Anthropics, Multiverses & Strings

Thanks to Piers Young at Monkey Magic for the link to this article from Discover.

A good summary of issues based on interviews by Tim Folger with working scientists in the field, many of whom I’ve quoted before on psybertron. Strange how the multiverse idea is still seen as the most convincing solution to the fine tuning problem – it was David Deutsch and quantum information people that first alerted me to that. Like if string theory is no explanation (because it simply supports just about any empirical outcome) multiverses are really just the same solution. An explanation of “anything” is not a theory of everything, it’s a theory of nothing. Infinitely many possible universes to account for the “coincidence” of finding ourselves in this Goldilocks (just-right) universe by chance. No wonder people prefer “god” to the “oops” argument.

Still think the problem is the view of the appearance of coincidence and the scientific knee-jerk to explain that coincidence objectively, whereas there is a subjective, anthropic angle to the perceived improbability in the first place. What we should really be looking for is an existing mistake in explanations of what has already been perceived and “accepted” as proven science … Island, I believe you are onto something. See previous “anthropic” threads.

This is just the usual conspiracy vs cock-up perception. When “low quality” things (bad things with bad explanations) look well organized and “intentional”, there is invariably a cock-up or two behind the scenes, and the embarassment factor in exposing cock-ups invariably leads to actions that “look like” intentional cover-up. A double-whammy for the conspiracy theorists. Pretty basic organizational behaviour theory in my book. Science is made of people, like anything else, and one thing people are very badly programmed to do is learn from mistakes.

So it goes … roll on wisdom.

12 thoughts on “Anthropics, Multiverses & Strings”

  1. Interesting post…although from a style perspective:
    “Oops damn-it” lacks the punch of the theistical version. 😉

  2. “One thing people are very badly programmed to do is learn from mistakes.”
    Primitive organisms react to their environment & either survive to reproduce or not. The species as a whole, but not the individual, adapts.
    Higher animals react & if it turns out badly, try a different response.
    Only people ask why something turns out badly & modify their response depending on the answer. The definition of an irrational person is one who tries the same thing over & over expecting a different result. The rational person is well-suited to learning from their mistakes.

  3. Craig, that is my point. Onbiously, humans (rational beings) are well “suited” to learning (that is their very point of existence) just very bad at doing it … particularly when the subject of the life lesson is rationality itself. The bit we’re bad at is recognizing what the mistake really is / was.

    You must also have heard the saying “all progress depends on the irrational man” ? For every adage, there is an equal and opposite one.

  4. Hi Richard (no man is an Island) Ryals … seen that you hadn’t blogged in a while, so surprised you picked-up the link here. Just the one post on Knol, what are you doing these days ?

    Anyway, a good article … interesting that no-one has responded despite over 200 views ? I’ll may post a link and some thoughts on it if I get the chance. Take care.

  5. Hi Ian, the article is mostly just a repost of the this:

    I picked up your site on a search for the anthropic principle, but yeah, I’m essentilally at a stand-still while I wait for them to find nothing with the large hadron collider. Now a-days I mostly just waste my time demolishing the dishonesty of ideologically righteous fanatics on both sides of the “CrEvo” debate. I get especially bent out of shape at scientists who are “allegedly” above it all… yeah, right.

    I think that’s what is at the heart of your point. There is a balance that is achieved from the constant conflict between the two diametrically opposing sides of the debate which serves to derive the unseen reality in the middle that I’m always making the futile effort to tell people about.

    This is no coincidence, it’s the exact same anthropic balance that is derived from the Goldiocks Enigma that I have illustrated in the referenced article, it is necessary, and for all the idiocy, it is what keeps us alive, since either side’s idea of “good” would kill us if either side every got things all their own way.

    These “homeostatic” systems are self-regulating, in other words, which is a critical key to all of this.

    Lovelock and Margulis also figured this much out, and that’s where they got the Gaia Hypothesis from. I would highly recommend that you look it up on Wiki and you see what I mean. It’s all right there in front of the world, yet nobody sees it. Lynn and Lovelock have only picked up on a small piece of it, since the “flat” balanced universe is itself one of these self-regulating or homeostatic systems.

    Arthur Eddington picked up on this too. Eddington thought that the cosmological constant version of the general-relativistic field equation expressed the property that the universe was “self-gauging”. This WAS telling scientists something very important that they’ve long-since abandoned in lieu of completely absurd choices between stuff like, multiverses or god… lol

    It’s the exact same balance that occurs between the diametrically opposing tendencies that lead to either, glaciation, or the runaway greenhouse effect. Anthropic balance points are fixed and self-regulating, and it’s what keeps us alive in spite of our individually suicidal righteous tendencies:

    “all progress depends on the irrational man”

    Think, all progress must keep regulated pace with progressing time in an expanding/changing universe. Too fast, and we use up our resources too soon. Too slow, and we stagnate and die, so the conflict between the left and right is what regulates the system.

    It’s really very simple-stupid if people would simply be open and look, because they’ll never be able to see what’s actually going on here when they’re convinced that they already know!

  6. Hi Island, as I type this I have a sense of deja-vu having said this before … I had seen your arguments as strictly scientific (even though the mathematical theoretical content left me trailing) and I found it credible. What I hadn’t noticed was the Gaia / Lovelock connections from Margulis. I had taken on board more “mystical narrative” sources for quite some time, but you didn’t seem to have strayed into that territory. Interesting. Did I just miss that before, or would you deny any mystical aspect here (which would be doubly interesting) ?

    That essential nature of “balance” or dynamic tension as I might prefer it, is a key to this somewhere. For sure, the binary choice between the opposites is not it.

    Eddington, I will have to go back to …. found him interesting before, will have to remind myself.

    What was your specific purpose in posting the “astronomy notes” link ? I get the “catastrophe” angle … the unstable equilibrium … in the potential imbalance between these opposing forces … and the fact that both extremes spell inert death, whereas the centre spells life. Have you come across “sweet spot” or “edge of chaos” metaphors ?

  7. BTW Island, I should say, the reason I was suprised you picked-up the link was the timing / probability angle.

    I knew you would be interested … in fact I was going to send you a mail this weekend, once I had checked out your latest status on-line. But I’ve blogged very few relevant posts in the last 6 months, and you picked up with the only one I did, within a day of me doing it. Spooky.

    Do you believe in …. synchronicity ?
    (Only kidding.)

  8. Hi Mel, overlooked your (moderated) comment … from a different e-mail address, sorry.

    Actually (as I think you knew) that was my point in “no wonder” people choose god over ooops. Can’t beat a good story – lterally (you seen my review of Al MacIntyre ?).

    As a non-theist I really do see the attraction of theism over bad science, but neither is “satisfactory”.


  9. Yes, I would deny that there are any mystical aspects to this, because Margulis and Lovelock have misinterpreted the anthropic physics as something more than thermodynamics, but it’s not. The Earth is not a living organism just because it is purposefully ecobalanced to produce, cradle, and guide the evolution life toward a specific goal.

    I think that you got the point of my “astronomy notes” link perfectly, and it isn’t very often that I get the correct feedback.

    Is “ecobalance” the term that you were looking for?

  10. Do you believe in …. synchronicity ?

    Einstein’s physics was strictly deterministic, so I believe in LaPlaces demon… 😉

  11. Pingback: Psybertron Asks

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