Empirical Evidence and Probability from the Fine-Tuned Universe

An obviously intriguing series of discoveries by scientists informs us that the universe is apparently “fine-tuned” for carbon-based intelligent life. If one imagines certain physical laws as dials on a machine, a great many of these are set within a very narrow parameter that is conducive to carbon-based intelligent life.

Evidently gravitational force and electromagnetic force are each examples of these ideal settings. If the settings would be much different, we wouldn’t be considering these questions as there would be no intelligent life, or any other life, in the universe.

The most obvious explanation for this, of course, is that some “intelligent designer” has somehow “set” the dials so that intelligent life could evolve in our universe.

We should be mindful, of course, that while arguments such as these are highly problematic when discussing regional observations such as the “Goldilocks” principle of Earth within our solar system, they are quit compelling when one finds the entire universe and its physical laws are within a very narrow “Goldilocks” setting.

To explain this phenomenon, many scientists have fallen back upon the idea of the “multiverse” or that there are such a vast amount of universes with enough variation of physical properties and laws that our universe was, for lack of a better word, randomly brought into existence without the guidance of some intelligent designer. This extends the “Goldilocks” principle to the entire universe since there are so many other universes in existence.  

It seems that this model of the multiverse typically involves an “infinite number” of universes that are spawned through the notion of “eternal inflation” or that universes are spawned “indefinitely” like fractals each with its own “big bang event”. Dr. Stephen Hawking with Thomas Hertog writing in “A Smooth Exit From Eternal Inflation” published shortly after Hawking’s death, put forth a major reworking of this argument with a finite or limited number of “smooth” universes each with characteristics very similar to our own universe.

In some sense they indirectly addressed the illogical basis of ideas like an “infinite number” and “eternal inflation”, but may have compromised the entire argument for the probability of a universe like our own coming into existence without the guiding hand of an intelligent designer.

Probability seems to be critical in interpreting the empirical evidence. Reputedly, Hawking’s collaborator Roger Penrose, calculated the odds that our universe could coincidently contain all the right conditions with a minimum entropy at its first moments. The odds are unsurprisingly more than any longshot one might want to place a bet on – not impossible, but as close as one could imagine to impossible.

So while it is possible that there are so many universes with what, one would think, include such a variety of physical properties, that this universe could coincidently come into existence, it requires quit a statistical feat for this to be considered even remotely probable. One might imagine an astronaut in a spacecraft tossing a golf ball from outer space and having it land in the cup of the 17th hole of Pebble Beach.

It’s important to consider that the multiverse theory, even without such logical nonsense as an “infinite number” of universes and the accompanying “eternal inflation” of these universes, is purely theoretical. It is almost certain that we will never have direct evidence of these “parallel universes” since they are almost certainly outside the realm of our perceptive powers. They are completely different universes with different physical laws that are explicitly described as outside of our universe and by inference outside of our observational powers.

So this theory for many universes must rely on what empirical evidence this one universe might provide along with a good dose of rational thinking. Once we consider the logical contradiction of such ideas as “infinite finitude” or an “infinite number” of anything and the corresponding idea of “eternal inflation”, it becomes even more difficult to draw the same conclusions as the proponents of these notions.  

On the other end of this is the potential to argue that only one arbitrary universe is enough to create the ideal physics for carbon-based intelligent life to evolve. This argument, it would seem, insists this sort of amazing coincidence is possible if unlikely, but because it is possible and we can make these observations about a fine-tuned universe, then it is possible. Alright then, we would have something that is highly coincidental and arbitrary with this single universe that we can actually make observations about with this argument.

I’m a philosopher and not a scientist. For me, the most obvious and simple path most often leads to the truth. We’re like detectives seeking the answers to a mystery. We don’t believe in coincidence or take the long-shot odds. The most obvious explanation is often time not only the simplest, but also the truth. The fine-tuned universe is what it appears to be…fine-tuned.  

Science still needs philosophy. It needs context and this is what philosophy can provide. Science alone can lead to answers, but without philosophy, science doesn’t have those answers. They’re not mathematical (see NaN) as they draw upon indicators for unarithmetical values.

The Big Bang is just what it appears to be – the genesis of the material universe as we know it through observation and through the physical laws that govern the universe. This all came into being and is headed for entropy. It is as it appears to be and not some more complex operation.