Saturday, March 19, 2011

Middlebrow Atheism. Part 3



Continuing my series on naive atheism:

Video Item 06: The Wmap satellite data is consistent with inflation. Inflation implies an infinite number of pocket universes are created in an eternal process. If lots of universes are created each with different "constant" values, one of them is bound to have the right values for life. The collisions of other “bubble” universes with our own universe might show up on Wmap data making it a testable theory. Alternatively the constants (like “alpha”) could vary randomly across a large universe and eventually hit the required fine tuning values.

My Comment: The idea here is that the universe (or multiverse) is far larger in space and/or time than the observed universe; in fact so large that the universe will have available to it enough trials to make inevitable the appearance of the right fine tuning values in at least one sub-universe. The essential feature of this argument is that the fine tuning values are the result of random selection over a much larger universe than can be seen by Earth based observers. The essence of this idea can, in fact, be taken much further: Why should the values of the constants remain constant within our sub-universal region? In fact why should even the form of the laws of physics remain uniform within one sub-universal domain? If we are going to moot the idea of a super-universe that is immensely large compared to our own tiny universe we don’t actually require any laws at all: Viz: Why not resort to that classic notion of a universe simply running at maximum disorder all of the time? If so then this will mean, of course, that any selected outcome, given enough time and/or space, will make an appearance. In this context the postulated high disorder implies no configurations have a probability weighted above random expectations.

Assuming that our universe is a (very) small and unrepresentative domain in a maximally disordered super-universe the question remains as to why it should make any difference theologically speaking. The difference seems to stem from the underlying theological expectation that any God worth His salt would not create a universe where probability is spread so thinly over the space of possibilities that configurations we consider to be anthropologically significant and meaningful have no special weighting. This theology expects a God created universe to be weighted in favour of life, and this is regarded as the signature of Divine contrivance. This, I think, is the implicit theological assumptions shared by both sides.

But having said that, on further reflection it turns out that it is very unlikely that our particular universe is just a very small part of a super-universe where complete disorder reigns. You see, if our universe, with its remarkable laws and constants was one of these unrepresentative patterns in a sea of maximum disorder, then that would mean the laws physics are, in fact, an “illusion of chance”. Our sub-universe, being a highly unrepresentative ordered pattern, would mean that probability would not favour its persistence and therefore the longer it hangs around the more likely it is that our universe is not just a highly improbable fluke, but intrinsically constrained to be patterned in an ordered way. It follows then that the visible universe, whatever those fine tuning variables are doing elsewhere, is still showing an unwarranted level of order; whatever way you spin it, it’s a mysterious free lunch. Thus the cosmos presents us with two non-trivial problems. 1) Why should there be any patterned substrate at all – that is “why is there something rather than nothing”? and 2) Why is our sub-universe so persistently ordered? In short we are faced with a non-trivial Grand Logical Hiatus that is with us day by day, moment by moment, place by place. So the Wmap data, whatever it shows, takes us back to square one.

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