Fine-tuned Universe for life = God

  • Thread starter timhet
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  • #1
timhet
Some people believe that (assuming there is only one Universe) the Universe is so finely-tuned to support life that it is evidence that God exists. If gravity was slightly stronger or weaker, then it wouldn't support the forming of planets and stars as we know it.

I've been thinking about this and I'm wondering if "life" itself is only one type of phenomenon. What is life exactly? Well, my basic understanding is that a human being is made up of roughly 30 trillion cells, which are in turn made up of atoms and so forth. Basically, we are just some "matter" that works together to form a synergy that we call "human life", not to mention all the other forms of life on Earth.

Perhaps if the Universe was tuned differently, it would create other types of phenomenon, different from life but equally interesting that we have no comprehension of.

How do we draw a conclusion that life = God?

I'm not saying there isn't a creator, I just don't see how people argue that the existence of life = God.

Anyone have any additional thoughts?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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"What is this thing called a human, atoms of curiosity, that looks at itself in the mirror and wonders why it wonders?" - Richard Feynman
 
  • #3
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Nice quote, Kevin!
I also like "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself" -Carl Sagan

Another important thing to bring up in this conversation is the "anthropic principle".

Essentially, it is the idea that, in order for us to marvel at how "fine-tuned" the universe is, we have to live in a universe that is conducive to life. This is very easily applied to the fine-tuning of the Earth. Even if there were only one planet like Earth in the whole universe, we would live on it, or we wouldn't be around at all. It's not like there are scientists on Mercury saying "Well, there are lot's of planet's like Mercury, so, it makes sense that we're on one."

It gets a little harder when you go to apply the anthropic principle to the entire universe, which also appears fine-tuned, but new theories suggest that the geometry of all the dimensions of space and time determine the values of the forces, and that there are 10^500 possible configurations. In other words, the fact that we are here, talking about the universe proves that we are in a universe and on a planet that allows for life, no matter how unlikely they may be. Naturally, they appear fine-tuned.

Your point is good, too. Perhaps the "uniqueness" of life is just an illusion maintained by our lack of imagination.
 
  • #4
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I wrote a response about the Anthropic Principle but my internet rebooted and I lost it. So then I remembered hearing this quote and went to go find it, it seemed appropriate.
 
  • #5
Chalnoth
Science Advisor
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Well, in the broadest terms, we might define life by its behavior, since we don't necessarily know what life will be made up of. And the one fundamental behavior that separates life from non-life is imperfect self-replication. If you have a configuration of matter that replicates imperfectly, it will undergo evolution in the biological sense, and thus behave like life. It won't necessarily result in intelligent life, but there you have it.

As for the probability for life to arise, well, there are a few points:
1. We just don't know the probabilities for various values of the parameters in our theories. Any calculation of how unlikely our specific set of natural laws appears to be makes assumptions about these probabilities, and thus must be treated with a skeptical eye.

2. We don't know how many times new universes have been, are being, or will be born. For all we know, the number could well be infinite, indicating that every possible universe arises somewhere, making life absolutely inevitable as long as it is possible, no matter how unlikely.

3. As others have noted, intelligent beings will always observe conditions that are consistent with their existence. We find ourselves on Earth rather than Mercury, for instance, because Mercury is uninhabitable while the Earth is. So even if life is horribly, mind-bogglingly unlikely, there is a selection effect that ensures intelligent life will only observe those situations where life happens. This selection effect causes a significant break with the cosmological principle, which most broadly states that we are not special, and should expect to observe the most generic state possible. Our own existence overturns the arguments that lead to the cosmological principle for anything which is required for our existence, such that we no longer expect to see "likely" values for things which we need in order to exist.
 
  • #6
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Not sure this should be in cosmology discussion ,maybe philiosophy (move the thread?) but I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

From a point of view of statisical significance the assumption that the universe can support life is shaky at best. We dont know how long life will last, but I'd bet it wont survivie the death of stars ina few trillion years. Yet some black holes might last for 10^100 years before they Hawking radiate away. So the the time life exists for ( a trillion years ish?) comapred to the life of the universe (10^100 years) is so close to zero that there's barely any difference. Imagine asking if a coin was "fine tuned " to come out heads more often that tails and you got similar proprtions, you would say there's no real signal in the data, its an insignifcant blip and should be ingored.

Moreover the only way to confirm the fine tuning hypothesis is correct is to observbe other universes with different constants and then check they dont harbour life (whatever that is). But if we can do this then other universes must exist and you have your answer to fine tuning.
 
  • #7
their is also the idea that the our universe is one of many, and the only reason that it supports life is that, out of the many universes that exist, our universe is the only one that had the right conditions to support!
Well, possibly not the only one, but one of a few.
 
  • #8
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People like to put God where there is a gap in our knowledge. But even if there is a problem with fine-tuned Universe, sticking God there only trades this problem to fine-tuned God problem. I.e. we now have God fine-tuned to create our universe, not something else.
 
  • #9
Chronos
Science Advisor
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Self eating watermelon. We obviously would not exist in a universe that forbids life - for whatever reason. That neither affirms or denies a god.
 
  • #10
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To anyone who hasn't seen the Douglas Adams' quote before.

This is rather as if you 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.
 
  • #11
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Beautiful!
 
  • #12
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I think that the complex living matter we find on earth is the highest level of matter complexity we have found in the universe thus far. I think that a universe that allows this level of fractal like complexity might eventually harbour life. A universe consisting of an almost infinite amount of vacuum with occasional Hydrogen atoms is not a very interesting one.

Perhaps the universe is God's TV entertainment and he used a machine 10 to power 30 times the power of the Tevatron to make it along with dark matter and dark energy to make fine adjustments, but I am not too sure about any of that these days. Wonder which universe he keeps heaven in :)
 
  • #13
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Its much easier to say that life is just something that's bound to happen in some universe with the right property.

To the Douglas Adams quote above, you can add to that analogy to say that puddles only do form under the proper temperatures and pressures. You should also note that some phenomenon have a greater or lesser chance of occurring.

Life does take some "fine tuned laws." But if you ask me, it's a rather crazy jump to go from "How did this get here?" to "God did it."

We've got better hypotheses (multiple universes with different laws of physics) than an ideological construct from tens of thousands of years ago.
 
  • #14
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Wonder which universe he keeps heaven in :)
Imagine if we could break into heaven.. wouldn't that be something.
 
  • #15
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Imagine if we could break into heaven.. wouldn't that be something.
They tried to in "Dragon Age". It didn't work out.
 
  • #16
Chalnoth
Science Advisor
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They tried to in "Dragon Age". It didn't work out.
Technically, in the game world, this is the legend taught by the Chantry (the game's religious organization), and it is never made clear whether or not the Chantry actually has it right. Given that in the game world they explicitly point out that it is the Chantry's teaching, I will be interested to see if this is kept as the backstory, or if new details emerge in future installments.
 
  • #17
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If at the moment of the big bang you were to predict the development of life on Earth yes the chances of it occurring were probably infinitesimally small. Here and now the chances of life on Earth are 1, it has happened.
The reply that I give to people who say that the chances of life on Earth developing are so small that they need some kind of magic intervention is; Imagine that you take your winning ticket to a lottery company and they say "Yes you've got a ticket with all the numbers correct, but the chances of that happening are so small that we won't pay out the winnings". You’d argue “I got lucky!”.
Humankind got lucky with the numbers that's all no cheating no magic, blind luck.
 
  • #18
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I think its not only bad science, but it's just plainly irrational to just say "it was good luck, and that's a good enough answer."

I don't think it was luck. I think it's statistics and time given for statistics to pan out. What the chances are per galaxy/system/universe and how long that took is a mystery, but it's probably that, and thats the feeling I get from most respected scientists talking on the matter.

Now, this process of seeing something that seems unlikely happening is part of science. Lets say the chances for the laws of physics to be right make the lottery's chances look like a large number. Lets say it's something like 1/10^25 per universe for life to form. If universes keep forming forever, life will happen in some form or another eventually. But lets say we somehow knew that the chance was that low. It would be downright stupid to say that we "just got the lucky draw" and that there were no repeat draws, since on each draw, you can say with virtual certainty "life will not form."

Life probably did arise from re-rolling of the dice.
 
  • #19
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Isn't good luck when statistics stack up in your favour?
From the point of view of any life existing if there are multiple universes yes it's a matter of statistics that it should happen in the end, but for me, this ego, to exist is the result of blind luck from the moment of the big bang to whether mum and dad got together at 10.00 PM or 10.01 PM.
Besides if you look at the original post ir asks the question "assuming that there is one universe", so I'd still say it was luck.
 
  • #20
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Everything uttered or written down by humans is inherently corrupt and distorted.

Perhaps even the previous sentence
 
  • #21
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Everything uttered or written down by humans is inherently corrupt and distorted.

Perhaps even the previous sentence
Language is incapable of objectivity. True.
Can you connect that to the discussion at hand, or are you just having a philosophical meltdown?
 
  • #22
Not sure this should be in cosmology discussion ,maybe philiosophy (move the thread?) but I'll throw my two cents in anyway.

From a point of view of statisical significance the assumption that the universe can support life is shaky at best. We dont know how long life will last, but I'd bet it wont survivie the death of stars ina few trillion years. Yet some black holes might last for 10^100 years before they Hawking radiate away. So the the time life exists for ( a trillion years ish?) comapred to the life of the universe (10^100 years) is so close to zero that there's barely any difference. Imagine asking if a coin was "fine tuned " to come out heads more often that tails and you got similar proprtions, you would say there's no real signal in the data, its an insignifcant blip and should be ingored.

Moreover the only way to confirm the fine tuning hypothesis is correct is to observbe other universes with different constants and then check they dont harbour life (whatever that is). But if we can do this then other universes must exist and you have your answer to fine tuning.
the length of time of the universe versus the length of time of the stars has no bearing on "whether there may be life".

in this example, one would need to compare the length of time of the stars (assuming this is the only time that life could form), versus the length of time it takes life to form. so far, we know that it has happened once.
 
  • #23
Siv
Gold Member
84
5
Douglas Adams said it well.

"This is rather as if you 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."

From http://www.biota.org/people/douglasadams/
 

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