For purposes of this thread, I’m going to take it as established that the physics of our universe is very “finely-tuned” in many respects. That is, we can easily imagine alternate versions based on physics almost identical to ours, with slight variance in one or two parameters, in which no stable systems like stars or atoms could have come into existence – a universe supporting only a chaotic mess of interacting particles. This means that the quite complicated physics we find in the Standard Model – plus gravity and whatever else may be out there – seems prima facie to be extremely special and highly functional. Obviously that doesn’t have to mean the universe has any specific purpose – for example, to support you or me, or our species. We know from biology that very complex and finely-tuned systems like us can evolve entirely by accident, via natural selection. It’s not clear how physics might have evolved, but we have Smolin’s “cosmological natural selection” hypothesis – i.e. that universes are a kind of self-reproducing organism, creating their offspring inside black holes. So it’s at least conceivable that we could explain the very special and complicated physics of our world as resulting from an evolutionary process of some kind. Now I find Smolin’s proposal far-fetched and unattractive for a number of reasons, mainly because it tells us almost nothing about physics. Maybe he’s right that the basic function of physics is to make black holes and create more universes. But that’s pure speculation, and it’s not clear what it has to do with all the actual physics we know about. If you look at a living organism, its functionality is obvious. It’s easy to relate almost any aspect of its structure to the functions of growing the organism and helping it survive, and ultimately of reproducing its species. But the functionality of physics doesn’t seem to be obvious at all. Physicists have always imagined the world as a formal structure based on mathematical principles, not as a system that has to do anything in order to exist. So it’s tempting just to dismiss the fine-tuning of physics as an observer selection effect, per the “anthropic principle”. I.e. – of course the universe is structured to support the existence of complex systems, because it if weren’t, we wouldn’t be here to observe it. That’s true but completely unhelpful, again because it tells us nothing specific about what physics does or how it works. Now my take on the situation is this. I think the “fine-tuning” of so many different aspects of physics is strong evidence that the universe is a highly evolved functional system. As to why we don’t see this functionality – actually I think we do see it, everywhere in physics; we just don’t recognize it as such. What the physical world is doing could very well be complicated, like the reproductive process at the basis of biology, and just as in biology, many different sub-functions may have evolved to support it. I think the problem is that all these functions are so basic to the way the physical world works that we tend to take them all for granted. I’ll put a few examples of what I have in mind in the following posts. These are all things we more or less take for granted about physics – things that don’t seem to need explaining because “that’s just how the world is.” Briefly: Physical systems “obey” mathematical equations. Atoms function as “building-blocks” for many kinds of material structure. Physical systems store information over time. The properties of systems are measured by and communicated to other systems. These are all complex topics in themselves, but I’m hoping to stay focused on this primary question – do they all contribute to some basic functionality that we might understand as a reason for the finely-tuned physics we observe? The point here is not to impose any a priori principle from outside empirical physics, but to see what physics itself has to tell us if we try to look at it from a functional standpoint.