In the past 40 or so years, a strange fact about our Universe gradually made itself known to scientists: the laws of physics, and the initial conditions of our Universe, are fine-tuned for the possibility of life. It turns out that, for life to be possible, the numbers in basic physics – for example, the strength of gravity, or the mass of the electron – must have values falling in a certain range. And that range is an incredibly narrow slice of all the possible values those numbers can have. It is therefore incredibly unlikely that a universe like ours would have the kind of numbers compatible with the existence of life. But, against all the odds, our Universe does.
Why is fine-tuning for life “incredibly unlikely”? How does one deduce it from a sample of one? It only seems unlikely if one has an evidence-free alternative in mind. Thus,
There are two ways of developing the basic panpsychist position. One is micropsychism, the view that the smallest parts of the physical world have consciousness.
However, a number of scientists and philosophers of science have recently argued that this kind of ‘bottom-up’ picture of the Universe is outdated, and that contemporary physics suggests that in fact we live in a ‘top-down’ – or ‘holist’ – Universe, in which complex wholes are more fundamental than their parts. According to holism, the table in front of you does not derive its existence from the sub-atomic particles that compose it; rather, those sub-atomic particles derive their existence from the table. Ultimately, everything that exists derives its existence from the ultimate complex system: the Universe as a whole.
The cosmopsychist need not think of the conscious Universe as having human-like mental features, such as thought and rationality. Indeed, in my book I suggested that we think of the cosmic consciousness as a kind of ‘mess’ devoid of intellect or reason. However, it now seems to me that reflection on the fine-tuning might give us grounds for thinking that the mental life of the Universe is just a little closer than I had previously thought to the mental life of a human being. More.
“However, it now seems to me that reflection on the fine-tuning might give us grounds for thinking that the mental life of the Universe is just a little closer than I had previously thought to the mental life of a human being.” Indeed. If we keep going in this direction, we will run into Zeus. The only remaining mystery is why our Stone Age ancestors gave up on him after a while.
See also: At Quartz: Materialists are converting to panpsychism
Latest consciousness theory: Rocks have minds
The universe may be conscious?
Evading hard problem of human consciousness: Consciousness is in everything!
The illusion of consciousness sees through itself.
And the naturalist’s biggest problem, to hear him tell it, is the persistence of stubborn doubt about naturalism.
What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?