So I was intrigued when I saw this space related programme on television - not your usual Discovery channel rubbish - this was a Channel 4 programme and I loved it - addressing a number of key questions......
For as long as we can chart human history
humans seem to have attributed their existence to the work of an
intelligent designer, a 'god' who created all life. All religions
that I know of tell us some sort of creation story that addresses
the question as to why we are here. For scientists on the other
hand traditional views have been concerned with 'how' rather than
'why' we were created, and that is undoubtedly an easier question
to answer. Essays I wrote in my academic years argued that religion
was merely a tool which exerted control over people and not only
gave them hope, but a sense of purpose. My views have altered little,
yet my faith in the scientific quest to answer why we are here is
somewhat more hopeful. According to the scientific community and
their version of creation we ultimately owe our existence to the
fundamental laws of nature. It all sounds so simple...from a few
natural laws and an inert gas comes all the complexity and diversity
of life, the universe, and everything.
The notion that the universe was created
with purpose begins to disintegrate in the fact of the greater understanding
about how complex systems can emerge from randomness, and they do
so with no further input than a few simple rules.
There is a general view amongst physicists
that the laws of nature that have allowed our creation are accidental.
They are simply a property of mathematical principles that have
nothing to do with our existence, or the existence of anything else
for that matter. Life, the universe and everything exists by pure
accident. However another view which employed a mathematical approach
to studying the laws of nature found that tinkering with these laws
just slightly could make life impossible. hen working from this
approach it looks as though these laws have been set accurately
and purposefully to encourage the evolution of life.
The laws of nature can be defined by a set
number that provides the parameters for the evolution of the universe
as we know it. One of these numbers in particular, the so called
cosmological constant, has to be very tiny if the universe is to grow old enough and big enough to contain stars, and life. The
cosmological constant can be considered as the intrinsic mass and
volume of intensive space, which Einstein had suggested was not
zero. It turns out that this number needs to be set to an accuracy
of one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion
trillion trillion trillion trillion. If there was any minuscule
variation and life would essentially be a non starter.
It seems that the numerical parameters that
set the universe on its course to make stars and consequently life
are so accurately set that its difficult to imagine they got that
way by chance. Yet if they didn't get there by chance then surely
it was by design....However cosmologists have come up with an idea
around the invocation of a designer. How do you feel about the suggestion
that the universe we inhabit is only one of many....If there are
many universes then there will have been many big bangs creating
them, and each of them could have resulted in a universe with a
set of natural laws. Therefore we would have been existing in a
universe which is one of many...each with its own peculiar set of
laws to define it. If that was the case then it would not have been
so surprising to have found a universe with a set of finely tuned
natural laws which would encourage the evolution of life.
Cosmologists who subscribe to the multiverse
idea have therefore followed the next step of questioning. If we
are only one universe of many and such complexity of our own intelligence
can arise from simple rules, what other intelligence might be out
there?? At present our brains are the most complex things that
we know of in our universe (excluding that of my families). It has
taken four billion years of evolution to get from simple single
celled life to humans. Our sun has around another six billion years
before it dies in a flare up that will engulf all of the planets
around it, including our own. That would mean another 6 billion
years of evolution...and apparent increased levels of intelligence.