Following on Jim Holt’s book, Why does the world exist?, here is his TED talk:
9:50 So we have these two extremes now. We have sheer nothingness on one side, and we have this vision of a reality that encompasses every conceivable world at the other extreme: the fullest possible reality, nothingness, the simplest possible reality. Now what’s in between these two extremes? There are all kinds of intermediate realities that include some things and leave out others. So one of these intermediate realities is, say, the most mathematically elegant reality, that leaves out the inelegant bits, the ugly asymmetries and so forth. Now, there are some physicists who will tell you that we’re actually living in the most elegant reality. I think that Brian Greene is in the audience, and he has written a book called “The Elegant Universe.” He claims that the universe we live in mathematically is very elegant. Don’t believe him. (Laughter) It’s a pious hope, I wish it were true, but I think the other day he admitted to me it’s really an ugly universe. It’s stupidly constructed, it’s got way too many arbitrary coupling constants and mass ratios and superfluous families of elementary particles, and what the hell is dark energy? It’s a stick and bubble gum contraption. It’s not an elegant universe. (Laughter) And then there’s the best of all possible worlds in an ethical sense. You should get solemn now, because a world in which sentient beings don’t suffer needlessly, in which there aren’t things like childhood cancer or the Holocaust. This is an ethical conception. Anyway, so between nothingness and the fullest possible reality, various special realities. Nothingness is special. It’s the simplest. Then there’s the most elegant possible reality. That’s special. The fullest possible reality, that’s special.
Who told Holt there was such a thing as an “ethical conception”? Scrub down the room.
11:42 But what are we leaving out here? There’s also just the crummy, generic realities that aren’t special in any way, that are sort of random. They’re infinitely removed from nothingness, but they fall infinitely short of complete fullness. They’re a mixture of chaos and order, of mathematical elegance and ugliness. So I would describe these realities as an infinite, mediocre, incomplete mess, a generic reality, a kind of cosmic junk shot. And these realities, is there a deity in any of these realities? Maybe, but the deity isn’t perfect like the Judeo-Christian deity. The deity isn’t all-good and all-powerful. It might be instead 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective, which pretty much describes the world we see around us, I think. (Laughter) So I would like to propose that the resolution to the mystery of existence is that the reality we exist in is one of these generic realities. Reality has to turn out some way. It can either turn out to be nothing or everything or something in between. So if it has some special feature, like being really elegant or really full or really simple, like nothingness, that would require an explanation. But if it’s just one of these random, generic realities, there’s no further explanation for it. And indeed, I would say that’s the reality we live in. That’s what science is telling us. At the beginning of the week, we got the exciting information that the theory of inflation, which predicts a big, infinite, messy, arbitrary, pointless reality, it’s like a big frothing champagne coming out of a bottle endlessly, a vast universe, mostly a wasteland with little pockets of charm and order and peace, this has been confirmed, this inflationary scenario, by the observations made by radio telescopes in Antarctica that looked at the signature of the gravitational waves from just before the Big Bang. I’m sure you all know about this. So anyway, I think there’s some evidence that this really is the reality that we’re stuck with. More from transcript.
But didn’t that big discovery he is hyping end up being identified as probably cosmic dust? So it isn’t the reality we are stuck with after all.
And we also think that there is some ethical conception that lies above the reality we are stuck with?
Best keep looking, with a different guide.
See also: In search of a road to reality and
The bill arrives for cosmology’s free lunch
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