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The Fine-Tuned Universe and the Multiverse ?
Posted: 16 January 2010 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have been disturbed recently by repeated encounters with articles on the topic of the Fine-Tuned Universe in reputable publications such as New Scientist.

Isn’t this yet another surreptitious attempt to promote the Intelligent Design religious concept ? Because I find the logic of the argument to be so appallingly pitiful, and despite this I just listened to a podcast on Scientific American which discussed it as if it is a legitimate scientific concept !

My other question is about the much quoted postulate of the Multiverse. This too seems like a counter rational theory thought up by some mathematician who found that one of his big Cosmological equations turned out to have an infinite range of solutions and his deduction was gee… there must be an infinite number of universes !  I find this completely daft and illogical and totally unsupported by any evidence whatsoever. Yet it is bounced around on all kinds of so-called science TV programs, science magazines etc.

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Posted: 16 January 2010 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I agree with both your comments.  The “fine tuned universe” idea seems to be anthropocentric, that is, that it is tuned for US.  We have adapted to the properties it happens to have.  Had it happened to have had different properties, either there would have been a different kind of life that might be positing the same irrational ideas, or there would have been no life to suggest that the universe wasn’t “fine tuned.”

While the “multiverse: concept is great fun to add to science fiction, since there’s no evidence, only some suggested extrapolations, it’s as much of a waste of time to consder scientifically as it would be to consider the metaphysical realm as a worthwhile scientific idea.  In addition, I seemed to read recently that it has been determined that any additional spatial dimensions beyond the three we are aware of would have exist over less than the distance across an atom. 

Occam

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Posted: 16 January 2010 08:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Agreed re. the fine tuning arguments. They seem extremely silly to me as well. The multiverse, as Occam says, runs in advance of the evidence, however it is a legitimate interpretation of quantum mechanics, known as Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation. There is as still (AFAIK) insufficient evidence to know whether or not this is the correct interpretation, as there are others that do not share its metaphysical implications. However it is not daft nor illogical given the mathematics of QM, or at least so I have been told.

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Posted: 16 January 2010 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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scepticeye - 16 January 2010 02:22 PM

I have been disturbed recently by repeated encounters with articles on the topic of the Fine-Tuned Universe in reputable publications such as New Scientist.

Isn’t this yet another surreptitious attempt to promote the Intelligent Design religious concept ?

no there are agnostics/atheists like Richard Dawkins who take the point seriously.

You are 100% right to ask—if the observation is correct, that the universe seems to be finely tuned to us,  are there simple naturalistic explanations that should be considered before more complicated ones. And because we can never be sure we have exhausted complex naturalistics explanations that no one has thought of yet,  we should be extremely hesitant to substitute superstious/supernatural explanations with no real evidence.

Anyway I think the scientific community is still working on (1) is it actually true that the universe is fine-tuned, and (2) what are the hypotheses consider.

As Occam suggests, a “hypothesis” is sort of empty unless it can be tested, so we mostly have as-yet untestable “proto-hypotheses”.  We needn’t give up hope.

I don’t dismiss Occam’s suggestion that the orginal observation “a universe fine-tuned for human existence” might be just a misinterpretation——
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle
The “anthropic principle” in some ways explains this. 

The question of fine-tuning is embedded in the larger question of how the universe originated.  There is so much more to understand that I think it is a mistake to get hung up on this but that’s just my opinion.

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Posted: 16 January 2010 09:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t find the idea of a multiverse illogical at all. The idea of natural selection is too beautiful to be limited only to life. I am aware of the fact that the cosmic natural selection would differ greatly from the biological one, but the fundamental principle would suffice: if X1 then Y; if X2 then nothing. We live in a “Y” universe with “X1” physical laws.

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Posted: 17 January 2010 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Occam - 16 January 2010 05:02 PM

I agree with both your comments.  The “fine tuned universe” idea seems to be anthropocentric, that is, that it is tuned for US.  We have adapted to the properties it happens to have.  Had it happened to have had different properties, either there would have been a different kind of life that might be positing the same irrational ideas, or there would have been no life to suggest that the universe wasn’t “fine tuned.”

Occam

I think you might be right but I’m not absolutely sure.

If I think about the national lottery and think of the idea that the lottery machine that holds the balls must have been “fine tuned” in order to produce the lottery winner it did, that would be silly. It would be an attempt to explain an improbable event occuring in which no explanation would be needed, as what ever combination of numbers came out it would have been equally improbable.

I think the question is can the analogy be applied to the fine tuning argument or is there a significant difference?

Stephen

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Posted: 17 January 2010 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think the problem is that we tend to have an “ethnocentric” (humano-centric) view in that we reflect upon our existence, even in a secular manner at times, as evidence of other similar possibilities (or other ‘peoples’).  We are able to reflect upon it due to our conscious viewpoint of reality.  If we developed in some other manner, we might reflect upon it differently (for example, if the arrow of time were reversed). 

We are essentially stuck on an island where we postulate upon the existence of other islands…the multi-island approach.  But there may not be.  I still love the idea of the multi-verse and baby-universes, but I don’t think it is falsifiable, any more than speculating that everything we believe to be true was created in the last five minutes (including our memories).

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Posted: 17 January 2010 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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You are certainly right, Stephen, however, I don’t think I was arguing against the existence of a multiverse, but rather against the arguments people have given for it, that is, to justify an almost certain belief that it exists.

But, I’m not as willing to bend on the “fine tuning” because that smacks of the “intelligent force” silliness.

Occam

[ Edited: 17 January 2010 01:26 PM by Occam ]
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Posted: 18 January 2010 12:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Multiverse is more than the many worlds interpretation of QM.

Max Tegmark distinguishes 4 kinds of universes (he calls it ‘levels’):

Level I: Other Hubble volumes have different initial conditions
Level II: Other post-inflation bubbles may have different effective laws of physics (constants, dimensionality,particle content)
Level III: Other branches of the quantum wavefunction add nothing qualitatively new (this is the many worlds interpretation of QM)
Level IV: Other mathematical structures have different fundamental equations of physics

But thinking with Immanual Kant in the background, I don’t know what it is worth…

I do not think the concept of natural selection concept can be applied here: natural selection supposes the existence of (imperfectly) self copying entities. I do not see this in any of above kind of ‘multiverses’.

<Begin speculation mode>
Just some speculations about the ‘fine tuned’ universe. It seems obvious to me that nature’s constants are such, that we are possible: otherwise we would not be there to observe the universe (I think this is the ‘weak anthropic principle’). So the only real question is if nature’s constants are more or less accidentily like this, or that there is a deeper reason for it. If we say ‘God did it’, then of course we are at a new kind creationism. Others use a ‘multiverse solution’ (Level 2 above): there are endless other universes, and then, really accidentily, there is one that enables permanent and dynamic structures like stars, planetary systems, and life.

I doubt all these kinds of reasoning. When science finds natural laws, i.e. the rules along which ‘causality works’ then I think it is funny to look for causes of natural laws. It nearly seems a kind of category error to me: looking for the rules according to which the rules are made, i.e. the cause of causality (meta causality?). Of course one can see a development of deeper abstraction in natural laws. (E.g. Newtons laws are special cases of relativity, where velocities are very low). And it turns out that some constants can be explained by means of others (e.g. epsilon0, mu0 and the velocity of light turn out to be related, so at least one of them can be ‘disposed of’ as fundamental constant: if you know 2 of them, the other can be derived). But is the search for the reason why the constants left over have the values we find a ‘legal scientific’ question? Aren’t we asking a non empirical provable question? (Max Tegmark of course thinks it is an empirical question)
<End of speculation mode>

GdB

Edit: added the <speculation paragraph>.

[ Edited: 18 January 2010 12:54 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 18 January 2010 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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GdB - 18 January 2010 12:22 AM

Multiverse is more than the many worlds interpretation of QM.

Quite right, there is a lot of speculation on a potential multiverse in cosmology, as well as in the philosophical theories of people like Leibniz and David Lewis.

But I still think the one that has the most scientific cachet has to do with QM. It is, shall we say, the least speculative of a number of extremely speculative theories ...

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Posted: 20 January 2010 11:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Occam - 17 January 2010 01:23 PM

You are certainly right, Stephen, however, I don’t think I was arguing against the existence of a multiverse, but rather against the arguments people have given for it, that is, to justify an almost certain belief that it exists.

But, I’m not as willing to bend on the “fine tuning” because that smacks of the “intelligent force” silliness.

Occam

I was talking about the fine tuning theory rather than the multiverse theory. An aside that interests me is whether the multiverse theory and modal realism of the strongest kind like David Lewis’, amounts to the same thing?

What I’m not sure about is if my lottery analogy holds when refering to the fine tuning argument. If so it would seem the argument is “silly”. I suspect there are a lot of very much less than silly people who believe the argument is sound so I’m really wondering and asking what am I missing.

Stephen

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Posted: 20 January 2010 11:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I wasn’t saying the fine tuning was silly, rather, I was saying that the Intelligent Force (quasi-god) argument was silly.

Occam

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Posted: 20 January 2010 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Occam - 20 January 2010 11:41 AM

I wasn’t saying the fine tuning was silly, rather, I was saying that the Intelligent Force (quasi-god) argument was silly.

Occam

That’s interesting, so you are talking about unintentional fine tuning?

edit: Sorry being a bit thick here. Fine tuning needs to mean something whether the explanation is intelligence or not.

Ok so probably a silly question but what exactly is fine tuning?

Stephen

[ Edited: 20 January 2010 12:10 PM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 20 January 2010 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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No, I also think the concept of fine tuning is silly; I just hadn’t said it before. smile 

As I see it, the universe with it’s behavior, e.g. gravity, elemental particles, other properties we have identified by our statement of physical laws, just is.  As soon as we attach something like “tuning” it takes it from “is” to “having been constructed”.  “Fine Tuning” seems to try to attach a purpose, and that word can only apply to a sentient being (or “force”, ugh!).  Both Scepticeye and I have given arguments against this in earlier posts.

Occam

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Posted: 20 January 2010 10:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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This has been an ongoing argument among physicists for some time.  An example on one side would be Lawrence Krauss.  To state in very simplistic terms, he represents the show me the evidence camp.  If there is no way to obtain data to answer your question, then it’s not science as we now know it.  No matter how interesting.
He’s debated his counterpart in the other camp, Brian Greene.  Greene being one of the primary proponents of string theory.  Sounds interesting.  But, what how does string theory advance our understanding if there is no way to either support or refute it through observation/data collection.

I consider myself a Kraussian.  Many questions are fascinating, but that alone doesn’t make them amenable to obtaining an answer through the scientific method.

Any Greeneies out there?  How is string theory useful if it exists only as a complex mathematical construct?

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Posted: 21 January 2010 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Occam - 16 January 2010 05:02 PM

I agree with both your comments.  The “fine tuned universe” idea seems to be anthropocentric, that is, that it is tuned for US.  We have adapted to the properties it happens to have.  Had it happened to have had different properties, either there would have been a different kind of life that might be positing the same irrational ideas, or there would have been no life to suggest that the universe wasn’t “fine tuned.”

While the “multiverse: concept is great fun to add to science fiction, since there’s no evidence, only some suggested extrapolations, it’s as much of a waste of time to consder scientifically as it would be to consider the metaphysical realm as a worthwhile scientific idea.  In addition, I seemed to read recently that it has been determined that any additional spatial dimensions beyond the three we are aware of would have exist over less than the distance across an atom. 

Occam

I agree with all of this.

The Fine Tuned Universe is essentially another version of the intelligent design nonsense wrapped up in yet another cloak of camouflage to befuddle the daft among us. I am waiting for someone to annoint dark matter as ‘holy matter’ one of these days, and tell us it is put there to hold the universe together ... by .. you know who wink

The multiverse hypothesis does not belong, in my opinion, in the realms of Science at all.  It is 100% hypothesis and 100% silly, and 0% evidence or potential evidence or logic. It has strangely been adopted as a real and serious hypothesis by an astonishing number of scientists in other fields and by the media. This I suspect is caused by the very FACT that there is no possible evidence for or against and no one can tell them NOT to adopt it. This goes especially for the media who get great mileage out of it. I suspect, sadly, that this is going to be a very long running fantasy that will parallel the fantasy of religion in a bizarre and irritating way.

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