From Sabine Hossenfelder, author of the forthcoming Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (June, 2018), at NPR:
For centuries, progress in the foundations of physics has been characterized by simplification. Complex processes — such as the multitude of chemical reactions — turned out to arise from stunningly simple underlying equations. And simplicity carried us a long way. According to physicists’ best theories today, everything in our universe emerges from merely 25 elementary particles and four types of forces.
So, yes, simplicity — often in the form of unification — has been extremely successful. For this reason, many physicists want to further simplify the existing theories. But you can always simplify a theory by removing an assumption. Like the assumption that the gravitational constant has a some value that you inferred from observation (up to some precision). Or similar assumptions about, say, the values of the masses of elementary particles, or the cosmological constant, or the strength of the four forces. These are assumptions some theoreticians are now throwing out.
If Ockham could see what physicists are doing here, he’d pray for God to bring reason back to Earth. You should remove unnecessary assumptions, alright. But certainly you shouldn’t remove assumptions that you need to describe observations. If you do, you’ll just get a useless theory, equations from which you can’t calculate anything. More.
Good points But what if multiverse theory is simply a means of fending off the impasses that fully naturalist theoretical physics is in? It doesn’t need to make sense, any more than bollards do.
See also: Theoretical physicist has a hard time convincing peers to accept reality
Sabine Hossenfelder asks at her blog “How do you prove that Earth is older than 10,000 years?”
Rob Sheldon: “Naturalness” in physics is dead, says Sabine Hossenfelder, and that’s a good thing
The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide
29 Replies to “Theoretical physicist: Multiverse not based on sound science reasoning”
a few notes:
At the 8:15 minute mark of the following video, Richard Dawkins is set straight by Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist himself, on just how big the ‘problem’ of the 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant is:
I have never been impressed by the fine tuning argument.
Pardon, but kindly explain: and on what basis should your impressions be held decisive?
PS: Here are a few thoughts by a lifelong agnostic and Nobel-equivalent prize holder, Sir Fred Hoyle:
Much more has happened since then but it has only strengthened the basic point.
“Pardon, but kindly explain: and on what basis should your impressions be held decisive?”
It just seems to me that for something to be finely tuned, it should be tuneable. As far as I know, that hasn’t been demonstrated. It seems like we are just clutching at any straw that might support our views. It just makes us look pathetic. We should concentrate on the weaknesses of evolution and the strengths of the design inference, irreducible complexity, information and other things that can be tested.
“It just seems to me that for something to be finely tuned, it should be tuneable. As far as I know, that hasn’t been demonstrated.”
To quote Weinberg (by no means a design proponent): “we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.”
And is there any evidence the laws and constants have to be the way they are? No…
MB @ 4,
May I offer the following link to a paper that, for me anyway, made the fine-tuning argument more clear? (And perhaps show that a lot of thought goes into it.)
“And is there any evidence the laws and constants have to be the way they are? ”
Is there any evidence that they can be anything other than they are? It seems to me that you have to demonstrate this before you can claim fine tuning. Anything else is just pathetic pleading.
Not for this universe but computer simulations have been made using other values.
“It just seems to me that for something to be finely tuned, it should be tuneable. As far as I know, that hasn’t been demonstrated. It seems like we are just clutching at any straw that might support our views. It just makes us look pathetic. We should concentrate on the weaknesses of evolution and the strengths of the design inference, irreducible complexity, information and other things that can be tested.”
Well, I can partially agree with you that the biological argument for design is in a way stronger than the fine tuning argument. I have expressed the same idea many times here.
However, that does not mean that the fine tuning argument is not important or valid. It is in essence the most detailed and scientifically consistent formulation of the classic cosmological argument, an argument that has always had great strength in the history of philosophy.
“It just seems to me that for something to be finely tuned, it should be tuneable. As far as I know, that hasn’t been demonstrated.”
Any form of the cosmological argument has a philosophical apsect, because we are denating the origin of the whole universe we know.
The assumption that the specific mathematical values we observe in reality should have some explanation is not at all unreasonable. Indeed, most physiscists would agree about that.
That assumption is enough to make the fine tuning argument valid.
Therefore, while I agree that we should stick mainly to the biological argument, because it is so strong, and requires no philosophical assumptions, I also think that you are definitely unreasonable in criticizing the cosmological argument, and its modern form as fine tuning argument, which are strong cognitive arguments too.
Actually, it is not just laws and constants but raw values of quantities etc.
The situation is, that we have inferred on evidence and reasoning a system of analysis termed cosmology. This contains a considerable mathematical apparatus.
In that apparatus we find many specific values and no indication that there are such as they must be as say pi is an exact value tied to the nature of circles.
What is not fixed is at least potentially contingent per the logic of being and the concept of possible worlds, so it is worth exploring on that contingency. And yes, here we are looking at possible worlds and the logic of structure and quantity as connected to such.
A reasonable exercise at the triple-point border between Science, Philosophy and Mathematics.
What emerged was astonishing: the values we see as a cluster are astonishingly fine tuned in ways that set our observed world at a fine-tuned operating point in parameter and structure of laws space.
This is remarkable already.
John Leslie observed a further matter that is also just as interesting:
Such is of course amenable to computer sims.
And now we see something that is confronting us with a well-known characteristic of design: multiple components synthesised into a coherent whole that requires the mutual adaptation of the parts to work.
Where, the alternative, oh we are just one bit out of a vast, quasi-infinite multiverse has many, many peculiarities and challenges. Not least, if you are doing that while wearing a lab coat you need to provide empirical observational data on the multiverse. That seems to be missing in fact and on many ways of thought in principle too.
If you slip across the border into highly mathematical philosophy [and much of this stuff is actually clearly across that border], you are looking at the point that in phil you cannot rule out any serious worldview option without a legitimate comparative difficulties process and something like fatal incoherence.
So, which is it:
A: in science we see per obvious contingency of the mathematics, fine tuning and cannot find credible evidence of a multiverse
B: we look at the issues freely, and cannot rule out all that phil would bring to the table, including much broader worldviews issues.
PS: If one suggests that the parameters we see are locked by higher order laws, so that our cosmos is explained on necessity, that simply postpones the contingency one level. And a fine tuning super-law is itself at least as fine tuned as what it specifies.
GP, my view is we need to look at both together, especially on the significance of a cosmos set up to produce H, He, O and C as first four elements in abundance, with N close by: stars, periodic table, water, organic chem, proteins. Bring in terrestrial planets in circumstellar and spiral arm galactic habitable zones with privileged planet fine tuning, and we are looking at setting the table for biological life based on C-chemistry, aqueous medium cells. KF
I like the clarity and strength of the fine-tuning argument, with all its logical derivations. It’s a very persuasive idea, no matter how we look at it. It simply makes much sense.
However, daydreaming ideas like ‘multiverse’ can make some noise in a world increasingly accustomed to not testing everything and not holding what is good, a world where contextual meaning of words is irrelevant, where we hear OMG used so often as a conversational ‘filler’ to hide our poor vocabulary combined with our human habit of talking like parrots much more than it’s necessary and thinking much less than we should.
What does the multiverse do to the fine-tuning argument?
It depends on how we look at it.
Apparently -at least from my very ignorant perspective- it makes many people think that if the universal constants are tunable and we’re in one of an infinite number of universes that have been popping up into existence through whatever explanations, then most probably those tunable parameters could take all kinds of values, including the ones we observe in this universe. Hence we happen to be in the “bingo!” universe. Many people take home that explanation at its face value, no questions asked. Actually, these days questions are not nicely perceived, as we have seen here in this website when dealing with some noisy objectors, even recently. Questions could be considered non politically correct in this world.
Perhaps that’s one reason why I agree with gpuccio’s statement in his comment @10: “…the biological argument for design is in a way stronger than the fine tuning argument.”
Why do I agree with it?
Because nowhere else, as far as I can see, we can easily perceive the increasing presence of mind-bogglingly complex functionally specified informational organization that can only result from conscious design, as it has been empirically corroborated.
The OOL research field is turning more nightmarish with every new biology-related discovery. Distinguished scientists are jumping out of the sinking neo-Darwinian ship, creating an unpleasant spectacle of some folks in some anti-ID websites calling professor James Shapiro a ‘closet creationist’ for his third way ideas. Obviously a complete nonsense if we carefully read the opening paragraph in the third way webpage. Actually, that’s why they call it ‘third’ way. Because they reject the first way, which to me is the only way, and they also (just recently) turned their back to the second way, i.e. modern synthesis or neo-Darwinism, or at least are trying to ‘extend’ it somehow.
Nowhere else but in biology the ID objectors are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place.
Nowhere else but in biology we can find so many professionals from dissimilar backgrounds like electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, all joining their knowledge and expertise, along with classic biologists, in multidisciplinary biology-related research teams in wet and dry labs all over the world.
And against this whole scenario unfolding before us, what can the daydreaming idea of the multiverse do?
Not much, if anything at all.
Because the OOL nightmarish situation won’t get resolved by telling how we got the fine-tuned constant to begin with.
Similarly, explaining how we got the ‘bingo!’ universal constants won’t explain the evidently sudden appearance of huge amounts of quantifiable ‘de novo’ complex functionally specified information in proteins -an area gpuccio has clearly pushed so far ahead of the crowd right here in this website. BTW, I hope I’m not the only one in this website who has seen the tremendously significant situation where a distinguished biology professor started a discussion trying to punch a hole in an ID concept masterfully presented by gpuccio, but instead the academic objector apparently ran for the door, perhaps after realizing he couldn’t even scratch gpuccio’s ID presentation on the spliceosome.
Some of us -despite our enormous scientific illiteracy- know the final score of this match. Because it has been graciously revealed to us by the Maker of everything. But still it’s very enjoyable to watch the fascinating discoveries made at an increasing pace in biology research.
I see the overwhelming amount of research papers all around and feel like a child in a huge toy store, completely hypnotized and undecided what to look at first. Is there another area of science where the “big data” crisis has turned so out of control in such a relatively short time?
Why biology? Because it’s also part of what’s called ‘life’ sciences.
Life. That’s a fundamental question that has triggered the production of an uncountable amount of papers and debates all over.
The ‘multiverse’ and all those daydreaming ideas are kept for the tabloid gossiping at social events.
Biology is the leading battlefront in the scientific debate between irreconcilable opposite worldview positions.
Physics, astronomy, astrophysics, remain behind. Those areas still allow for some speculations.
Modern biology doesn’t leave any room for speculative nonsense, because WYSIWYG. Explanations must be clearly unambiguous in order to be taken seriously in biology today. There are many folks from non-biology science and engineering backgrounds playing in the same biology-related research teams. Pseudoscientific hogwash doesn’t last too long before being thrown away from biology discussions these days.
In biology it’s what we know -not what we don’t- that clearly points to conscious design.
my observation is those who are closed minded, indoctrinated and hostile will simply flare up in anger at anything that threatens their favoured evolutionary materialistic scientism or their comfortable fellow-traveller views calibrated not to get them in hot water with the domineering atheists.
The issue then is, how well cultured they are. The cultured play at subtle rhetorical games pivoting on evasions and how could you concern trolling which provide more or less respectable “good cop” cover. Then come the “bad cops” who try to run riot, bully, intimidate, slander and stalk.
I say, toss over the whole rotten rhetorical game-board.
The whole lot are corrupt, at minimum as enablers.
Science seeks to accurately observe, describe, explain, predict and enable us to act effectively in our world. So truth-seeking is critical to science. Therefore we have to respect findings of related disciplines that support that work. Therefore, we must anchor on empirical observations and recognise that theories are inferences to the best current explanation and are inherently provisional. They remain theories so long as it is credible that they may be substantially true and no further. They are inherently provisional; subject to empirical testing and the requirement of well-tested empirical reliability.
This holds for experimental sciences. It holds doubly for observational sciences and doubly again for scientific investigations of origins, where that deep past cannot itself be observed; we see traces and try to reconstruct and date past circumstances back to origins. All of this successively degrades strength of epistemic stance of relevant theories.
All of this, the a priori materialist activists and their enablers will not acknowledge and have repeatedly tried to turn into accusations of stealth Creationism, “religion” inserting itself into the temple of science and the like.
Such have media power and influence in governance up to a lot of state power.
But that is different from having a good case, or being credible on the merits.
If you cannot acknowledge the patent truth about the epistemological status of science i/l/o the pessimistic induction, you have no genuine credibility, period.
That is settled.
Going further, evolutionary materialistic scientism is self-referentially incoherent, amoral and open to nihilism. Indeed, by implying grand delusion of mind, it is profoundly anti-rational. Those who are its agit prop street or Internet cannon fodder are dupes of the ruthless and nihilistic. For them, some measure of sympathy is in order. Those who are ruthless manipulators and deceivers who wish to impose a crooked yardstick as the standard to assess what is straight/true, accurate and upright must now be named as enemies of sound civilisation and treated with stern resolve.
So, I don’t give 50c for their opinions once exposed.
Yes, the fact that for nigh on 70 years we have known that ALPHABETIC TEXT IN CODE lies in the heart of cell based life is utterly blatant. The fact that these still want to argue that extensive text wrote itself out of lucky noise incrementally filtered for performance, over sixty years past 1953 now goes to character.
But design of life from OOL up to us is not the whole story.
We also find that on evidence of the sol system and the wider cosmos, the observed universe was set up for that life.
Design, design not of life that could be effected in a molecular nanotech lab.
Design and construction of a universe.
Involving vast power, super-intellect and capability.
Design beyond and antecedent to cosmos.
Where, logic of being points to a finitely remote necessary being world-root capable of being the causal source of our world.
A world that happens to contain reasoning, knowing, responsibly and rationally free, morally governed creatures.
That challenges us to rethink worldviews, ideologies and cultural agendas.
And those making a noise and a row know it.
Know it deep inside.
And they are desperately afraid.
So now, it is time.
Time, to provide real leadership in rethinking origins across the board.
And that is why I do not shun to put the whole picture on the table, including as above:
It is time for grand synthesis and a challenge to a dying civilisation: stop, turn back from the unstable, crumbling brink of the precipice. Before it collapses, precipitating us into a dark age of horrors worse than anything seen before.
Remember, nukes, bio weapons EMP and other weapons of mass devastation are now in play.
Your well supported argument is very convincing. Thanks.
“You can believe that the seeming arbitrariness of the constants of nature is due to an infinite number of other universes. You can believe that, but you don’t have to. Science cannot confirm that the other universes exist, but it also cannot rule them out. Just like science cannot rule out the gods and angels.”
Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder
If the complex functionally specified informational organization we undoubtedly observe in biology can only be explained as the product of conscious agency, which is empirically demonstrated, then shouldn’t the rest of the seemingly ‘unsettled’ discussions in other areas of science have to be reviewed accordingly?
Dionisio, here’s my yardstick. For nigh on seventy years, we have been looking at alphabetic code in extenso with algorithmic processing systems, in the heart of cell based life. Multiple Nobel Prize level work, this was not done in a corner and every child in school doing science has heard of DNA. If we cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge what that strongly points to, then the problem is neither evidence nor argument. It is a worldviews and ideologies problem. Hence the force with which I have argued and headlined. We are dealing with a crooked- yardstick- as- the- standard- for- straighness problem, not with oh there is “no evidence.” KF
Everything is designed. There is no escaping it. We are totally immersed in it. Whether it’s a watch or a lump of stone – everything breaks down to molecules, atoms, etc, doesn’t it ? And what marvels of mystery the quantum level of matter constitutes, doesn’t it ?
Einstein warned not to oversimplify. But when ‘a man of science’ does something as imbecilic as to steal Einstein’s Brain – as I believe happened – in order to discover the origin of his genius, it is surely the clearest of signs that the ‘imbecilic intellectual (of sorts)’ is by no means an urban myth, after the fashion of Bigfoot.
An ideal naturalistic world is an utterly moronic world without any intelligent causation — everything proceeds mindlessly and deterministically.
However, if there is a beginning of this moronic world, how can naturalism explain it without invoking intelligence?
If the world is the inevitable result of the initial state of the universe, if all events were fully front-loaded in the initial state, if buildings full of intelligent beings, computers, TV sets, cell phones, libraries full of science texts and jet airplanes are all determined by the initial state, then how can naturalism avoid inferring intelligent design?
The multiverse — Darwinism on steroids.
Valid point. Agree.
I like your comment.
I like your comments too.
Interesting paper. Thanks.
ET @6 & @9,
I like your answers.
“my observation is those who are closed minded, indoctrinated and hostile will simply flare up in anger at anything that threatens their favoured evolutionary materialistic scientism…”
This is very true. But it also applies to those of us educated and indoctrinated in theistic beliefs. I am always trying to rein in my hostlility towards those who disagree with my viewpoints. I suggest that others here could benefit from that self examination.
MB, a turnabout rhetorical tactic. There is something substantial on the table, if you have an objection to that kindly address it. That starts with, there is a major problem with a tendentious redefinition of science. And there are many other issues beyond. KF
PS: Do I really need to discuss “good cop”-“bad cop” tactics?