Re: [asa] Multiverse and ID

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Sat May 09 2009 - 10:36:05 EDT

On Sat, May 9, 2009 at 3:21 PM, Bill Powers <> wrote:

> What Koonin is doing is just what ID attempts. He, at least in principle,
> is attempting to "rationally" assess when a paradigm has failed, needs to be
> abandoned, or a mark of when more fruitful research ought to be sought.
> All the commentators responded exactly as those who respond to ID respond:
> the time is not yet, you abandon too soon the quest.

I remember we discussed this quite a bit on the list when Lawrence first
posted the link to Koonin's paper, with the astronomical 10^(-1018)
probability calculation.

The problem I have with Koonin's approach is the same as the problem I have
with ID.

The difficulty is that it isn't really an explanation. To invoke something
(be it Multiverse, or an Intelligent Designer) that can explain ANYTHING is
no explanation at all. It is as if I had a data set of, say 100
measurements and stated that given a sufficiently complex mathematical
function y(x) I can produce an exact fit to my dataset. But this applies
even if the data is just random noise. Hence the explanation doesn't
actually explain anything at all. Even Richard Dawkins made this point once
about ID, saying something like "It explains everything, therefore it
explains nothing". As for ID so for Koonin's Multiverse, in which there are
some very rare universes in which the most extraordinary things can happen
(like life).

But, in the same way, it seems to me the statement "you abandon too soon the
quest", falls foul of the same problem. Essentially we are saying that
there MUST be a rational scientific explanation; one we haven't discovered
yet, that will yield a much higher probability of life arising than Koonin's
10^(-1018). But this assertion is also an appeal to something ( which as yet
we don't know), that will explain it. But an appeal to the unknown part of
science is again an appeal to something that has the potential to explain
anything, could we but find it. The problem is that we put no limit on the
explanatory power of to-be-discovered science.

So, which ever stance you take, be it materialist, ID-ist, or
Multiverse-ist, you are taking a position that is philosophical in
motivation, and not in itself scientific. However, if you want to do
SCIENCE, then the only thing you may do is search for scientific
explanations, not invoking ID, or even Multiverse theories. For all I know,
the Multiverse/Many worlds QM theory may well be true, but it is still a
poor explanation of why we're here - although it CAN explain it (or anything
else like a huge teapot appearing in the Milky Way), it still makes sense to
look for a scientific (ie limited) explanation. Limit your maths function
to fit 100 points to a small subset of simple functions.


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Received on Sat May 9 10:36:37 2009

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