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Fine tuning or dumb luck?

  1. Mar 17, 2005 #1
    Many scientists are asking as to why the universe appears to be "finely tuned". On the other hand some argue that the universe is the way it is because it is like winning a lottery. The odds of winning a lottery are very high but if one did win a lottery of odds such 1 in 12 million, one may think that some "God" was the reason why they won when it was just a matter of odds. Sooner or later someone has to win. One could argue that the apparent design of the universe was caused by a cyclic universe producing an infinite amount of possible configurations and sooner or later a universe with the right conditions would produce a universe that permits the existence of life. Of course this does not take into account the enormous amount of apparent organization that we see in life on earth.
    Is it a design or dumb luck?
    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2005 #2
    Attempting to explain the natural world in terms of a nonnatural or supernatural God really tells us nothing useful about this world. Until we can find a god or higher power that exists and operates in real time/real space, it seems that 'dumb luck' is the better of two bad choices.

    Like everyone else, I do not have an answer (other than pure speculation) but I thought this thread deserved at least one response.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2005
  4. Apr 7, 2005 #3
    Neither. It is what it is, and how we choose to define it has always been subject to change.
     
  5. Apr 7, 2005 #4
    The universe isn't so perfectly tuned. You have to understand that the universe was there first, and everything else (solar systems, planets, lifeforms) have evolved within it, and in function of it's particular properties. If the universe had been different, then what it contains would've been different as well. If the nature of the universe were to suddenly change, then everything would have to adapt or perish. The only reason why everything you see is perfectly tuned with the universe is because everything else that wasn't is long gone.
     
  6. Apr 8, 2005 #5
    = unsubstantiated subjective belief.

    = perceptive (but trivial) insight?

    the study of "what it is" is ontology

    the question is not about "how we choose to define it", the question is whether we can ever know "what it is"

    MF :smile:
     
  7. Apr 8, 2005 #6
    The fundamental physical properties of the universe (including the so-called laws of physics and the physical constants) appear to have been determined either before or during the earliest stages of the Big Bang, these properties did not evolve as the universe evolved. I believe it is these properties (the fundamental physical properties of the universe) that most people refer to when they say that the universe appears to be fine-tuned in accordance with our existence. See for example Barrow & Tipler's book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.

    Yes, and if the physical properties were different then intelligent life may not have been possible.

    This reasoning does NOT apply to the fundamantal physical parameters of the universe, which appear to be fixed at the outset and cannot "adapt or perish".

    MF :smile:
     
  8. Apr 8, 2005 #7

    SpaceTiger

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    It's for this sort of philosophical question that I think the anthropic principle is really powerful. A "fine-tuned" universe is logically expected if such a tuning is required for our existence and many other universes (with different parameters) exist. If only the first is true, then our very existence is illogical and one might be prone to invoke a creator. If neither is true and an intelligent species could exist in a wide variety of universes, then such things would seem unnecessary.

    All of this presupposes, however, that our idea of "logic" is valid in determining such things. If there is anything beyond that which we can observe, there's no reason to assume it would be rational.
     
  9. Apr 8, 2005 #8
    yep, but we have to start somewhere - and the validity of one's logic is usually a reasonably good axiom (of course we can examine the question using a completely different logic - that is a valid position - but still the fact remains that to make any progress in understanding we have to make some fundamental assumptions)

    MF :smile:
     
  10. Apr 8, 2005 #9

    SpaceTiger

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    Agreed, but it has always frustrated my scientific mind. :tongue2:
     
  11. Apr 8, 2005 #10

    hypnagogue

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    There was a lively debate between Leonard Susskind and Lee Smolin on this topic that can be found here. Both seem to subscribe to an 'evolutionary' perspective to account for the observed finely tuned constants in nature, although they envision different physical mechanisms for how this might be implemented. Where they substantially differ is on the topic of the anthropic principle (AP), as mentioned here by Space Tiger. Smolin thinks we should not invoke the AP in scientific discussion/explanation, as he claims it is unfalsifiable. Susskind rejects Smolin's reasoning and finds no reason not to invoke the AP. My 2 cents are with Susskind and Space Tiger.
     
  12. Apr 8, 2005 #11

    SpaceTiger

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    Just a note on that, I'm actually unsure of my position on the anthropic principle's use for scientific purposes. I can imagine it being potentially useful in the future, when there's more information available on the details of the universe and the origins of life, but I have not seen any convincing demonstrations of its use thus far. It's also dangerous because we're prone to fall into the "we must be special" assumption that so dogged Copernicus back in the day.

    I mostly consider it for my periodic philosophical musings, in which I don't doubt its applicability.
     
  13. Apr 8, 2005 #12
    Hypnagogue, please restore my faith in humanity and give credit where it is due - within this thread the first reference to the Anthropic (Cosmological) Principle was made not by SpaceTiger, but was in post #6.

    MF :smile:
     
  14. Apr 8, 2005 #13

    hypnagogue

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    I apologize if I inadvertently put words in your mouth. Still, when it comes to using the AP in the context of explaining why it is that we find ourselves in a region of spacetime with finely tuned constants, I don't really see a knock-down problem. Perhaps asserting the AP here might not be useful for spurring scientific progress, but it certainly seems useful as an explanitory tool in the context of this scientific discussion.

    There is the problem of how we can assert for sure that differing kinds of universes could not support intelligent life. This sort of thing would be difficult to show, I imagine, not the least due to the ambiguity of the words "intelligent" and "life," and the extent to which they could be stretched to include things that are drastically different from us. But if we restrict our inquiry to human life (eg "we human beings, with our various physical intricacies, exist in such a finely tuned universe because of all those that (might) exist, this is the only kind compatible with our specific physical makeup"), this seems to put the AP on much surer footing. After all, isn't the striking fact that the constants of nature need to be so fine tuned in order to support our existence the premise that gave rise to this discussion in the first place?

    I think invoking the AP here could be taken to imply that our universe is special, to the extent that it has the unusually precise features needed to support life as we know it. But this wouldn't imply that us humans are anything special, per se.

    My apologies, he who indeed did introduce the Anthropic (Cosmological) Principle to this thread!

    I think that was perhaps the easiest go anyone has ever had at restoring another's faith in humanity. :smile:
     
  15. Apr 8, 2005 #14
    I disagree. I think the anthropic principle does just the opposite! It suggests that we are not special, that there is no "fine-tuning", we only see our universe the way it is simply because of our persepctive.

    An alternative to the anthropic principle is to suggest that the universe is indeed somehow fine-tuned so that intelligent life can evolve - THIS would be the "we must be special" point of view.

    I believe the anthropic principle is an excellent explanation of why our universe is the way it is.

    MF :smile:
     
  16. Apr 8, 2005 #15

    SpaceTiger

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    Oh, that's quite alright, it's probably just a semantic point to some extent.


    I think many scientists view it as a "last resort", in the sense that it might explain the universe if we can find no further physical models to explain our "uniqueness". If we were to ever reach the point of last resort, however, scientific progress would have effectively ended. I don't know if that will ever happen.

    To give an example of where it could be dangerous, consider it as an explanation for the flatness problems (that is, that the overall curvature of the universe appears to be so close to flat). One might be able to make an anthropic argument that says that such a condition is required in order for life to arise, but it doesn't really help things. If we were to settle on such a conclusion, we might be distracted from theories like inflation, which actually do have testable consequences (eventually, hopefully). Anthropic arguments really can't be verified by experiment, as I assume Smolin was arguing, so they make really dangerous "consensus" theories.

    However, there may come a point at which the anthropic principle has predictive power. That is, we might able to guess certain laws of physics by recognizing their necessity for our existence. Supposedly, this is what Fred Hoyle did when he predicted the excited state of carbon-12. We should again be careful, though, because it's hard to show that something is necessary for our existence and a lot of such predictions could be made that really aren't worth the effort to follow up.


    But is that really the right thing to consider? For purposes like Hoyle's, it certainly makes sense, but if we're going to consider theories like an "evolution" of universes, it would seem the more appropriate condition is that we be aware enough to ask these questions. This doesn't require human life, per se.
     
  17. Apr 8, 2005 #16

    SpaceTiger

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    I mean "we must be special" in that there are no physical explanations for why something should be generically true. In other words, it distracts us from testable models, as with the inflation example I gave above.


    In the philosophical sense of "special", I agree with you. I was considering the practical aspects: that is, a universe that evolves until we can exist is still a universe that is specially designed for us and can't be analyzed as "generic" beyond a certain point. Thus, its parameters would be "special", in a certain sense.


    I suspect that it will explain some things in the long run, but I've not yet decided on which physical laws should be derived from anthropic arguments. I probably never will, as it would be bad science. :wink:
     
  18. Apr 8, 2005 #17
    Yes, I agree we must always try to put forward testable hypotheses, but your argument about "not worth the effort to follow up" works both ways, SpaceTiger. If the truth is that our universe is the way it is because of the anthropic principle, then science would waste a heck of a lot of time and money chasing the "Holy Grail" of the ToE (which many hope will explain just why the physical constants are what they are), when that particular Holy Grail would be a will-o-the-wisp......

    On balance, therefore, I believe the anthropic principle is just as valid an explanation as any other, right now.

    MF

    :smile:
     
  19. Apr 8, 2005 #18

    SpaceTiger

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    But since it isn't testable, it would no longer be science, it would be philosophy. Even if it does turn out to be a waste of time, it's our job to continue looking for testable theories of the universe. If nothing turns up after a long time, perhaps we will give up, but I think the anthropic principle should only be kept in the back of our minds and never considered as a leading theory as long as science is being done.
     
  20. Apr 8, 2005 #19
    yes, I know many others feel the same way.

    I agree that we should always be looking for testable hypotheses. But there may come a time when this is simply not possible any more. As Planck said :
    "Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And it is because in the last analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve"

    Surely the only correct science is the science that seeks after truth? By limiting the scope of science to short-term "testable hypotheses only" we may deliberately avoid finding the final truth - and THAT to me would then be the ultimate bad science.

    It reminds me of the joke about the policeman who came across the drunk, stumbling about at night under a streetlight.
    The policeman asked the drunk "Good evening Sir, and what are you doing?"
    The drunk, swaying badly, said "ohhh, shorry, oshifer, I'm looking for my keys"
    Said the policeman "Did you lose them here?"
    "ohhhh no oshifer. I lost them over there in the dark" (pointing back down the dark road) "but the light is much better here......"

    :biggrin:

    MF
    :smile:
     
  21. Apr 8, 2005 #20

    SpaceTiger

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    I consider science to be a search for truth, but not a search for all truth. Rather, it's our job to theorize and search for truths that can be objectively verified. That's not to say that we should deny the possibility of untestable truths (this would imply that scientists shouldn't be religious), but rather that we should not be looking for them as part of the scientific process. When it reaches the point at which science is no longer progressing, then I would say we may have reached the limits of the usefulness of science. I would not, however, say that it is then science's job to settle on the untestable truth, as you seem to be suggesting.
     
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