Saturday, January 16, 2021

Was the universe made for us?

[This is a transcript of the video embedded below.]


Today I want to talk about the claim that our universe is especially made for humans, or fine-tuned for life. According to this idea it’s extremely unlikely our universe would just happen to be the way it is by chance, and the fact that we nevertheless exist requires explanation. This argument is popular among some religious people who use it to claim that our universe needs a creator, and the same argument is used by physicists to pass off unscientific ideas like the multiverse or naturalness as science. In this video, I will explain what’s wrong with this argument, and why the observation that the universe is this way and not some other way, is evidence neither for nor against god or the multiverse.

Ok, so here is how the argument goes in a nutshell. The currently known laws of nature contain constants. Some of these constants are for example, the fine-structure constant that sets the strength of the electromagnetic force, Planck’s constant, Newton’s constant, the cosmological constant, the mass of the Higgs boson, and so on.

Now you can ask, what would a universe look like, in which one or several of these constants were a tiny little bit different. Turns out that for some changes to these constants, processes that are essential for life as we know it could not happen, and we could not exist. For example, if the cosmological constant was too large, then galaxies would never form. If the electromagnetic force was too strong, nuclear fusion could not light up stars. And so on. There’s a long list of calculations of this type, but they’re not the relevant part of the argument, so I don’t want to go through the whole list.

The relevant part of the argument goes like this: It’s extremely unlikely that these constants would happen to have just exactly the values that allow for our existence. Therefore, the universe as we observe it requires an explanation. And then that explanation may be god or the multiverse or whatever is your pet idea. Particle physicists use the same type of argument when they ask for a next larger particle collider. In that case, they claim it requires explanation why the mass of the Higgs boson happens to be what it is. This is called an argument from “naturalness”. I explained this in an earlier video.

What’s wrong with the argument? What’s wrong is the claim that the values of the constants of nature that we observe are unlikely. There is no way to ever quantify this probability because we will never measure a constant of nature that has a value other than the one it does have. If you want to quantify a probability you have to collect a sample of data. You could do that, for example, if you were throwing dice.Throw them often enough, and you get an empirically supported probability distribution.

But we do not have an empirically supported probability distribution for the constants of nature. And why is that. It’s because… they are constant. Saying that the only value we have ever observed is “unlikely” is a scientifically meaningless statement. We have no data, and will never have data, which allow us to quantify the probability of something we cannot observe. There’s nothing quantifiably unlikely, therefore, there’s nothing in need of explanation.

If you look at the published literature on the supposed “fine-tuning” of the constants of nature, the mistake is always the same. They just postulate a particular probability distribution. It’s this postulate that leads to their conclusion. This is one of the best known logical fallacies, called “begging the question” or “circular reasoning.” You assume what you need to show. And instead of showing that a value is unlikely, they pick a specific probability distribution that makes it unlikely. They could as well pick a probability distribution that would make the observed values *likely, just that this doesn’t give the result they want to have.

And, by the way, even if you could measure a probability distribution for the constants of nature, which you can’t, then the idea that our particular combination of constants is necessary for life would *still be wrong. There are several examples in the scientific literature for laws of nature with constants nothing like our own that, for all we can tell, allow for chemistry complex enough for life. Please check the info below the video for references.

Let me be clear though that finetuning arguments are not always unscientific. The best-known example of a good finetuning argument is a pen balanced on its tip. If you saw that, you’d be surprised. Because this is very unlikely to happen just by chance. You’d look for an explanation, a hidden mechanism. That sounds very similar to the argument for finetuning the constants of nature, but the balanced pen is a very different situation. The claim that the balanced pen is unlikely is based on data. You are surprised because you don’t normally encounter pens balanced on their tip.You have experience, meaning you have statistics. But it’s completely different if you talk about changing constants that cannot be changed by any physical process. Not only do we not have experience with that, we can never get any experience.

I should add there are theories in which the constants of nature are replaced with parameters that can change with time or place, but that’s a different story entirely and has nothing to do with the fine-tuning arguments. It’s an interesting idea though. Maybe I should talk about this some other time? Let me know in the comments.

And for the experts, yes, I have so far specifically referred to what’s known as the frequentist interpretation of probability. You can alternatively interpret the term “unlikely” using the Bayesian interpretation of probability. In the Bayesian sense, saying that something you observe was “unlikely”, means you didn’t expect it to happen. But with the Bayesian interpretation, the whole argument that the universe was especially made for us doesn’t work. That’s because in that case it’s easy enough to find reasons for why your probability assessment was just wrong and nothing’s in need of explaining.

Example: Did you expect a year ago that we’d spent much of 2020 in lockdown? Probably not. You probably considered that unlikely. But no one would claim that you need god to explain why it seemed unlikely.

What does this mean for the existence of god or the multiverse? Both are assumptions that are unnecessary additions to our theories of nature. In the first case, you say “the constants of nature in our universe are what we have measured, and god made them”, in the second case you say “the constants of nature in our universe are what we have measured, and there are infinitely many other unobservable universes with other constants of nature.” Neither addition does anything whatsoever to improve our theories of nature. But this does not mean god or the multiverse do not exist. It just means that evidence cannot tell us whether they do or do not exist. It means, god and the multiverse are not scientific ideas.

If you want to know more about fine-tuning, I have explained all this in great detail in my book Lost in Math.

In summary: Was the universe made for us? We have no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.


You can join the chat on this video today (Saturday, Jan 16) at 6pm CET/Eastern Time here.

168 comments:

  1. First of all, saying that the universe is fine-tuned is NOT the same as saying that it was specifically made for us, or for life, or for anything at all.

    Yes, some religious types use the fine-tuning argument. Some religious types claim that the fact that living organisms are adapted to their environment is evidence of divine creation, but of course it is the result of evolution. If a religious person says that the sun rose this morning, that does not make it dark out. So the whole religious stuff is a red herring in the discussion.

    As to the question of probability distributions, as I have said before I think that there is a misunderstanding here, so I wrote a paper to quantify that. Maybe you will be the referee. It is too big for the comment box, so let us wait until it has been published. (That includes you too Steven Evans.)

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    1. Phillip Helbig8:16 AM, January 16, 2021

      "saying that the universe is fine-tuned is NOT the same as saying that it was specifically made for us, or for life, or for anything at all."

      That literally is one of the meanings of fine-tuning in Physics. As Dr. H. states - multiverse (fine-tuning a la lottery win) or deliberate creator (fine-tuning a la piano tuner). And in both cases it gives you a very specific (the tuning is fine) phenomenon (tuning is tuning for some result).

      So you don't even know what the term fine-tuning refers to in Physics.

      "So the whole religious stuff is a red herring in the discussion."
      There is no evidence for fine-tuning. Iron Age superstitions have nothing to do with it. You saying that religion is a red herring is a red herring.
      The fact that Luke Barnes' claims are motivated by the Iron Age superstitions he holds is a fact, though. Not relevant to the Physics debate, but a fact that makes him a crank and a fraud.

      "As to the question of probability distributions, as I have said before I think that there is a misunderstanding here, so I wrote a paper to quantify that."

      Excellent! Phil has written the paper. Don't be shy, Phil. Post it on the archive, the comedy archive.

      "Maybe you will be the referee."

      You better hope not. You better get Luke Barnes and Philip Goff to referee it for you.

      "It is too big for the comment box, so let us wait until it has been published. "

      Hahaha! Like Fermat's proof of the Last Theorem was too big for the margin??

      I kid you not, I am in fits of laughter at this comment. Can't wait for the paper.

      You are a gem, Phillip Helbig.

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    2. Somewhere along the line the idea of God as a metaphysical genie will have to be set aside along with religion as a construct of man in favor of a logical and reasonable definition reflecting an unfathomable intellect and power that chose the title God when setting the undeniably unique human race on a path to ascendance to a higher plane of existence. It is only in said context the highly improbable survival of the Jews as guardians of the Torah, instruction, makes sense and as such one would expect as humans matured technologically the two hardest sciences, physics and mathematics, would find messages in the language of God mathematics written in both small, quantum, and large, relativity, print leaving no doubt as to the author…the predicate for but having nothing to do with religion per se.

      Small print can be argued all day but when “I am” is written in large print fusing mathematics with long dismissed but enduring Torah scripture and natural phenomenon in a profound way it is as Juvenal observed “Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another”.

      Three verses of Exodus, 14:19-21, are unique in the entire library of human literature; three verses describing how G†d literally protected the rear of the chosen people from the army of the Pharaoh until the sea was parted allowing for salvation; three consecutive verses containing 72 letters each defying probabilities when arranged as 72 three dimensional triplets are said to not only represent the names of G†d but His divine attributes forming the essential pattern of creation. The number 72 is a key to unlock the large and small print in accord with Maimonides who said God best understood in the context of His actions and His dominion…in this instance fused.

      When you look at the moon or the sun does the fact there is a precise 400 to one ratio even occur to you or is that something you never knew? The diameter of the sun is exactly 400 times the diameter of the moon and the distance to the sun is exactly 400 times the distance to the moon which allows for the spectacular coronal effect during a full eclipse.

      Look closer and you will see what none have noticed until this moment; the diameter of the moon, 2160 miles, is exactly 72x30; the diameter of the earth, 7920 miles, is exactly 72x110…with both the earth and the moon orbiting about their barycentre which varies but on average follows the moon as it orbits over 2000 miles below the earth surface at a point that is on average 72% of the earth’s radius.

      Now consider the observations of Michael S. Schneider as part of his ‘Constructing the Universe’ series: “…the diameters of both Earth and Moon, 7920+2160=10,080, is the same as the number of minutes in one week…10,080 is a Highly Composite number with exactly 72 divisors; the same as the average number of heartbeats in a minute”.

      The number 72 as a key changes every calculation…every calculation in that empirical evidence of existence is no small thing.

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    3. Or, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, 3 X 2 X 1 = 6. Therefore, God exists.

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  2. The funny part about fine tuning is if there is fine tuning, then it tends to informally imply a fine tuner. We might of course say Earth is fine tuned for our existence and maybe even life in general. But this is a different meaning to the term fine tuning, for really we are adapted to living on Earth, and this occurred through many millions of years of evolution. In fact it is 3.5 billion years of evolution. In this meaning of fine tuning it is more that we are fine tuned for Earth. I tend to argue much the same with our status with the universe; life and ourselves are really more adapted to the universe.

    We may first eliminate the need for a fine tuner. If in the universe, or sample space of possible cosmologies or the multiverse, it is not hard to see that from a phase space perspective that a small region or sample of these worlds can support what we call life. We have some theoretical understanding that this phase space is vast, and the overwhelming majority of possible cosmologies are vastly different from what we observe. I will use the term naturalism to mean what we know on some level about cosmologies. Therefore it is reasonable to assert if the observable cosmology is the only one which exists then the conditional probability of F = observation universe is fine tuned and N = natural conditions

    P(F | N) << 0.

    This is at first observation reasonable, if we think of N and F as largely independent.

    For there to be a fine tuner, call that God the standard assumption is that

    P(F | G) = 1

    or maybe a somewhat weakened condition P(F | G) ≲ 1. This is in effect the “God did it” argument of Luke Barnes and others. This leads to the Bayes' factor P(F | N)/P(F | G) <<1, which says that the evidence strongly favors G over N.

    Assume for the sake of argument that the prior probabilities of G and N are equal P(G) ≈ P(N), it follows that the posterior probability ratio is given by

    P(N | F)/P(G | F') = [P(F | N)P(N)]/[P(F | G)P(G)] << 1,

    which strongly favors G over N. That is, if there is just one universe, one randomly created naturalistically, or one created by God, the God created one if far more probable.

    Current understanding of cosmology indicates physical theory strongly suggests that there is some sort of multiverse with many universes, each with its own set of physical parameters. There is potentially an infinitely many of them. So, the probability that at least one of the infinitely many universes is fine-tuned for life is 1, and a selection effect says that that's the sort of universe we are living in; therefore

    P(F | N ∪ M) = 1.

    Here M means multiverse, or at least some quantum path integral physics that extends amplitudes. The meaning of F is now that one fine tuned cosmology exists and that we live in it.
    We also have P(F | G) = 1 since (under these hypotheses) God only makes life-friendly universes. Therefore using Bayes rule,

    P(N ∪ M | F)/P(G | F) = [P(F | N ∪ M)P(N ∪ M)]/[P(F | G)P(G)] = 1,

    which says that you cannot tell the difference between a naturalist multiverse and a God-made universe from the fact that we are living in a universe that is fine-tuned, i.e., where F holds. This at least puts the “God did it” and the “nature did it” arguments on roughly equal footing. So, this takes some wind out the sails of those who argue for a fine tuner.

    We so far appear to have an argument that appeals to a multiverse. Some people object to this physical cosmology, and so this appears to be a possible weakness. However, that is not quite the case. The evidence we have for F is that the observable universe is fine tuned for our existence and we have no direct evidence of any other cosmology.

    If this universe were not fine-tuned for our own existence, we would not be here making these arguments! So, this means that the evidence E isn't really that we've been selected out of an infinite number of universes and it's fine-tuned. E is properly thought of as that "we observe that the universe we live in is fine-tuned for our own existence".

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    1. Lawrence Crowell8:27 AM, January 16, 2021

      There is zero evidence that the universe can be any different than it has been observed to be. There is no sample space of cosmologies. There is no known fine-tuning of the universe at all. There are not known to be Physical concepts of a "creator" of a universe or a "multiverse". The word "God" refers to a character in a myth.

      Yes, observing at the biological level, we are adapted to the environment and not vice-versa.

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    2. I initially couch the argument around a multiverse sort of concept. I do then indicate this aspect of the argument can be removed.

      The multiverse concept is something that comes from inflationary cosmology. Therein the observable universe is a de Luccia-Coleman bubble nucleation due to the transition from a high energy vacuum, or false vacuum, to the low energy vacuum of the observable universe. This transition is the Guth inflationary period. On a de Sitter vacuum this results in the Linde-Vilenkin multiverse setting.

      Inflationary cosmology, at least that the observable universe was in an inflationary period very early on, has considerable explanatory power and it has made predictions that have passed some empirical muster. The verdict in one sense is still out, but it is the best leading contender for understanding the early cosmos.

      So, based on this the idea of a sample space of cosmologies, even if they turn out to be quantum amplitudes or trajectories selected away from this observable universe, is a reasonable construction to appeal to. I do suspect that many of these cosmologies in the multiverse with large vacuum energy are not stable and are then at best just off-shell corrections in quantum cosmology. Hence there may be far fewer cosmologies, and maybe even just the one we observe. Even still, the idea of this sample space is not entirely unreasonable.

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    3. "the idea of a sample space of cosmologies … is a reasonable construction to appeal to."

      No it's not. We have a sample space of one: the universe we find ourselves in. So far we have no way to determine whether multiple Universes can exist, let alone whether they do exist and/or whether they must follow the same rules as ours.

      Until there's some kind of breakthrough discovery which allows us to approach this kind of question scientifically, speculation along these lines is philosophy and/or religion, but certainly not science. We can thus ask those kinds of question until we're either blue in the face or get bored, but one thing we're not going to get is answers.

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    4. Lawrence Crowell12:45 PM, January 16, 2021

      The key point in what you write:
      " has considerable explanatory power and it has made predictions that have passed some empirical muster."

      The only empirical evidence I have ever read you mention is B-modes in CMB. These haven't been observed, and even if they were, there is still no precise Physical definition of what inflation is.

      "Even still, the idea of this sample space is not entirely unreasonable."
      Bubble nucleation, inflationary periods, sample spaces of cosmologies are not known to be physical. They are all speculations rooted in the observation that the obs. universe is homogeneous and flat, but they are not precise Physical theories and have no empirical support. In the end, what is actually known Physically is that the obs. universe is homogeneous and flat.

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    5. Lawrence,
      I understood Sabina that physicists are wrong when they try to answer philosophical questions with the methods of physical science. Nothing good can come of this, as is the case with the 'multiverse'.
      You, unlike physicists, do not try to limit yourself to positivist reasoning (that is good!), But, nevertheless, you make too many mistakes:

      =='Assume for the sake of argument that the prior probabilities of G and N are equal P (G) ≈ P (N)'==

      - This is obviously an unfounded assumption. From the point of view of subjective probability, this would be so if the assumptions about the existence of God and Nature were homogeneous (symmetric) or almost homogeneous. But you yourself do not put God and Nature on the same level!

      =='There is potentially an infinitely many of them. So, the probability that at least one of the infinitely many universes is fine-tuned for life is 1, and a selection effect says that that's the sort of universe we are living in; Therefore
      P (F | N ∪ M) = 1. ==

      - The problem is that theoretical potentiality does not always turn into actuality, and for our Universe the actual availability of alternatives has not been proven. You argue like Democritus, who assumed in advance that the universes are infinite, and from this, of course, deduced that the Earth must have exact doubles somewhere far away. But, as you, I think, understand: with such an assumption about the actually existing infinity, no modern theoretical toys of the Multiverse type are needed. The existence of our civilization and our Universe becomes a strict necessity, proceeding from the objectively existing continuum of actual variants.

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    6. Continuing

      =='If this universe were not fine-tuned for our own existence, we would not be here making these arguments! So, this means that the evidence E isn't really that we've been selected out of an infinite number of universes and it's fine-tuned. E is properly thought of as that 'we observe that the universe we live in is fine-tuned for our own existence'.
      'For sure, P (F | N ∪ M) = 1
      But even if we are living in a non-multiverse, and ours is the only universe there is, we must observe that the universe we are living in is fine-tuned for our own existence. For, if it were not, we wouldn't be able to observe anything, because we would not exist!
      Therefore P (F | N ∪ ~ M) = 1! '==

      - Surprisingly, but based on absolutely false premises, you are almost close to the truth. It was only necessary to add: 'they are trying to fine-tune their physical models so that they do not contradict their feelings (and the results of experiments available to us through feelings) and logic, otherwise they would not be able to reason about them sitting here.' Thus, the promotion of the Multiverse model in the scientific environment resembles a retrospective rationalization of scientists in the spirit of psychoanalysis in order to answer the question: 'On what basis can I be here and talk about this?' Success in such case depends on the ingenuity and ability of the human mind to fit models to the observed more or less successfully . The task of predictions, traditional for positivist science, is in principle not posed here. And the models change from time to time due to the change of generations of scientists and the need to make a career anew.

      On the other hand, it cannot be denied that attempts to reason about the 'Multiverse' are clearly rooted in Platonic and even Democritical reasoning: To the actual 'Multiverse' of Democritic universes and the 'Multiverse' of Plato's 'eidei'. And a little closer - they lead to the Kantian idea of the rationality of the physical world. If not for the obsessive associations, I would call this principle 'nootropic' or even 'psychotropic' instead of 'anthropic', meaning that the Cartesian 'I' cannot exist in a universe with other mathematics. As for physics, I would refrain from drawing conclusions, since the 'narrow spectrum for the existence of carbon life' still does not prove anything about the conditions for the 'I'. After all, 'I' can be imagined on a completely different basis: on ultrafast neutrinos, why not? After all, we know little about 'I'. Thus 'I' probably can live with much more spectrum of physical constants then 'carbonic life'.

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    7. What makes something a "scientific idea?" Are all these "constants" scientific ideas?

      Are technology-based measurements "scientific ideas?"

      Are theories that are not susceptible to experimental manipulation "scientific ideas?"

      Or are hypotheses "scientific ideas?" Does it matter if the hypotheses are technologically provable?

      If God is a hypothesis, why isn't it a "scientific idea?"

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    8. God is not a hypothesis because the idea is not testable. There is no way to unequivocally determine that God does not exist. The God idea thus isn't falsifyable. I'm not going to rehash multiple chapters from multiple natural history and science philosophers who stated why that must be so, a century ago. Not enough space in the margin and all that. Read them if you're interested.

      There are multiple ways to determine that God(s) do(es) exist, but by definition all of them require an obvious act on their part. So far, all evidence we have is compatible with human superstition / wishful thinking / deceit / fraud, ample evidence for which exists outside the God(s) hypothesis. This points us to the other mainstay of modern science, which is Ockham's Razor: don't add preconditions when you can equally well get along without them, as they muddle your thinking.

      NB, the same argument applies to consciousness-outside-the-brain. Zero evidence for it except fraud on the one side and self-delusion / wishful thinking on the other, plus we found no plausible mechanism how that'd work. Lots of clever people have tried and didn't come up with anything that's incompatible with wishful thinking on their part.

      Thus, sorry. We can hypothesize about all of this stuff all we want, and of course I can't dissuade anybody from thinking up novel ways how things might be otherwise.

      But as there is no test, no explanatory power, and (for the most part) no plausibility behind any of these hypotheses they're wishful thinking, no matter whether they're stated in mathematical formulas or iambic trimeter.

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    9. smurfix,

      Well, according to your definition, then, there's no such thing as an unfalsifiable hypothesis because if it was unfalsifiable it wouldn't be a hypothesis. You can define what you want, of course, but it's just not how people normally use the word hypothesis.

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    10. smurfix3:35 AM, January 19, 2021

      "There is no way to unequivocally determine that God does not exist."

      Science is not the only domain with standards of evidence. For example, you can't prove the Battle of Stalingrad happened using Physics, but historical evidence tells us such an event did happen. Similarly, we know from our knowledge of humanity that primitive humans made up myths about gods, demi-gods, angels, etc. These do not exist. They are fictional.

      Gould was right that religion belongs to a magisterium not overlapping with science - the magisterium of superstition.

      We don't need all these grand terms, though - most people are a bit thick, that's all.

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  3. Continued:
    Now instead of considering G vs. N, now consider N ∪ M versus N ∪ ~M (where ~ means "not" so in that case there is only one universe, not a multiverse).

    For sure, P(F | N ∪ M) = 1

    But even if we are living in a non-multiverse, and ours is the only universe there is, we must observe that the universe we are living in is fine-tuned for our own existence. For, if it were not, we wouldn't be able to observe anything, because we would not exist!

    Therefore P(F | N ∪ ~M) =1 !

    So observing that our universe is fine-tuned for our own existence tells us nothing whatsoever about whether we live in a multiverse or not. Similarly, it tells us nothing at all about whether the universe is naturalistic or whether God Did It. To argue further, God is usually assumed to have omnipresence or omnipotence and this restricts the conditional probability P(F | G) so that P(F | G) ≤ 1.

    The last part of this argument that weakens the assumption of the multiverse corresponds to my thinking on the matter. Many of these cosmologies in the multiverse, which is a term I dislike, have huge vacuum energy and I think are off shell conditions. The low energy vacuum of the universe we exist in is a physical vacuum of maximally broken symmetry, where these other cosmologies with much larger cosmological constant than we observe Λ >> Λ_obs are off shell or virtual fluctuations. This may severely restrict the number of possible alternative cosmologies, and possibly reduce it to just one ---- the one we exist within.

    This is of course not a proof against a fine tuner or God. It though does remove the necessity for such in understanding cosmology and the structures we measure, which has this fine tuned appearance.

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    1. Lawrence Crowell8:28 AM, January 16, 2021

      "the universe we are living in is fine-tuned for our own existence"

      No. We are an observation in this universe, that's all.

      The evolution of the universe from 13.7 bya until today has been observed to be according to the laws and constants of Physics. These may be the only Physically possible laws and constants. You have shown no fine-tuning.

      The non-observed cosmologies you mention are not known to be Physically possible.

      "God", omnipotence, omniscience are terms which are meaningless in the domain of Physics aka reality.

      Finally, you state there is a fine-tuned "appearance". One can't have the "appearance" of fine-tuning. There is either knowledge available which implies fine-tuning or there isn't.

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    2. To say there is just an observation does not really change the argument. It just says the fine tuning is simply what we observe and we just ignore any possibility otherwise.

      The coupling constants are running parameters according to the renormalization group flow. The physical vacuum is then where these flows end. It is then not entirely insane to question how it is that they end where they do. Is there a fundamental reason for this, which is what Gross suggests?

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    3. Lawrence,

      "To say there is just an observation does not really change the argument. It just says the fine tuning is simply what we observe and we just ignore any possibility otherwise."

      No, this is wrong. To say that there is just one observation (within errorbars, needless to say) means there is not and there can never been any observation of "fine tuning". You are using the word "fine tuning" without having defined it. Define it and you will see that your claim is trivially unscientific.

      "The coupling constants are running parameters according to the renormalization group flow. "

      Red herring. The flow is whatever it is. We're talking about the value of constants at one fixed energy. Pick one. It doesn't matter.

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    4. @Steven Evans: You just don‘t get it. Saying that it just is not so is not an argument any more than the redneck bumper sticker: God said it, I believe it, that settles it.

      You need to take a course in logic.

      Your argument is essentially that Luke Barnes is a Deist and believes in intelligent design (which is probably true), that is a bad idea (we can agree on that), so therefore anything he says about fine-tuning must be wrong.

      Let me make a statement: Steven Evans has a good grasp of fundamental physics and understands why there is no fine-tuning.

      You are on record here as saying that I am some sort of crazy buffoon. By the logic you apply to Barnes, you must conclude that anything I say about you must be wrong, such as the statement above, which therefore proves that you have no clue. But if you do not accept this logic, then your bringing Barnes into the discussion is completely irrelevant. Barnes is the second author on the book with Lewis, who is an atheist. But he makes the same arguments about fine-tuning. They literally spell it out for you that fine-tuning as a concept and possible explanations for it are two different things, but you still do not get it. The fact that you bring Barnes into it, rather than Lewis and/or challenging the arguments, shows that you do not understand the arguments well enough to even try to rebut them.

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    5. Lawrence Crowell12:52 PM, January 16, 2021

      "It just says the fine tuning is simply what we observe and we just ignore any possibility otherwise."

      There is no evidence of other possibilities, that's the point. So you can't claim there *is* fine-tuning.

      " It is then not entirely insane to question how it is that they end where they do."
      You are simply looking at the one known physical reality at different resolutions. Patterns, expressible as a group, have been observed connecting observations at different resolutions. These may be the only patterns possible physically. The ending may be the only physically possible ending.

      Why do you think this is an argument for fine-tuning?

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    6. This was similar to what was said about atoms in the 19th century.

      We are in territory that is not well understood. I think it is not an entirely unscientific question to ask whether RG flows terminate on the physical vacuum we observe, or whether there are multiple possibilities. I do not particularly believe in string theory or the landscape, but it is a construction that is plausible.

      In a part the question is whether we can observe anything about other cosmologies. There are some researchers looking for possible signatures of such in the CMB. I am not sure how successful this will turn out. The idea is that de Lucia-Coleman bubble interact and if there are different vacuum energies there may be some interaction. This might leave a fingerprint on the CMB. Maybe, maybe not, but at this time it cannot be entirely dismissed.

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    7. @ Evans: I am not saying I particularly even believe in fine tuning. On the other hand I do not dismiss it. These matters in my opinion are similar to atomic theory. During the 19th century the chemists used atomic theory to describe chemical interactions, but physicists generally said atoms do not exist because we do not observe them and physics requires things be a continuum. Ernst Mach was a big anti-atomist, and crossed swords with Boltzmann who invoked atomic theory.

      Matters such as the multiverse and different physical vacua and what we might call fine tuning are just theoretical constructs I keep in the toolbox. I do not particularly believe or disbelieve in them.

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    8. Lawrence Crowell12:48 PM, January 17, 2021

      "This was similar to what was said about atoms in the 19th century."
      Not an argument.

      "I think it is not an entirely unscientific question to ask whether RG flows terminate on the physical vacuum we observe, or whether there are multiple possibilities."

      And only one possibility has been observed. And considering other possibilities has led to zero natural scientific knowledge. Correct?

      "I do not particularly believe in string theory or the landscape, but it is a construction that is plausible."

      You mean it is a theory that is consistent with observation. But has no supporting empirical evidence.

      "There are some researchers looking for possible signatures of such in the CMB."

      Fine. But nothing has been discovered.

      "The idea is that de Lucia-Coleman bubble interact and if there are different vacuum energies there may be some interaction. This might leave a fingerprint on the CMB. "

      Fair enough. But no fingerprints have been discovered yet. And detailed CMB data is already available.

      I don't deny all these ideas are fascinating, but I worry they may constitute something of a siren call.

      Delete
    9. Lawrence Crowell1:26 PM, January 17, 2021

      "I am not saying I particularly even believe in fine tuning. On the other hand I do not dismiss it. "

      Ditto. I do dismiss claims that there is evidence of universal fine-tuning, though, because there isn't.

      Delete
    10. I have previously written about the possibility of universe collisions here. That post is from 2014, but for all I know nothing has changed since.

      The problem with this type of argument is a somewhat different one than the one with finetuning I have discussed here. The issue with bubble collisions is that it's an unnecessarily complicated hypothesis that brings no benefit for explaining actual observations. There are literally infinitely many unnecessary hypothesis that one can think up and then write papers about. It's not a good strategy.

      Delete
    11. Sabine Hossenfelder5:43 AM, January 18, 2021

      Cheers. INteresting post. Sounds like a Rorschach test - can you see bubble collisions in CMB data?

      Delete
  4. If an entire species suffers from "narcissism", one can expect theories such as fine tuning and multiverse.

    Even Paul Dirac went through a cosmological numerology phase, I recall.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ho, ho, ho.
    Let battle commence.
    Just have a bath before I read the post and then tear Phillip Helbig a new one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We don't even know where these funny constants come from. If we had a proper ToE we could probably explain all of them from first principles, but we don't. Thus we don't even know whether any of them could possibly be modified.

    The same kind of argument is needed to explain why we live in three dimensions instead of two or four. Two is not complex enough for life as we know it(!!), four wouldn't allow star systems or galaxies as we know them(!!), thus we wouldn't exist.

    Sure we wouldn't, but that doesn't preclude something else and possibly even more strange and unlikely to exist instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if we had a TOE from which to compute these constants, we'd just go on asking "Why this theory?" I don't know why people think that some axioms of theories are any worse or better than others. Why is assuming that space-time is a metric space okay, but assuming that \Lambda is something not? Makes no sense whatsoever. The only justification we have for scientific theories is that they describe what we observe. Scientists should stick with that.

      Delete
    2. I'm not interested in "why" for the purpose of this discussion, I'm interested in "could it be any different"? If a ToE explained why those constants are the way they are then we'd know (for the same value of "know" that we know a hammer falls down when you let go of it) there's no possible way somebody in an alternate or built-differently-by-God universe could conceivably observe anything different. Right now we don't know, thus people have unproductive fun with stupid speculations instead of, as you write, sticking with the observable.

      As to why some theories are better than others? presumably because they explain reality better (more exact, fewer contradictions, fewer preconditions, testable predictions, etc.) than others. Thus, all else being equal, a theory that explained why there is a fine structure constant and why its value is X would be inherently better than one that says "we observe that there's a fine structure constant, its value is X, deal with it".

      Delete
    3. "I'm not interested in "why" for the purpose of this discussion... a theory that explained why there is a fine structure constant and why its value is X..."

      Delete
    4. Sabine, the physics, like any other branch science, strictly limits the range of questions to which it is customary to demand an answer. In particular, you cannot continue with your 'why?' endlessly without going beyond physical sphere into the pure philosophy. Physics recognizes as physically meaningful only those questions, the correctness of the answer to which can be verified experimentally. It is clear that the question like 'why is the constant of gravity exactly like this?' is impossible to verify experimentally due to the lack of alternative physical observations.

      At the same time, this is a question that is of interest, just the answer to it obviously lies outside of physical science, in the field of natural philosophy. At the same time, I cannot agree that, as you write:

      '… With the Bayesian interpretation, the whole argument that the universe was especially made for us doesn’t work. That’s because in that case it’s easy enough to find reasons for why your probability assessment was just wrong and nothing’s in need of explaining '.

      - since it is just the subjective interpretation of probability that requires equal confidence / probability for all homogeneous options. This means that if there is some distribution of a priori possibilities for the values of physical constants, then the probability measure should also be distributed uniformly. But this is how the supporters of Multiverse reason works!

      Rather, the approach based on the anthropic principle should be considered insufficiently consistent and radical. The principle should not be "anthropic", but "nootropic", that means: "the world is such that my 'I' could reason about it". But in this case it turns out that Kant is right.

      Delete
    5. So? Different scopes of "why". Even if we agree not to speculate whether a Universe with entirely different models of operations is possible or even plausible (first "why"), we can still reason about why those constants, given the universe we live in, have the values they do have.

      A simple Math analogy. You can play around with spherical, hyperbolic or even stranger geometries all you like, but in our flat universe the interior angle of a triangle sums to 180° – and we can and did discover why that must be so. Thus, instead of arguing that those 180° must be God-given (OK, well, some of the Pythagorenas did something like that ;-) or speculating what a flat geometry with 199.5° interior angles might look like, we can and did use that geometric theory to discover other interesting facts and rules about Euclidean space – and extended that to some non-flat spaces (199.5° is no problem, just paint your triangle onto a sphere). But that extension was the second step, and rightly so.

      Maybe we can do the same thing with some sort of ToE. Maybe we can't. Given that we don't have a ToE, nobody knows. In any case, let's discover the rules of this place before waxing pseudo-scientifically about what else may or may not be possible.

      Delete
  7. I am afraid that the Dinosauric Princiole and the Entropic Principle are to be reckoned with.

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  8. The probability that a universe supporting the existence of intelligent life exists, given we are discussing this probability, is equal to one. That's the only quantification possible.

    People who argue that existence of our universe is unlikely must have have forgotten that they are always implicitly talking about this conditional probabilty...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Excellent post! I think your ability to detect circular reasoning and arbitrary assumptions, and even more to expose them clearly and convincingly, has gotten better over the past several years.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dr. H.,

    "But this does not mean god or the multiverse do not exist. "

    But we know gods are made-up just like we know wizards and hobbits are made-up. So we are well aware that gods don't exist even without science having an opinion.

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    Replies
    1. Depends on what you mean by "exist". I have talked about this endlessly two years ago, but I think people don't get it that there's two different notions of "existence", the one scientific the other not. Of course god and the multiverse do not exist in the scientific way. They may or may not exist in a religious way, by which I just mean you can believe whatever you want as long as it isn't in conflict with evidence.

      Delete
    2. Sabine Hossenfelder11:41 AM, January 16, 2021

      We can agree that fictional characters don't exist. "God" is a fictional character.
      You don't refer to any other origin myths of primitive half monkeys as not being scientific questions and therefore not strictly speaking being ruled out by science, so why mention this one?
      Science tells us that people who believe in the existence of gods are mentally deluded - they are unable to distinguish reality and their imaginings.

      Delete
    3. Steven,

      I have noticed many times before that you willingly and knowingly abuse terminology, no matter how careful I am in defining it. For this reason I have no interest in a discussion of you. Let me merely say that of course I have criticized many other creation myths as unscientific too.

      Delete
    4. You can also believe whatever you want even if it is in conflict with evidence. It is irrelevant.

      You can also say whatever you believe without evidence. It can be dismissed without evidence.

      Delete
    5. marten,

      Sorry for expressing myself unclearly, I should have written "You can believe whatever you want without being wrong".

      Delete
    6. Sabine Hossenfelder12:19 PM, January 16, 2021

      I take your point. It's no good having a moving target.

      But Natural Science has, as a historical fact, refuted religious claims. And, in particular, claimed characteristics of "gods" actually believed in by humans can easily be shown to be untrue.

      Natural science tells us that empirically human beings in Iron Age Palestine were the biological offspring of other human beings. This is an empirical fact. Goodbye Christianity.

      All other actually believed gods can be similarly dispatched.

      Science tells us that the concept "god" exists only in the mind that is emergent from the brain as far as we know. Science tells us that people who believe "gods" are real are simply delusional. Just like someone who believes they are the reincarnation of Napoleon is delusional.

      These are plain scientific facts.

      Delete
    7. Sabine Hossenfelder12:19 PM, January 16, 2021

      As the term "god" makes no more sense to you than it does to me or anyone sane, surely in the discussion of fine-tuning it is better to talk about a multiverse versus some fine-tuning process?

      I thought the blog post was very clear and interesting - particularly the Bayesian part.

      Delete
    8. As to what it means to exist: I remember snippets of things I read or heard decades ago. One is from an interview with Ted Nugent (look him up if you don’t know who he is): If I can take a bite out of it, it’s real, otherwise it doesn’t exist. :-)

      Delete
    9. Is your consciousness made-up Steven Evans? If you wish to maintain atheism is true I'm afraid you're going to have to do better than that.

      Delete
    10. Ian Wardell6:59 PM, January 17, 2021

      "God" is a character in an Iron Age fairy tale. This character has nothing to do with physics.
      Conscious experience is emergent in a physical brain, as far as we know. If you think there is some other input into conscious experience than the brain, publish your evidence - it will be the greatest discovery in the history of human thought.

      There is no such thing as "atheism". There are deeply mentally deluded people who believe in Iron Age fairy tales. And there are the sane. The mad and the sane. I am sane.

      Delete
    11. Steven Evans,

      ""God" is a character in an Iron Age fairy tale. This character has nothing to do with physics."

      This may be so, but the hypothesis of a creator of our universe cannot be dismissed on these grounds. For all practical purposes an advanced civilization, not much different from ours, could create us in the form of a computer simulation. This is certainly possible. From our point of view the programmer/user of that simulation would be indistinguishable from "God". It could perform miracles, raise the dead, whatever.

      I do not think there is evidence for us living in a simulation, but the hypothesis itself is not unscientific.

      Delete
    12. Andrei,

      IMHO you're wrong here. Any hypothesis which is not falsifiable, testable, or indeed whatever-else-modern-science-philosophy-deems-to-be-science-able is in fact unscientific, by definition.

      Also IMHO, there's a heap of real problems to solve, both in physics and otherwise -- just look at the Covid-19 situation, last year's global temperature average, or [insert your most pressing issue]. Adding a heap of unreal problems on top is not helpful.

      Delete
    13. Andrei7:17 AM, January 18, 2021

      "I do not think there is evidence for us living in a simulation"

      You are correct. There isn't.

      Delete
    14. smurfix,

      "Any hypothesis which is not falsifiable, testable, or indeed whatever-else-modern-science-philosophy-deems-to-be-science-able is in fact unscientific, by definition."

      Agreed, but why do you think the simulation hypothesis is unfalsifiable? Depending on the type of simulation one could do some tests. It is difficult in practice, but it's not that different from other hypotheses, like the spontaneous creation of life from the primordial organic "soup".

      I also don't see how other theories regarding the universe as a whole could be tested. How would you falsify the idea that the universe is eternal?

      So, I don't think one can reject a priori the simulation hypothesis as unscientific. At this point it is not science because we have no evidence for it, but this could arguably change.

      "there's a heap of real problems to solve, both in physics and otherwise -- just look at the Covid-19 situation, last year's global temperature average, or [insert your most pressing issue]. Adding a heap of unreal problems on top is not helpful."

      1. I think the Covid-19 problem has been solved from a scientific point of view. We have multiple vaccines already.

      2.I see no problem with the global temperature. I see no evidence that the increase in temperature brings more bad consequences than good ones.

      3.I would not count the question regarding the structure of the universe as a "problem" in the way the pandemy is a problem. Still, it's interesting.

      Delete
    15. Andrei3:46 AM, January 19, 2021

      "a priori" - not always but often, the term used when expressing an idea which is completely ludicrous, for which there is no remotely conceivable method of confirmation or refutation, and which is not worth spending a nanosecond talking about.

      Delete
    16. Steven Evans,

      From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

      "A priori justification is a type of epistemic justification that is, in some sense, independent of experience."

      You claim that the hypothesis of a creator of the universe can be rejected without looking for evidence (hence, a priori) because the ancient gods are human inventions.

      Such an argument fails if one replaces those gods with computer programmers because we know very well that computer programmers exist. They are not mythological. This is all I am saying. One should look at the evidence first.

      Delete
    17. Andrei6:48 AM, January 19, 2021

      Let me know when you have some evidence, and therefore don't need to appeal to "a priori justification".

      Delete
  11. Sabine, you stated the following:
    “In summary: Was the universe made for us? We have no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.”

    While that is certainly true, the question is - what other possible reason could there be for the existence of the universe other than to bring life and consciousness into existence?

    I mean, what purpose would there be for the existence of innumerable fusion dynamos (suns) frittering away their energy and light on innumerable empty and barren spheres if life and consciousness did not exist?

    However, if you sprinkle a few capsules (cells) of DNA onto the surface of the spheres, then a sun’s (and by extension, the universe’s) true purpose for existing becomes obvious.

    All of which seems to imply intention.
    _______

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "All of which seems to imply intention."

      "Seem to" is the operative word here. We have zero evidence that there is any sort of intent behind the existence, let alone creation, of the Universe.

      "what other possible reason could there be" … well, what about 'none whatsoever'? Who says there *has to be* a reason behind it?

      I'd go so far as to say that anybody who does state that there must be some reason is trying to sell something.

      Delete
    2. This is circular reasoning. To say something must have a purpose explicitly implies there is a preconceived reason for it to be. A purpose is a imposed reason for existence which has little to nothing to do with the actual existence of a thing. The brick that I placed under my couch has a purpose, it keeps my couch from warbling when I sit on it. The purpose has nothing to do with why it exists, rather it exist so I found a purpose for it.

      Delete
    3. smurfix wrote:
      ""Seem to" is the operative word here. We have zero evidence that there is any sort of intent behind the existence, let alone creation, of the Universe."

      What’s the alternative?

      Do you actually believe that in the aftermath of an alleged “Big Bang” explosion of a tiny kernel of compressed matter, that the blind and mindless processes of gravity and thermodynamics were not only able to cause a random and chaotic dispersion of quantum phenomena to magically coalesce into the perfect source of light, heat, and bio-driving energy...

      ...but also (and even more incredible) to create - and then fully equip - an accompanying planet with every possible ingredient necessary to awaken trillions of lifeforms into existence?

      Now, of course, it is needless to say that the world’s religions are peddling childish mythological nonsense when it comes to their creation stories.

      However, I suggest that the “chance hypothesis” is even more implausible than anything that our ancient theists have come up with.
      _______

      Delete
    4. It doesn't matter what I believe or not. There is zero evidence either way. To me, random chance, given an unknown and possibly infinite sample space, is more plausible than any intentional setting of some parameters. The reason is simple: At least we have a concept of what probability (as an abstract concept) *is* -- even if we can't calculate the concrete probability of our own existence, given that we know of exactly one sample.

      On the other hand, we have no freakin' idea whatsoever whether a universe with different fundamental constants is even possible, let alone how creating it could possibly be achieved.

      Also, the argument of a creator is circular. Where did the creator, and/or the universe the creator occupies (whatever their form)), come from? Given that the creator knows how to make at least one new universe and we don't, presumably theirs must be at least as unlikely than ours. "Turtles all the way down"?

      Delete
    5. Keith D. Gill4:54 PM, January 16, 2021

      The laws of nature have been observed and explain the evolution of the universe.

      "However, I suggest that the “chance hypothesis” is even more implausible "

      There is no "chance hypothesis". The natural laws have been observed to be what they are. There is no information on their likelihood.

      Delete
    6. Wayardwisdom wrote:
      “...To say something must have a purpose explicitly implies there is a preconceived reason for it to be.”

      Right. And if there is indeed the possibility of intentionality behind the manifestation of solar “system,” then of course there is a preconceived reason for its specific design.

      And that reason would be the creation of a perfect physiological setting from which life and consciousness could then effloresce from the very fabric of the setting itself.

      Therefore, it is not a case of circular reasoning.
      _______

      Delete
    7. smurfix wrote:
      “...the argument of a creator is circular. Where did the creator, and/or the universe the creator occupies (whatever their form)), come from? Given that the creator knows how to make at least one new universe and we don't, presumably theirs must be at least as unlikely than ours. "Turtles all the way down"?”

      The same problem of infinite regress also applies to the question of where did the “...unknown and possibly infinite sample space...” come from?

      In other words, the mystery of the origin of raw matter itself is no less perplexing of a problem than that of the origin of a willful controller of said matter.

      Furthermore, as I am sure I have stated elsewhere on this blog, if according to hardcore materialism there is literally nothing else other than matter, then that means that the stuff that forms our thoughts and dreams is simply an inward extension of the same fundamental stuff that forms the stars and planets.

      And that leads to the speculative conclusion that if humans (within the inner context of our own minds) can willfully grasp the same fundamental substance that forms the stars and planets and transform it into anything we wish just by “thinking it” into existence...

      (think of how highly resolved and “real” our dreams appear to be)

      ...then why is it so hard to imagine the possibility that a higher incorporeal consciousness (think Berkeleyanism) may have done the same with this universe?

      From a purely philosophical standpoint, we need to stop presuming that life and consciousness began sometime within the piddling (13.8 billion year) timeframe of this universe, and at least be open to the “possibility” that life and consciousness may literally have had FOREVER to figure out how to create a universe out of the very essence of mind itself.

      And if the retort to the above is that there is no observable “evidence” for any of it, then that’s wrong, for there is at least some circumstantial evidence.

      And that’s because quantum theory itself suggests that the three-dimensional features of the universe are created from an infinitely malleable (informationally-based) substance that is capable of being formed into absolutely anything “IMAGINABLE.”

      And that would be just like the substance from which our dreams are created.
      _______

      Delete
    8. Keith D. Gill11:41 AM, January 17, 2021

      "and at least be open to the “possibility” that life and consciousness may literally have had FOREVER to figure out how to create a universe out of the very essence of mind itself."

      The idea of panpsychism has been around for at least a century and has yet to produce a single fact about the nature of which it is supposedly the fundamental theorem. Consciousness does not exist apart from a brain - empirical fact.

      Delete
    9. Steven Evens wrote:
      “The idea of panpsychism has been around for at least a century and has yet to produce a single fact about the nature of which it is supposedly the fundamental theorem. Consciousness does not exist apart from a brain - empirical fact.”

      You really need to qualify your assertions a little better.

      For example, the above should read:

      “...*As far as I and other hardcore materialists are personally aware of* - consciousness does not exist apart from a brain...”

      Furthermore, if it is indeed a “possibility” that the universe is the mind of a higher incorporeal consciousness,...

      ...then the seemingly inanimate features of the universe would not necessarily be “conscious” in any way (as is suggested in panpsychism), however, they would certainly be imbued (saturated) with the life essence of the living mind to whom the universe belongs.

      And that would be in the exact same way that the three-dimensional features of your dreams are imbued with your own life essence.

      As I implied earlier in my comment about the implications of quantum theory; the universe seems to be created from an extremely advanced and highly ordered version of the same fundamental substance from which our dreams are created.

      All of which loosely suggests that literally everything is “alive,” - from the fusion cores of the stars, right down to the plastic keyboard you are typing on.
      _______

      Delete
    10. Keith D. Gill11:49 AM, January 18, 2021

      If you have found a mind separate from a brain, then reveal all. O.w. it's an empirical fact that minds don't exist separate from brains.
      Dreams are part of the conscious mind. Again they are only reported in combination with a brain.

      These are just simple observations not hardcore anyism. You provide no evidence for all your wild claims, and presumably propose them to try to rationalise a certain Iron Age superstition to which you are sympathetic.

      Delete
    11. Steven Evans wrote:
      “You provide no evidence for all your wild claims, and presumably propose them to try to rationalise a certain Iron Age superstition to which you are sympathetic.”

      You’re the one who seems to be unable to disabuse yourself of the nonsensical “Iron Age” vision of God.

      As Einstein allegedly stated:

      “...The fanatical atheists...are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional 'opium of the people'—cannot hear the music of the spheres...” (from Wiki)

      And secondly, how about you provide the evidence that explains the origin of the “laws of nature”?

      Are we simply expected to assume that these “laws” managed to come into existence on their own volition? Or, on the other hand, have they somehow always existed in some sort of Platonic context of reality?

      Moreover, please explain how these unconscious laws...

      (without any way of seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling, or tasting, what they were creating)

      ...somehow possessed the prescient wherewithal to guide random and chaotic fields of (post-Bang) quantum particles into stitching together to form the correlated patterns of information that would produce the near infinite array of three-dimensional phenomena that would be so essential to something that would not arrive on the scene until billions of years later?

      In other words, how did these unconscious laws know how much "conscious" beings would enjoy the sight and smell of vines of blooming honeysuckle, or the taste of strawberries dipped in chocolate, or the feel of a lover’s caress?

      Now I realize that I am waxing poetic here,...

      ...however, the notion that the blind and mindless “laws of nature” could have created such a vast, rich, and perfected dimension of reality, is utterly ridiculous.
      _______

      Delete
    12. Well, Keith, Einstein said a lot of clever things but that's not a reason to blindly accept everything he said as fact.

      You may assume natural law to be ridiculous all you like. Doesn't change the fact that appeals to ridiculosity aren't arguments, they merely mirror your preconceived notions. "We don't know how, therefore God did it" is not a scientific argument.

      In any case, at least random chance and self-organization (plenty of examples out there for that) don't suffer from the problem where who- or whatever guided the chaos came from in the first place. Turtles all the way down?

      Delete
    13. Keith D. Gill11:00 AM, January 19, 2021

      Good grief, what a lot of drivel. Not that we should be discussing evidence for obvious fairy tales, but...

      If you believe in the Christian God you at least believe it created the universe and fathered a child in Iron Age Palestine. The former is untenable based on evidence, the latter is empirically untrue. Christianity, the central belief of 1.5 billion monkeys, refuted in 2 sentences.

      Einstein made all these mystical pronouncements off the Physical record. Therefore, they can be ignored from the point of view of Physics.

      Natural Science explains how the universe evolved from 13.7bya until today. Nothing else is known about nature. Why the laws of nature are what they are, nobody knows (see the blog post). How a quark-gluon plasma came about 13.7bya, nobody knows, but any further knowledge will come from Physicists. Your pseudo-philosophical ponderings are usekess because the plasma is a quantum-gravitational state that transcends human intuition. Only Physics can provide the answer.

      "however, the notion that the blind and mindless “laws of nature” could have created such a vast, rich, and perfected dimension of reality, is utterly ridiculous."

      No. It's a confirmed observation. Bad luck. You score nil point.

      Delete
    14. smurfix wrote:
      “Well, Keith, Einstein said a lot of clever things but that's not a reason to blindly accept everything he said as fact.”

      I’m just tossing in some anecdotal information to spice up the conversation.

      smurfix wrote:
      “In any case, at least random chance and self-organization (plenty of examples out there for that) don't suffer from the problem where who- or whatever guided the chaos came from in the first place. Turtles all the way down?”

      Did you not read my reply to your earlier offering of “turtles all the way down”?

      Indeed, the origin of literally everything (be it mind or matter/immanent or transcendent) suffers from the problem of infinite regress.
      _______

      Delete
    15. Steven Evans wrote:
      “Good grief, what a lot of drivel.”

      Drivel? DRIVEL??? How dare you! I’ll have you know that my ideas are made of the finest imported codswallop available.

      Steven Evans wrote:
      “If you believe in the Christian God you at least believe it created the universe and fathered a child in Iron Age Palestine...”

      What is it about my calling the “Iron Age” concept of God “NONSENSICAL” that would lead you to believe that I’m trying to promote the standard model of Christian mythology?

      Steven Evans wrote:
      “Natural Science explains how the universe evolved from 13.7bya until today. Nothing else is known about nature. Why the laws of nature are what they are, nobody knows...”

      Listen to yourself, for crying out loud. If “nobody knows” why the laws of nature are the way they are, then how is it that you can be so cocksure that they cannot be a product of a transcendent level of consciousness?
      _______

      Delete
    16. Keith D. Gill11:36 AM, January 20, 2021

      " then how is it that you can be so cocksure that they cannot be a product of a transcendent level of consciousness?"

      Because there's absolutely know reason to think so. It's a meaningless statement. And everyone who does think so, which is most of humanity, is uneducated, insane or lives in the jungle.

      Don't worry. If scientists find any evidence to support your crazy delusion, they will let you know. Until such a time, you are insane.

      The facts are the facts. Sorry.

      Delete
    17. Keith D. Gill11:27 AM, January 20, 2021

      "Indeed, the origin of literally everything (be it mind or matter/immanent or transcendent) suffers from the problem of infinite regress."

      That is simply not true. Your mind with its Euclidean and Newtonian intuition can't imagine it, but Hawking for example produced a mathematical theory of the early universe in which space-time is "curved off" and has no origin. It's very easy to do this with Maths. E.g. where do you think the beginning of the surface of the Earth is? Doesn't have one does it. Space-time could be shaped like this. Remember, a couple of blog posts ago Dr. H. told us time is thought of as a dimension.

      Our intuition gives us all the wrong answers regards the precise questions of Physics. It is irrelevant and should not be consulted.

      Tell me if you agree, before you move onto the next crazy statement. Otherwise it feels like no progress is being made.

      Delete
    18. Keith D. Gill11:36 AM, January 20, 2021

      "What is it about my calling the “Iron Age” concept of God “NONSENSICAL”... the standard model of Christian mythology?"

      Any Christian has to believe at least that Christ is the son of God, and God created the universe. Otherwise they can't be described as a Christian. This is the Minimum Viable Christian.

      Delete
    19. Steven Evans wrote:
      “Any Christian has to believe at least that Christ is the son of God, and God created the universe. Otherwise they can't be described as a Christian. This is the Minimum Viable Christian.”

      You don’t know anything about me, Steven, therefore, you couldn’t possibly know that I am a strong proponent of the idea that we need to abandon “ALL” of the world’s religions and try to find a new spiritual paradigm that is more compatible with our modern discoveries in cosmology, biology, and quantum physics.

      So I would appreciate it if you would cut the crap and stop making assumptions about what I believe.

      Steven Evans wrote:
      “Because there's absolutely know reason to think so. It's a meaningless statement. And everyone who does think so, which is most of humanity, is uneducated, insane or lives in the jungle.”

      I’m sorry, Steven, but you seem to be suffering from a variation of the Dunning-Kruger effect where you are just not conscious enough to realize that you’re not conscious enough to understand where I am coming from.

      Now I am pretty sure that Sabine doesn’t want her blog cluttered up with the blatherings of two knuckleheads arguing (and insulting each other) over metaphysical issues that neither of us can prove beyond any doubt.

      Nevertheless, you always provide me with an interesting conversation, so thanks for that.
      _______

      Delete
    20. Keith D. Gill10:20 AM, January 21, 2021

      "try to find a new spiritual paradigm "
      This is meaningless. There is no such thing as a "spirit" in biology. Another basic fact.

      "metaphysical issues that neither of us can prove beyond any doubt"
      It is beyond any doubt that "God" is a fictional character in a fairy tale. Just like Zeus is.
      It is beyond any doubt that humans don't have "spirits".
      It is beyond any doubt that there is no evidence that a mind "created" the universe.

      Delete
  12. I would like to say first and foremost, while I do not agree with all you say Sabine I very much respect your calling b.s. on the scientific community when it is needed.

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  13. Sabine, there's a fundamental misunderstanding in the way you present the issue.

    "Turns out that for some changes to these constants, processes that are essential for life as we know it could not happen, and we could not exist. For example, if the cosmological constant was too large, then galaxies would never form. If the electromagnetic force was too strong, nuclear fusion could not light up stars. And so on. There’s a long list of calculations of this type, but they’re not the relevant part of the argument..."

    On the contrary, that's precisely the relevant part of the argument. It's all the rest about probability distribution that is irrelevant.

    The point about fine tuning is that it's a theoretical observation, in abstract theoretical space, not in empirical physical space. What has been realised since the 70's is that for many of these fundamental parameters, the values allowing the possibility of any complex chemistry (and therefore life and therefore us) occupy a very small portion of the values allowed by the theories. That's a mathematical and theoretical fact.

    Whether it is actually physically possible for these parameters to take other values is a completely different issue. Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not.

    If it is, the probabilities associated with any of these possible values is unknown to us. What you seem to be saying is that perhaps the probability distribution is strongly peaked at the observed values and that would therefore solve the problem. This is wrong. Because if that was the case, the question would simply become: why is the (joint) probability distribution for these values conveniently peaked just at the right values for the existence of life ?

    If it is not (e.g. because we discover a deeper TOE where these values are fixed by the theory), the question would be: why is it that among all the possible TOE, the actual one is the one where these parameters take precisely the right values for life to exist ?

    Both of these possible scenarios are speculative, but it is clear that none of them really change the bizarre theoretical fact that our universe occupy a very unusual place in parameter space (the very small place where life is possible), which seems to contradict the copernican principle, when applied to this abstract theoretical space.

    That's it. Now, one can of course shrug their shoulders and say that's the way it is and I don't care because it is only theoretical. But for many people, this is a troubling fact that seems to point toward a deep truth about the reason why there is a physical reality at all. Because for many people, the fact that something is abstract or theoretical, doesn't mean that it can automatically be dismissed as irrelevant or non--existant. But that's another very complicated topic...

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    1. Jonatan,

      "The point about fine tuning is that it's a theoretical observation, in abstract theoretical space,"

      There isn't any such thing as a "theoretical observation". You clearly didn't understand what I said in the first place.

      "But for many people, this is a troubling fact that seems to point toward a deep truth about the reason why there is a physical reality at all."

      Sure. I am saying that this is not a scientific argument. I don't care at all if people find something "troubling" if they cannot point out a good reason for why it's problematic.

      Delete
    2. Jonatan, that’s a good summary of the point I’ve been trying to make. We agree that Sabine seems to be misunderstanding the fine-tuning arguments, and possibly conflating them with possible explanations of fine-tuning. It would be interesting if should could get her arguments published in a reputable physics journal, i.e., rebut claims made by the likes of Martin Rees and so on. As for me, I’m quite comfortable to be in the same camp as the Astronomer Royal.

      Delete
    3. Phillip,

      As we both know, I have already published my arguments in a very reputable journal, albeit not physics because, as I am sure you are aware, physics journals would not publish an argument that they mistakenly think is only of philosophical interest.

      Your claim that I am "misunderstanding" fine-tuning argument is empty. As I have said many times before, my point is trivially correct -- no probabilities without a probability distribution -- and I find it remarkable that you insist on debating where there is nothing to debate. No one will ever find "evidence" for something that cannot be measured. Naturalness arguments have, unsurprisingly, turned out to be wrong over and over and over again. It's about time physicists learn from their mistakes.

      Delete
    4. Jonatan Blais2:08 PM, January 16, 2021

      "That's a mathematical and theoretical fact."

      Yes, and Nintendo built a world in which Italian plumbers can jump very high - another theoretical fact. Models aren't reality.

      Phillip Helbig3:02 AM, January 17, 2021

      " rebut claims made by the likes of Martin Rees and so on."

      Rebut what claims by Martin Rees? He speculates that if the laws of nature were different, nature would be different. Who knew?

      Unfortunately, he provides no evidence that it is physically possible for the laws of nature to be different to those observed.

      "As for me, I’m quite comfortable to be in the same camp as the Astronomer Royal."

      Who is a crank.

      Delete
    5. Fine-tuning means that a small change in something has a disproportionate effect. That’s it. Nothing about probability. Some people use fine-tuning as a synonym for improbable. The combination of the two is arguably the most interesting, since it is the only one of the four which requires an explanation. One can, and should, discuss fine-tuning without any regard to probability distributions.

      Of course, if one wants to determine whether some sort of fine-tuning is improbable, then one needs to know whether things could be otherwise, and the probability distributions. But those are additional questions.

      Delete
    6. Phillip,

      "Fine-tuning means that a small change in something has a disproportionate effect. That’s it. Nothing about probability."

      Without something observable being unlikely there is nothing to explain. I have told you this many times before and do not actually expect you will understand it. I am just explaining this once again so that the people who are new here can see how trivially wrong finetuning arguments are.

      Delete
    7. Do you agree with Steven Evans that, with respect to fine-tuning arguments, Martin Rees is a crank? Is he wrong? Yes or no.

      Delete
    8. Phillip Helbig8:47 AM, January 17, 2021

      "Fine-tuning means that a small change in something has a disproportionate effect."

      And you cannot show that such "small changes" are physically possible, nor that physically they would have a "disproportionate effect".

      What you are talking about is "fine-tuning" in models, not reality. This is completely irrelevant to the subject of Physics. That is why the leader of your camp, Martin Rees, has made zero progress in 42 years since the release of his paper with Carr.

      These ideas have led to ** no scientific knowledge ** . Nothing.

      Delete
    9. Sabine,

      "There isn't any such thing as a "theoretical observation"."

      Lets call it theoretical realization if you prefer.

      "Sure. I am saying that this is not a scientific argument."

      Agreed. When you reach this point, it has become a metaphysical argument.

      The properly scientific part of the argument is all the theoretical work showing that "...some changes to these constants, processes that are essential for life as we know it could not happen, and we could not exist. For example, if the cosmological constant was too large, then galaxies would never form. If the electromagnetic force was too strong, nuclear fusion could not light up stars. And so on. There’s a long list of calculations of this type..."

      "I don't care at all if people find something "troubling" if they cannot point out a good reason for why it's problematic."

      The reason why it is problematic is, as I said, that it violates the copernican principle when applied to this theoretical parameter space where our universe occupies a highly atypical place. That should give serious pause to any open minded naturalist/materialist since the copernican principle is deeply rooted in naturalism/materialism.

      You and Steven Evans are approaching this like good old logical positivists of the Vienna circle. In effect, you are shrugging your shoulders while resorting to verificationsim: if a statement cannot be verified empirically, it is meaningless.

      You can say that if you like. The bad news though, is that logical positivism has been completely abandonned half a century ago because of its self-refuting nature and one of its own early proponent (Ayer) said that "all of it was false" !

      Like the measurement problem and other problems arising from certain 20th century scientific discoveries (e.g. the linguistic nature of hereditary biological information, i.e. the genetic code), the fine tuning pose a very difficult metaphysical difficulty for naturalists/materialists. Interestingly, it's the same kind of problem: the annoying tendancy of theories to point to observers and intentionality as having a central role.

      You may not be interested by that sort of philosophical problem and that's fine, but your lack of interest doesn't make it disapear.

      Steven Evans,

      "Yes, and Nintendo built a world in which Italian plumbers can jump very high - another theoretical fact. Models aren't reality."

      If you're interested, there's a rich philosophical litterature about modality that explores how we can think about counterfactuals and possible worlds. If you're interested...

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    10. Phillip,

      Was this question addressed to me? I don't know what Rees has said about finetuning. He arguably isn't a crank. However, a lot of physicists seem to not notice and/or not care that they make unscientific arguments.

      Delete
    11. Jonatan,

      I don't know what all your talk about verification is about. You cannot ever verify a scientific hypothesis, and I have certainly never claimed the opposite, not here and not elsewhere.

      If we could all agree that it's a metaphysical problem, then that would be fine with me. I have never claimed that metaphysics is uninteresting. My whole issue is with physicists who do not realize when they are doing metaphysics.

      Delete
    12. Sabine,

      "If we could all agree that it's a metaphysical problem, then that would be fine with me. I have never claimed that metaphysics is uninteresting. My whole issue is with physicists who do not realize when they are doing metaphysics."

      If that's your position, then I agree wholeheartedly.

      Delete
    13. Jonatan Blais. You've nailed it! Absolutely spot on.

      Delete
    14. Phillip Helbig9:11 AM, January 17, 2021

      "Do you agree.. Martin Rees is a crank?"

      Wikipedia Definition: "Crank is a pejorative term used for a person who holds an unshakable belief that most of their contemporaries consider to be false"

      Martin Rees has been claiming the universe is fine-tuned and there might be a multiverse without a shred of evidence for 42 years.

      He's an uber crank.

      Your belief in this seems pretty unshakeable too, Phillip.

      Delete
    15. Jonatan Blais11:43 AM, January 17, 2021

      I have a model of the universe. It consists of all the familiar and beloved fundamental laws and constants of nature. But they are fixed in my model.

      I conclude that it is a "theoretical fact" that the laws and constants are not fine-tuned but fixed to unique forms and values.

      "If you're interested, there's a rich philosophical litterature about modality that explores how we can think about counterfactuals and possible worlds."

      If you're interested, Sega made a game in which a hedgehog can jump and twirl. A counter factual biology.

      " If you're interested..."

      Interested in "counter facts" that have no meaning and for which there is no standard of confirmation? Sounds useful.

      There is only 1 reason for these kinds of studies - to be paid money for doing nothing.

      Delete
    16. Jonatan Blais10:40 AM, January 17, 2021

      "logical positivists of the Vienna circle. In effect, you are shrugging your shoulders while resorting to verificationsim: "

      You are welcome to find out facts about nature anyway you like. Can you tell me a fact about nature that hasn't been empirically confirmed?

      Just one will do.

      "if a statement cannot be verified empirically, it is meaningless."

      I understand what people mean when they claim changing the Cosmological Constant a little would prevent galaxies from being formed. However, the statement is not known to apply to physical reality and has zero consequences for Physics.

      Delete
    17. Ian Wardell8:00 PM, January 17, 2021

      "Jonatan Blais. You've nailed it! Absolutely spot on. "

      That's right. He's nailed it.
      You can choose the "metaphysical" fact that the universe is fine-tuned.
      Someone else can choose the "metaphysical" fact that "God" "made" the universe.
      Others can choose the "metaphysical" fact that there is only 1 possible universe.

      What a useful field of study.

      Delete
    18. Since you mentioned verificationism I think in a way this entire exercise is an illustration of a problem with philosophy of science. Much of this discussion involves what we consider to be "scientific." In general such attempts often lead to a greater narrowing of what is considered to be science. The history of science I think illustrates pitfalls in this.

      Of course we do not observe some variation in the cosmological constant in different cosmologies relative to our observable cosmology. At least so far there does not appear to be many prospects for doing this. However, remember the quantum vacuum in general relativity is not a single vacuum, but a set of Boulware vacua, where this occurs with black holes. One might counter we have no measurements of such with black holes. However, we do have such with systems analogous to a black hole and Hawking radiation.

      Unless something comes that falsifies SUGRA and multiverse concepts I will keep them in the toolbox. I do not necessarily "believe them," but they still strike me as reasonable hypotheses.

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  14. Please excuse my ignorance, but I have come to view physics as the mathematical modeling of the universe and the universal constants as “fudge” factors that make the models conform to experiment. If that is true, any discussion about changes in the constants is meaningless. Please correct my thinking about this.

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  15. How incredibly human to think the universe was made just for us. Who can say that if there were other universes with wildly different constants that some other form of intelligent life wildly different from us could exist therein?

    If this universe were fine tuned for intelligent life as we know it, where is it? Why does it seem so rare? why do we have only one world that seems to have fostered intelligent life?

    Here we are on this tiny planet in the middle of nowhere, and God must of put us here for some reason and created an entire universe just for us???

    With a universe as large and as old as this one, the religious argument for fine tuning is exceedingly parochial.

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  16. Thanks for the interesting video. A slight question montage-wise, is stroboscopic effect with different face zoom necessary? To me such effects seem rather distracting and breaking the flow of conversation (thinking of Japanese video warnings about the risk of epileptic seizures). I think classic simple editing (classic in both senses, as in 'tested', so in 'refined') without popping zoom is much better. Paraphrasing a comedian, those effects are like attempts "to put stickers to Ferrari". Certainly, it may be just an unpopular and weird opinion.

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    1. Vadim,

      I am no longer editing the videos myself. I will pass on your comment to the videographer, but really it's a standard YouTube style. I have noticed this many times before that people complain about speedy cuts, yet if you look at the stats, without the cuts they stop watching half through.

      Delete
    2. No problem. Whatever works & feels good. I certainly noticed that in other videos. Yet, for example PBS Space Time editing is gorgeous (not sure how difficult it is to do it tech-wise, probably very difficult; and personally enjoyed your classic editing, the contrast was mainly noticed due to jumping and sliding face all over the place, not because of SFX, backgrounds, etc., that all good). And just wrote as a small thing to consider, really. Have a nice day!

      PS Sorry if it is repeated & discard it, some troubles sending it. It turns out the universe is really not made for me… :-)

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    3. Thanks for the feedback. I try my best...

      Delete
    4. Even in jest I only pick on the universe, as there is too much weight as it is for any given person. It's only more valid on this blog. I'm constantly amazed by the quality of discussion, amount of information and its moderation (cannot even grasp how it is even feasible to filter through it and work it out...) It's just most of the time I cannot contribute to the conversation or hit some 'thumbs up' button (will certainly read your book when opportunity only permits). But it’s appreciated, the whole package (including the twitter feed as the digest!) And it’s genuinely interesting.

      You jokingly asked in one of the videos what viewers get from the channel or enjoy. I think, some serious answer has been condensed to that. Most of us are indoctrinated with an illusion of 'perfection' and struggle to reach it (or hopefully recovering from it). That’s a petrifying plague. While I think that the only really priceless thing is authenticity, not ‘perfection’. And the above comment of mine is just a joke in itself, as the blog and the rest is already as authentic as it can be (while managing to be interesting, engaging and among all that precise and accurate, the real deal). Like a digital oasis or a breath of fresh air. And I think it sends this kind of message - of being authentic and stirring thinking. At least, that’s what I enjoy and appreciate the most.

      So that whatever you do - it works! And it’s fantastic. That is, it is already as ‘the best’ (or ‘perfect’) without any need for 'trying' as the universe is capable of. And I certainly didn’t want to mess with it. Just to make it absolutely clear. So that's more of a proper feedback I'm quite happy with ('perfect'? na-a-ah... authentic? who knows...)

      PS Lately, a search engine recommended a precise message for recovering perfectionists and other folks with high load (kids, pressure, etc.) The speaker delivers an important reminder to learn to take care for care takers themselves, to avoid burnouts and such, exaggerating and overly simplifying at times, but still solid. I read the policy, and still decided to share (perhaps, to bring something else to the table or to keep the blog going further - who knows, what happens in the Internet stays in the Internet), you decide what to do with it. The video is on YouTube, “Gabor Mate Caring For Ourselves”.

      To think about it, this video has got some strange responses, to say the least… maybe the universe does care after all.

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  17. Philosophy and metaphysics seem to me to be bounded and constrained by imagination which can only be based on things we have already observed. The unknown, as wiser people than I have said, contains much more than we can possibly imagine.

    Life it seems to me consists of systems which can self-reproduce with variations which allow evolution into more complex forms which are capable of decision-making computations. Conway's Game of Life shows that very simple sets of rules can allow for self-reproducing systems, and Wolfram (or the mathematician he hired) showed that such systems are also capable of computation. I don't think many philosophers, at least not the few I am familiar with, have incorporated that knowledge into their imaginations. Given those facts, the burden on meta-physicists to prove that any arbitrary set of universe-constants is incapable of producing any such systems seems a huge one to me. (Whether it could produce DNA life is only a trivial and insignificant beginning to the task.)

    This viewpoint is much older than I am, even in this thread, but it seems to be ignored by brilliant people who can estimate the probabilities of star-formation under different physics constants. I consider it a failure of imagination, while conceding that many such people have heads full of knowledge and scientific experience which I lack. Maybe it is the depth and minutia of that data that focuses their attention elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, as also stated elsewhere, this universe seems a barren place to me, except very locally. If we found complex, self-reproducing and computing organisms teeming in gas-giant planets I might feel differently. (Even more so if they were systems of E-M radiation in inter-galactic space.) As for human life, such as it is, wait an eye-blink in the existence of this universe and it will all be gone.

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  18. I always wondered if the cosmological constant could be treated as the damping ratio for the universe. It could be positive, negative or zero leading to expansion, contraction or flat universe. If you go down this route then there should be some form of feedback system that corrects the values of the constants to the one we actually see.

    It could be interesting to apply control theory to this topic

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  19. I think the value of discussing the multiverse hypothesis is that the discussion might lead to experiments that may or may not discover evidence to support the hypothesis.

    Let's say, for the sake of argument, that evidence of a mulitverse were discovered. What actually would that mean for fine tuning arguments?

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    Replies
    1. No evidence of a multiverse has been discovered. There is no evidence of universal fine-tuning, and assuming it true has led to zero knowledge.

      Delete
  20. I reject this notion we can only know the probability of some event by observing lots of instances.

    Even if we had no experience of throwing dice or flipping coins or anything like that, would we really have to throw a die countless times to figure out that a 6 only occurs on average a sixth of the time? The die is symmetrical, so since our general experience of reality is that it is not capricious, it might seem it shouldn't favour any number. Hence it would be peculiar if a 6 were thrown every single time. If it did we would surely conclude the die was not a fair one.

    Just as we would not a priori expect an actual throw of a die to favour any number, likewise we would not a priori expect a Universe to favour specific values for constants that just so happen to permit life.

    Or, at least, if it does favour a particular set of values for the constants, then this requires an explanation. We can't just say it was inevitable or a very high probability without supplying any possible reason for this.

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    1. I didn't say you can only estimate a probability by observing lots of instances. You can also estimate a probability by using an evidence-based model and using evidence for the expected uncertainty.

      "since our general experience of reality is that it is not capricious"

      Look, this isn't a scientific argument. This is just blather.

      Delete
    2. On a die you observe six sides and can argue from first principles (based on our theoretical *and* experimental knowledge of the physics of motion) that, unless somebody hid a piece of lead in there, all six sides are equally likely.

      Here we have no theoretical model, no experiments to confirm / fail to refute them, and no observation.

      Delete
    3. And how do you know the theoretical knowledge is a correct description of nature? From evidence.

      Delete
    4. Ian Wardell7:35 PM, January 17, 2021

      " we would not a priori expect a Universe to favour specific values for constants that just so happen to permit life."

      There is no a priori dismissal of multiverses or other fine-tuning mechanisms - read the blog post. We simply have no idea whether the laws of nature are fine-tuned or not, and assuming they are has led to zero knowledge. It has been a complete cul-de-sac. And not surprisingly.

      "We can't just say it was inevitable or a very high probability without supplying any possible reason for this."

      Nobody has said it *is* inevitable, just that it *may* be. It is simply not known.

      You again fail to understand basic logic. The blog post says that there is no evidence the laws of nature are fine-tuned, not that they aren't.

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    5. Ian Wardell7:35 PM, January 17, 2021

      If you have any evidence of universal fine-tuning, provide it.

      I don't have time for another 40 rounds of your "philosophical" breadcrumbing like last time.

      So far you have grandly announced that fine-tuning cannot be dismissed a priori. Fine. No-one disagrees. Cut to the chase - where is your evidence for fine-tuning?

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    6. I regard Jonatan Blais' response to be somewhat superior to my own and indeed nails it. So I have no further interest in defending my own original comment.

      Delete
    7. Ian Wardell6:42 AM, January 18, 2021

      "I regard Jonatan Blais' response to be somewhat superior to my own"

      No, his comment was equally as irrelevant as yours. Jonatan Blais claims that fine-tuning is a "theoretical fact".

      So he thinks, like you, that if you can imagine it, it is true.

      Delete
  21. I see how discussions in this topic can lead to understanding of deeper laws that govern our universe. In the same way that the shape of a puddle is a function of gravity with the shape of the hole, we can find theories that show that the values of those constants end up being inevitable. I know, if we cannot test or make predictions it does not mean anything… God is one of those theories and so is the Multiverse, and none of them are scientifically useful. But why can’t we come up with a theory that predicts the values of the constants and lead to dark energy? Noether theorem with symmetry linked to conservation laws may do the job or we can find something similar. For instance, if “something is pulling things” in one direction, then the constants must fall in those values. What is the “thing” that is common to those constants? As you may have noticed, I am no physicist and this is probably nonsense, but I wanted to share the level of thinking of an engineer that finds these videos fascinating, and still think can somehow contribute by asking those stupid questions. Thank you.

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    1. We probably can, as soon as somebody has the right idea.

      During the century or so since Einstein we've discovered a lot more interesting special effects (including Dark Whatever) but no theory to back it – we got more magic numbers instead, like the ratio of dark to normal matter. We also still have the incompatibility of quantum and relativity theories to contend with.

      Physics is far from over.

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  22. I think the Bayesian approach to probability offers a nice perspective on such arguments:

    When missing empirical information on any prior distribution of constants of nature we can e.g. place a flat prior or any other distribution we want to assume. Even if doing so renders our universe very unlikely.

    But after conditioning on the observation of the universe and our existence in it we will most certainly end up with a posterior that is sharply peaked at the values which we observe. No further need for any fishy arguments like naturalness or many-worlds.

    That's pretty much like asking what is the probability of observing a fair dice roll of at least five after observing indeed a six. The posterior will be absolute certainty :) The universe must be just the way it is because it can not be much different after all.

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    1. mnmltype2:25 AM, January 18, 2021

      " place a flat prior or any other distribution we want to assume. Even if doing so renders our universe very unlikely."

      This just assumes the answer. Of course, if you assume that the laws of nature can be different, then you can conclude the laws of nature can be different based on your assumption.

      Axiom: A is true
      Theorem: A is true
      Proof: A is true (from the axiom)

      Is there a point to this?

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    2. I do not think I assumed an answer. Actually, my arguments was supposed to work the other way around: You start with an uninformative prior probability but get a posterior probability that is in accordance with our observation of the constants of nature.

      Delete
  23. This argument essentially speaks to the "why" of the universe. The "why" is a question of motivation. Motivation is notoriously difficult to discern from facts. Because of this, Science cannot answer the "why" but it does a great job of answering the "how". so if rephrased this as a traditional journalist we have the following:
    WHO: unknown; speculation: God, advanced scientific race who created black holes; no one.
    What: a universe capable of sentient life (weak anthropomorphic principle) that is full of information
    When: at a point we conventionally call "the beginning". (Various theories but two models: the hour glass (where the constriction is the "beginning" and there is something before) and the radiant were the universe radiates from a central point and there is nothing before.
    Where: In time space (begging the question as to what Time Space sits in)
    Why: Unknown
    How; scientific laws (as manifested in fine constants)

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  24. I am afraid that the universe was not supposed to be made for all of us. Corrective measures, or more appropriately fine tunings, were and still are frequently carried out. Just one example to make myself perfectly clear: the genocide of the inhabitants of Jericho by command of God.

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    1. The evidence for the battle of Jericho, like that for fine tuning, is zero . Let's be generous though and assume the tale is true. Then two things stand out - first it was a very easy victory as Jericho was unoccupied when the supposed conflict occurred and
      secondly one of the very few survivors of the genocide was a Canaanite prostitute thus ensuring the continuance of the 'world's oldest profession'.



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    2. The tale's happy ending is cold comfort for its message packed in dark and violent content.

      Delete
  25. Ah, this is always a fun topic and sure to elicit debate!

    IMO, this is not a scientific question and, perhaps, has no place in a physics blog. To even raise the question here implies there is more scientific merit to the question than it deserves. I’m not sure there is. The only thing that can be said here is there are observed physical constants in the universe but there are no known deeper physics constraining what these values could potentially be. When asked “Why?” are the constants what they are, the scientist in each of us should give a proverbial shoulder shrug.

    However, if one wants to address the question from the position of speculative philosophy, then there is much of interest that can be said. Here I would point to the work of A.N. Whitehead and the idea that the universe is fundamentally creative in nature, that it has the features and values it does precisely because they allow for the greatest exploration of possibility space and the expression of novelty. But in no way is there some intent or plan to bring forth our form, Homo sapiens, specifically.

    Let me be clear, this is just an interpretive stance. I think, and hope, this is in-line with Sabine’s own sentiment, which I respect and wholeheartedly agree with, that, within reason, “you can believe whatever you want as long as it isn't in conflict with evidence.”

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  26. Very good, Ms. Hossenfelder! Thank you. Perhaps someday we will be able to simulate universes with different constants, all the way to the point of seeing if something like life arises, or better yet, the life develops the ability to simulate universes. Then maybe we will answer the question of whether we are a simulation at the same time!

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  27. Brilliant! It is tiring when magical (and often self-serving) bumpf gets paraded as scientifically meaningful.

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  28. I'm not a scientist, but I am interested in what science tells us and what it can't tell us. Reading the comments here, I see a tremendous amount of arrogance and condescension. Here's one example: "There are deeply mentally deluded people who believe in Iron Age fairy tales [meaning God]. And there are the sane." Was Father George LeMaitre deeply mentally deluded? He came up with what was later called the Big Bang Theory, didn't he? And without that theory, many of your comments would have no meaning. In Sigmund Freud's book, The Future of An Illusion, he wrote this about religious doctrines: "Of the reality value of most of them we cannot judge; just as they cannot be proved, so they cannot be refuted." He then spent the rest of the book trying to "show" that there is no God.

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    1. C.S.Lewis warned against what he termed "The Arrogance of Chronology", i.e.; the belief that because you exist at a later time you are superior; in intellect, reasoning ability and mental acuity; to those who came before us. Lewis thought it a great and prevalent error in all fields of human study.
      We are like a man who was born on top a high mountain and boasts of the accomplishment, as though he climbed himself.
      To my mind the question boils down to one of LIFE, which is where it begins. Rocks, minerals, gases don't question their existence, only LIFE does that.
      There is no natural process in the universe, that I know of, that cannot be replicated to some degree in the laboratory.
      Except the creation, ex nihilo, of LIFE.
      We have searched every corner of this solar system that can be reached for for the faintest scrap of LIFE, past or present and come up empty.
      On this good earth you cannot grab a handful of air, dirt or water that does not teem with life, but, so far we have searched in vain for it off this world.
      In the field of Abiogenesis experiments in the 50s, using an intricately designed chemical lab managed to generate a few proteins building blocks of life that were immediately removed from the chemical soup before the conditions that made them could destroy them. It was proclaimed that life could spawn without God.
      Seventy years late Origin of Life Sciences has nothing more to boast of. They can manipulate, reconfigure, add or subtract from existing life, but they cannot create even the simplest form of it.
      The "Iron Age " thinkers asked the questions - 'Where do we come from, Why are here, Where do we go?'
      Modern Science has no better answers than they did.

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    2. smaricic12:56 PM, January 18, 2021

      It's not arrogant to point out that people who believe in Iron Age fairy tales are deeply mentally deluded. It's a simple statement of fact.

      If George LeMaitre truly believed in Iron Age superstitions then he was indeed deeply mentally deluded. The observed expansion known as the Big Bang would have been discovered anyway at some point.

      I don't know what Sigmund Freud has to do with it. God, Allah, Zeus, and 1000 other recorded gods are characters in myths. They are not real. They are fictional characters. If you don't see that immediately, you need to seek help from a psychiatrist.

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    3. thelastminstrel2:02 PM, January 18, 2021

      "Except the creation, ex nihilo, of LIFE."

      Life wasn't created "ex nihilo". It's made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc. Arranged via chemical and biological processes.

      "We have searched every corner of this solar system that can be reached for for the faintest scrap of LIFE, past or present and come up empty."

      There are 10^23 or 100 sextillion stars in the observable universe. Many of them will have planetary systems. Approximately 0% of them have been checked for life.


      "In the field of Abiogenesis experiments in the 50s, using an intricately designed chemical lab managed to generate a few proteins building blocks of life that were immediately removed from the chemical soup before the conditions that made them could destroy them. It was proclaimed that life could spawn without God."
      Science has several theories for abiognesis. It's possible the reality will never be known as the evidence is buried 4 billion years deep.

      "God" is a character in an Iron Age fairy tale. This character has nothing to do with reality.

      "The "Iron Age " thinkers asked the questions - 'Where do we come from, Why are here, Where do we go?'
      Modern Science has no better answers than they did."

      The Iron Age "thinkers" tell us nothing about the universe. Science tells us how the universe evolved from 13.7 billion years ago until today.

      Compared to modern scientists, the "knowledge" of the Iron Age "thinkers" is almost indistinguishable from that of chimpanzees.

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  29. I think the problem here is that people are taking the constants themselves as a group of samples, as in "these constitute samples of universal constants, and is therefore an empirical distribution", and then make the cognitive error that alternative constants could be drawn from the SAME empirical distribution.

    As if all the constants were just drawn from the same hat, and could be drawn again from that empirical distribution, and in that case, the ones that work are indeed wildly improbable.

    This is obviously dumb, but it is the way people think if they aren't careful. It seems to be the way people are thinking, comparing small values to large ones and wondering why aren't they all similar? Why isn't there an obvious pattern?

    Because they aren't samples from the same hat, and they aren't samples at all. They are standalone values.

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  30. Part of the problem stems from the instinctive position of scientists to avoid any argument that suggests a "creator", since this reminds them of humanity's long belief in the supernatural. This results in a bias by the scientists, and I say this is a life-long atheist.

    A related issue is our biased understanding of creation. Both religious and non-religious scientists assume the same thing: that if the evidence shows the universe to be "created", then there must have been a "creator". But scientists should be willing to think more flexibly.

    For example, is a city "created"? It would be hard to argue otherwise. Certainly most things within the city are created, and a city does not result from natural selection or from some physical process. It is the result of intelligent minds.

    But few cities have a "creator". Few are planned in advance. There is an organic process which results from accumulated intelligent minds each pursuing their own ends.

    Most scientists on both sides agree the the universe APPEARS to be VERY fine tuned. Extraordinarily fine tuned, in fact. Like winning a powerball lottery which has billions of numbers. Conventional scientists, eager to distance themselves from any appearance of religious belief, usually go with some version of the gambler's fallacy. For example, there might be only one universe, but it has born and died trillions of times, each version different, and only in certain ones, perhaps only in ours, were the conditions right for life. This process would require trillions and trillions and trillions of years, but time means nothing to those universes void of life, so there is no reason to suppose a limit on the number of cycles.

    Or perhaps one prefers the concurrent multiverse where all these universes exist side by side.

    But none of this is any more provable than the possibility that there is an old man in robes who created it all...or some kid with his science project in some invisible reality.

    But think outside the box. No creator planned or acted to create the city, yet it is a created thing. Likewise, a created universe does not require an ornery Old-Testament storm God, or a Newtonian watch-maker God. Nor does creation need to be a conscious act by some being...or by many beings. There just needs to be some force, no matter how subtle, that is pushing the universe in the direct of life.

    And in theory that could be TESTABLE!!!!!

    Einstein showed us that time is not a constant that is separate from space. That's a true paradigm shift with our fundamental understanding of reality. The next paradigm shift might involve a further shift in how we see time, and it might involve a further shift in how we think of "creation".

    Recent experiments with the double slit experiment show that the observation of a particle can determine the direction that particle takes BEFORE the observation. A cause where the effect seems to go back in time. Scientists even speculate whether our observations in the present are what sparked the Big Bang, and which may have influenced the direction the universe developed, making sure it was fine tuned for life. That might seem mind blowing, but is it any more so than Einstein's argument that time is relevant? Or the quantum proof that photons and electrons can be both a wave and a particle?

    The fact that the universe is so apparently fine tuned can't be dismissed, and most scientists are very eager to dismiss it because they are afraid to be caught up in discussions of creation. Most of them either cling to some version of the multiverse, whose existence no evidence has been found, or some "lost in the math" theory like this writer, which really doesn't explain what's going on. To really get to the truth, our understanding of things like time, cause and effect, and creation are going to need to evolve.

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  31. A simple comment from a simple mind re god/atheism. There seems to be no demonstrable material effect in believing in a personal god. That is my personal experience and shared by many but not all. There may be a benefit as an idea or motivation for but it is impossible for me (or anyone) to know that. So pointless to ridicule religion or advocate atheism to those who seem to not adhere to accepted logic but choose belief. Advocating pointless ideas is a form of irrationality. No?
    Very nice/balanced post Sabine.Thank you

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  32. God exists but he's not perfect otherwise we all would not be here in 2021.Long ago there were 2 camps one led by God the other by Lucifer who wanted to establish 'democracy' and take over control. But God defeated him and his legions and sent him over to Earth. Thus Earth is now in a BIG mess and we have Trump, Islamofascists & govts that lie to us and deny existence of highly advanced ETs.

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  33. Is the choice between a creator and multiverses the only alternative which we can imagine to explain fine-tuning?

    There is another one thinkable, not uncommon in nature, which is a feedback system. It supposes that the involved parameters are not constants but variable to an extent that they can be adapted in a long term.

    Which parameters? These are of course parameters which are presently understood to be unchangeable, otherwise such idea would have already been considered. So, which ones?

    The first candidate is the speed of light. There is agreement in the present community that c is a constant. But did it have the same value in former times? Are there any strong argument for such assumption? I think it is the contrary. The experiments of Perlmutter and Riess have the easiest explanation if we assume that c slowly decreases with time.

    The next possible candidate for variation is the gravitational constant. Why does it have the value which it has? (The German director of the Albert Einstein institute has once stated that in contrast to earlier understanding gravity is the least understood force in physics.) So, what about the gravitational constant? Newton has just stated its value as is, there was no other way in his time. And Einstein? He has taken it from Newton as it was with no further thoughts about it.

    Now imagine the following:
    1) The speed of light c decreases by the increasing extension of the space
    2) The gravitational constant depends on c, and so changes with c and so in turn does the rate of the extension of space.
    Here we have a feedback process which causes a control of the extension.

    This is only a little example, but it can be extended by the inclusion of further parameters.
    Such processes are frequent in nature and they are able to cause adjustments towards stable conditions. And processes like this may have caused fine tuning towards a stable situation.

    This consideration may look unfamiliar or speculative. But what, if we compare it to assumptions like a creator or a collection of 10^100 multiverses?

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  34. Hi Sabine,

    First, I don't believe that physics is fine-tuned to support life, and certainly not human life. On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that our universe would just happen to be the way it is if the long list of constants you mention were each independently selected by chance. Even if "good" values for each of them were only a bit unlikely, the combination of so many accidental right answers would still raise the question of fine-tuning. And if tiny changes in some of these values would be enough to make the emergence of stable atoms and complex molecules impossible, then it surely makes sense to look for some explanation. In other words, fine-tuning doesn't go away because we can't quantify it.

    What's called for though is not just any explanation but one that's based on known physics, and helps us make sense of what we know. I think such an explanation is possible, if we consider that a world without stable atoms and complex molecules (or something functionally equivalent) would be a world in which nothing would be measurable, where no kind of information would even be definable. Quantum mechanics gives us good reason to believe that the existence of contexts in which measurements can be made is important: there are definite facts about quantum systems only to the extent that some physical context can define those facts. So we may conceivably be able to explain fine-tuning, among other things, by investigating what it takes to make information determinable.

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  35. Conrad: The point is, who says they are "chosen"? Who claims they can be anything else? Who says there is more than ONE universe with constants, or that other universes have DIFFERENT constants?

    You are pre-supposing they can be any different than what they are, without any evidence. Everybody that says "if they were just little different" is doing the same, beginning from a premise that they COULD be different, without any evidence whatsoever that they CAN be different.

    So they are just engaging in fantasy, not science.

    For all we know, the constants are self-reinforcing, each one determined by all the others, in relationships we have not yet imagined. Or perhaps there ARE other combinations that would work to allow the evolution of intelligent life that could measure and observe them, but in those other combinations the constants are not even close to ours.

    Even if they CAN be different, there is no reason to believe they are continuously variable at all, the "valid values" may be a collection of discrete values.

    A single point, a constant, does not tell you anything about the nature of a distribution it was drawn from. All we can possible say about the constants is they represent one collection we know works, without knowing if any other working collection is even possible.

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  36. Point I: No one knows how likely life is in the universe we inhabit (in fact, per our gracious host, the sample size is exactly ... one), nor what complex structures can be said to support it. Molecular clouds? Plasmas organized by charge and magnetism? Extensive quark structures formed shortly after the Big Bang? Or maybe something even more exotic, deep down in the quantum foam perhaps. To the person who said that two-dimensional life was impossible, I recommend Greg Egan's short story "Wang's Carpets". The point is, talking about how finely tuned the fundamental constants are for life seems to be carbon- and star-centric at best, a complete failure of the imagination at worst, and in any case derives from a wrong-headed argument about plausibility.

    Point II: Even given a multiverse from which probability distributions may be inferred, we know nothing about how large such a multiverse could be. Why are there less than a hundred free parameters -- an 'implausibly' small number -- to characterize this particular universe? It would seem more likely (see what I did there?) that there are actually a million or a billion free parameters, almost all of which are as close to zero as makes no difference where we reside. But how likely is life given those other parameters to tweak? No one knows, nor do I see how anyone could know.

    TL;DR: I am in strong agreement with our host on this one. What did Doyle make Sherlock Holmes say? It is a capital mistake to theorize in the absence of evidence or somesuch. Words to live by.

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  37. Dr. Hossenfelder,

    You always seem to come up with some of the most interesting and thought provoking posts. Looking at the number of comments you have done it again. I just have a single question about this topic, I have to admit that it is philosophical in nature, but that is consistent with this topic: The estimate age of the universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our species is only a few million years old. If the universe was build for us what took us so long to get here?

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    1. Scarcely 50 years ago it was totally speculative to claim that other planetary systems existed around stars. Nowadays new stellar planets are discovered every day. Infact, it is thought every star has at least one planet. There are ca. 10^11 stars in our galaxy, one amongst 10^11 galaxies in the observable universe. NASA, two years ago reported that we had underestimated the number of galaxies at cosmological distance by tenfold!
      Our sun appeared and planets rather late in history;other "Earth-like" planets could have existed 10 billion years ago.
      One could replace hominids by sentient beings anywhere. It's more surprising that we aren't aware that they have ever visited us in order to alleviate our anxieties .

      10:36 AM, January 20, 2021

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    2. Graham Dungworth: They might, but Earth hominids are not even CLOSE to interstellar travel, certainly not personally, and if our limited intelligence is typical, there is little reason to believe any hominid species will bother to achieve it.

      Heck, we are practically killing ourselves off right now. How far do you think we are from a benevolent, scientific, self-sustaining, environmentally stable worldwide government?

      I think that's a pipe dream.

      At our level of technology, they'd be hard to detect; every scientific race will quickly discover information compression, error correction and encryption, which (by design) results in signals that are effectively white noise without the decryption methods and dictionaries.

      And like us, might turn in on themselves and occupy themselves with entertainment that is far cheaper than exploration. Lots of humans see little point in interstellar exploration.

      I don't find it a mystery at all, if other intelligent life exists out there, that they haven't bothered to reach out, and aren't detectable from tens or hundreds of light years away. We're certainly not making any such effort on a centuries long project. Our countries might not even last that long. We're on a water planet and still fighting over and rationing WATER for Pete's sake.

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  38. Either there is an infinite number of constants or a finite one. If there is an infinite number, how could the Universe, as a whole, allow logical computations? So, if there is only a finite number of constants, wouldn't the Universe be more likely to possess fewer constants than a multitude? Do we, humans, really deserve fine-tuning, especially when we consider what evolution is at the physics level?

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  39. Either there is an infinite number of constants or a finite one. If there is an infinite number, how could the Universe, as a whole, allow logical computations? So, if there is only a finite number of constants, wouldn't the Universe be more likely to possess fewer constants than a multitude? Do we, humans, really deserve fine-tuning, especially when we understand what evolution is at the physics level?

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  40. Graham Dungworth10:41 AM, January 20, 2021

    "Scarcely 50 years ago it was totally speculative to claim that other planetary systems existed around stars. "

    Are you sure? 50 years ago is after Hoyle's nucleosynthesis of carbon had been confirmed, so presumably Physicists knew there had been a first generation of stars that exploded to produce material for solar systems like ours. Presumably, the material from the exploded stars would cluster into star plus planets plus other bits and bobs like asteroids and comets, not just a star with no planets. So presumably they fully expected other planetary systems back then even.

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  41. Old men do forget, Steven. A Xmas present I wanted in 1955 was a basic general book on astronomy. By the late 50's I was allowed to read Fred Hoyle's new pristine book on astronomy from the physics laboratory,but I was not allowed to leave the lab with it.
    I've just dug out a now shabby book re-course on Astronomy and cosmology by Fred, 1975 while he was in Pasadena, California.
    Fred did review the so- called catastrophe theories re- the condensation of planets and predicted there would be a vast number of planetary systems around ca. 10^20 stars he predicted from all galaxies in the universe. He also cites the general opinion at that time that the Earth was unique, theologians were comforted by the thought that the Earth was the only habitat for life in our galaxy, and that many scientists accorded to that assertion.

    Sabine's header might well be written "Was the Earth created for Us?"
    Fred's imagination was huge and he was one of the first to refer to what Sabine raises as Naturalness and anthropomorphism that morphed into the "Anthropic Principles and later into far more contentious claims on the introduction of plagues from space!
    The first generation stars lack what the astronomers refer to as metallicity. Conventional Big Bang wisdom is that the starting materials are hydrogen and helium with a few isotopes eg. deuterium and a couple for lithium. It needed some early generation of much more massive stars to build up heavier elements from which planets and comets etc could form. Perhaps the Sun had a binary companion that exploded, a catastrophe theory cited by Fred and others. Such origins would be rare.
    The evolution of stars,galaxies and even the whole bundle, the Universe, is not to be confused with the evolution of life.
    Worth a read is Alfred Russel Wallace's "Letter from Ternate" in 1857. https://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S043.htm
    I was living and working in Indonesia in 1992/1993 when I was presented with this 10 page letter of Wallace by a biologist friend. I still think it is just about the most important research paper I've read. Apparently Darwin collapsed when he read it. He called on Lyell and Huxley. Darwin had been scooped; Huxley remarked "It's so obvious".
    Life is a continuous struggle for existence. Forget about humanoid interstellar travel and perhaps even for Mars expiditions. Resource requirements are too prodigious. I used to handle the logistics for modest visits to remote areas. I've gazed upon many spectacular views in my time, villagers would often roll their eyes at my appreciation the sheer beauty of the scenery. In all instances the area was a battle zone, something eating something else. Survival of the fittest. Survive birth and childhood, hopefully to breed others in this continuing conflict. Nature cares little for the species, it atacks the individual. Billions of former species extinct. Evolution has bred in Us , Humanity, the unsurpassed worst example of wholesale genocide or phyllocide; Dr Costaldo instinctively grasps this. Our collective intellect is based upon a scientific methodolgy that is continually recorded and expanded by many and not on some 2000 year theological text that has remained unchanged.
    OK- was anything created, by purpose for ourselves or any sentient being anywhere. It's a pretty meaningless question. Purposivity worries us as scientists. Yet we write about it at great length. Was the universe created at an instant in time, or was it with time? Does time exist? Some claim it doesn't but it claims all of us; none of us has a freehold on life. Yet we pass on our knowledge for others yet to come.

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    1. "the introduction of plagues from space!"

      Was there a galactic lockdown?

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  42. Another problem with "the universe is fine-tuned for life" hypothesis, is that the calculations on star-formation and so on don't include the fact that, although the Vorpal, Krellion, and Fhad constants are zero or very close to it in this universe, so we don't see any effects of the new forces and particles they would describe, they may not be zero in other conceivable universes; and that is just to mention three of the infinite number of other conceivable possibilities. That, plus the aforementioned barrenness of this universe makes it impossible for me to believe this is the best of all possible universes for the existence of life.

    My own bias is that life is not that big a deal anyway. Its nature in this universe seems to be one of individual, not collective, experience. From that point of view I will have existed for an extremely negligible amount of this universe's existence and then be gone forever, never to return. I don't feel I would have missed much not to have lived at all. (Of course, I come from a long line of survivors so I have a survival instinct.)

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    1. I think thats not true.
      We are individuals AND we are linked into collective.
      The problem seems whow to get a balance.

      From a more scientific view I would argue:
      The cell is basis of human organism.
      The cell in the human body obviously can't survive as a single unit. The cell of the human body needs other cells which form suborgans which form organs which form the body (scaling).
      Now think about it: The cell is an individual unit, thats for sure.
      On the other hand it could't survive (in the human body) as a single cell.
      It NEEDS other cells to form the functioning unit we know as Body. It does so through controlling very restrictive what comes into the cell and what goes out (mass and information (what ever that is)). And the Skin is just another interface to the environment.
      What makes you sure, that this border is organized in another way then the underlying principle?
      Why should the border (skin) be the end?


      We ARE individuals.
      Thats for sure.
      But we are linked to collective (environment).
      The problem seems whow to get a balance.

      And if physics get involved into living dynamical systems (which I find great), I assume it have to think some paradigms anew.

      From my point of view: It could only be done if material sciences and (real) humanities studies come together.
      Respect another.
      And learn from the other side.

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    2. I meant that complex life, the kind that can make decisions based on computations, has an individual character. Individual cells can survive if they are specialized to do so in given environments, but I don't think most people consider that sort of life as anything special enough to be a justification for the constants of physics. "Life with minds" is what those who make grandiose claims seem to consider special. Whatever a "mind" is (I consider it the ability to make decisions based on complex computations), so far at least it seems to be instantiated in short-term individuals whose lives, while important to them, seem quite inconsequential on the scale of the universe; and so, not anywhere near a sufficient justification for the values of physics constants.

      Of course, some people claim that their memories and personalities have been uploaded into some sort of cosmic cloud, from which they will be re-instantiated after death, but science has discovered no possible means by which that could occur, so the burden is on these people to provide reliable evidence for their claims and so far they have not done so, despite the existence of the James Randi Foundation Million-Dollar prize for so doing.

      Anyway, that is how I feel, perhaps poorly expressed, as an individual. The fact that others have conflicting views would seem to support at least the individual-nature part.

      Of course those of us who are instantiated over intersecting time regions would do better to cooperate than compete, to help each other rather than hurt each other, but that is a different issue than whether at our best we matter enough to justify certain physics constants.

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  43. Another argument against the universe being "fine-tuned" by a "creator" of some sort is that it assumes the existence of a being or entity complex enough to DO the fine-tuning, and capable of conscious, considered, deliberate action, and that such a being came into existence without any fine-tuning to pave the way. If that's possible, then the appearance of life on our level certainly doesn't require fine-tuning.

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    1. The way I've heard the argument for a creator from fine tuning, all these attributes of a creator are not assumed going into the argument, but rather, they are inferred *from* the argument. And I've never heard anybody who defended the argument from fine-tuning say that they think the creator "came into existence."

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    2. Sam Harper3:14 PM, January 25, 2021

      "The way I've heard the argument for a creator from fine tuning,"

      There is no evidence for fine-tuning, therefore there is no argument for a creator from fine-tuning. In fact, it is not even known if the observable universe had a beginning, so you can't even sensibly talk about a moment of creation. Whether the universe had a beginning or not probably won't ever be known either, as Physical measurements have finite precision.

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  44. One further point...

    A recent Scientific America article "Our Improbable Existence Is No Evidence for a Multiverse" by thicko Philip Goff, claims a multiverse cannot be inferred from the hypothetical low probability of a life-supporting universe.

    But, of course, if we hear someone has won the UK lottery (odds 1:14mn), one explanation is that millions of tickets have been bought (millions of people are playing). Similarly, if we find a low-probability life-supporting universe, it *can* be explained by a multiverse of random universes - doesn't have to be, but *can* be. No further explanation is needed for our existence in it, as this is the only universe we can appear in.

    Human life is the prize with the winning ticket, not the winning lottery player.

    We are trying to explain a lottery win, not a pre-chosen player winning, and the former *can* be explained by the existence of many unobserved players.

    Simple - like Philip Goff and the Scientific America editor.

    But of course the probability of the universe being as it is is unknown, so it's all hypothetical anyway.

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  45. let us assume, for the sake of argument, that this universe exists. Then we can say the probability of the existence of this universe is 1. Let us assume, again for the sake of argument, that there might me a mulitiverse of which this universe is a part with as many as 10^500th universes in said multiverse. Then I think we can say that the probability of the existence of this universe as evidence for the multiverse is 1 over 10^500th. So sure, why not?

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    1. Well, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that 10^86 cosmic unicorns ate all those 10^500 universes,digested them,and then turned into atoms, in our one remaining universe.

      As long as we are assuming things without evidence.

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    2. Steve Bullfox12:45 PM, January 23, 2021

      This is not well understood by many, including Philip Goff, "philosopher" at Durham "University", in the recent "Scientific" American article.

      1) If *someone not known in advance* wins the lottery, we may be surprised because the odds are 1:14mn, but this event can be explained by millions of unobserved players playing the lottery. Considered in the correct context, the odds are not long.

      2) If we choose a *particular* lottery player in advance, and *that particular lottery player* then wins, even just at some point in their lifetime, then this is highly unlikely and **cannot be explained** by the existence of millions of other unobserved lottery players. We would have to conclude either that the particular lottery winner bought millions of tickets, or that the lottery is fixed.

      In the case of the multiverse, if (if!) the possible laws of nature were distributed in some way that made life-supporting universes highly improbable, then the existence of our universe *could possibly* be explained by the existence of lots of unobserved other universes (as in 1) ). Our existence in such an improbable universe is not akin to 2), because we can only appear in a life-supporting universe, while the lottery player in 2) could buy *any ticket*.

      Once you have explained the existence of a life-supporting universe, our existence in it requires no further explanation. Science already explains it from the laws of nature.

      " Then we can say the probability of the existence of this universe is 1"
      No, because other universes may be possible. If you roll a 6 on a die, you don't say the P(6) = 1.

      "I think we can say that the probability of the existence of this universe as evidence for the multiverse is 1 over 10^500th. "
      No, because the existence of this universe may or may not be evidence for the other universes. It's possible that there is a multiverse but no evidence of it in this universe.
      If, however, the laws of nature for a life-supporting universe are highly improbable, then 1 *possible* explanation for the existence of such an improbable universe is a multiverse, as in 1). Even then, evidence that actually resolves the question may not be available.
      For if we only hear that someone has won the lottery, and *no further information*, it's possible the someone won because unobserved millions were playing, or because the someone bought millions of tickets, or because the lottery is fixed. Without further info all explanations would be possible.

      The schoolboy error that Philip Goff makes in the recent Scientific American article, is to think that humans are equivalent to lottery players in the multiverse scenario. We're not. We're equivalent to the prize that comes with the winning ticket.

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  46. Where does the burden of proof lie when it comes to whether the constants could have been otherwise? Does it lie with those who say they couldn't have been otherwise or with those who say they could have been otherwise? I ask because it seems like some people are denying that the universe is fine-tuned on the basis that there is no evidence that the constants could have been otherwise, but it isn't clear to me who has the burden of proof. Should we assume necessity until contingency is demonstrated, or should we assume contingency until necessity is demonstrated? Or should we just say we don't know either way? If we say we don't know either way, then shouldn't we also say we don't know whether the universe is fine-tuned?

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    1. Sam Harper2:53 PM, January 25, 2021

      Clearly, if people are making a positive claim that the universe *is* actually fine-tuned, then they need to provide evidence. None has ever been provided.

      The blog post states very clearly that there is no evidence for fine-tuning. It does not make the claim that the universe is not fine-tuned.

      "Or should we just say we don't know either way?"

      False dichotomy. You could say the same for any crazy idea - we don't know whether or not the universe was blown out of the trunk of a pink elephant.

      What we should say is that people who claim there is evidence for fine-tuning are completely incompetent.

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    2. Steve, your response doesn't really answer my question. What I'm wanting to know is whether we should think the constants are necessary until we have reason to think they are contingent, or if we should think they are contingent until we have reason to think they are necessary, or if we should say we don't know either way. In other words, what should the default position be? Who has the burden of proof when it comes to the question of whether the constants are necessary or contingent?

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    3. I'm not Steve but there's a lot of value in "we don't know. Until we discover a valid scientific reason to think that one way or the other is correct, any speculation along these liens is not science".

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    4. Sam Harper4:42 AM, January 27, 2021

      The burden of proof is on anybody making a claim.

      The UK Astronomer Royal claims the universe is fine-tuned but has provided no evidence.
      Dr. H. tells us there is no evidence either way - the proof of this is that there are no published papers providing evidence.

      But, you are missing the point. If a lunatic claims they are the reincarnation of Napoleon, we don't discuss whether the burden of proof is on the lunatic or the burden of refutation on us. We say the lunatic is a lunatic.
      Similarly, here. There is *zero* empirical evidence of universal fine-tuning. So those claiming that there is are incompetent. That's the conclusion. That's the point. That's what we should say.

      Delete
  47. Many paths, one truth.
     Of late we discern the veil that encompasses all that’s knowable, indeed at 13.7 on said arbitrary scale, or ≈E61 naturally. Which is to validate Iron Age thinkers (of various persuasions, beloved forbearers on whose shoulders we sit), who even of themselves knew and therefore bequeathed (as best they might’ve) that there is a purpose worthy of discovery to everything. So, relative to those who nowadays eschew it, surely they were the closer to it.
     Whether we dancing around Einstein’s whole egg whilst endeavoring via Jordan Peterson to re-member sublime myths for the one word that solves the puzzle, or similarly evoke Bohm and Camille Paglia, or perhaps Bohr and Fraud, or surely Schrödinger and Jung who long collaborated with Pauli, all would say even as we even of ourselves: “...these are truths: it’s consciousness that gives rise to being from possibility... every conscious being is a center, bounded but infinite...” And too what Jungian Joseph Campbell prays: “imagine the world as if its being and inner character were derived from a supreme mind.”
     Whence the Bodhisattva enters reality through all its boundless gateways to destroy all the numberless delusions, which is all these arbitrary evangelical conspiracies imposed nowadays to re-member not. After-all, it is what Occam has otherwise said: a god who must create everything else just to determine what works would be implausibly inefficient. One therefore proposes non-omniscience, as the eternal God who endows inalienable free will (timshel) would nonetheless be as surprised as anyone as to when what comes to pass where. So, now, for self-evidently unknowable validation, that certain unitarity derived of all evidence under the veil: imagine beyond to ≈E69, and that via ADM formalism to behold, everything.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Dr. Hossenfelder,

    I just read your 'Lost In Math' and enjoyed it very much. Do you think that further advances in quantum computing will help in answering more of these questions.

    Paul Giles
    Taylors, SC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul,

      Happy you like the book. I don't think quantum computers will answer any interesting questions in my lifetime.

      Delete
  49. Dr. Hossenfelder
    Thank you for replying. Maybe the advantages in quantum computing will be realized in financial markets! Not so bad, I guess...,

    Paul Giles

    ReplyDelete

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