From Harvard astrophysicist Howard A. Smith at Nautilus:
Almost in spite of themselves, scientists are driven to a teleological view of the cosmos.
As a research astrophysicist, I can say without exaggeration that a day never goes by when I am not impressed by the amazing explanatory power of modern science. But I am also trained to be open to the world as it presents itself, not just as I would like it to be. So it is worth calling attention to two recent discoveries that suggest our place in the cosmos needs reconsideration. We might not be ordinary at all.
Voice from crowd: Guy might have a point. If we are so ordinary, where are all the others?
The remarkable discovery of exoplanets has not increased the chances for finding aliens. Because so many of the known exoplanets are much more complicated than previously imagined, and are complex in ways seemingly detrimental to their evolving intelligence, all the previously rough estimates of the chances for producing intelligence are reduced even further. For all practical purposes we could be alone, with no one to talk to, for a long time.
The point here is that if some process—perhaps quantum mechanics but maybe something else—steers the universe toward producing intelligence, then we humans are representatives of that teleological endpoint. It suggests that we play some cosmic role. I hope this is an eye-opener for you. It certainly was for me when I first read [John] Wheeler’s paper, and it has become even more pressing today, as we learn more about exoplanets and fine-tuning. Modern philosophers have chimed in too: Thomas Nagel puts it this way in his 2012 book, Mind and Cosmos: “We have not observed life anywhere but on earth, but no natural fact is cosmologically more significant.” More.
was an eminent American theoretical physicist, perhaps best known for having initially coined the terms “black hole”, “wormhole” and several other colourful phrases. In the 1930s, he developed the important “S-matrix” in particle physics and worked with Niels Bohr to explain nuclear fission in terms of quantum physics. Later, he developed the equation of state for cold, dead stars, helped popularize the study of general relativity in the mainstream of theoretical physics, and to firm up the theory and evidence for black holes. He also collaborated with Albert Einstein in his search for a Grand Unified Theory of physics.
He asked, can the universe exist if there is no consciousness around to observe it?
See also: Copernicus, you are not going to believe who is using your name. Or how.
In search of a road to reality
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