Big Science Questions and the Gospel, Part VII: Fine Tuning

The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.-Freeman Dyson

As noted in a previous post, fine tuning is a problem that has received mainstream acceptability within the scientific community. To summarize, for complex matter like stars and carbon to exist (which, by extension, is required for us to exist), matter needs to have characteristics that are just right. If the difference between the masses of this and that particle or the strength of this and that force were slightly different the universe as we know it would not exist. I won’t go into the details here, but the Templeton Foundation funded a reader-friendly writeup on the issue

We appear to have not only hit the jackpot, but to have hit about a half dozen jackpots simultaneously. One explanation for this is the anthropic principle, which simply states that had we not hit all those jackpots we simply wouldn’t be around to talk about it. I kind of find this an unsatisfying just-so story, and I get the sense that most physicists do too. 

Ultimately, the remaining, not-mutually-exclusive options are either some kind of God calibrating the characteristics of the universe (twisting the knobs, as Dawkins puts it), or a multiverse, where there are a vast number of dead, lifeless universes, with an occasional universe with just the right characteristics for life. We would still be a fluke, but it’s a fluke that makes sense given the law of large numbers. 

For me, fine tuning is one of those things that is suggestive, but not confirmatory, of divine design. While some posit that the multiverse is more scientifically respectable, at the end of the day it’s as testable as the God hypothesis, which is to say not at all. Whichever option you choose largely hinges on your priors, and, I believe, at some point on whether you are by disposition a religious believer or not, since neither can claim the high ground of empirical falsifiability.

Of course, for me personally my gut finds it more likely that, between the universe having just the precise characteristics for life, my internal subjective experience, the creation of life on this earth, and the fact that we happened to take this particular evolutionary path, the bayesian prior for there being some intentionality outweighs my sense that our existence if the result of an infinite number of monkeys typing on typewriters, even if, in theory, the latter is a technically sufficient explanation. 



11 comments for “Big Science Questions and the Gospel, Part VII: Fine Tuning

  1. The myriad inferences to design in nature and the universe denote there must be a God. I find it absolutely mind boggling that mainstream science resorts to theories like the multiverse to explain our existence here. I’m not sure exactly what the odds would be for life to arise somewhere in the universe, no one really does, but it’s probably something equivalent to like flipping a coin a billion times in a row heads up. Science is so determined to prove our existence without the need for a God though that they say not only is it possible one could flip a coin a certain exact sequence a billion times in a row but entirely probable! We’ve been duped. The greatest magic show on earth coming to a school near you, and it’s called “science”.

  2. The alchemists WERE RIGHT! [See below.]

    They were people who liked to think about things.

    Like unto Rob’s & others’ visions & speculations. Those of prophets. (Of Swedenborg: b., Stockholm, 1688; d., 1772).

    T&S, albeit independent, possesses permas & oft-visitors who’re LDS. Which is a type of workings or organizing principle for thought & life among humans. Starting with such as Aristotle & others, a scientific enterprise makes observations about materialities, by way of its applications of intellect & logic toward this end but also involving the forming & trying out of various speculations — and, these, especially within its sub-constituent of pure mathematics. We could quibble & term scientism itself a form of religion & vice versa & other concerns, each category of which also might be seen as exhibiting certain blind spots or biases. That said, I myself don’t see whatever intrinsic limitations as concern either religion or science as bugs but features: Everybody’s their part to play!

    Sure, a blog oft-visited by Jerusalemites reflects not eating swine; one, by Bangaloreans, fare that’s bovine; T&S, nutritive components of green tea. Also an eschatological view of reality divided into a _tri_-verse -plus-outer-darkness. Can reconciliations be made between this & putting on one’s science hat / observations of materialities?

    From web surfings yesterday . . . Turns out there’s a speed to gravity! Not surprisingly, Einstein figured it’d be equivalent to that of light. Current measurements of it vary, though, by how & where made. Which is — or maybe it’s only measured by, I dunno — gravitational waves within the fabric of space & time, as Einstein derived by way of a variety of pertinent computations. Per folks on the pertinent Nobel committee, in 2015, some machine some 396 miles from me in Pasadena (near Pamona?) recorded the catastrophic event of a binary black hole’s inner collision. Thereafter, other such events have been recorded. For example, another time-with-spatial thunderclap was recorded in 2017 Livingston, La., & in Tuscany involving the consummation-of-marriage of constituent previous-halves of a binary neutron star, whose accompanying flash of electromagnetic lightening was seen by some 70 of the earth’s finest telescopes. Which brings us back to the first line of this comment, because it’s theorized that it’s collisions by neutron stars that make, yep, GOLD! (in both its “yellow” & “platinum” variants).

    Per Einstein, gravitational waves permanently scar space & time. And, yes, such as Cal Tech’s LIDO is permanently altered by each such tsunami it records — although gravity quickly overcomes these alteration so they must be measured promptly. Crazy stuff, this. Yet no matter how one mangles and disfigures space & time it acts as it did in the first place. Analytically-bright folk went off to super-duperly remote stretches of space & time far from even negligible matter & in such necks of the woods, no matter how much its space & time might experimentally become shrunk, stretched, & pretzell’d-up,it acted as if it’d never been touched. Yet the mangling processes leave their tell tale signs nonetheless as a sort of permanent record of what transpired! Also, a paradox named after Hawking concerns what happens to info flowing into a black hole. Turns out it’s never lost but rather permanently imprints some how onto the boundary to the black hole.

    Hadn’t Einstein started thinking from the photons’ vantage point, that it’d be stuff flying past THEM that would flow at the constant (_c_) “speed of light” (which is a misnomer, ’cause to them, it’d be, in a way, the “speed of matter”)? From such POV, only directions/spatialities exist & “no time,” per se. To such photons, life’s is a materials-binding storage device collecting photon portions that fail, as per usual, to bounce from off the surface of the earth but become photosynthesized & maybe thereafter foodstuffs for additional lifeforms.

    Alchemist said to themselves: Somehow or another, things that are not gold can change thereto. I say: Inter-malleabilities among the time-&-space dependent phenomena of photons & gravitational waves that are found amidst (i.) a/the singularity occupying zero space & time yet containing or productive of an infinite amount of everything (ii.) manifestation of dark energy (iii.) earth as it is now (iv.) a/the endless expanse of time & space within which is only simple & invariable photons.

  3. Earth as it is now? _easy_!: terrestiality. Light’s “shining” forth (beyond the conception of time) from a singularity, by which means intelligence is perceived about the totality of its ultimate reception? _Ah, maybe . . . celestiality. The last constituent of any atom’s unbinding, thus no matter with which photons can interact? OK, maybe, ah . . . outer darkness? (_O boy_, what to do with _dark_ energy, then? Constituents belonging there unable to sort of “initiate inquiry” beyond its boundaries, therefore . . . telestiality?)

  4. Stephen, fine tuning (for me) is the best evidence of design. There are so many factors that have to be “just so” that it’s difficult to imagine it all coming together without some kind of guidance. Either that or, as you say, it’s the product of a multiverse–or a huge number of big bangs.

    Re: The Anthropic Principle: While it’s based upon following the bread crumbs from the beginning to our present state, I’m of the opinion that as we project that path into future what we find is evidence for Freeman Dyson’s views on the subject. I think most folks believe that as we continue to progress in the STEM fields one day — barring any kind of catastrophic interruption — we would become so advanced that we might appear to be Godlike beings to our present selves. It’s the stuff that Sci Fi is made of–that we have mastered the elements — or at least have enough mastery of them — and are able to live practically forever and generate our own big bangs and terraform worlds and whatnot.

    And so, I guess what I’m getting at is: if we are able to accept the possibility of such a future for ourselves–then who’s to say that it hasn’t already happened? That there aren’t Godlike beings in the present? One way or the other God seems to present himself in this universe.

  5. While I am merely an amateur physicist, I have thought long and hard and read extensively about this idea. I am satisfied for the present that there was divine (whatever that means) design behind the fine tuning of the universe.

    The best evidence is from Sir Roger Penrose who calculated the odds at 10 to the tenth to the 128th for it to occur.

    Having said that I am embarrassed to find myself in the same camp with people like Rob who when science does what it does best, and modifies and adjusts theories based on data,vilifies the whole community.

    He does both himself and the entire cohort of believers a great disservice.

  6. @ Sean, I hadn’t heard about the Roger Penrose calculation, but just Googled it. Thank you!

    @Carey F: The multiverse is theologically palatable to me. For one, if God is bounded by space and time then He started when time started in the big bang and will cease to exist when time and space ceases to exist (which, according to my previous post on this subject, is a real possibility for this universe), which seems a bit off to me. However, I’m also okay if, on some level, God is himself bound by law (“or else he would cease to be God”), although I know this makes me a heretic to most Christians. Of course, whether there are multiple universes and whether those universes vary in terms of the fine-tuned constants are separate questions.

  7. Cambridge astronomer Matthew Bothwell (_The Invisible Universe: Why There’s More to Reality than Meets the Eye_ (2021 – p. 285): “When we consider dark energy, we are faced with two very strange and hard-to-explain facts: that the strength of dark energy seems to be tiny but not zero, and that we are living at the exact cosmic ‘tipping point,’ where the young matter-dominated Universe evolves into an older dark-energy-dominated Universe.”

    * * *

    (By the way, in a heads up to fellow dilettantes: Bothwell’s speaking here about dark _energy_’s got zilcho to do with anything concerning “dark _matter_”!):

    1.) Dark matter: Made up of some kind of mystery sauce. ( ——-? ——–? neutral axions? sterile neutrinos? weakly-interacting-massive-particles? . . . as are, per Yale’s Natarajan, maybe currently the residue from what were premordial, relatively-small black holes?) The most part of what’s said to be out there (with their possibly thereby holding everything together, some how?). Seem to only have weak interactions, if that, with other matter, albeit interacting with all other matters gravitationally

    2.) Black holes: Stuff (regular & whatever amount also of dark matter) glommed together so tight no light escapes. (I don’t see how any dark energy could be in there, though. In that dark energy counteracts regular & dark matter’s force of gravity.)

    — Whereas, dark energy (to my way of thinking, what used to be termed _the aether_) is an utterly-&-extremely _fine_ material that uniformly exists throughout the fabric of space & time & which also so conveniently counteracts matter’s gravitational pulls. (And, maybe, as the overall expanse of all space inflates over time, the amount of its constituent dark energy component gets increased along with it, so that there’s always an identical /x/ amount of it in /y/ expanse of space.)

  8. Stephen C: I will appeal again to Penrose, (an appeal to authority I know, but i must needs appeal to his authority on these matters).

    He uses Plank and Einstein to indicate that mass determines not only energy and gravity, but time as well. He then states that since the back ground radiation emanating from the Big Bang violates the second law of thermodynamics we have a problem.

    From there he argues that the virtually mass less state of the far distant future universe creates infinite geometries that, because of the lack of mass obviates the existence of time. These geometries allow the universe to move between infinite states and return to the big bang state, thus solving the problem of time, mass and the nature of the universe that created the background radiation we have been studying.

    There is a lot of out there math that needs to be done, and he freely admits that there is a lot of conjecture, but it is a fascinating idea that solves a lot of unanswered questions.

    Go dig into it.

  9. Yesterday I just picked up UC Berkeley’s Muller’s book . . . who seems to think that there’s a better model than that of one-way time, which I’ve only got a chapter into.

    Penrose would seem to me right about an ultimately “arrived at” state of massless, infinite space. However, wouldn’t such an existence neither be “forever” nor could anything “arise” from it (namely because such a state would be defined as its being beyond time & hence beyond any flow of one-way cause & effect?

    Muller also doubts the assumption of convenience that time flows at a constant rate. He thinks there’s the tiniest increase to this flow over time. (If so, wouldn’t such a speeding up build on itself exponentially as one travelled along the one-way flow of cause & effect until time reaches a rate that would be infinitely fast? At which “point,” this aspect of our model-being-described would again appear incoherent to normal logic. Likewise, our working backward until time ever slowed till it “reached” the “zero” point where it stands still.)

    As for the 2nd law of thermodynamics (re entropy’s [generalized tendency against?] its decreasing). Something violating this would be no problem for Muller, in that he believes that previous generalizations about entropy are flawed (& I await to read him as to why!)

  10. (…Btw, re Muller’s beef with certain assumptions concerning entropy: It’s mainly that he finds a certain formulation by Eddington (that’s become almost The “informed” consensus) fuzzy. It’s that, because there IS a rough correspondence between stuff-interacting-with-stuff-(-&-thereby-tending-to-dissipate-energy) & the process of the unfolding of time, therefore, this process forms the actual CAUSE of the unfolding of time. E.g., increased consumption of ice cream [due nice weather] & increased drownings conceivably correlate yet such would not indicate that icecream consumptions necessarily CAUSE drownings.)

Comments are closed.