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Science's Alternative To an Intelligent Creator

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the theory-of-anything dept.

Science 683

Hugh Pickens writes "Discover magazine has an interesting article on the multiverse theory — a synthesis of string theory and the anthropic principle that explains why our universe seems perfectly tailored for life without invoking an intelligent creator. Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. While most of those universes are barren, some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life. The idea that the universe was made just for us — known as the anthropic principle — debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter proposed that a purely random assortment of laws would have left the universe dead and dark, and that life limits the values that physical constants can have. The anthropic principle languished on the fringes of science for years, but in 2000, new theoretical work threatened to unravel string theory when researchers calculated that the basic equations of string theory have an astronomical number of different possible solutions, perhaps as many as 101,000, with each solution representing a unique way to describe the universe. The latest iteration of string theory provides a natural explanation for the anthropic principle. If there are vast numbers of other universes, all with different properties, at least one of them ought to have the right combination of conditions to bring forth stars, planets, and living things." So far xkcd is simulating just one single universe.

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683 comments

imagine (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784597)

a universe without first posts

Re:imagine (3, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784639)

The fact that first posts exist is conclusive proof that no-one is running the Universe.

Re:imagine (0)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784659)

To me it proves that Anonymous Coward is running the Universe.

Re:imagine (4, Funny)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784737)

SlashDeity.com Post comment:

Name: ImaGod0001
URL: http://www.thedivine.god/ [thedivine.god]
Subject: RE: How do you make a Universe?
Comment: First post! Let there be light!

Re:imagine (5, Funny)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784983)

So it would seem: sometimes insightful, sometimes trollish, completely unaccountable and impossible to get answers from.

The anthropic principle isn't a principle. (2, Insightful)

dintlu (1171159) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784691)

It's extremely disingenuous to call a hypothesis a principle, especially when the hypothesis is as controversial as this one.

I lack the credentials to argue whether or not the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life is a valid one, but overbearing terminology like this makes me extremely wary of people arguing in favor of the hypothesis.

Re:The anthropic principle isn't a principle. (4, Insightful)

MindKata (957167) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784885)

"the idea of this universe being particularly suited to life"

... And if there are multiple parallel universes, then in all universes that are not suited to life, there will be no life to ask, "why isn't this universe suited to life". So only in the universes that are suited to life, could there be lifeforms asking, why is this universe suited to life.

Asking therefore "that the universe was made just for us", is clearly totally wrong. Its not about us at all. Its just that life can survive and exist in this universe.

Re:The anthropic principle isn't a principle. (2, Insightful)

the_womble (580291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784973)

If we did not exists, we would not be able to debate the question - we are a biased sample.

I do not think anyone has the credentials to argue whether this universe is particularly suited to life - who knows what life forms might exist if the universe were different?

The science vs religion headline is not useful. scientific knowledge of ultimate origins may possibly eventually shed some light on God, but not right now. The argument for God's existence from the anthropic principle is a "God of the gaps" (a phrase I found in one of Russell Stannard's books on the subject) argument.

Is this testable in any way? If so, is it science?

Gird Your loins! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784619)

Hoe Biden, HIS prophet, has told us to gird our loins. The campaign elders have decreed this to mean castration and full nullification (ie, removal of the penis). This scrifice is mecessary for HIM to ascend to the whitehouse, at which time hope and change shall lift us. Please make sure to gird your loins before January 20th.

Re:Gird Your loins! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784875)

I will get right on that right after I finish viewing yours on youtube. Hurry up and load that loin girding vid so I can do mine!

First Post? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784625)

In this universe

Re:First Post? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784941)

Sorry, you're in the wrong universe, try that one over there.

Theoritical grounds for the DC multiverse (1)

ACK!! (10229) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784633)

Now comic book geeks are going to be quoting physics theory they don't understand to quantify arguements about Earth-1 versus Earth-2 grounds to why the old pre-Crisis DC universe was better. Comic book guys rejoice !

Re:Theoritical grounds for the DC multiverse (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784695)

Does that mean that when the next continuity ret-con occurs, I'll get fused with Hal Jordan's soul and get a green lantern ring?

This is news? (4, Insightful)

anmida (1276756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784643)

This is news? I thought that this idea has been around for a while, or at least it was the logical conclusion of having a multiverse. A livable universe doesn't exist "just for us," it just so happens that out of all of them, at least one of them would end up hospitable. Kind of like planets and solar systems.

Re:This is news? (4, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784703)


I prefer my own Weak Myopic Principle: We think the Universe is perfectly suited to life, because we're unable to imagine forms of life that would develop in other conditions. :)

Re:This is news? (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784763)

I prefer my own Maniacal Egocentric Bastard Principle: I created the Universe, you guys are all just figments of my imagination. Muahahahahah!

Re:This is news? (1)

anmida (1276756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784831)

In my case, I think it's the Strong Myopic Principle. I'd look for the other life-forms, but...where are my glasses?!

My brane hurts. (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784651)

Is that really "101,000," which is hardly an "astronomical" number, or is it supposed to be 10^1000? The article was correctly quoted, and with a quick search I couldn't find another source for the number of possible multiverses.

Re:My brane hurts. (2, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784929)

You're right -- that's not an astronomical number. However, the article implies that's a rough estimate of the number of families of solutions to the situation; each of those families will have uncountable numbers of parameter-driven solutions. I imagine that many of those families may have overlapping domains, so that half of the universes described have strictly increasing entropy, half of those have light speed as a universal speed limit, only a few of those utilize our particular Lorentz transformation, and so on.
      One could find that a whole series of families of solutions seem to describe our universe, except for some minor variations in the laws which can't hold.

Re:My brane hurts. (1)

chromeshadow (1211190) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785003)

In any case, it's over nine thousand!

Again (4, Insightful)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784669)

I could swear that this has got to be the third time Discover has run almost this exact same story, but I unfortunately recycled about ten years of the magazine this summer.

Re:Again (1)

consequentemente (898944) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785095)

I could swear...

Could you? And to what? God? The Multiverse?

Re:Again (2, Funny)

Cow Jones (615566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785147)

Any anyway, "Science" already has a better "alternative to an intelligent creator".

All hail to His Noodly Appendages! [venganza.org]
(it's been proven by Science! [venganza.org] )

RAmen.

Re:Again (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785165)

I thought it was a /. dupe, but maybe in this universe, it was a discover dupe...

Comic Book Science (2, Insightful)

s1283134 (660354) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784671)

This sounds more like a comic book than science. Does any of this "theory" have any facts behind it? Or is it like my theory that the marshmallow man is really the creator of it all? I know they put a lot of fancy math with it, but remeber math is just a language. It tries to express what is there, but it doesn't have to. I can write a story of truth(non-fiction) with English, or I can write a story of fiction with English. The same can be said for math. We clearly have the latter here.

So here's what I have to say (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784673)

I have a penis for a nose

Re:So here's what I have to say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784719)

that must be a tiny penis, then. Of you're taking the "search for a tight hole" to another extreme...

Bang to Strings (1)

marcbilb (956460) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784677)

So we're moving from the Big Bang to String Theory. The old question was who caused the 'bang' now I guess it's who looped the 'strings'.

Re:Bang to Strings (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784845)

It's very simple. We began with Percussion (Big Bang), now we're moving toward Strings. Next will obviously be Brass and Woodwind. I don't care much who banged the drum or plucked the strings, who blew the brass or woodwinds. Whoever we're looking for, we know he'll have a musical degree and a conductor's baton.

Re:Bang to Strings (1, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784879)

Imagine time is a 4th spatial dimension. Imagine that the permutations the sum of the energy and mass of a universe can enter are ALL represented in all universes, but that there is a single lowest common denominator, which is the singularity. The singularity is where all the multiverses meet, like petals on a flower. The dark matter, the stuff from outside the universe that is influencing it, those are other universes bumping into our own.

This is the model towards which all the painstaking math is leading.

Re:Bang to Strings (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784979)

Shouldn't that be what, not who?

That's entirely beside the point (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784693)

If there is a vast multiverse, how did that come to be? Religion is the "answer" to the question of origin. It is what you end up with if you don't accept "it just is" as an answer. All science can't prove that god does or doesn't exist. The whole science or religion discussion is like comparing apples and oranges. They're just not dealing with the same problems. As a scientist I find it insulting that religious people try to pass off religion as some form of science and as a human being I find people who think that science can explain everything rather arrogant.

Re:That's entirely beside the point (3, Insightful)

Cynic9 (842597) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784741)

I think science is what you end up with if you don't accept "it just is" as an answer.

Re:That's entirely beside the point (2, Interesting)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784783)

as a human being I find people who think that science can explain everything rather arrogant.

i find it even more insulting to think that even if there is a god, why doesn't he show himself? and how do these religious people know for a fact that what they are praying to, really is that god?
And even if there is a god, then why doesn't he interfere ? is he incapable ? or not willing ? in both cases he loses the right to be prayed to.

Re:That's entirely beside the point (1)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784899)

if there is a god, then why doesn't he interfere ? is he incapable ?

[God] is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

His promise: to intervene.

Re:That's entirely beside the point (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785021)

The god to whom people pray is not the same as the god who "created" the universe, where created equals "supplied the initial conditions from which the universe began."

The one to whom people pray is imaginary. The one who supplied the initial conditions is assumed to exist. Either way, he isn't coming to meet you any time soon.

Re:That's entirely beside the point (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784951)

Religion is the "answer" to the question of origin.

It doesn't provide an answer at all - I presume this is what you mean by the quotes.

as a human being I find people who think that science can explain everything rather arrogant.

There may well be some things that are fundamentally unknowable - which is true is a matter of opinion, and I'm not sure that either viewpoint is "arrogant".

What I found arrogant however is the idea that "science can't explain everything", but that there somehow exists some other method by which we could explain it. E.g., people who say "Religion explains the 'why' which science can't do", or people who try to give extra credibility to alternative medicine and other hocus pocus by claiming "science isn't the only way to find answers".

Re:That's entirely beside the point (3, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785053)

Religion replaces "it just is" with "God did it" which means about the same thing: "No idea."

Re:That's entirely beside the point (1)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785079)

All science can't prove that god does or doesn't exist.

Science can't prove anything: all it can do is tell you what the most likely explanations are according to the evidence.

It turns out that an old chap with a beard who lives in the sky isn't exactly the best fit for what we observe.

Religion and Science provide exactly the same answer to the question of origin; which is to say, no answer whatsoever. Religion just characterises "we have no idea" as "God moves in mysterious ways".

I'm a believer in Applied Anthropics... (1)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784701)

The universe really was made just for me!

Wow (1)

pgfuller (797997) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784711)

101,000 possible solutions ? Perhaps you mean 10^1000. If you are pulling imaginary figures out of the metaverse, how about making them moderately large?

Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785099)

They have the number more accurately pinned at 1.44*10^5 but that presents a particular problem... [wikipedia.org]

Anthropic Principle (3, Informative)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784715)

The latest iteration of string theory provides a natural explanation for the anthropic principle.

And now, quoting Caroline Miller [wikipedia.org] :

The Anthropic Principle is based on the underlying belief that the universe was created for our benefit. Unfortunately for its adherents, all of the reality-based evidence at our disposal contradicts this belief. In a non-anthropocentric universe, there is no need for multiple universes or supernatural entities to explain life as we know it.

I think Occam's razor fits just right here. If we don't need a zillion universes, why would we say they exist?

Re:Anthropic Principle (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784867)

Caroline Miller is simply wrong. The anthropic principle does not say this. It says that, given that we exist, our universe must be the way it is. That fits Occam's razor just fine.

Multiverses, OTOH, are just bollocks. I'm with you on that. Although ... Occam's razor says one should not "multiply" possibilities without reason, and here we are exponentiating them :)

Re:Anthropic Principle (1)

Andr T. (1006215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784933)

It says that, given that we exist, our universe must be the way it is.

You're right. It seems that Caroline Miller was talking about other extensions of the original idea which carry the same name. From wikipedia:

The anthropic principle has led to more than a little confusion and controversy, partly because several distinct ideas carry this label. All versions of the principle have been accused of providing simplistic explanations which undermine the search for a deeper physical understanding of the universe. The invocation of either multiple universes or an intelligent designer are highly controversial, and both ideas have received criticism for being untestable and therefore outside the purview of contemporary science.

Re:Anthropic Principle (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784915)

I think Occam's razor fits just right here. If we don't need a zillion universes, why would we say they exist?

Because the odds of 1 universe getting created that has the right properties for any complex systems to exist are beyond astronomical. The odds of something as complex as solar systems even less likely. And things as complex as life even more remote.

So, basically in that case you are stuck with two matters of faith. The anthropic principle or a creator. Neither is provable through the scientific method.

If you can demonstrate that there are an infinite number of universes each with its own laws of physics, then you remove this layer of faith.

Now, having said that, I have never understood how each universe has separate laws of physics as opposed to multiple universes with all the same law. It does not make a whole lot of sense to me. But then again, I am not a string theorist

Misleading (4, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784717)

The anthropic princple in general just says that the Universe is the way it is because if it were not nobody would be here to see it. That does not imply that it was 'made for us', it just means that because we are seeing it, conditions are the way they are.

Re:Misleading (2, Interesting)

Yewbert (708667) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784893)

Exactly.

My first thought was that this hypothesis doesn't "provide[s] a natural explanation for the anthropic principle," so much as provide a natural explanation obviating the anthropic principle (part of that being, don't make teleological assumptions where not needed).

On the other hand, being a cynic, I have occasionally subscribed to the misanthropic principle - that the universe was made the way it is just to make us miserable.

Can science find God? (2, Insightful)

bihoy (100694) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784725)

In my view science can explain only what we can observe, directly or indirectly. Is it ever possible for mankind to discern the true nature of God from our limited vantage point? Where did this multiverse come from? Is the mutliverse itself some part or aspect of God?

Re:Can science find God? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784785)

Is the mutliverse itself some part or aspect of God?

Yeah. Another aspect of God would be the possibility of asking a series of rethorical, unanswerable questions.

Re:Can science find God? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784939)

Before trying to discern the "true nature of god", we need to discern whether this god exists.
If this god is going to have any sort of interaction with this universe, then it should be observable.

Re:Can science find God? (2, Insightful)

hobbit (5915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785103)

Unfortunately it is not possible to discern the true nature of God. He is much too clever with his noodly appendages for that.

Re:Can science find God? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785105)

Careful, that's a loaded question. You assert that there is something you call "God" that possesses a true nature. Additionally you use the term used in Christianity which implies other assertions.

As such I believe the correct answer to your question is "mu" [wikipedia.org] .

the universe is 6000 years old (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784731)

for extremely large values of 6000.

Re:the universe is 6000 years old (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784793)

... like: 13.7 Billion projected onto 6000?

Re:the universe is 6000 years old (5, Funny)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784889)

No, the bible just counts mod 6001. Next year the universe will be 0 years old. Again.

Re:the universe is 6000 years old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784945)

Personally, I'm tired of the general Christian population (of which I am a part), blatantly presuming that despite so many things in the Bible being figurative, that 6 days (& the 6000 years) is so literal? We use similar figurative language in our day to day lives, such as "All in a day's work". Why can't 13.7B years worth of Universe progression be God's "All in a day's work"?

Re:the universe is 6000 years old (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785031)

general Christian population (of which I am a part), blatantly presuming that despite so many things in the Bible being figurative, that 6 days (& the 6000 years) is so literal?

because the bible is being used literally. and selectively for that matter.

Conditional probability (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784743)

The fact that we exist is to me no more surprising than the fact that unicorns and goblins do not. What people usually forget when it comes to amazing things happening is that a vast number of equally improbable things did NOT happen. Take the lottery as an example. One person might find it amazing he won since the chance must have been one in a million or less. However, in a big lottery there were also millions of people who did not win, but could have. The probability that somebody would win is 100%, but it will still be surprising to the ones who do. When seen in this light the fact that life exists in this universe can be seen as simply a curious coincidence which occurred instead of a large number of equally bizarre possible events that did not. Elves, goblins, unicorns, gold at the end of the rainbows, the mad hatter and the easter bunny, honest politicians and well documented computer programs, they cold all have been real... It is only the limits of our imagination that cause us to think the universe would be more likely to be "dead" than amazing and alive.

It's not "co-incidence" (3, Informative)

gilleain (1310105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784855)

..the fact that life exists in this universe can be seen as simply a curious coincidence..

I know this might seem pedantic, but isn't "coincidence" when two or more things happen. So, if my friend and I turn up at the same place at the same time, without planning to do so, that's coincidence.
So, our existance in the Universe is merely "incidence". It is not 'co-' with anything else.

Re:Conditional probability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785123)

OMG!!1
You're saying I won the lottery?!?! lolZ, glad I'm not one of the fantazillions of life forms that got the "you-don't-exist"-tickets..

Life?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784753)

I get tired of hearing about how other physical constants wouldn't allow for life. I've never seen any definition of life that made any sense. It's likely that different physical constants wouldn't allow for "life as we know it," but given that we've only seen one kind of life, we're not exactly experts.

Hunh? (3, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784761)

anthropic principle: if you find fish that you must be looking in water.

biologist principle: the system evolves to use whatever the environment has to offer - if you have a world of water, then you can get fish.

An explanation that requires whole alternative universes fails the occam's razor test for me.

Perfectly tailored to life? (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784775)

Are you kidding?! I have every intention of reading the full article, but I haven't yet. But my knee-jerk reaction to the notion that the universe is perfectly tailored to support life is ridiculous! the universe is rather hostile to life. The universe wants everything to be dead. The fact that life rarely exists indicates this quite well. The combination of factors that lead to life as we know it are extremely rare.

Re:Perfectly tailored to life? (2, Funny)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784961)

Well then why don't we all join up to fight the power of the so called "universe" who is trying to kill us all.

Re:Perfectly tailored to life? (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785129)

I think you are missing the point. The universe has to be at least as large as it is in order for us to exist. Put another way, the universe is the smallest hole in which man can hide his head.

If universe were smaller, we would not be here. This does not mean that universe has to be such as to allow life everywhere.

Just Two Things (5, Insightful)

dprovine (140134) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784789)

First, I'm not sure I agree that the universe seems perfectly tailored for life. 99.99% of the universe is empty space in which no life as we know it can survive. It seems to me that "perfectly tailored" would mean something other than "99.99% unusable".

Second, I don't know how this solves any God-related problems. The question is "Why is there anything?" The God-related answers usually hinge on the idea that, as we understand it now, the physical universe we can observe does not have within it the ability to create itself. (Hence lots of arguments about "First Cause" and such.) So, it is posited, something outside our physically observable universe must exist which is subject to different rules and created our universe (and with it, us).

So, there's a mind-bogglingly huge multiverse; fine. But why is it there? Why is any of the universes there? The one we live in doesn't seem to have been capable of creating itself, and the ones that arose in parallel with it can't have created it either, since they didn't exist at the time it didn't exist.

And third, unless you have an observation, which for the moment I'll describe as "a number and a unit of measure which can (at least in theory) be independently checked by someone else", you're not doing science. As this "theory" of multiverses proposes (infinitely?) many parallel worlds which we cannot observe in any way, it's not a science at all. It's just another religion made up by people who want to avoid using that word.

Re:Just Two Things (2, Funny)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784903)

And third, unless you have an observation, which for the moment I'll describe as "a number and a unit of measure which can (at least in theory) be independently checked by someone else", you're not doing science. As this "theory" of multiverses proposes (infinitely?) many parallel worlds which we cannot observe in any way, it's not a science at all. It's just another religion made up by people who want to avoid using that word.

<img src="images/WHARRGARBL.jpg">

Re:Just Two Things (0)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785119)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up.

I'd like to add to that. My question is the following: Assume that a mechanism existed to create the universe, and say it was an explosion from a very small particle (a.k.a. Big Bang). Why did the explosion not occur uniformly? In other words, why did it not explode in perfect spheres of energy, never to have enough in a single area again to form mass?

If the explosion was non-uniform (which it must have been to form our universe), then the original particle itself must have been non-uniform. Ok, so what is the nature of that particle? Where did it come from, and why was it not uniform to begin with? Even if you assume that the universe happens in cycles, from Big Bang to Big Crunch over and over again, at some point you have to ask, what started it all and why was it not uniform in nature?

I know this isn't a popular answer, but I believe that there are forces at work which guide our existence that we will never be able to grasp on our plane of existence.

If a truly intelligent computer program were ever created, its knowledge of its existence would be limited to the tools provided to it. With nothing more than a screen and mouse, how would it ever find out details of the physical world? It would exist, but it could never find out the nature of its existence. So, I believe we are the same way.

Definition of Anthropic Principle (5, Insightful)

niktemadur (793971) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784791)

The idea that the universe was made just for us â" known as the anthropic principle â" debuted in 1973 when Brandon Carter...

That's not the way I've always heard it, it's more along the lines of:

Question: Why is the universe the way it is?
Answer: Because if it were any other way, we wouldn't be here to observe it and pose the question.

Sort of like Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" on a cosmic level.

Re:Definition of Anthropic Principle (1)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784987)

Does that include the Cartesian argument where God exists because there is a perfect being?

Constructed.. (1)

Emb3rz (1210286) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784819)

Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God. Hebrews 3:4

I suppose it will be posited that in an alternate universe houses do, in fact, construct themselves?

Re:Constructed.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785127)

Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God. Hebrews 3:4

I suppose it will be posited that in an alternate universe houses do, in fact, construct themselves?

In Soviet Russia, houses construct someone.

Ugh. Stupid argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784821)

The universe isn't made perfectly for us - we're made perfectly for it. We evolved to fit the niche which is our universe. It doesn't matter if there's only one universe or infinite. And by evolved I mean to include things like our entire basic structure of elemental atoms, nuclear forces etc. Not just biology which just sits on top of the rest of it.

And the anthropic principle has issues (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784835)

For example, it turns out that lots of possible universes form objects that serve the purpose of stars [arxiv.org] . Stars very much like our universe's require some fairly specific values, it turns out you can play with a lot of values of physical constants and still get something starlike.

When it comes to the ultimate origin of the universe, I'm fine with saying "I dunno." [homeunix.net] . Maybe one day we will know.

I hate string theory (3, Insightful)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784847)

Every time you run in to a roadblock, just tweak your calculations until they fit what you see. Shouldn't our formulas be based off of our observations, and not the other way around?

I'm personally a big fan of relative gravity, but touching einsteins theory of relativity seems to be anathema. A ridiculous notion since relativity itself debunked newton's theories, theories come and go as our ability to observe grows. Scientists shouldn't be afraid of it.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785065)

http://xkcd.com/171/

Re:I hate string theory (2, Insightful)

TranceThrust (1391831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785113)

They aren't afraid. That's why if they encounter some new observation, they update theories to allow for those observations. If this is not reasonably possible, the theory goes down the toilet. In other words: theories, including string theory, are indeed based off of our observations, and not the other way around.

Where's the beef? (1)

VampirePidgeon (1279486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784851)

I thought this was exactly what parallel universes are. Just a bunch of universes with different conditions. We didn't really get lucky that we are in a habitable one because we exist, and just by the virtue of our existence means we could not be in anything but a habitable universe. Sure there might be better universes, but at least we're not on Nowwhat. Seriously, none of this is new if you've read Mostly Harmless or Candide.

It's a bit like arguments about God (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784857)

This whole multiverse thing is as far from physics as is theology. Like the "proofs" of the existence of God, it's just an infinite regress. The fact is, that we observe one universe. Our existence is unexplained. So the theist says "ah well, we're here because God created us." So we say "Fine, now you have to explain not only our existence but that of God as well".

The String Theorist says "hey, I just found this really cool mathematical technique which allows me to express the observed laws of Nature in a different way." We say "Ah, but now you have to explain why your theory fails to predict the existence of only one type of Universe". The String Theorist waves his hands a bit and says "perhaps all of the possible types of Universe exist, it's just that we can only see this one." So then we ask, where did this multiverse come from?

In both cases the gorilla in the room is Bill Ockham's shaving instrument - in order to explain what is, something much bigger and more complicated has to be postulated which is not observable.

Personally, I think String Theory is going to be another Phlogiston or Ptolemaic Epicycles - both of these required observed behaviour to be explained by the unobservable, whether it was the negative mass phlogiston that left heated materials, or the invisible angels needed to keep the Sun and all the planets revolving around the Earth. Both were "scientific" orthodoxy for some time.

The fundamental mystery is still "Why is there anything at all?", and none of the current "explanations" actually have any explanatory power. We should recognise this. (And perhaps put more physics effort into cheap, safe nuclear power and solar energy? But that's just applied physics, even if it is far more likely to keep physics departments open for the next fifty years or so.)

There is no God? (1)

prisoner-of-enigma (535770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784861)

I wonder if it's possible to consider the following without devolving into a flame fest:

So the multiverse theory postulates there are innumerable universes, each with different conditions, and ours happened to be the right conditions to support life as we understand it. How does this rule out the possibility of an intelligent creator? It can be argued that the structure of the multiverse itself is the creation of an intelligent being, thus abstracting the concept one level beyond our universe. Granted, this might be difficult for conventional organized religions to explain, but beyond dogma it does not rule out the possibility.

This whole "there is no God" argument of science versus spirituality is actually quite tiring. No matter how advanced science gets, it will never be able to disprove -- or prove, for that matter -- the existence of a God or gods. The very concept of a supernatural being does not lend itself to being explainable by science. The sooner science quits preoccupying itself with trying to prove an impossible proof, the sooner we can get back to doing real science and not starting arguments with people's personable beliefs (or lack thereof). Let people believe what they want to believe about the supernatural, and let's focus a bit more on what we can prove. Let's start with a Mr. Fusion for my time machine, shall we?

Re:There is no God? (5, Funny)

Qetu (732155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784949)

Yep, all those scientists are just trying to disprove god. The research is just a nice byproduct.

Re:There is no God? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785057)

These theories aren't about trying to disprove unfalsifiable conjecture such as "God" - that's just the political spin put on by the media.

This is about explaining why the Universe is the way it is.

How does this rule out the possibility of an intelligent creator?

The point is that one of the arguments put forward in favour of an "intelligent creator" is that the Universe seems just right for life, so this would disprove that argument. The fact that you can retreat to an unfalsifiable version of "God" that might still exist is neither here not there. (It's a rather weak argument anyway, as you'd still have to explain how conditions were "just right" for an intelligent creator to exist).

Alternative to the intelligent creator? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784935)

The sub-moronic demiurge. The theory? Dipshit design. My proof? Just look around and see how everything cries out to having been dipshittily designed. The hand of the sub-moronic demiurge is everywhere.

Exists in mathematical sense... (1)

mario_grgic (515333) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784959)

People should be careful here. When you describe a mathematical object in a consistent manner it only exists as mathematical ideal, an object whose existence does not contradict any theorem of the theory.

The question of physical existence of such object remains open.

Essentially the existence of other universes remains a matter of belief here.

I personally like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25784969)

...the 'We came here on the backs of crystals' or the 'Aliens deposited us' "scientific" explanations.

But this one is just as far-fetched and unprovable. Maybe moreso as it contains bigger words and "new theoretical work". Sounds so official - it must be true. Just need an actor in a white labcoat to provide the false authority, and we're all set.

  You'd need quite the leap of faith to believe anything that "science" says about the origin of the universe.

Sky cranes (1)

shinier (949631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784989)

Ah, so God must have made the *multiverse* just for us then.

Where have you been? (1)

PontifexMaximus (181529) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784995)

Michael Moorcock has been writing about this idea for years. Geez. Don't you people read books any more?

Douglas Adams (5, Insightful)

Brian Kendig (1959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25784999)

"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

Do you see the problem with this line of reasoning (1, Insightful)

joelholdsworth (1095165) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785001)

As others have mentioned, this is an age old idea. Here are some questions that I've yet to hear sensible answers to:

So your idea is that the universe is actually part of a multiverse. Fine. But then why does that exist, as opposed to nothing? and how did this multiverse come to be a place so fineley tuned as to be an environment conducive to the spawning of hospitable universes? Do you see that while you've expanded the idea, you havn't come to a more fundamental answer? And what is it that makes the universe "work"? Say the multiverse is goverened by string theory, what is it that breathes life into all these mathematical equations, rather than them being simply lifeless abstract formulae?

And where's the payoff in believing in a multiverse? Doesn't your Occam's Razor alarm bell begin ringing like crazy? To accept it, I'd have to put faith in an unseen (perhaps even permanently undetectible) world of parallel universes for which we have not even a single shred of hard evidence (and possibly never will), and for which the theory behind it is so embryonic that it's equations have not even been completely written down, much less solved; a theory which is so tenuous that many physicists regard it's status as "Not even wrong" (Peter Woit). What possible good reason could there be to find this a more appealing "explanation" for the origin of the universe? Not only is there no substantial evidence whatsoever, but also it fails to deal with the design/creator problem. As an explanation it does nothing but expand our idea of the scope of everything-that-exists by a step. So it seems to me that it would take much more faith to believe in this over the idea of a creator God.

Sometimes it seems people are so eager to believe in anything - any idea at all - just so long as it doesn't have God in it.

It feels strange to me the way Atheists always want to claim the Scientific high ground over Christians. It's strange that the headline of this article sets Science and belief in a creator God up as opposed to each other, which they're clearly not. I grow weary of Atheists pointing to this theory or that experiment as a way of proving that God cannot exist. The reason I grow weary is that Science (aka the Natural/Physical Sciences) is the ordered study of the natural/physcial world, but God must by definition be in some ways metaphysical. So discussion regarding God has to be grounded in Philosophy and Metaphysics rather than Physics of the Natural Sciences.

Multiverse is not parsimonious... (4, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785011)

... the whole idea that there are multi-verses goes right against the grain of science itself, multiplying entities needlessly.

The two general explanations are:

Universe is eternal
Universe is not eternal (eternal something else exists "outside" the universe that caused our universe)

Out of those two, you have a few options:

1) Universe is eternal, the universe is godless
a) Universe is eternal, the universe is god (i.e. reality/god = same thing)

2) Universe is not eternal, the universe is godless
a) Universe is not eternal, the universe has a god "outside" the universe (which is a misnomer, technically the universe would be 'inside' god, or made out of god, god being the substance of all existence, in this case).

Those are the most parsimonious explanations, if you want to be honest with yourself.

The New Mysticism (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785023)

Cosmologists spent decades establishing the subject as respectable science, and now these nitwits come along and blow all that good will. I see a number of specific problems with the Anthropic idea:

(1) It makes no predictions. There is no way to either verify or falsify it.
(2) The measure problem: in an infinite multiverse, there is no way to define probability. Think of a box with 1000 black marbles and 1000 white marbles. If you pick a marble out blind, your odds of getting a black one are 50%. Now consider a box with an infinite number of marbles, arranged Black/White/Black/White... and so on. What are your odds of getting a black marble if you pick one out blind? If you say "still 50%," consider this: since the number of marbles is infinite, I could just as well rearrange the marbles to be Black/Black/White/Black/Black/White... and so on. Now what are the odds a random pick will give me a black marble?
(3) Who is to say that a universe with very different laws of physics can't support life? Sure, it probably won't be based on carbon and DNA, but as long as you can build a Turing machine with available materials, then you can have life, and given enough time, you will have life. So how "special" is our universe, really? See (2) above.

Calling the "Anthropic Principle" a principle is pure PR. String theory's original promise that self-consistency would provide a unique theory has completely failed, and Anthropic arguments are an attempt to create a quasi-mystical explanation for why this is ok.

Fine. But then don't call it science.

oh yeah? (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785047)

And who created that multiverse, hmmm?

See, the trick was to create all of those universes 6000 years ago and then nudge science into thinking that because of all of those possibilities, at least one had to sustain life.

I say that God is Kaiser Söse.

ID and probability (1, Interesting)

qmaqdk (522323) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785061)

The argument of the ID crowd tends to be on the improbability of life. I submit to you:

How to witness the impossible (without being god)

Go to a casino and sit down at a roulette table. The probability of a sequence of 1000 specific numbers being rolled on the table is 36^-1000 (or is it 37^-1000). In any case it is about 0.00...01 (with more than 1000 zeros replacing the ...), so effectively impossible. And yet, sitting at the roulette table and witnessing 1000 rolls you have just witnessed the impossible.

We may be the outcome of such an extremely unlikely event, or it may be very probable that life comes into existence in our universe. The problem is: we don't know. We can't restart the universe to see if it happens again. And even if we were to know the probabilities, fact remains that we are here. The event may or may not have been unlikely, but nevertheless still happened. Invoking god in the scenario is as unnecessary as invoking god when sitting at the roulette table for a few hours.

As many as 101,000 Solutions? (4, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785069)

Are they sure it's not 101010 solutions? That would be "42" in binary.....

I require experimental evidence. (2, Insightful)

Zarf (5735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25785107)

I require some kind of empirical evidence or some kind of experiment I can perform to reproduce these results. So far I have been unable to prove the existence of an alternate reality as I only have this one to work with. I would like very much to believe in alternate realities except for the fact that I have no satisfactory evidence proving that they exist.

Similarly, I have no empirical evidence that intelligent aliens exist only smug retorts on how conceded I must be to believe that they do not. I merely lack any evidence that they exist. It would be insane for me to behave as if something I had no proof of was real.

I can only act upon the reality I see in front of me. I can't really be expected to act on imaginary things can I? The multiverse is beyond my experience so far so I can't be expected to react to it.

bibles don't grow on trees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785115)

If the bible is the word of god, and if man is fallible, why would god rely on man to produce and profit from printing the bible, when he could just have created and planted around the world a "bible" tree (a tree that grows bibles)?

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25785149)

This still goes based off of the egocentric views of humans that we are the only ones in this universe.

We claim that something has to be "suitable for life", but yet, we are talking about things suitable for earth life and never reach out to the possibility that something that is not from earth can survive on conditions that are not earth-like.

In this "we need to see it to believe it" viewpoint on the universe, it is very hypocritical to even think that way when many people out there are religious, or have beliefs in a higher power that they have yet to see.

We are a speck of dust in this universe, not the central point in which all life is sustained. We have only looked over less than 1% of the galaxy, so you are telling me that there is no way that the 99% of the rest of the galaxy is barren? Oh wait, we have seen no proof thus far. We have not seen anything that explains anything about life on other planets. Wait. Where do you go to church again to worship something you have never seen before and there is no proof of its existence outside of writings (which there is also writing on people seeing races from other planets).

I know, I have an idea, maybe there isn't life. Maybe we are the only ones in this universe and the only possible way there could be life on other planets would have to be in another universe.

Get your heads out of your %@$#. We are not alone. We are not the sole planet in this galaxy to have life. I have not seen it, but you have to be out of your mind to think that of us only seeing 1% of the galaxy, for you to write off existence on other planets.

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