Quantum fluctuations in space, science, exploration and other cosmic fields... served up regularly by MSNBC.com science editor Alan Boyle since 2002.

Alan Boyle covers the physical sciences, anthropology, technological innovation and space science and exploration for MSNBC.com. He is a winner of the AAAS Science Journalism Award, the NASW Science-in-Society Award and other honors; a contributor to "A Field Guide for Science Writers"; and a member of the board of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Check out Boyle's biography or send a message to Cosmic Log via cosmiclog@msnbc.com.

The self-made universe

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007 8:25 PM by Alan Boyle

Why does the universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life – including intelligent life capable of asking that “why” question? Believers simply say that God did it, while scientists are trying to come up with complicated extradimensional multiverse theories to explain our lucky break.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies takes a completely different tack in a new book titled "Cosmic Jackpot." He argues that the cosmos has made itself the way it is, stretching backward in time to the very beginning to focus in on “bio-friendliness.”

Paul Davies heads up the
Beyond Center for
Fundamental Concepts in
Science at Arizona State

Davies admits that the idea has theological overtones - but that's nothing new for the London-born deep-thinker. He's perhaps best-known for provocative books such as "The Mind of God" and "God and the New Physics," and for holding forth on speculative topics such as whether physical constants are actually inconstant.

After years of teaching at universities in Britain and Australia, Davies moved to Arizona just last year to start up Beyond, a research center devoted to fundamental scientific questions: How did the universe begin? How did life arise? Where do humans fit into the grand scheme? What does it all mean?

"We've been up and running for only about three months, so it’s early days," he told me Wednesday. "But we have high hopes that this will become one of the world’s leading think tanks for confronting these foundational questions."

He's currently on a cross-country tour to promote the book; on Wednesday, he lectured at George Mason University near Washington, D.C., and tonight he's giving a talk in "the other Washington," at Town Hall Seattle (and I'm planning to see him there). During a half-hour telephone interview, Davies touched upon his key theme of the universe's curious bio-friendliness. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Cosmic Log: Why is the universe bio-friendly? Is it intelligent design, or blind chance, or none of the above?

Davies: There are three popular responses to the fact that the universe does seem to be weirdly fine-tuned for life. And I think all three are found wanting.

The three are the intelligent-design argument; the idea that if we had a final theory of physics, then all of the undetermined parameters in the laws would be fixed by that theory; and the third is the multiverse – the notion that there is a multiplicity of universes, with laws that vary from one to the other.

I think all three of these explanations are found wanting – and I have my own preferred view, which is that the universe has engineering its own bio-friendliness through a sort of feedback loop that operates in both directions in time.

Q: You’ve noted that some experiments have already been conducted – John Wheeler’s experiment in backward causality, for example. And there’s another experiment that the University of Washington’s John Cramer has been hoping to conduct, although he doesn’t seem to have the money to do that quite yet. Are those the sorts of experiments that can shed light on the type of phenomenon you’re talking about?

A: Yes, there are many examples of what you call backward causation. You have to be very careful about the use of that term, because the sort of experiments that I discuss in the book can’t be used to send information back in time. The essence of quantum physics is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. This operates in both directions in time to prepare a state now. The situation in the future is uncertain, but the situation in the past was uncertain, too.

In the conventional way of conducting a quantum experiment, you prepare an initial state and you make some sort of measurement on it as it relates to time. But in the case of applying quantum physics to the universe as a whole, that’s not really an appropriate way to look at it – because we don’t know what the initial state of the universe was, and we certainly can’t prepare it. We make observations now, and we infer things about the past.

The best way of thinking of this is that in quantum mechanics, many different possibilities combine together to form an amalgam, and the present state of the universe is made up of all of the possible past histories that amalgamate together, to give us what we observe. So if we think of the universe as this multiplicity of histories, we must obviously restrict ourselves only to those histories that give rise to life and observers, because that’s the universe that we’re in.

In essence, what happens when we make measurements or observations of the universe today, we’re resolving some of the quantum ambiguity that exists in the past, as part and parcel of quantum uncertainty. Stephen Hawking has made this very explicit just in the last few months in a paper published with Thomas Hertog, in which he says that the way to apply quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole is to project backwards in time from our present observations. This brings in the role of the observer in a very fundamental way.

So although it looks like this is being couched in the language of backward causation – that what is happening now is somehow affecting the past – it’s entirely in accordance with our understanding of quantum mechanics. There’s nothing new that’s being included here. Einstein expressed it very well: He said quantum mechanics is a form of ghostly action at a distance. Well, action at a distance can be action through time as well. The one goes with the other. This action goes both forward in time and backward in time. Quantum mechanics naturally links past and future, and different points in space.

Once you’ve got that linkage, you have the basis for the universe being able to engineer its own bio-friendliness through this sort of quantum feedback.

Q: We should probably spend a little more time on that idea, and the popular notion that this opens the way for backward time travel – the paradox that says you could go back and kill your grandfather before your father was born. Such ideas may hint at the scientific reality, and make for a great movie, but might not completely reflect the truth.

A: We’re not talking about time travel here. We’re not talking about changing the past, or sending information back into the past. We’re talking about merely using the existing quantum ambiguity. When we make observations, we in part resolve some of the ambiguities that are inherent in the system.

I’ll give you an example: You prepare an atom in a particular state, moving in a certain way perhaps, and quantum mechanics tells you that at a later time that atom can have a variety of behaviors. When we make observations at that later time, you find one particular behavior. You’ve resolved that ambiguity that was inherent in the initial quantum state. But this goes back in time as well, and when we make observations today, they can resolve ambiguities about the past.

In that manner, what we must imagine is that the origin of the universe is an amalgam of realities, and only those realities that lead to observers who can resolve those ambiguities are going to be selected for. So the universe can engineer its own bio-friendliness, because the very observers who arise at a later stage are those who project out from the bio-friendly histories. The universe explains observers, and observers explain the universe.

Although this sounds very radical, it’s a very old idea. It goes back at least 30 years to the work of John Wheeler. A number of other well-known physicists – including Hawking, and Murray Gell-Mann and Jim Hartle – have suggested something similar. I’m here at George Mason University with Yakir Aharonov, who is also suggesting something similar. He calls it the destiny wave function from the future.

These are just ways of reformulating standard quantum mechanics to bring out in a dramatic way the fact that you can’t chop time up into slices and expect them not to be connected. What’s happening now links back to the past just as it links to the future. And in quantum mechanics, there’s always such a clever mechanism that there is no way of using this to send information back in time or change the past.

Q: Right, and you’re not talking about some super-intelligent being who is able to engineer the past by going backward.

A: Some people have suggested that. They have suggested that cosmic bio-friendliess is precisely due to some super-intelligence that went back in time and fixed up their own power, or something like that. Or that a super-intelligence in another universe created this universe with bio-friendly parameters. All of those things have been tried – all wildly conjectural, of course. But what I find lacking in all of those theories, including the more conventional intelligent-design argument, is that they appeal to something outside the universe that has to be accepted as given and cannot be proved. I’d like to try to explain as much of the universe, including its bio-friendly laws of physics, from within the universe – and in a way that doesn’t appeal to something outside of it.

Even standard physics says the laws of physics are friendly for no reason, but have just been imprinted upon the universe at the time of the big bang from without, by some unknown mechanism. Again, the argument makes an appeal to something outside the universe, instead of something intrinsic to it.

Q: In the book you mentioned that Hawking’s scenario calls for the origin of the universe to be fuzzy in a quantum way. There’s not necessarily some sort of “hard start” for the universe.

A: Right. Once you apply quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole, everything becomes fuzzy. But I want to go beyond ordinary quantum fuzziness, which I think needs an additional step, and introduce fuzziness into the laws themselves.

Most people think that although you have many quantum histories, you’ve got the same underlying physical laws. But I argue in the book that we should abandon the notion of fixed, fundamental laws and instead advance the notion that the laws themselves have a fuzziness or ambiguity. We can still appeal to this feedback mechanism that we and others – Cramer as well – have introduced from quantum mechanics, but extend it to the laws as well as the states of the universe. So that’s the radical step: the idea that there are fuzzy laws as well as fuzzy states.

Q: And as physicists observe the operation of those laws, there is some decoherence going on? And that’s what makes the laws seem to be firmly set laws?

A: Well, I wouldn’t use the term “decoherence” because that has a specific connotation, connected with the quantum superposition. It is that there is an inherent fuzziness in the very mathematical nature of the laws, which is time-dependent.

If I can back up and tell you where all this comes from, the traditional notion of the laws of physics is that these are absolute, universal, immutable, mathematical relationships existing in some Platonic realm which transcends the physical universe, in some realm of mathematical forms. The orthodox interpretation of the laws is that are these infinitely precise external entities. But increasing numbers of theoretical physicists have an entirely different take on the nature of the laws of physics, which is that they are more like software being run on the great quantum computer called the universe.

So we think of the universe as an information-processing system, a gigantic computer, and the laws of physics are simply the algorithm that is being run.

Q: And we all know that the answer to the ultimate question is 42.

A: Right, heh. Anyone who’s got a computer knows that all real computers are limited in resources and processing speed, and the universe is no exception. We can work out the information-processing capacity of the universe. It’s finite – and it comes out with a very big number, about 10122. That number is so big that for almost all practical purposes, it makes no difference whether we think of Mother Nature commandeering this finite-resourced computer, or whether Mother Nature computes in the Platonic heaven with infinite precision.

There are certain senses in which there is a difference – including senses we can experiment with in the lab right now. But the significant thing is that in the past, the number was much smaller. When you go back to the time when the structure of the universe was being laid down – the time of inflation, 10-34 seconds, the bits that the universe would have contained was only about 1020. So if we restrict our description of the laws of physics to have that accuracy – one part in 1020 – then that starts to become significant.

A sky map from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy
Probe shows minute variations in temperature that 
were caused by "ripples" in the early universe.

The image that we have of the laws of physics is that at the beginning, they are completely fuzzy and indeterminate and unfocused. Then, as the universe expands and its information capacity rises, the laws become meaningfully focused. It simply has no meaning to apply laws of physics to more precision than the entire universe itself could actually compute to. In this view, the laws focus in from this “higgledy-piggledy origin,” as John Wheeler says.

Then the issue we are confronted with is, why do the laws focus in on this bio-friendly set? That’s where we get this feedback loop. Once you concede that the laws themselves has this wiggle room, because of the finite capacity of the universe, then the way lies open for the universe to engineer these bio-friendly parameters through this feedback loop.

Q: One of the issues you’ve been looking at over the years is the intersection of science and religion. Do you find that these new ideas – about the cosmic landscape, for example, or the quantum nature of the universe – are informing religious or spiritual thought as well?

A: Well, they clearly impacted greatly, because we’re talking about why the universe looks like it’s been fixed up for habitation. For most people, the first interpretation is, “Well, God did it.” What I’m saying is that that gets us nowhere at all. It just shoves the problem off to some other realm. But saying “God did it” is no worse than saying “the laws of physics did it.” They both basically appeal to something outside the universe.

The problem with saying God did it is that God himself or herself is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off. But to say that the laws of physics just happen to permit life is no explanation either.

What I’m trying to do is to go beyond this rather sterile back-and-forth between religion and science on these ultimate questions. We’re trying to come up with a new set of ideas, in which we try to let the universe engineer its own bio-friendliness. So we try to find the explanation from within the universe. Now, that’s perfectly consistent with having a universe that has some sort of deeper meaning or purpose, but that meaning or purpose is intrinsic to it. It’s not imposed upon it by an external deity. So these ideas obviously have theological implications.

For more about the big questions in cosmology, check out our "Beyond the Big Bang" online tutorial. And feel free to add your own comments – but this time, please refrain from taking shots at the comments of others.


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Good reading, but why do we need to anthropomorphize the Universe by implying that it is in any way "friendly" toward life? Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest answer/solution to a question/problem is usually the correct one... and it seems rather obvious that the simplest solution is that for every Universe in which Life (such as ours) exists, there are probably many others where the conditions allow different manifestations of Life, and many, MANY others where the conditions do not support the existence of Life in any way that we would recognize (or indeed at all).

In other words, we could just be the lucky winners of the Cosmic Powerball. Even though the odds of winning a trillion-to-one lottery are very, very low, mathematics dictate that eventually, any number will come up. There doesn't need to be a higher power behind it all; simple chance prevails.
I'm wondering if that's the biggest question about existence or the smallest. I think it's under the microscope for scientists but for the most part people are more compelled by the question of does my life matter in this world, universe, existence?

I'd like to think that someday soon humanity can finally answer that question and say yes, the lives of every human matter supremely to us. Following that answer I'd like to bring along mans best friend and former best friend and eventually every species from the planet earth into some sort of universal immortality where we all have our space throug endless amounts of time. But hey that's just me trying to matter in this universe and not some unreal one!
The key to understanding this topic lies in the word - theory.
The 'big bang' is a theory.
Fractal universes is a theory.
Inflation is a theory.
Intelligent design is a theory.
(Put your theory here...)

And it's great to have a number of theories and a lot of brilliant minds exploring each of them - but so far, none of them have been, or perhaps, can be proven.  Science and the human mind are wonderful but each are limited.  So far, each is "unexplained".

But it is important to treat each theory with respect because one, and yes, possibly more, of them just might be true.

The elegance of the search for answers lies in the equal treatment of each theory rather than in the promotion of one theory at the expense or exclusion of the others.  Calling Intelligent Design and its forms or extensions a philosophy (or 'unexplained')and all the others a science is intellectual name-calling with no useful purpose.

To the dismay of some, Intelligent Design is an answer.  Those who accept this theory might even use parts of the other theories to further support their conclusion.  Extensions of Intelligent Design include God, creationism and even the Bible.  Intelligent Design can exist as a theory of the universe without any citations or quotations from the Bible.

There's a whole host of others, brilliant minds each one of them, who still want to explore other avenues of thought or science.  Bravo!  To each and every one.

A noble pursuit to say the least.  My son might be one of them someday.  Building on the work of those working hard today, maybe he will be the one to espouse the generally accepted theory of the universe.

God only knows.

Oops, sorry.
I find this article very informative and interesting. I am not of the scientific community, however I beieve in the world of quantum physics "thought or universal mind" is the creator of all things. Little or no effort has been expended on the nature of thought (God's thought that created atoms, molecules, photons etc. etc.), and until we find a way to enter spirital realms we will not find the answers we seek. Great article and effort nevertheless. Charles Laser
  I can't accept the Initial Premise, that "our universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life." 

    There's a thin biosphere on one planet in one arm of a minor galaxy that supports our form of life.  Maybe a million other planets have similar atmospheres.  For the overwhelming majority of this vast universe, our life can't exist.  I'm talking about the space between the galaxies.  Now that matter has started to clump into stars, planets and moons, how does life exist away from the heat produced by stars?  ie, the Laws of Thermodynamics and all that.  

Davies said, "what we must imagine is that the origin of the universe is an amalgam of realities, and only those realities that lead to observers who can resolve those ambiguities are going to be selected for."  That's an entirely different concept.  If intelligent life doesn't evolve, then no one would be around to announce "This universe supports life."  In no way does that suggest that "a feedback loop that works in both directions." 

   It's like the question, "Does an ant understand human culture?"  The vastness of the cosmos is simply unaware that our form of life needs to be supported. I think the Intelligent Design movement has talked about bio-friendliness so much, it's too easy to assume it's real.  But it's not.
Well,first off I would like to assure you that any comment I make is not an attack,although you may perceive it how you wish.There was no big bang that made this universe and the earth and other structures.We live in an engineered system. All planetary objects stay in place by being on the musical (cymatic) geometric grid.Check out the Google video "Cool Salt" for a cymatics demo. This earth was grown here,salts as you know will grow,and metals are the resultant of salts with other processes (Alchemical processes) and it is actually true that lead can be turned into gold by a salts and heating process.The sun is a frequency burn sir,with the hydrogen and oxygen coming into it from cymatic feed lines just as the earth has its oxygen influshed in with other gases on the nodes of its cymatic grid(Check Hagens work) for a main node rep map.So you see,science folks these days just dont understand how their earth works and the ramblings of the men of supposed science these days just beat the place up and teach students improper science.So if you are actually curious as to the rest of the story,you might ponder a bit and ask a few questions that you seek.I might reply.
What I don't get is how we know the universe had a creation in the first place.

I get that because all material in the universe seems to be moving eternally away from each other, it has led to the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe. But, if there really are more than three spatial dimensions, as quantum theory suggests, couldn't this be an illusion to humans observing a four dimensional universe from a three dimensional point of view? Much like water drops rolling down a globe would appear to be moving away from each other endlessly from a two dimensional point of view?

Is it possible that humans are prejudiced to always look for a creation and destruction, or beginning and end, when some things exist eternally?
In the beginning, What if not God, what? There is sooo much evidence for Intelligent Design, that it is staggering. But there is no man so blind as a man who refuses to see. Jesus came to earth to explain God so that it would be more plausible, but did it work? No it didn't, all men went on as before, some to there careers, some to marry a wife, some to farm and some to shop, in other words religon is a waste of time. But to some He (Christ) gave the power to become the sons of God even to as many that believe. If the record that God gave, is not true, then any thing you say is as good an idea as the next. But if the record that God gave is true, then if you do not believe it you, and a whole bunch of people are in trouble. I believe much of this type of question stems from the fact that people do not understand how God feels about those who are first obedient, verses those who are disobedient. Of all the people of the whole world, God views them as a drop in a bucket of water, as nothing, as less than the least of all things. But man has made a big mistake in thinking that God feels as we do but he doesn't. Man does not think that God will put the majorty in hell and take just a few if necessary, to heaven. As touching the cosmos, I believe it was created in imperfection on purpose, no one travels there now, but when He (God)makes the new heaven and new earth it will be all a inviting and enjoyable place and those With Christ will come and go freely always within the influence of the Father(there is no place where the Spirit of God isn't) Oh what Joy, that our dwelling will be with the Son, and within the father, and we shall as now be filled with the Holy Ghost. Could there be a better plan that this? What are the qualifications for this? You must be born again, and the Spirit of God is given to you as a guide, as a comforter,as a rebuker at times, and a leader to bring you to the fullness of the stature of Christ. As He was the Son of God, we will be a son/daughter of God. As He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, We will be here to do the will of God who saved us, by His Grace.
It's a pity that Cosmic Log has deteriorated to pseudo-science. I used to quite enjoy reading it.
Paul Davies speculations, which I find fascinating and attractive, remind me of some of the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin (a Jesuit and an anthropologist)... who suggested that consciousness was intrinsic to the universe, much like matter, space and time; it was not inserted into the universe nor did it accidentally pop up a few billion years ago. Evolution, to him, was a process of restructuring matter/consciousness into "higher" forms through space and time. Early on, at the Big Bang, the potency for our level of consciousness was part of the universe in a way that the potency for a tree is intrinsic in a seed. To him, matter (in space/time) in any form has an intrinsic aspect of consciousness. Needless to say, his ideas (which were his attempt to reconcile science and religion and his own transcendental experience at age 10 that everything was alive) wern't well received by the Catholic Church.
It is known as the anthropic principle.  (And even with it, we are incidental to the universe's existence.)  The universe has the properties we observe simply BECAUSE we are here to observe it.  Because if they were any different, we would not exist.  And with new research into parallel universes and even infinite cosmological constants and natural laws, it seems increasingly obvious that we just happen to live in a spacetime configuration that supports life (even though the most of the universe is lethal to us still).
This theory is excellent, but is already covered in detail in the 2003 book "The Textbook of the Universe; The Genetic Ascent to God" (see amazon.com) to explain Anthropic Cosmology and many other things (including how the brain works) based on the backward-time effect via the "Mirror Universe" work of Russian Physicists. Also new methodologies are presented in that book that people can be trained to do showing this backward-in-time effect in everyday life. Lots of data is presented from this methodology throughout the book showing "collapse of probabilities" effect as unlikely (non-random) synchronicities in conscious life perceptions. That book was saying how revolutionary this new way of looking at the universe was (would explain such inscrutible science problems as consciousness and the "binding problem" of brain science) , and Paul Davies work really supports this. The Textbook of the universe has diagrams showing what this "backward-in-time" effect has meant for the history of life since the beginning of time -- and most excitingly, where it is going. Looks like a real revolution in science is shaping up. Awesome stuff!!.

Having just come back from Davies' lecture, I realize that there are a couple of big things we glossed over in our talk because we assumed so much from the outset. A couple of the messages, including William's, pointed that up.

First, about the "fine tuning" ... scientists have been looking at the fine-tuning question not from the perspective of whether Earth is a "privileged planet," as one ID-friendly DVD once put it, but from the perspective of physical constants. For example, the mass of the neutron is just slightly more than the mass of the charged proton, and neutrons decay into protons. If it were the other way around, would protons decay into neutrons? If so, the universe would quickly fizzle out. There are "30-something" such undetermined parameters that act as fine-tuning knobs to allow the universe as we see it to exist, Davies said.

If the universe were just a little smoother an instant after the big bang, it would consist merely of diffuse gas, and stars and galaxies would not form. If it were a little clumpier, all galaxies would collapse into black holes.

The cosmological constant, which is a way of stating the influence of dark energy in the universe, is just a little bit above zero ... something like 10^-25, in fact. And that's what's responsible for making the current distribution of matter what it is. It's a little worrisome to theorists that the cosmological constant is that darn close to zero but not exactly zero. Here's more from the estimable Sean Carroll on that subject:


These are the sorts of things that have led Davies to say that "we live in a Goldilocks universe" ... just right for things to hang around long enough for life to develop.

Davies counts the multiverse theory ... the idea that we are "merely winners in a great cosmic jackpot lottery" ... as one of the possible explanations for the rightness of our universe. In fact, that's where the title of the book comes from. But to him, that's not a satisfying answer, because it depends on some cosmic bubble machine operating out of the realm of our own little universe (see the original item above).

Another point that Davies brought out with a bit of humor had to do with the religion (God did it) vs. science (physics did it) debate. He compared it to the old story of the woman who confronted a physicist after a lecture and told him that the earth rested on an elephant standing on a turtle. You know, the joke in which the physicist asks in response what the turtle is standing on, and the woman snaps back, "You can't fool me, young man ... it's turtles all the way down." In Davies' view, both sides in the origins debate are assuming that down there somewhere is a "levitating superturtle."

So, referring to the science vs. religion debate, Davies told the audience, "I'm really bored with it ... at the end of the day, what they're saying is, 'My superturtle is better than your superturtle.'"

The nicest thing about the talk, at least the way this old literature/philosophy major sees it (that's right, I never was a professional scientist), was that Davies ended with a bit of poetry by Francis Thomson:

"All things in heaven and in earth linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower, without troubling a star."

I'm not totally sold on Davies' theory ... for example, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what Davies' turtles are standing on (I guess it's a fuzzy superturtle, or maybe the head of the elephant). But for years and years he's been stirring the scientific pot, and I think there are some intriguing ideas here to follow up on.

I just returned home from Davies' talk and was surprised to find your article referring to it. I found the talk to be quite fascinating and mind-bending; I'm happy to be able to read more of his thoughts on your log/blog -- thanks.
I completely disagree with the widely held premise that this universe is so unique and “conducive” to life. Hydrogen atoms had to undergo billions of years inside the inferno at the heart of the stars to create the heavier elements that we are all made of. Then we had to endure a literal shooting gallery of asteroids to get where we are. Not an easy task by any means. I also completely disagree with the idea that only a narrow range of laws even allow for such matter as if to imply that those laws can somehow be infinitely different. That to me is just guessing that other possible laws exist whereas nothing would exist without the laws we have. Do you see the irony of trying to argue it the other way? The laws they’ve drummed up in mathematical formulas still do not properly describe the universe we have so I give them no ground to assume that still other laws might exist. To me, we are six- or seven-dimensional beings inflated ‘around’ some original one-dimensional oneness that exists within the very fabric of space which all matter is construed from. This oneness was stretched by the second through fifth dimensions to give us the properties and forces of the atoms from which we are made.
IF "God" was an infinitely powerful and loving Alien Being from a different dimension in the infinitely grand multiverse and was the first being ever to come into existence ever in all possible existences of science and "evolved" that way.  THEN would it be possible that He could have created our small universe or say our planet in 6 days?  If you believe humanity might one day be able to do these things then would you admit maybe there was another possible intelligent being or "race" out there that already has?  Seems to me the "Old White Man" always loves to claim he is the First to have done something! Now lets say this Great Alien Being we might call "God" came to this earth and humbled himself and died a cross could he not possibly have the technology to raise himself from the dead.  Then being raised from the dead this "Alien" said he would come back and run things his way soon.  Then lets say this "Alien" whom we might call "Jesus" came back and we waged war on him then would you BELIEVE?

I am a 26 year old social conservative caucasian canadian male, for those who might care.
There are other theories that are just as plausible. My personal favorite theory is that just about any type of universe would be suitable for some kinds of life. There may be other types of life in our own universe. For example, perhaps magnetic fields in some stars have evolved into life forms. Or perhaps 'dark' man has evolved in the dark matter and dark energy that makes up most of our universe.
This is a great site, and I think your page is not only informative, but unbiased in the way you present your arguments. I think that if kids want to be taught evolution in school, then go ahead and teach them! But I also believe that at the same time, if kids want to learn about Christianity, then the same priveledge should be given. Another thing I appreciate about your page is that you not only give people the chance to show where their coming from, but you are genuinely interested in their viewpoint and beliefs. This is a page where someone who has questions and wants answers can come to for a great discussion.
There is no problem. Stephen Hawking, Max Tegmark most cosmologists, and I all agree there is a simple answer. Every possible universe exists. The universe includes every thing that can be. If every combination and permutation is played, you will win every lottery. The universe is in the exact same position as Buridan's ass. Since the universe is logical it can't randomly choose one path or choice over other equally good paths or choices. Hence it must take every path and encompass every choice.
It's obvious that people don't know the meaning of the word "theory" in the scientific sense.

That makes sense because no one except scientists are taught the meaning, so don't feel bad about it.

It's not what most people think.
I'm in awe of the hard work physicists put into understanding the principles of our very being. But, alas, we can and therefore will never be certain about a lot of questions, and we won't be able to change much anyway. The way it looks we're nothing but the evolutionary result of a coincidence in space - if there was a god out there who did all that then he certainly wouldn't play those stupid and cruel mind games with us - what a waste of time for both him and us, shouldn't he know that with his eternal wisdom! So yes, it sucks, but our death as well as that of planet earth (caused by the sun which will have to die eventually) are easily calculatable - though I'm sure those religious lunatics on earth will make sure we're going to be extinct quite a bit before that. But ah well, then Noah comes along, puts a pair of each of us into an ark (but no hanky-panky!), and off to a second round  :)
As a theist I must say that I am facinated with the possibilities of the theory.  I have always had difficulty reconciling the apparent 'free will' of man with the determinism of absolutes.  Likewise I have had difficulty reconciling 'miracles' within a cause and effect system.  It seems that 'fuzzy' laws and mechanics leave room for both.  Neither do I see this theory as an assault on my beliefs, simply an attempt to explain our observations from within our own dimensional existence.  None of the theories can have any effect on God the Creator.  He is as He is. Just as if He wasn't, no theory could bring Him into existence as creator of whatever this is after the fact.  To me, we can only learn more about how God works through such this closed system analysis.  The total computational power of the universe being limited, it seems obvious that we will never be able to rationally compute beyond its total number of dimensions.  Thus there will always be room for faith or the lack thereof.

Don't be so narrow as to construe what I am saying to mean that there is no unique consciousness in a group that extends beyond the consciousness of the individuals, that we can't create for ourselves lessor gods, that there isn't any more there than what meets the eye.  But if there is, the group must remember that it created that entity and not visa versa, and if that is so, that entity or consciousness is explainable from within universe, and once so explained must be regarded as no more significant than ourselves.

Finally, I must speak to Mr. Raum of Beverly Hills and ask what is psuedo-science other than the fuzzy pre-script of the science of the future.  If no one ever asked why this or how that and then actually tried to come up with answers, however limited, this blog would not exist and you would be hunting your dinner every night.
Perhaps ambiguity is a trap for fools? This doesn't seem to me to have much to do with, "ghostly action at a distance". However that might not be a false definition of us and where we'd be headed should we accept it.
   Davies seems like an theoretical artist. A big brush, a big empty canvas and artistic expression. And, like an artist it seems like his painting is an expression of how he feels, reads and needs his Universe. It may impress and intrigue as one reflection of the 'Universe' but it may be more 'art' than discovery. 'Art' is in the eye of the beholder...and sometimes, the theoretical physicist too I expect....
Experience is nothing but the process of summing itself up.

On the other hand there is nothing to fear but nothing itself.
I'd like to try and make my point again in a different way.

Wrap two or three rubber bands around a ball and it looks like they are moving away from each other. Of course, they move away from each other in a curve. But, that curve takes place in the third dimension. If we were two dimensional, it would look like they are moving away in a straight line.

So perhaps, all matter in the universe is actually moving away from each other in a curve, but that curve takes place in a fourth dimension. To us, we are observing it moving away in a straight line.

Some say that the universe could be some kind of a doughnut shape. If you wrapped the rubber bands around a doughnut, you would observe the same phenomenon.

So perhaps there was no big bang and no creation and no end to the universe. All matter is just revolving eternally. Could it be that we are looking for a beginning and an end because we have never before observed anything that doesn't have a beginning and an end?
I like the doughnut model better because if you wrap the rubber bands around the tube so that they go through the hole, not over the hole, they give the appearance of move apart until you get to the event horizon, but as thay get closer together over the observable horizon, they never intersect.
Hi Alan

Great interview and a handy summary of Davies' ideas. Like you I really wonder if he's not invoking another Super-Turtle by having the Universe engineer itself - is the Universe its own Intelligent Designer? If so, how? And more importantly, why? We're here, and that needs explaining, but why would the Cosmos "want" us? Or is bio-friendliness a by-product of some other fine-tuning goal like Smolin suggests? Or maybe Frank Tipler is right - the Universe is evolving into God, in the forward time direction, but actually is being created by God/Omega Point in the reverse-time direction.

Meaty issues. Davies hits the nail on the head - invoking either God or the Multiverse is arguing over super-turtles - but a Universe that engineers for Life is a lot closer to Intelligent Design than a super-Cosmic lottery.

Perhaps we can't escape something outside our Universe as First-Cause?
Maybe the universe always exists, pulsating between two phases of expansion and contraction. The bible seems to suggest this. The first phase is described in the book of Genesis, where original creation takes place. But the New Testament's Revelation also mentions "a new heaven and a new earth," indicating that there's also a final, second phase. Once we have a two-phase universe, we can assume that it probably oscillates between these two phases forever, as a "world without end." Of course, we can't really know for sure unless we cross over to the second phase. God could then be seen as the sum of all life in the entire system, pulsating like a living heart. Perhaps we have to get over the idea of “nothingness” or the conviction that everything came out of zero. Because zero or “nothingness” represents a false statement, it doesn’t really exist.

“”Why does the universe seem so fine-tuned for the emergence of life – including intelligent life capable of asking that “why” question? Believers simply say that God did it, while scientists are trying to come up with complicated extradimensional multiverse theories to explain our lucky break.””

Sorry, Alan, but you’ve left out a conclusion many scientists (including myself) have come to: that ‘life’ (easier said than defined…give it a try!) fits the Physics we have; the Physics weren’t ‘designed’ to suit life as we know it. Different Physics, different forms of life. “Twiddle the knobs” on the Physics of our universe even a little bit, and ‘life’ as we know it couldn’t exist….in no way does this mean it wouldn’t exist in some other form, if the ‘fine-sructure constant’ or ‘permittivity of free space’ were tweaked, it’d just be different. Maybe it would look like a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Clay Johanson invokes Occam’s Razor; I submit the above for consideration.

Tell me, Michael of East Windsor, NJ what’s your statement of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics? I’ve blown a couple of so-called “I.D. scientists” clean outta-the-water when they went to invoke their ‘personal’ versions of that one at ‘talks’ I’ve been to. The fact that REAL scientists are cautious (to a fault) and consider almost EVERYTHING theoretical, in no way justifies the use I.D.-ers make of that fact, in equating crap that’s contrary to easily observable facts, to scientific theories. For my part I’m glad to see less apathy among my collegues nowdays, and more other people consulting their ‘bulls**t meters’ in comparing Science to ID.

““the ramblings of the men of supposed science these days just beat the place up and teach students improper science”” Do you mean ramblings like de-coding DNA, ferreting-out climate changes, and developing electro-optical communications, Tom Hughes of Michigan?

Scott Seely: you seem quite a thoughtful guy, though I can’t say I completely ‘get’ your analogy (of 2 water drops on a globe). But also: consider what you mean by ‘eternity’; no science worth the name can help you out there.

“”Cosmic Log has deteriorated to pseudo-science. I used to quite enjoy reading it.””

No it hasn’t Byron Raum of Beverly Hills, CA, it’s still what it has been as far as I know: a forum for people (yes, even ID-types) to post their thoughts for others’ consideration. You, like I, don’t have to agree with them . . .

“”The universe has the properties we observe simply BECAUSE we are here to observe it. Because if they were any different, we would not exist.””  Consider the reverse of your first sentence, Blythe Guvenene of Sierra Vista, Ariz. Id est: ‘We are here to observe it, because of the properties it has.’ I think your second sentence says this very thing . . …which I happen to agree with.

Sorry for the length again, Alan. I hope you'll continue to post-up inquiries like the ones from 'Carlee', 'John of Kansas', and 'Sierra'.
Interesting article and comments. What I want to know is why Davies thinks that biological quantum observers are selectively superior to non-biological quantum observers. I suppose that he must propose an answer to such an obvious question, but I cannot imagine what it would be.
I like the idea that the laws of physics have some kind of feedback loop and that they may have "evolved" - with the strange result that when they change they do so for all of time, since time is one of the parameters. But there is no need to bring religion into the discussion and god/God. If god/God is out there, please, broadcast your message to us - say, through a video on youtube.com!
well i mean this is a hard subject, but i like it because its hard.

i mean the crazy thing is, try and picture the Earth in your Mind, the the universe.

Now take away the Earth, take away the universe, whats left??

but my biggest argument is we are trying to find out how we got here, but how can find out the existence of existing, its inpossible, becuase i feel we as a human race will nevr really know the questions the universe and why we are here! if we wasn't which really hurts your mind then you wouldn't even asking the question becuase you wouldn't even be here.

I mean our brains are so complicated we carnt understand our own nature, and the nature of the universe may still be a mystery for billions of years to come.
Intelligent Design (aka "Stealth Creationism") is not a scientific theory.  It only "uses other theories" in the sense of pub-jacking.  As the brilliant ID "scientists" don't seem to practice much of what could actually be called science, they have resorted to reviewing the work of actual scientists and drawing mistaken conclusion which they then distribute directly to a gullible public.

You can read about it here:


To many people in the lay public, "theory" is no different than "speculation" or "any random idea one manages to pry from the sphincter."
"That thou canst not stir a flower"

Prelude to the Butterfly Effect, the heart of the emerging sciences of complexity.

"All Nature is but Art unknown to Thee..."
It is the human ego that asks questions of existence. It is that same ego that tricks us into believing that we have some inherent importance in our own universe. It is this same self importance that allows the belief in deities.

I would rather ask: Can we just get some real science (good data and theory) and let the true nature and beauty of our universe become evident? We all are living, breathing violations of the laws of thermodynamics. Let us take solace in that and relish our time in our universe.  
James is correct; most people do not know the meaning of "theory" in the context of science.  

Basically, a theory proposes a mechanistic underpinning for an observed phenomenon.  Discover that things in chemical reactions tend to fit a particular predictable pattern?  This happens because these reactions are goverened by atoms (and mostly electrons): voila Atomic Theory.  Notice the planets have slightly elliptical orbits?  Apparently, the sun resides in the center of the solar system: The Theory of Heliocentrism.  See the evidence for a big, hot explosion some years ago in the universe?  Probably because there likely was one: Big Bang Theory.

People have this idea that theories progress to laws, and therefore that a law holds more scientific weight than a theory.  They are very wrong.  A Law in science serves as a description of phenomena, usually fairly general, within a certain field.  For instance, in mechanics, we have Newton's Laws.  However, F=ma is simply a descriptive statment.  Newton's law of Gravity is also descriptive: Force= mass1 times mass2  times some constant, proportional to the square of the distance.  

Notably, this makes no claim about **where the force is coming from**.  The Law describes on the behavior observed, but no mechanism.  

Then Einstein comes along with his Theory of General Relativity, and suddenly, the Law of Gravitation has not only a few corrections, but an explanation of sorts: matter acts on space and tells it how to curve, and space acts on matter and tells it how to move.

Obviously, these ideas are supported by a great deal of evidence, and possess (generally) certain properties such as testability, falsifiability, repeatability. Though things in science do occasionally change, espeically at the edges of our understanding and our techonolgical prowess, it's worth noting that many things (including theories.. the sun was still in the center of the solar system, last I heard..) do NOT change.  Newton and Kepler continue to rule the physics of certain scales, while the fathers of quantum mechanics rule another.

If you want to understand science, it's best to start with this: the term "theory" in science is never preceded by "just a".
The Lord Jesus Christ is the creator of the universe, we see that in "Hebrew 1:010 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:...". "Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". The Bible tells us, fom fron to back, that God created the universe. About the theory of self-made universe, it is pure speculation, and has no solid fondation.
In the vastness of outer space is it proper to refer to one H2O molecule as anything but H2O?
Does the phrase "self-fulfilling prophesy" ring a bell?  We are here so the Universe (Cosmos) is obviously able to support at least one occurrance of life.  So, does this require any special constraints?  No.  If the Universe were unsuitable for life we would not be having this discussion.

In as much as this particular bit of philosophical psycho-babble has been hashed out ad nauseam in the past, can't we come up with something new?  Consider the potential of vastly extended lifespans.  Hearing the same jokes, comments and philosophy over and over and over!  Starts making 4 score and seven look better and better!

Methinks that our Welsh friend has been overthinking this, a bit.  Now that the Universe has observed itself, would the last one out please turn off the lights?
What happens to the Us vs Them (Science vs Religion) argument if God is energy? It exists in and moves through all things. It can never be created or destroyed based on our current understanding of the "laws" of science. What effect would this concept have on any applied science or religion? None , becasuse it fits in both? What could we gain from it?
I view all I see in the universe with only three questions (with subtitles):

1. Why is there something instead on nothing? 
  (The arrogance of the Big Bang or how infinite     is infinite?)

2. Why does consciousness exist? 
  (If I think, do I exist?)

3. Why is compassion so prominent in all living beings? 
  (Is caring used to justify existing?)
To me the Universe is like a studio. it's constantly changing to create an image, a picture or energy or look within itself.

my real belief is that we as humans have been created from possibility rafther than a defiant compound.

for example a plant won't grown without light, if there was no sun, no plant. The earth  has created itself, so has the universe through the possibilties of law. i do feel that we are not alone, but the question we are asking is impossible to ask.the question of existing from the existence. if we don't exist then we can't answer that question therefore to exist we will never know that nor do we really need to whether we should be here or not. becuase if we do that we as humans could feel really lonely.
How much theology could we deduce from the fact that only Mr. X won the lottery, or that a ping-pong ball released from the top of a tall building landed on this square inch of space? Logically, both might be considered too improbable to have happened by "mere" chance, and further consequences of either event soon become statistically unthinkable. Get over it.

The Book of Job was written by a theist criticizing those who think they can put their "creator" in a book.
"There are three popular responses to the fact that the universe does seem to be weirdly fine-tuned for life"

I challenge the statement's premise.  "Weirdly fine tuned" is a subjective notion, not a scientifically quantifiable fact.  Even subjectively, I question the description, after all, the universe is made up 90 % of dark matter and dark energy, which may or may not be necessary for life to exist, we don't know.  If the answer is no, then life is an afterthought of the universe, and is hardly "fine tuned" for it.  Finally, how do you define life?  If other universes do in fact exist as has been hypothesized, have different laws of physics and totally different forms of life, have they been "fine tuned" as well?  
Seems to me that scientists are reverting back to the day when humanity believed we were the center of the universe and the sun revolved around planet earth.  To say our universe is conducive to life when we have no proof that life exists outside of earths atmosphere is being quite egotistical.  We are such a small, insignificant part of the whole but we still tend to believe that we truly matter.  The earth is equivalent to an ameba as the universe is to a human.  I think we, being the earth, galaxy, universe, are the equivalent of a quark, or possibly an even smaller particle, that makes up the matter of something incredibly huge.  Possibly, the big bang was really a microscopic science experiment conducted by a scientist and the universe is a result.  Time moves very quickly to us, coinciding with our size, while to the scientist the experiment takes a matter of minutes, or seconds.  When we cut the grass, or set a fire, or create a chemical reaction, how many universes so tiny that we can not comprehend are we destroying?  Or possibly creating?
I think Mr. Davies' theory is interesting and thought provoking.  Where his theory fails as many others do is where it tries to trancend the physical universe.  I believe all sciences should seek the ultimate truth and push limits of our understanding as far as they stay within the boundaries of science.  Even if scientists could figure out all the laws of physics, they will fall short of explaning things like ideas, virtues and emotions to name a few.  The pursuit of the 'Theory of Everything' is a noble cause with the understanding that everything is not all. In other words 'give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God'.  Otherwise is not science, Astrology comes to mind.
Here is your standard problem with "understanding" the start of the universe. It is proven science that if something inanimate is sitting still it will not move unless something moves it. If everything in the cosmos just stopped it would never start up again unless there was something to move it; gravity, explosions etc… so the question is this. Even if the Universe (and let's be clear he is not saying anything new) has been opening, and closing, and resetting itself each time to get its components right, what started that?

There could be little doubt that when everything formed it was in its purest form, chemicals and gases (really is would be like atoms and protons, or Quantum’s or what ever), but in order for them to ever come in contact with each other there had to be a movement caused to push them into each other. You would think that would be gravity but something had to give that gravity force and existence, and there are no maybes about that. It could be caused buy some type of device or science used in another dimension, but wouldn’t that still be intelligent interference? Without that force to push chemicals together potent enough to explode they would just sit right there next to each other and do nothing. To get this universe there would have to be more then just chemicals exploding to because that would just cause then to burn each other up. Space had to be compressed together.

What is the point of my ramble? Until we can actually define what caused the compression and where it started and how, then all 3 theories are right. Intelligent Design, One law of Physics, and Multi-verses are all right. That doesn’t mean our Earthly religions describe or even pertain to the super-intelligence that created all, but just because you don’t believe they’re right doesn’t mean there not on to something.
Interesting, but wrong. The author tries to prove the concept of a god through the (wrong) concept of a bio-friendly universe.

We (and all "bio") are an exception to the rule that the universe is cold, hard, lifeless and stranger than we can ever imagine.
It is amusing to see those who say the belief in a creation comes from too many assumptions. Especially, when they make so many assumptions to make that statement. Why do some assume that life should just naturally spring up wherever conditions are just so, and enough time goes by? What hard evidence is there for that assumption? Why are we continually being told that similarities in designs of life here on Earth prove a relationship between the life forms that hold those similarities? To say that one life form is directly, physically related to another life form, just because there are similarities in their design, is like saying the bicycle has a common ancestor to the plane. They may both use similar mechanical functions, but in reality their only real connection is the designers who built them. I think we would all profit by taking a few moments and realizing people need to learn to live with their lack of ability to figure it all out at times. When science can admit that their lack of ability to prove something right fails to prove it is wrong we all come out ahead.


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