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Life in the process of universe: the goal or just a side effect?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    If we speculate from a scientific perspective:
    - Is life the goal or merely a side effect of the universe process?
    - Are there more scientific reasons/arguments to assume that life is the main purpose of the process than not? (if we assume that there is a higher purpose of the process, above our comprehension).

    Note: "life" can for example correspond to life forms that is reached after x billion years of evolution in optimal environments.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2012 #2
    Well, there's anthropic reasoning. Many equations in physics require the insertion of constants. The problem is that these constants have totally ad hoc and unexplainable values. And in many cases, such as the fine structure constant, a different value for the constant could produce a vastly different universe. So, why do we find ourselves in the one that allows life, however statistically unlikely it appears (from what we know)?

    That's where the anthropic principle comes in. In it's weak form, it's trivially obvious - we live in a universe where life could evolve because if it didn't, we wouldn't be around to wonder why in the first place. But that doesn't explain anything.

    However, in it's strong form, it states that every possible arrangement of values occurs somewhere, and we find ourselves in the place where they have the right values that life can evolve. One example where the anthropic principle is very successful is it's application to why earth had just the right conditions to allow for evolution. Well, it's because there is so many planets in the galaxy, that somewhere must have the right properties.

    Applying it to the constants of the universe is much more difficult, because there isn't an 'anthropic landscape' that appears to allow for constants to vary in the first place. Unless, you postulate a multiverse. This is where it becomes controversial - as does anything discussing a multiverse. One type that has become somewhat popular is the string landscape. One scenario of inflation, eternal inflation, allows for the production of a multiverse - slowly expanding regions where inflation has ended are separated by a rapidly expanding inflating region. Combined with string theory, which allows a whopping 10500 different vacuum solutions, the different inflationary pocket universes can have different constants.

    But here's the catch - falsifiability. Eternal inflation does make predictions regarding the CMB, so it is testable. But we have no way of knowing if they don't exist if we don't see these predictions, since supporters can just claim these other universes never had an effect on ours.

    Even if we found out eternal inflation was true, we'd still have no way of knowing whether the pocket universes were different from ours, since string theory isn't testable.
  4. Jul 15, 2012 #3


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    I think the concept of the universe having a "goal" is just silly. Processes just happen, based on the laws of nature. Thinking otherwise is theology, not science.

    When life arises, IT has goals, but the universe doesn't care. We make up gods, but the universe doesn't care about that either.
  5. Jul 15, 2012 #4
    I think the conversation the blue fellow in Watchmen has with his lady friend on Mars answers your question best- life is utterly predisposed to see itself as more important than the complex nonliving processes going on around it.

    But to be honest, I don't think there is such thing as "life." What we call "life" is really just how various energies function. You COULD posit the concept that consciousness is a goal. Now, what is so great about being conscious that you can't get from the unconscious? The ability to make mistakes. In other words, if you assume that processes work themselves out properly and continue to operate properly, variation likely comes along far less often than in a system such as the earth, where "living" beings are constantly screwing up, and thereby increasing the variety of new processes and basically constantly breaking the boundaries of what is known.

    That is about as good a defense for the living as I know how to make.
  6. Jul 15, 2012 #5


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    "Life" is a word we use to describe things that clearly DO exist, so saying that it doesn't exist is just silly.

    And what makes you think living NEEDS defending?
  7. Jul 15, 2012 #6
    back in history people didn't understand where babies came from.
    Babies just happened :)
  8. Jul 15, 2012 #7
    I suppose you could say, as wiki does, that life is "a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate"

    That's a rather vague way of trying to pin down what life "is."

    Living does need defending. It has no inherent value as there are no objective values. Further, it's not really clear what difference it makes if something is animate or inanimate- on a long enough timeline, or in nonlinear time, living doesn't seem to make much difference. Still, I tend to think living does contribute something new by introducing the concept of error. Sort of like reintroducing chaos into the otherwise orderly universe.
  9. Jul 15, 2012 #8


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    Yes, and your point is ... ?
  10. Jul 15, 2012 #9
    One probably have to think outside the box to understand the question. One foot in the box (the strict scientific little box invented by people belonging to the human race that during history has come up with 'gods', angels and fairies),
    and the other foot outside the box.

    English is not my native language. By "goal" I refer to, for example, how the complexity differs in the ongoing processes in universe.
    I'm NOT referering to the goal of any "god". My question has nothing to do with theology, or who started it all, or what is beyound universe and so on.

    I rephrase the question:
    - Is life - on all planets in universe - some kind of "goal" or just a side effect?
    I'm looking for scientific statements, arguments and even questions that points to any of these directions.
  11. Jul 15, 2012 #10


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    I don't get it. Can you give some example of "goals"?

    Life is a very complex process. And life today is more complex than life 4 billion years ago, for most reasonable definitions of complexity.
  12. Jul 15, 2012 #11


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    I don't see how this "rephrasing" changes anything. "Goal" implies intent. It is not the intent of the universe to create life, it just happens. The only other alternative is a god.
  13. Jul 15, 2012 #12
    possibly better for the philosophy forum....
  14. Jul 16, 2012 #13


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    There is no goal or intent inherent to the universe. The only goals or intentions out there are created by being like ourselves. We have goals and intentions. The universe around us does not.
  15. Jul 16, 2012 #14
    True, so change his question to "if the universe had purpose, what purpose does life serve?" Based on our limited experience with life on this planet for the short period it has been here, you can come up with some ideas by trying to figure out what life adds to the universe, if anything.
  16. Jul 16, 2012 #15


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    This is like asking what life would be like if unicorns existed. Since the premise is false, you can come up with any conclusion you like and the statement "If the universe had purpose, then X" and the STATEMENT will always be true whether X is true or not.
  17. Jul 16, 2012 #16
    Yes, except that there are actually a very limited number of things life could be said to possess as a unique property that would make any sort of logical sense. You should wind up with a list. But it won't be a very long one, unless you're being ridiculous. "If the universe has purpose, life exists to ensure the creation of pickles." Could be true, but not exactly likely or intriguing. Since life only has a limited number of modalities, you can break the question down further so as to come up with categories of possibilities- "if the universe has purpose, life exists to bring X to Y" "if the universe has purpose, life exists to build X" These are possible, but don't make a lot of sense, after all, plenty of things bring X to Y, and "creation" as we understand it takes place all the time in ways the living can't match.

    It's a riddle. If you're the type that can't handle things with no true answer, you don't have to play.
  18. Jul 16, 2012 #17


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    This is a forum for science, not for riddles with no meaning and no answer.

    Or, as PAllen once put it rather well:

    EDIT: By the way, what I object to, in case it's not completely clear, is that you are positing what I take to be a ridiculous premise and then going from there. If you want to attempt to justify your premise, then that at least MIGHT be science, although I cannot imagine how you could justify it.
  19. Jul 16, 2012 #18


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    There is nothing here that fits the criteria for posting anywhere in this forum. There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that the universe has a goal, let alone that the goal is life.

    Thread locked.

    P.S Those contemplating the anthropic principle may want to consider my signature
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