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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cosmology: The universe is a cosmic computer?

Yes, the universe looks fixed, but that doesn't mean that a god fixed it, says cosmologist Paul Davies, in a Guardian article, so titled.

Noting that
Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth - the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient "coincidences" and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist.

he dismisses both intelligent design and the idea that there are zillions of flopped universes:
The multiverse theory certainly cuts the ground from beneath intelligent design, but it falls short of a complete explanation of existence. For a start, there has to be a physical mechanism to make all those universes and allocate bylaws to them. This process demands its own laws, or meta-laws. Where do they come from? The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.

Yes, and that's only for a start. With any luck, my next co-authored book will address the many other problems as well.

So what does Davies propose?
I propose instead that the laws are more like computer software: programs being run on the great cosmic computer. They emerge with the universe at the big bang and are inherent in it, not stamped on it from without like a maker's mark.

Over at Faith, Beer, and Other Things That Interest Geoff, Geoff Robinson makes the point that
Davies wants to go down the pantheistic route, as far as I can tell.

[ ... ]
Pantheism makes all of nature God. So how can pantheism give you a valid observer/non-observer distinction? I don't see how it can. Atheism and pantheism are very similar if not the same. One says nature is all there is (by and large). The other just labels everything as "god."

I am not sure that Robinson is entirely correct here, because pantheism allows for the existence of minds whereas modern materialism essentially does not, as Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I discuss in The Spiritual Brain, and that is a crucial distinction.

In any event, pantheism is an old tradition, largely rejected in the West for a number of reasons, including, I believe, the one that Robinson cites (observed-observer distinction).

Hence, I find Davies' willingness to revisit it most interesting. It just shows what a conceptual mess materialism has become!

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