Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

#4226
Ed Lantz
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<p>Hi Karen – Yes I love that quote from Sir Fred Hoyle because it sums up the intuitive impressions of a number of physicists and cosmologists. There is also this notion that the universe (including numerous physical constants) seems to be “fine tuned” for life as we know it. There are an array of physical constants which, if varied even slightly, would so radically change our universe that life (as we know it) would not be possible. Things that make you go hmmmm…</p><p> </p><p>Adherents of the anthropic principle says it is unremarkable that the universe’s fundamental constants are fine tuned. The anthropic principle is, to me, not an explanation at all, however.  Saying that the universe “is the way it is” because if it wasn’t we wouldn’t be here to discuss it – that’s every much a “cop-out” as the simplistic God “explanation” (that there is no reason for science to inquire about our origins because God did it all).</p><p> </p><p>While these big questions are fun to ponder, for the most part they are not (yet) testable or verifiable, placing them more in the realm of philosophy than science (or Cosmology – which often lies on the speculative fringe of science). Where I get suspicious is when people are very smug about a particular creation story. Perhaps there are other ways of “knowing” (psychic abilities, intuition, divine revelation, alien information, etc.), but as a scientist, the question of our origin falls into the “insufficient data” category – it is currently “unknowable.” Of course we should continue to collect data and ponder these questions… </p><p> </p><p>Karen: “… that I don’t myself feel that a creative intelligence is needed and I don’t think Ed does either (although I have no evidence against it). I just agree with Sir Fred Hoyle that there are too many coincidences to dismiss and that I feel there is ‘something’ going on.”</p><p> </p><p>The universe appears to behave very consistently according to stochastic descriptions (such as the quantum wavefunction). There can be local variations of course, but these are not biases and tend to average out over time. It would be considered quite a coincidence if, for instance, you flipped a coin 100 times and got “heads” every time. However it is perfectly possible (just not very probable). If there is an intelligence guiding the universe, I expect that it works within the bounds of these statistical probabilities – that is, happy “coincidences” or “synchronicities” that are within statistical norms.  One could imagine a subtle effect that ever so slightly tips the probability scales in favor of life over long periods of time.</p><p> </p><p>In my thinking, should such a thing exist, it would not be a “supernatural” effect, but would be the result of activity (conscious intelligence) within the sub-quantum informational domain which, by its very nature, has an opportunity to tip the scales every time there is a wavefunction collapse. Many religious and contemplative traditions speak of a “higher mind” or “higher force” that pervades the universe. Such a thing fits nicely into a quantum informational universe where space itself has nonlocal informational and computational capacity to support something akin to consciousness or intelligence.</p><p> </p><p>There are numerous experiments that have shown statistically significant “mind over matter” effects (http://www.deanradin.com/papers/RNG%20Mason.pdf). However the effect is on the order of one part in 10,000, so it is not large enough to cheat in a casino (you would need around 1 part in 6 to beat casino odds). However a small statistical bias of one part in 10,000 would be more than enough to sway the path of planetary formation, evolution and more. While skeptics continue to doubt results such as this, from what I can tell, the argument basically comes down to “the experiment is flawed because the results are impossible.” I’ve taken these and other published experiments at face value and have asked the question “how could it be possible?” </p><p> </p><p>The anthropic principle applies more to the origin of our universe and the reasons why the universe is the way it is (physical constants and all). But there is also the question of planetary formation and the origin of life which came along after these physical constants were already in place. I suppose that a statistically minded cosmologist could compute the probability of (and thus the expected quantity of) carbon formation in the universe based on random processes alone and compare that with actual measurements. Perhaps in this way you could show that it is “necessary” for intelligence to guide otherwise inert matter, because elements in the universe would not have emerged in the quantities that they have according to known statistical probabilities.