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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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  • Anthropic Principle (Score:4, Informative)

    by Andr T. (1006215) <andretaff@gmailP ... minus physicist> on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:21AM (#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?

  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:21AM (#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.

  • by gilleain (1310105) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:37AM (#25784855)

    ..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.

  • Re:My brane hurts. (Score:3, Informative)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:45AM (#25784929)

    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, and so on.
          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.

  • by BigMike1020 (943654) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#25785337)

    Clearly, both series are infinite. Just as clearly, there are "more" even integers than there are odd integer multiples of seven.

    Actually, both of those series have the same "number" of numbers. Just take each even integer, add one and multiply by seven, and you will have the second series. Because each number in the first series maps to exactly one number in the second series, they both have the same magnitude.
    Read up on cardinality [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia for more information.

  • by Matt Edd (884107) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:23AM (#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.

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

    by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:45AM (#25785627) Homepage

    Why did the explosion not occur uniformly? In other words, why did it not explode in perfect spheres of energy, never to have enough in a single area again to form mass?

    You know, this is a classic example of a layman assuming that scientists are somehow dumber than they are. Honestly, what makes you believe researchers haven't known about this precise problem since the big bang theory first came on the scene? Do you really think you somehow caught on to a problem that no one else spotted? Really?

    Here, read this [sussex.ac.uk]. To quote:

    In particular, if the process was so efficient at smoothing out the Universe, how could irregularities as large as galaxies, clusters of galaxies and so on ever have arisen? But when the researchers looked more closely at the equations they realised that quantum fluctuations should still have been producing tiny ripples in the structure of the Universe even when our Universe was only something like 10(exp-25) of a centimetre across -- a hundred million times bigger than the Planck length.

    In short, good ol' quantum mechanics strikes again: random quantum fluctuations during inflation ultimately produced the variation we see in the universe today.

    I know this isn't a popular answer, but I believe that there are forces at work which guide our existence that we will never be able to grasp on our plane of existence.

    That's because it's not an answer.

  • Re:Douglas Adams (Score:4, Informative)

    by Brian Kendig (1959) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:49AM (#25786549) Homepage

    It's from a Douglas Adams speech in 1998, which was quoted by Richard Dawkins in his 2001 eulogy at Adams's funeral. The original speech is here:

    http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/ [biota.org]

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

    by MikaelC (584630) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:55AM (#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.

  • Re:God (Score:4, Informative)

    by kelnos (564113) <bjt23@coGIRAFFErnell.edu minus herbivore> on Monday November 17, 2008 @03:38PM (#25790277) Homepage
    It's turtles, all the way down.
  • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday November 17, 2008 @04:03PM (#25790715)

    Well, you do bring into question to what "life" actually is. But I think that mere recording is not observation. It is conceivable that an automaton could be able enough to interpret the observations, and thus constitute "life".

    However, I think the point is irrelevant, because a universe in which an automaton could exist probably qualifies as one in which life could exist, regardless. The problem with the uncountable number of non-life-holding is that their physical laws are such that matter cannot exist, or that gravity is such that everything squelched into black holes in the first nanoseconds of the universe, or photons are so massive that they outweigh electrons or... We are not talking a little bit strange, we are talking very strange.

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