Science Catching Up With Petey: It's a Living Cosmos
So before getting back to that, today we will briefly venture down another rabbit hole in the cosmos, that one having to do with the mysterious fact that this is a living cosmos. As you initiates know, this was the subject of chapter two of my book, entitled Biogenesis: The Testimony of Life. In that chapter I argued that the universe was not contingent at all, but a necessary consequence of the fact that we are alive and conscious.
That is, our cosmos is uniquely suited for the existence of life and consciousness, to such an extent that if any of the twenty or so mathematical parameters that govern the character and development of the universe were changed one iota, the universe as we know it would vanish, only to be replaced with one that would not be capable of sustaining life or consciousness.
One thing they don't tell you in school about how to have a meaningful existence is: be sure and pick the right cosmos. For out of the infinite number of universes that are possible, only very few will allow life or consciousness to exist.
Let me save our troll some time and say that I am not arguing for a species of intelligent design theory. ID is true as far as it goes, but it is still just another form of scientific materialism disguised as religion. What I argued in my book is that, when we talk about a "relationship" between life and the cosmos, we are dealing quite literally with a tautology, a statement of equivalence. That is, our universe is so narrowly suited to life that, in order to not mislead, we cannot refer only to "the universe," but to something along the lines of "the living universe," or "the universe in the process of coming to life." Ours is exactly what a universe hospitable to life looks like; everything in it points to or implies life, just as life implies it.
From our privileged standpoint of being alive, there is absolutely nothing surprising about the character of the universe, because it had to be almost exactly the way it is in order for life to exist in it. So when we talk about Life as such, we are necessarily presupposing everything that made it possible for Life to exist at all.
However, because of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, science takes an arbitrary "time slice" of the universe, and points out that life was visibly manifest on this side of the slice, but not on the other side. But they forget that the slice was of their own doing, and that the universe does not know such divisions. We can create such abstract dualisms anywhere we like, but we must never forget that they are just abstractions that we interjected into the seamless whole.
In reality, the universe is nonlocal both spatially and temporally. Who are we to say that a flower is not simply an external organ of a bee, and that a bee is an external organ of a flower? As it so happens, stars are organs of biogenesis. Without them, life cannot exist, as the ingredients for life are cooked in stars that then must explode in order to propagate their ingredients outward. And very few universes are capable of producing stars, much less stars that do us the courtesy of going super nova and spreading their life-giving wealth around the neighborhood.
Anyway, I'm late for work. I just wanted to point out that science is beginning to catch up with some of the inevitable conclusions put forth in my book. However, they are only half way home. That is, they still don't know what Life is. In this regard, they are like an expert watchmaker who can tell you all about springs, gears, and pendulums. But you wouldn't ask a watchmaker to tell you about the nature of time, now would you?
"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature." --Michael Faraday
"Nothing is too freakishly coincidental if it be consistent with a living cosmos." --Petey
Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe, by By James N. Gardner (excerpts):
It is, in the view of Columbia physicist Brian Greene, the deepest question in all of science. Renowned cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.
And just what is this momentous question?
Not the mystery of life's origin, though the profundity of that particular puzzle prompted Charles Darwin to remark that it was probably forever beyond the pale of human comprehension. A dog, Darwin commented famously, might as easily contemplate the mind of Newton....
No, the question is more profound, more fundamental, less tractable than any of these. It is this: Why is the universe life-friendly?
.... We have been taught since childhood that the universe is a horrifyingly hostile place. Violent black holes, planets and moons searing with unbearable heat or deep-frozen at temperatures that make Antarctica look tropical, and the vastness of interstellar space dooming us to perpetual physical isolation from our nearest starry neighbors -- this is the depressing picture of the cosmos beyond Earth that dominates the popular imagination.
This vision is profoundly wrong at a fundamental level. As scientists are now beginning to realize to their astonishment, the truly amazing thing about our universe is how strangely and improbably life-friendly or anthropic it is. As Cambridge evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris puts it in his new book Life's Solution, "On a cosmic scale, it is now widely appreciated that even trivial differences in the starting conditions [of the cosmos] would lead to an unrecognizable and uninhabitable universe."
Simply put, if the Big Bang had detonated with slightly greater force, the cosmos would be essentially empty by now. If the primordial explosion had propelled the initial payload of cosmic raw materials outward with slightly lesser force, the universe would long ago have recollapsed in a Big Crunch. In neither case would human beings or other life forms have had time to
As Stephen Hawking asks, "Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately."
It is not only the rate of cosmic expansion that appears to have been selected, with phenomenal precision, in order to render our universe fit for carbon-based life and the emergence of intelligence. A multitude of other factors are fine-tuned with fantastic exactitude to a degree that renders the cosmos almost spookily bio-friendly. Some of the universes life-friendly attributes include the odd proclivity of stellar nucleosynthesis -- the process by which simple elements like hydrogen and
helium are transmuted into heavier elements in the hearts of giant supernovae -- to yield copious quantities of carbon, the chemical epicenter of life as we know it.
As British astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out, in order for carbon to exist in the abundant quantities that we observe throughout the cosmos, the mechanism of stellar nucleosynthesis must be exquisitely fine-tuned in a very special way.
Yet another bio-friendly feature of the cosmos is the physical dimensionality of our universe: why are there just three extended dimensions of space rather one or two or even the ten spatial dimensions contemplated by M-theory? As has been known for more than a century, in any other dimensional setup, stable planetary orbits would be impossible and life would not have time to get started before planets skittered off into deep space or plunged into their suns.
.... Collectively, this stunning set of coincidences render the universe eerily fit for life and intelligence. And the coincidences are built into the fundamental fabric of our reality. As British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees says, "There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the microworld . . . . Our emergence and survival depend on very special tuning of the cosmos."
.... my Selfish Biocosm hypothesis suggests that in attempting to explain the linkage between life, intelligence and the anthropic qualities of the cosmos, most mainstream scientists have, in essence, been peering through the wrong end of the telescope. The hypothesis asserts that life and intelligence are, in fact, the primary cosmological phenomena and that everything else -- the constants of nature, the dimensionality of the universe, the origin of carbon and other elements in the hearts of giant supernovas, the pathway traced by biological evolution -- is secondary and derivative....
This central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis offered a radically new and quite parsimonious explanation for the apparent mystery of an anthropic or bio-friendly universe.... if intelligent life is, in effect, the reproductive organ of the universe -- then it is entirely logical and predictable that the laws and constants of nature should be rigged in favor of the emergence of life and the evolution of ever more capable intelligence. Indeed, the existence of such propensity is a falsifiable prediction of the hypothesis.
.... The inescapable implication of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the immense saga of biological evolution on Earth is one tiny chapter in an ageless tale of the struggle of the creative force of life against the disintegrative acid of entropy, of emergent order against encroaching chaos, and ultimately of the heroic power of mind against the brute intransigence
of lifeless matter.
.... we should obviously be skeptical of wishful thinking and "just-so" stories. But we should not be so dismissive of new approaches that we fail to relish the sense of wonder at the almost miraculous ability of science to fathom mysteries that once seemed impenetrable -- a sense perfectly captured by the great British innovator Michael Faraday when he summarily dismissed skepticism about his almost magical ability to summon up the genie of electricity simply by moving a magnet in a coil of wire.
As Faraday said, "Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of nature."