Here’s a thought about anthropic “coincidences.” Michael Denton, in his book Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (a tour de force which cannot be summarized here), points out that if metals could not have been smelted and refined at temperatures reachable through carbon-based fire, technology could never have arisen. What a happy coincidence. One can’t make cars and computers from wood and stone.
I presume that readers of this blog are aware of all the happy coincidences concerning the fine-tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry that make life possible in the first place, and all the happy coincidences that make our place in the cosmos ideal for scientific discovery, as elucidated by Gonzalez and Richards.
Isn’t it also interesting that the physics of sound are just right to create scales, harmonies, consonance and dissonance, and that musical instruments can be made from common materials?
Music is based on the physics of sound — in particular, the overtone series which is produced when a string or column of air vibrates in integer multiples. The division of the octave into 12 semitones is not an accident or a matter of personal preference; this produces notes that coincide with the overtone series. This is the basis of melody and harmony, and why some sounds are dissonant and some sounds are consonant.
Imagine a world without music: no music accompanying the movies you watch, no music in your church services, no music on the radio or television, no violinists, no pianists, no guitarists, no singers, no songs — no music at all! Wouldn’t your life be indescribably impoverished? Music is a totally abstract art form, but has tremendous power and meaning in our lives.
When I was in college I took a number of courses in music theory. I remember a chapter in a book about melody. All the technical elements of melodic composition were discussed but there was one final comment that struck me (I paraphrase): Most people associate “melody” with something that cannot be described, but they know it when they hear it, and there is no way to teach how to write a good melody. Each note seems to naturally flow from the preceding one.
The more we learn the more it becomes apparent that the universe was rigged for humans, from top to bottom, and in almost every way. Our universe is a very meaningful one.