation of Church and State, as this is important. Quibbling over scriptures (as I admit I am doing above) will not change many minds. Both the Priest and the Atheist are fond of telling someone that they are Wrong, without any way of proving the point once and for all. The fact is, science doesn't know everything and will never know everything. Stick to proving negatives with observations; teaching axioms and laws and theories and hypotheses built from observations; and showing how science, unlike faith, can be proven wrong with evidence and this is a good thing. If they want to pray to their flying spaghetti monster, until it's impinging on your personal rights, just leave them to it.

      • by AdamHaun (43173) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:25AM (#25786185) Journal

        For those who must say that God exists, try this: science is for understanding how we exist, spirituality is for understanding why.

        I hear this a lot but I have not found it to be true. No religion gives a real understanding of the why, or even goes more than one or two trivial steps through an answer -- "Why do we exist?" "Because God made us this way" "Why?" "Uh...". The Munchausen Trilemma still holds.

        I am also unconvinced that it's impossible to make a good argument for atheism. "Is there a god?" is not directly answerable, but it would be possible to show evidence that religions and religious beliefs are best explained as the products of human nature and human history, not divine influence.

        I'm not militant or anything, but just telling people to shut up and leave the questions alone isn't going to fly.

  • for extremely large values of 6000.
  • The fact that we exist is to me no more surprising than the fact that unicorns and goblins do not. What people usually forget when it comes to amazing things happening is that a vast number of equally improbable things did NOT happen. Take the lottery as an example. One person might find it amazing he won since the chance must have been one in a million or less. However, in a big lottery there were also millions of people who did not win, but could have. The probability that somebody would win is 100%, but

    • ..the fact that life exists in this universe can be seen as simply a curious coincidence..

      I know this might seem pedantic, but isn't "coincidence" when two or more things happen. So, if my friend and I turn up at the same place at the same time, without planning to do so, that's coincidence.
      So, our existance in the Universe is merely "incidence". It is not 'co-' with anything else.

  • Hunh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fractal Dice (696349) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:27AM (#25784761) Journal

    anthropic principle: if you find fish that you must be looking in water.

    biologist principle: the system evolves to use whatever the environment has to offer - if you have a world of water, then you can get fish.

    An explanation that requires whole alternative universes fails the occam's razor test for me.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:27AM (#25784775) Homepage

    Are you kidding?! I have every intention of reading the full article, but I haven't yet. But my knee-jerk reaction to the notion that the universe is perfectly tailored to support life is ridiculous! the universe is rather hostile to life. The universe wants everything to be dead. The fact that life rarely exists indicates this quite well. The combination of factors that lead to life as we know it are extremely rare.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by usul294 (1163169)
      Well then why don't we all join up to fight the power of the so called "universe" who is trying to kill us all.
  • Just Two Things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dprovine (140134) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:29AM (#25784789)

    First, I'm not sure I agree that the universe seems perfectly tailored for life. 99.99% of the universe is empty space in which no life as we know it can survive. It seems to me that "perfectly tailored" would mean something other than "99.99% unusable".

    Second, I don't know how this solves any God-related problems. The question is "Why is there anything?" The God-related answers usually hinge on the idea that, as we understand it now, the physical universe we can observe does not have within it the ability to create itself. (Hence lots of arguments about "First Cause" and such.) So, it is posited, something outside our physically observable universe must exist which is subject to different rules and created our universe (and with it, us).

    So, there's a mind-bogglingly huge multiverse; fine. But why is it there? Why is any of the universes there? The one we live in doesn't seem to have been capable of creating itself, and the ones that arose in parallel with it can't have created it either, since they didn't exist at the time it didn't exist.

    And third, unless you have an observation, which for the moment I'll describe as "a number and a unit of measure which can (at least in theory) be independently checked by someone else", you're not doing science. As this "theory" of multiverses proposes (infinitely?) many parallel worlds which we cannot observe in any way, it's not a science at all. It's just another religion made up by people who want to avoid using that word.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      And third, unless you have an observation, which for the moment I'll describe as "a number and a unit of measure which can (at least in theory) be independently checked by someone else", you're not doing science. As this "theory" of multiverses proposes (infinitely?) many parallel worlds which we cannot observe in any way, it's not a science at all. It's just another religion made up by people who want to avoid using that word.

      <img src="images/WHARRGARBL.jpg">

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlXtreme (223728)

      But why is it there? Why is any of the universes there?

      Mu.

      Personally I find the idea of an oscillating universe (Big bang -> expansion -> contraction -> Big crunch) to be appealing. At least that's a theory that might be proven given enough time. And then it would be possible to have a universe that creates (and destroys) itself.

      Furthermore, science can postulate theories that can't be observed/proven at this time. It doesn't become religion, because there might be a time when these theories can be

    • Re:Just Two Things (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:30AM (#25787139)

      99.99 is being generous. I would think a few more 9's need to be added on there.

      Not to mention, life conditions are temporary. You cant count the earth as being conducive to life; only partially so. Life only exists on earth for its very recent history and may not last much longer, especially if you are working with time scales that are typical of astronomy.

      If people want to start anthropomorphizing cosmology, the we need to admit the universe is incredibly hostile towards life. Anything other is feel good self-delusion.

  • by niktemadur (793971) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:30AM (#25784791)

    The idea that the universe was made just for us â" known as the anthropic principle â" debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter...

    That's not the way I've always heard it, it's more along the lines of:

    Question: Why is the universe the way it is?
    Answer: Because if it were any other way, we wouldn't be here to observe it and pose the question.

    Sort of like Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" on a cosmic level.

    • by usul294 (1163169)
      Does that include the Cartesian argument where God exists because there is a perfect being?
  • Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God. Hebrews 3:4

    I suppose it will be posited that in an alternate universe houses do, in fact, construct themselves?

  • For example, it turns out that lots of possible universes form objects that serve the purpose of stars [arxiv.org]. Stars very much like our universe's require some fairly specific values, it turns out you can play with a lot of values of physical constants and still get something starlike.

    When it comes to the ultimate origin of the universe, I'm fine with saying "I dunno." [homeunix.net]. Maybe one day we will know.

  • by WiglyWorm (1139035) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:35AM (#25784847) Homepage

    Every time you run in to a roadblock, just tweak your calculations until they fit what you see. Shouldn't our formulas be based off of our observations, and not the other way around?

    I'm personally a big fan of relative gravity, but touching einsteins theory of relativity seems to be anathema. A ridiculous notion since relativity itself debunked newton's theories, theories come and go as our ability to observe grows. Scientists shouldn't be afraid of it.

  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:37AM (#25784857)
    This whole multiverse thing is as far from physics as is theology. Like the "proofs" of the existence of God, it's just an infinite regress. The fact is, that we observe one universe. Our existence is unexplained. So the theist says "ah well, we're here because God created us." So we say "Fine, now you have to explain not only our existence but that of God as well".

    The String Theorist says "hey, I just found this really cool mathematical technique which allows me to express the observed laws of Nature in a different way." We say "Ah, but now you have to explain why your theory fails to predict the existence of only one type of Universe". The String Theorist waves his hands a bit and says "perhaps all of the possible types of Universe exist, it's just that we can only see this one." So then we ask, where did this multiverse come from?

    In both cases the gorilla in the room is Bill Ockham's shaving instrument - in order to explain what is, something much bigger and more complicated has to be postulated which is not observable.

    Personally, I think String Theory is going to be another Phlogiston or Ptolemaic Epicycles - both of these required observed behaviour to be explained by the unobservable, whether it was the negative mass phlogiston that left heated materials, or the invisible angels needed to keep the Sun and all the planets revolving around the Earth. Both were "scientific" orthodoxy for some time.

    The fundamental mystery is still "Why is there anything at all?", and none of the current "explanations" actually have any explanatory power. We should recognise this. (And perhaps put more physics effort into cheap, safe nuclear power and solar energy? But that's just applied physics, even if it is far more likely to keep physics departments open for the next fifty years or so.)

    • by wild_quinine (998562) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:31AM (#25786259) Homepage

      In both cases the gorilla in the room is Bill Ockham's shaving instrument - in order to explain what is, something much bigger and more complicated has to be postulated which is not observable.

      Occam's razor is not called Occam's law, other than by those that don't understand the concept. There is no law here, just a sensible rule of thumb.

      It is sensible not to postulate a complex explanation, when a simple one will do.

      In the case of a universal theory, or an understanding of the beginnings of the Universe, or in the existence of God, it is likely that any definitive answer will be quite complex.

      Furthermore, no simple explanation has so far sufficed.

      Ergo, Occam's Razor does not (yet) apply.

  • The sub-moronic demiurge. The theory? Dipshit design. My proof? Just look around and see how everything cries out to having been dipshittily designed. The hand of the sub-moronic demiurge is everywhere.

  • People should be careful here. When you describe a mathematical object in a consistent manner it only exists as mathematical ideal, an object whose existence does not contradict any theorem of the theory.

    The question of physical existence of such object remains open.

    Essentially the existence of other universes remains a matter of belief here.

  • Douglas Adams (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Kendig (1959) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:50AM (#25784999) Homepage

    "Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

  • by blahplusplus (757119) * on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:51AM (#25785011)

    ... the whole idea that there are multi-verses goes right against the grain of science itself, multiplying entities needlessly.

    The two general explanations are:

    Universe is eternal
    Universe is not eternal (eternal something else exists "outside" the universe that caused our universe)

    Out of those two, you have a few options:

    1) Universe is eternal, the universe is godless
    a) Universe is eternal, the universe is god (i.e. reality/god = same thing)

    2) Universe is not eternal, the universe is godless
    a) Universe is not eternal, the universe has a god "outside" the universe (which is a misnomer, technically the universe would be 'inside' god, or made out of god, god being the substance of all existence, in this case).

    Those are the most parsimonious explanations, if you want to be honest with yourself.

  • by SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) on Monday November 17, 2008 @08:57AM (#25785069) Journal

    Are they sure it's not 101010 solutions? That would be "42" in binary.....

  • We Are Perfect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:07AM (#25785171) Homepage Journal

    Once something has happened, however improbable it was, its probability of happening turned out to be 100.0%.

    Probability isn't about "luck". It's about the unknown certainty that something will have happened once it did, even if many other things could have happened instead.

    We do indeed live in a universe that is improbable because it's one of the very few, of all that could exist, that can and does make sense to us. That's because we evolved in it, as part of it. We were selected by the universe's laws and materials to have bodies that include organs which can hold information modeling the universe. But that doesn't mean anything miraculous occurred to us. It just means that we're the parts of the universe that generated the mechanisms to have the model. Mars' many rocks were also generated, but don't have the hardware to notice, or at least to replay an accurate rendition to their parts that can notice. Likewise, something like 15 billion years have passed until now, when we're noticing that we're noticing - until now, we weren't "miraculous", and what has changed is simply our interaction with ourselves, nothing "divine".

    Every lottery winner can think they've received a miracle, because the odds were so slim, they have to think "why me?" But someone was certain to win, eventually, even in lotteries where the chances of even one winner are tiny - if the game goes on long enough.

    What is at work with these "divine selection" delusions is not metaphysics, or even determinism. It's ignorance of math, of the mechanics of consciousness, of the basics of selection. "God" does indeed play dice with the universe: all "god" does is roll dice, in every quantum event, and probably on an even finer scale. We're just dice that eventually rolled unp parts that notice what's showing on the other die. We're just getting started, and many of us have yet to make the lucky guess that that's all we are, which is special enough without having to invent a roller.

  • by mbrod (19122) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:09AM (#25785199) Homepage Journal
    to disprove the unseen. Why am I not surprised?
  • Perfectly tailored (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:16AM (#25785269) Journal

    They have it backwards. The universe is not perfectly tailored for life. Life is perfectly tailored for this universe because life evolved in this universe.

    This whole article comes from the false belief that life is somehow special and that the universe exists to support life. Well, that is false. Life is a side-effect of the universe. If all life ceased, the universe would carry on and not care.

  • 10^122 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:24AM (#25785355) Homepage
    This joins the 10^122 [nature.com] article published some time ago about strange coincidences between basic physics constants. Very interesting... almost in a numerological point of view !
  • by EllisDees (268037) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:55AM (#25785767)

    If the universe is perfectly tailored for anything, it sure as hell isn't life. Maybe empty space or black holes, but seeing how, as far as we know, life only has appeared as a thin film covering the surface of one tiny planet revolving around one insignificant star, maybe we're a little biased in our views of what is common or uncommon in the universe.

  • I think I'm about to puke. The Anthropic Principle in its purest form does nothing but make the observation that our surroundings obviously support lifeforms such as ourselves who in turn are able to make observations about their surroundings.

    It really, really does not matter how many universes are out there. This is ours, and it exists without any need for justification. Sure, theoretically a vast number of universes could have parameters that make life impossible (like, say, because they have no temporal dimension), and just as unprovably many universes could exist that do support life in some form.

    There is no discrepancy, there is no need for an explanation - at least scientifically speaking. Only religion demands an explanation, because it introduces the concept of "meaning".

    To make a more earth-bound analogy: assume, somewhere in the desert, there is a volcanically heated pond of slime. The conditions in this pond are unique: it has a water temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and only a few uncommon amino acids can be found in the slime, making it a hostile environment for most known forms of life. However, in time, a type of cyano bacteria evolves that can handle the heat and live off the odd amino mixture.

    Now, suppose that, by some freakish accident, the cyano bacteria were intelligent. They ask questions like "why is this pond so superbly designed to support us?". Of course, we as humans looking into the slimey pond, recognize the absurdity of the question right away, but the bacteria remain ignorant as to the stupidity of their premise.

    They go on to ask "surely there must be an omnipotent creator who made this pond just for us". Again, looking from the outside in, we know better, but for the bacteria it's a huge deal. Next, they discover secularism and say "well, if there is indeed no creator, we must find another explanation why this pond is exactly the right kind of pond, because it is so exquisitly tailored to our needs!"

    Then it dawns on the bacteria: "hey, maybe there is an infinite number of pools with different environments! So the explanation for the Bacteric Principle lies in the fact that one out of infinity has exactly the features we need!" At this point, we as outside observes realize the futility. The bacteria will never understand that the number of pools does not matter, because it was them who evolved to live there, it was never the pool that had to be adapted to them...

    This is where we are now. And, just like the outside observer looking in, I realize the futility. But it nevertheless frustrates me immensely.

  • by first_tracks (919961) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:20PM (#25787885)
    The problem is that creationists, atheists, and agnostics are all missing the bigger picture and missing the point (but, if we must assign a winner, agnostics come closest.) The question as to whether there is a creator is nonsensical as far as we can fathom. Consider the two possible scenarios: 1) "There is a creator; call it god. Some entity created everything." 2) "There is no god. Nothing created the universe; it just came into existence." Neither of the only two possible scenarios makes any sense. They both fail in the same way: you can't have something come from nothing; whether that be the universe or the creator that made the universe. You don't need to be a philosopher or particularly logical to see this. In fact, you could argue that atheists are creationists since they believe the universe created itself. So, what are we left with? I can think of two things. But, first I'd like to point out that a true agnostic is one who sees the paradox and futility in taking a position on this. At least that is what I term an Agnostic; one who doesn't know (anything about the origin of the universe) and doesn't care (because they know its futile, not because they are apathetic). So what can we conclude if our two seeming scenarios are ludicrous? 1) The first is simplistic... there is an explanation and it is beyond any semblance of what we deem as logical. Or even asking the questions of why and how the universe exists is not even the right question. How else would you overcome a paradox? By changing the rules of the game. This means that our language, our thoughts, our logic, etc DO NOT APPLY. We are either too simplistic, lacking the proper whatever to understand what is going on. 2) The one I like the most is this: In a more philosophical bent, it can be argued that the universe (in the most encompassing definition of the word) can not be 'explained' since there can always be an explanation for the explanation; always a viewpoint from outside to that which you have just explained; similar in concept to the paradox that you can always divide something in half to get something smaller. The universe by its very definition of encompassing everything means nothing can be outside of it. It can't be explained or else it couldn't exist. Basically, its a paradox as far as we can see it.
  • by mschuyler (197441) on Monday November 17, 2008 @01:54PM (#25789497) Homepage Journal

    Decades ago: The Last Question: http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html/ [multivax.com]

Klein bottle for rent -- inquire within.

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