Tuesday, July 1, 2008

From the "missing the point" diaries: Anthropic topic? Or anthropic flopic?

Many people have argued that there is no special significance to the fact that the parameters of our universe seem just right for life to come into existence. I think they are whistling down the wind.

Suggesting that Andrew Jaffe might be asking vacuous questions in his review of the new book by cosmologist Paul Davies (The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?) for Physics World, Uhlrich Mohrhoff, editor of AntiMatters and blogger at Koantum Matters, comments:
We don’t need a proximate cause of life separate from the laws of physics. What we need is a cause of the whole shebang. What is largely unknown (or else ignored) is that the only possible explanation of the ultimate physical theory — assuming that such a theory can be found — is teleological. Since “fundamental” doesn’t have a comparative, a theory is either fundamental or it is not. If it is not fundamental, then there is a fundamental theory that can explain it. If it is fundamental, then it can explain (in principle) everything else and therefore cannot (in principle) be explained by anything else — except by finding a reason why it has the particular form that it does.

The fundamental theoretical framework of contemporary physics is quantum theory, and there is an utterly simple teleological reason why this has the particular form that it does: without it stable material objects could not exist. In other words, the existence of objects that

* have spatial extent (they “occupy space”),
* are composed of a (large but) finite number of objects without spatial extent (particles that do not “occupy space”),
* and are stable (they neither explode nor collapse as soon as they are created)

requires the fundamental theoretical framework of contemporary physics to be what it is.

Read the rest for yourself! And Happy Canada Day!