Monday, May 27, 2013

"Is nature unnatural?"

Decades of confounding experiments have physicists considering a startling possibility: The universe might not make sense.

What the author means by "not making sense" is the existence of fine-tuning, not explained by over-arching theory.

She asserts that this supports the multiverse hypothesis. If fine tuning is apparent, there must be an enormous number of universes, so randomness can permit our existence.

There is of course another explanation for fine tuning, which doesn't presuppose an infinity of universes.

But that's not "scientific", unlike an infinity of undetectable universes. 

19 comments:

  1. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMay 28, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    The so-called "multiverse" escape hatch is nothing but an escape into Hilbert's Hotel. You can always find a room.

    You're exactly right... the "multiverse" notion is no more scientific than the the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

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  2. With superluminal inflation there is no know mechanism to prevent the formation of a multiverse. The collapse of the inflation field will result in a pocket universe infinite in extent (itself a multiverse with infinite copies of you), yet separated from other pocket universes by areas of continued superluminal inflation (multiverses within multiverse).

    Far from being a ploy to undermine theism, the multiverse seems to be an inevitable byproduct of the theory that best explains what cosmologists observe. Many of the best minds in physics have tried to come up with an inflationary scenario that matches observation but doesn’t result in a multiverse, and they have failed. Unless theists get total control and start burning books and killing intellectuals, the concept of the multiverse is here to stay.

    -KW

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    Replies
    1. @KW:

      So you posit that logic implies the existence of the multiverse, although it can never be observed from the universe in which we live.

      You have faith in existence of the multiverse.

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    2. @KW:

      I also point out that the multiverse faith doesn't really elide the anthropic problem of fine tuning.

      If you multiply entities with random values to a great number, it becomes more likely that one of the entities will coincide with a specific value. This has been used to elide fine tuning.

      The problem with that strategy is that the inherent assumption is that the large N is within a universe--within the range of existence of which we could be aware.

      But the multiverse extends the N across different universes, and it's not clear how probabilistic outcomes can be calculated for events in different universes.

      If the universe is all that we can confirm exists, the N must be in our universe, not across other universes, whose existence by definition we could not empirically verify.

      The multiverse and the supernatural blend, and become indistinguishable. Welcome. We've been expecting you.

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    3. A video explaining KW's position in layman's terms.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7lKcoF5rwg

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    4. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMay 28, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      KW, who knows nothing about these issues, parrots some text he picked up online. Then, as usual, he pops out this witless prediction:

      Unless theists get total control and start burning books and killing intellectuals, the concept of the multiverse is here to stay.

      Anyone who knows anything about science knows the vulgar (yep, that's the word...) stupidity of that comment.

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    5. There is absolutely nothing supernatural about the various multiverse theories. They are all extensions of successful theories that predict the existence of other realms. Metaphysical, sure, but supernatural, no.

      -KW

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    6. Except perhaps for the Tegmark class IV multiverse, which is not scientific at all, but purely metaphysical (what I like to call the multiverse of mathematical necessity).

      -KW

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    7. KW:

      [There is absolutely nothing supernatural about the various multiverse theories. They are all extensions of successful theories that predict the existence of other realms. Metaphysical, sure, but supernatural, no.]

      Wrong.

      "Natural" means within our universe. Anything outside our universe is supra(or extra)natural.

      "Successful theories" are theories concocted by beings (us) in our universe, using mathematics from our universe, etc.

      We have no contact in any way with other universes by definition (any contact would necessarily be in our universe).

      The calculation of probabilities ACROSS universes, which is what is required if the multiverse theory gets you out of the anthropic problem, is not only impossible, it is nonsense.

      We have no way of knowing what mathematics/probability works in other universes. If we did know, our knowledge would still only be in this universe, and would have no connection to another universe.

      Sorry, KW. Multiverse theory does nothing to solve the anthropic problem. It only serves to demonstrate that you don't even really understand your own arguments. But we knew that.

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    8. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMay 28, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Egnor, I admire your tenacity in attempting to get KW to actually address the issues you raise in a conversation between two sapient adults. Sadly, I fear that is a Sisyphean task, never to be completed.

      KW, like some others who occasionally grace your comment threads, cannot address the issues because he has no preexisting text available that does so. He lives in the Progressive echo chamber where all his beliefs are derived from the elite and taken as fact, and where dissent is prohibited on penalty of social exile (c.f., T. Nagel, Mamet, etc.)

      Moreover, as a teacher you understand the absolute necessity of grappling with the often challenging issues that students raise. Not only does it benefit the student, it benefits the teacher, forcing him to broaden his command of a subject to fully understand a challenge and meet it.

      KW is not at that level. I doubt he could teach 7th grade algebra. He's more like hoo, who simply finds some tangential material he's read (or Googled for the occasion) on a topic and dumps the load in a comment. When you restate your question, or rephrase it, you can almost hear the backup alert beeping as he prepares to dump another truckload of technical-sounding, but still tangential, hogswallop.

      If there's not another load available, or he's been backed into an intellectual corner, the road ends with the inevitable petty attempts at personalized, peurile, ridicule and/or mockery. It's a form of distraction display. It's fairly common in birds.

      In my experience, knowing where the road is bound to end, I prefer to just start there and get to it right away. It saves a lot of keystrokes.

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    9. @ADM:

      All true, and well said.

      I do feel that at times it is worth going through the motions of a thoughtful discussion with these folks. It is indeed unlikely to help them, but others read it, and it may be of help to them.

      One of the factors that led me to Christ was reading the puerile rhetoric of His detractors.

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    10. (cont'd)

      Perhaps my biggest fear when I began to take Christianity seriously was that there was an atheist defeater-- a powerful obvious argument against Christianity-- that I hadn't yet encountered. I cringed when I read or watched debates between Christians and atheists. I feared the atheists would blow the Christians out of the water. They certainly talked like they could, with ease.

      I was enormously emboldened when I saw that the opposite was true-- the Christian arguments were very strong, and the atheist arguments were idiotic and usually vile.

      Now I love to debate atheists. Fish, barrel.

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    11. Doctor, you can’t just go and change the definition of supernatural to suit your argument.

      When we look out at the universe we see a horizon based on the finite speed of light and the finite age of the universe. By your definition anything beyond this horizon is outside of our universe and therefore supernatural. Because the physical laws appear to be the same when we look at that horizon in opposite directions, and we know that those distant regions can not have been in casual contact since the end of inflation, we have every reason to believe that the laws of nature apply to regions far beyond the horizon.

      But even if the laws of nature change in distant realms beyond the horizon (which I doubt), or in separate bubble universes spawned by the inflation field (almost certainly), say by quantum randomness affecting the spontaneous symmetry breaking that governs the strength of forces, it’s still an entirely natural process.

      Anthropic reasoning all by itself suggests the multiverse; the fact that out best theories not only don’t rule it out, but almost demand it, is just icing on the cake. I predict that someday religion will embrace the multiverse to claim that we live in the small subset of universes that spawned a supreme being who guided its subsequent evolution. Far from being a scientific threat to God, the multiverse may be God’s scientific savior.

      -KW

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    12. Theist’s main argument against the multiverse boils down to “it’s no better than religion, and is therefore inadequate”. Ironic.

      -KW

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    13. @KW:

      [we have every reason to believe that the laws of nature apply to regions far beyond the horizon.]

      You have no reason at all to believe it. You don't even know if "reason" applies to other universes. You have no knowledge of the other universes, and never will (in this life). That's the whole point. Other universes are outside the scope of what we know and what we can know. If we ever seem to know something (fact A) about another universe, that something (fact A) must be in our universe for us to know it. So we still can't know if fact A is true in another universe.

      [But even if the laws of nature change in distant realms beyond the horizon (which I doubt)]

      Why do you "doubt"? Because you have faith that the laws of nature are the same in other universes? What's your N on that?

      [it's still a natural process] "Natural applies to nature, which is OUR universe. You know nothing-- nothing- about other universes.

      [Far from being a scientific threat to God, the multiverse may be God’s scientific savior.] God does the saving. There is no problem with a Christian embracing multiverse cosmology. The arguments for God's existence (eg the cosmological argument) work just fine regardless of multiverses, big bangs, oscillating universes, whatever. Aquinas' First Way is independent of a beginning in time.

      Multiverse theory is a threat to atheists, thought. Atheists don't even understand their own arguments, and multiverse theory provides them with ample opportunity to look foolish.

      Here, for example.

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    14. @KW:

      [Theist’s main argument against the multiverse boils down to “it’s no better than religion, and is therefore inadequate”. Ironic.]

      Nope. The irony is that to elide the anthropic evidence for God, atheists are forced to profess faith in infinite unknowable universes, and then make non-sensical epistemic claims about the infinite unknowable universes which just makes atheists look even more foolish and... oh... what's the word... superstitious. ("There are infinite other universes and I know a lot about them..."

      Anything, anything, to avoid God.

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    15. Unfortunately it would take volumes to fill that vacuum between your ears. I’ll take one point and keep it brief.

      [But even if the laws of nature change in distant realms beyond the horizon (which I doubt)]

      Why do you "doubt"? Because you have faith that the laws of nature are the same in other universes? What's your N on that?

      I’m talking about the chance of there being different physical laws based on the type of multiverse. The simplest multiverse is an infinite or very large universe that we can observe only a very small portion of because of the horizon. I suspect that distant realms of this multiverse have the same physical laws and constants as we for two reasons.

      First as I alluded too earlier, when we look at our horizon in opposite directions we see strong evidence that the laws and constants of nature are the same, and we know that these two distant points lie beyond each other’s horizon because the light from them is only now reaching us half-way between them. In other words we have observational evidence that regions beyond each other’s cosmic horizons share the same laws.

      Second I suspect that the spontaneous symmetry breaking that result in the values of constants is liked to the collapse of the inflation field and the formation of a bubble universe. When the inflation field collapses and a new universe is born it closely resembles the classic big bang universe a moment after the bang, with the constants being rapidly fixed in the first moments of cooling.

      However in other bubble universes that arise, separated from us by the gulf of continuing inflation, the symmetries may break differently in that bubble resulting in different constants, or perhaps even different configurations of dimensionality. Things are almost certain to go differently in a universe that forms in I bubble separate from ours.


      -KW

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    16. Michael,

      This Universe came into existence 13.82 billion years ago as a result of some unknown mechanism. Perhaps quantum tunnelling. Perhaps quantum fluctuation. Perhaps something else.

      If a supernatural god happened to cause the formation of this Universe, then it's presumably by using some mechanism. It's a stretch to get from 'god' to God', who takes a personal interest in human affairs, listens to prayers and gets very angry at the misuse of human sexual organs.

      God did something somewhere somewhen for unknown reasons and by unknown mechanisms is hardly an economical explanation for the Universe.

      The article you link to is written by a science writer based on what she heard at a talk given by a physicist. Hardly the most reliable of sources. It might be that the last results from the Large Hadron Collider have thrown into serious doubts certain theories of particle physics such as Supersymmetry, and possibly String Theory (if so, good riddance).

      The standard model of particles is still intact, with the discovery of a particle which may be the Higgs boson - it's a candidate. Nothing's been proved.

      Actually, all the particles we need are just four; the up-quark, the down-quark, the electron and the photon. They comprise all of us and the world or allow us to remote sense - without the need for anything else, supernatural or spiritual, for which there isn't the slightest evidence.

      There are no problems with the current accepted theory - beside the fact that it's incomplete. We don't know what Dark Matter or Dark Energy are, both of which form 96% of the matter in the Universe.

      We live in a Universe which allows us to have developed. But that's a long way from asserting that the Universe is fine tuned for life. Almost all of the Universe is extremely hostile to us. It may be that the Universe is only just roughly and approximately tuned for life - in which case, we're alone (which would be amazing enough, considering that there are at least 10^22 stars in the visible Universe alone.

      The Multiverse might exist. It might not. Asserting that because we don't have any current method (we might develop some method to do so in the future) isn't a reason for preferring an explanation that there's a supernatural god, about whom we can never know anything, who started the Universe from 'outside'.

      As an analogy, we're in the position like that of an isolated population of humans on a very remote volcanic oceanic island - which hasn't had contact with other populations within memory - and hence believes that their island is all that exists in an endless ocean, they're all the humans that exist, their island was created - fine tuned - just for them, by a supernatural deity. They wouldn't have any way of knowing any better.

      At least, we are in the process of working out what the Universe is.

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  3. Then again, there's absolutely no reason for Christians to view a multiverse as anything other than God-affirming. It is remarkably compatible with belief. While atheists have picked it up as part of an effort to refute the anthropic principle, they've inadvertently seized onto a cosmology that eliminates the one objection to St. Anselm's Ontological proof for the existence of God. Out of the frying pan, as they say. More here: http://www.shookfoilbooks.com/page12/index.html

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