Re: We're central-Nature says so???

From: Iain Strachan (
Date: Wed Aug 16 2000 - 11:51:50 EDT

  • Next message: bivalve: "Catastrophism?"

    On Wed, 14 Aug 2002 19:10:33 bivalve wrote:
    >A story from Nature's news service reports that a recent physics
    >study indicates that our universe is inexplicably highly improbable.
    >However, the discussion appeared to me to be seriously flawed, with
    >wrongly justified claims to rule out both divine intervention and "we
    >just happen to be here; a slight difference, and either we would not
    >exist or else we would be wondering why it could happen exatly that
    >Does anyone know more about the merits or lack thereof for the
    >original work? The Nature blurb is at
    >Incidentally there is also an article reporting a lungfish-tetrapod
    >ancestor transitional form in the latest Nature.
    > Dr. David Campbell
    > Old Seashells
    > University of Alabama
    > Biodiversity & Systematics
    > Dept. Biological Sciences
    > Box 870345
    > Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 USA
    >That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted
    >Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at
    >Droitgate Spa

    I think that the anthropic principle is effectively a circular
    argument. When I attended Stephen Hawking's inaugural lecture as
    Lucasian Prof of Maths, he summarised it succinctly as "Things are as
    they are because we are". However, then the only answer to the
    question "Why are we?" is "Because things are as they are".

    In my second year Physics lectures (back in 1978), the lecturer made
    a thought provoking statement to the effect that if the Creator had
    chosen the binding energy of the deuteron to be 1 percent different
    from its actual value either way, we could not exist. If the energy
    is too high, then insufficient nuclear fusion takes place in stars,
    because the fusion cross-section is too small, and if (the binding
    energy is) too low, then the atom doesn't hold together long enough
    for significant fusions to occur. Either way, we don't get fusion,
    hence no stars hence no "us". I don't know if the lecturer was
    religious, or was just using the term "the Creator" figuratively,
    much as Hawking does in his book.

    Nowadays, the "fine-tuning" problem is, I believe, a hot issue in
    physics. One modern way physicists get around the need for a Creator
    is to propose a so-called "multiverse" theory. The idea is that
    there isn't one UNI-verse, but potentially an infinite number of them
    "out there" in some sense; which we cannot communicate with, of
    course. They all have different values of all the critical
    parameters, and so the overwhelming majority are dead boring
    universes where nothing happens at all. We just happen to be in one
    where the parameters are all correct. This gets around the necessity
    for a Creator, at the terrible cost of hypothesising all these extra
    universes that we can never see.

    John Polkinghorne argued cleverly on a recent TV series in the UK
    that it seemed much more economical to propose a single universe with
    a transcendent purposeful Creator, than all these extra ones. I
    thought that was a clever use of Occam's Razor to argue for the
    existence of God, where it is normally used to rule out God.


    --- is a free email
    account I use for posting to public forums.
    To contact me personally, please write to:

    iain.g.d.strachan AT ntlworld DOT com

    I am not responsible for the advert which follows this signature ...

    Join 18 million Eudora users by signing up for a free Eudora Web-Mail account at

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Fri Aug 16 2002 - 22:38:38 EDT