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From The New Atlantis: The Fine-Tuning Of Nature’s Laws – What Physics Tells Us About The Improbability Of Life


Physicist Luke Barnes writes (from a 2015 essay, continued):

Credit: The New Atlantis

So, what if one day the Ultimate Law of Nature is laid out before us, like a completed crossword puzzle? Whatever we think about that law will have to be deeper than physics, so to speak. We will be thinking about science — that is, we will be doing philosophy. Even if the only fact about what is beyond physics is that “there is nothing beyond physics,” we must remember that this is a statement about physics, not of physics.

Naturalism is not the only game in town when it comes to explaining why some law of nature might be the ultimate one. Its competitors include axiarchism, the view that moral value, such as the goodness of embodied, free, conscious moral agents like us, can explain the existence of one kind of universe rather than another; or, in the words of John Leslie, the theory’s chief proponent, it is “the theory that the world exists because it should.” Theism is another alternative, according to which God designed the universe and its fundamental laws and constants. These two views can trim the list of candidate explanations of the fundamental laws of nature, heavily favoring those possible universes that permit the existence of valuable life forms like us. By suggesting that fundamental physical principles are calibrated to make the existence of beings like us possible, investigations into fine-tuning seem to lend support to these kinds of theories. A full appraisal of their merits would also need to consider their relative simplicity, and other aspects of human existence, such as goodness, beauty, and suffering.

Are we special? This is not the kind of question that science usually asks, and for good reason — we don’t have a specialometer. And yet, certain observations do hold a special place in science. The faint static detected in 1964 by the antenna of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson seemed unremarkable; all scientific instruments are plagued by noise. Only when this experiment came to the attention of Robert Dicke and his colleagues at Princeton University was it realized that they had discovered the cosmic microwave background, a relic of the early universe.

Facts can be special to a theory. That is, they can be special because of what we can infer from them. Fine-tuning shows that life could be extraordinarily special in this sense. Our universe’s ability to create and sustain life is rare indeed; a highly explainable but as yet unexplained fact. It could point the way to deeper physics, or beyond this universe, or even to principles beyond the ultimate laws of nature.

Cited from the full article at The New Atlantis.

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