“The Origin of Everything: Much Ado About Nothing” is a talk by physical chemist Peter Atkins on the boundaries between science and philosophy when it comes to examining the origins of the universe and nothingness.
Degree: Master of Arts
Chair: W. David Beck
Primary Subject Area: Philosophy; Physics, Astronomy and Astrophysics; Religion, General; Physics, Theory; Physics, General
Keywords: cosmology, fine-tuning, information, multiverse, philosophy of science, quantum
Disciplines: Astrophysics and Astronomy | Cosmology, Relativity, and Gravity | Philosophy | Philosophy of Science | Quantum Physics | Religion
Abstract: The multiverse hypothesis (the view that there is not just one world or universe in existence, bur rather that there are many) is the leading alternative to the competing fine-tuning hypothesis (the laws of physics and constants are fine-tuned for the existence of life).
The Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem states that any universe, which has, on average, a rate of expansion greater 0 that system had to have a finite beginning. This would apply in any multiverse scenario as well. There are four exceptions to the theorem.*
1. First Exception: Initial Contraction (Havg<0) … (The average rate of the Hubble expansion is less than zero)
- Main Problem: Another problem this raises is that this requires acausal fine-tuning. Any attempt to explain the fine-tuning apart from a fine-tuner is left bereft of any explanation.
2. Second Exception: Asymptotically static (Havg=O)
- Main Problem: The exception is that it does not allow for an expanding or evolutionary universe. This model cannot be true. The best evidence and empirical observations indicate that the universe is not static; rather, it is expanding and evolving. This might have been a great model under Newton but not since Einstein’s field equation concerning the energy-momentum of the universe.
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Physical constants are the values of certain spacetime, energy, and natural laws that have a set parameter that determine the structure and function of a life-permitting universe. Constants will vary in value from universe to universe in multiverse scenarios. When I refer to ‘constants’ here I mean what we presently observe as being constant. For example, the value of gravity may vary from universe to universe. The following are this universe’s constants and their values.
Constants of Space and Time.
- Planck length (the minimum interval of space), lp = 1.62 x 10-33 cm.
- Planck time (the minimum interval of time), tp = 5.39 x 10-44 sec.
- Planck’s constant (this determines the minimum unit of energy emission), h = 6.6 x 10-34 joule seconds.
- Velocity of light, c = 300,000 km/sec.
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The fine-tuning argument argues that when physics and the laws of nature are expressed mathematically their values are ever so balanced in a way that permits the existence of life. I’m merely arguing that the universe is finely tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires.
- Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe (LPU) is very, very unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPU|~FT & k) ≪ 1.
- Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPU is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPU|FT & k) ≪ 1.
- Therefore, LPU strongly supports FT over ~FT.
Defense of 1: Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life-permitting universe is very, very unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner.
So what are some of the evidences for fine-tuning?
- Roger Penrose calculates that the odds of the special low entropy condition having come about by chance in the absence of any constraining principles is at least as small as about one in 1010^123.
- Strong Nuclear Force (Strong nuclear force coupling constant, gs = 15)
- +, No hydrogen, an essential element of life
- -, Only hydrogen
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The following argument is an abductive Thomistic cosmological argument from contingency, which I presented at my recent Ratio Christi debate.
- There are contingent constituents to the universe.
- Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
- Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
- Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.
The constituents of the universe include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles. For the constituents of the universe to be uncaused that would mean it is metaphysically necessary. For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.
For something to be self-caused it must be simultaneously antecedent to itself to produce itself as its own effect. But this contradictory. This would be akin to the ultimate bootstrapping trick.
I’ve been waiting for new Planck data to come in for a while now and I’ve been very excited about this. First we had COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) that gave us the first images of the cosmic microwave background radiation approximately 380,000 years after the big bang when light became visible. This discovery led George Smoot and John Mather to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics (2006).
Then we had the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Prove (WMAP) satellite, which provided a much clearer and more defined resolution revealing a much more precise picture of the early universe.