Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking…” He doesn’t seem to realize that, in order for a puddle to wake up and think its first thought, a vast number of interconnected and incredibly unlikely coincidences have to occur.
The Big Bang had to happen, and the Big Bang had to explode with just the right amount of force to allow matter to disperse and allow galaxies to form. Had the Big Bang not been precisely fine-tuned, our universe might consist of nothing but tenuous hydrogen gas—or a single supermassive black hole. The laws of nature had to be laid down at the instant of the Big Bang, and had to be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in the trillions before the universe itself could exist, much less a contemplative puddle.
The electromagnetic force, the gravitational force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force all had to be perfectly balanced in order for stars to form and begin cooking up the elements needed to make planets—silicon, nickel, iron, oxygen, magnesium, and so forth. Adams’ pensive puddle could not find itself sitting in “an interesting hole” unless the hole was situated on a planet orbiting a star that was part of a galaxy that was created by the incredibly fine-tuned forces and conditions of the Big Bang.
And in order for that puddle to wake up one morning and think at all, it would need to be a lot more complex than a mere puddle of water. A thinking puddle would be a very complex puddle. Even if that puddle were comprised of exotic alien nerve cells suspended in a matrix of liquid ammonia, it would certainly need something like lipid molecules and protein structures and nucleic acids in order to become sufficiently evolved as to wake up and contemplate its own existence.
Such components require the existence of carbon. And if you know anything about where carbon comes from, you know that carbon doesn’t grow on trees. It is formed in an amazingly fine-tuned process involving the precise placement of a nuclear resonance level in a beryllium atom. Any enlightened plashet would have to conclude that a superintellect had monkeyed with physics, chemistry, and the biological composition of pools and puddles.
The rest of Douglas Adams’ scenario, in which “the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and … the puddle gets smaller and smaller” is meaningless in view of the fact that dozens and dozens of events, forces, and conditions have to interact in a fine-tuned way in order for the sun to exist, the air to exist, the sky to exist, and the hole in the ground to exist, so that a puddle can wake up one morning and wonder about its place in the cosmic order.
No analogy is perfect, of course, but The Puddle Analogy is downright misleading. It misrepresents the essence of the fine-tuning argument. An analogy should simplify, but not over-simplify.
Douglas Adams's puddle analogy falls short by the fact that the Big Bang was the most precisely finely tuned event in all of history and must have been logically the result of foresight and planning. Amongst many constants, just one, the cosmological constant, had to be adjusted at a precision of one to 10^123, an astronomically unimaginably huge number. There are 10^80 atoms in the universe.
Imagine the following scenario. You are put before a firing squad as punishment for a serious crime. Ten expert marksmen are lined up, each with his rifle cocked and loaded, and pointing at your head. You grit your teeth, close your eyes, and prepare as best you can to face your seemingly inevitable demise. The roar of the ten rifles explodes in your ears...
... but you’re still alive. Gingerly, you open your eyes to discover, to your amazement, that all ten expert marksmen have missed the target completely. Similarly astonished, the leader of the squad decides, in a fit of sympathy, to let you walk free.
Given time to reflect on what has happened, two options present themselves. The first would be to, quite rightly I think, demand an explanation for why the extremely unlikely scenario you just endured happened in the first place. The second would be to shrug your shoulders, think nothing more of it, and then return to your life, putting the event down to mere coincidence.
Having decided, as any rational person would, to rule out blind chance and seek to explain the scenario, we are presented with only two possibilities. One is that a million different firings all took place on the same day as yours. If the chances of ten expert marksmen all independently missing the target are one in a million, then given a million firings, we would expect one to fail. It seems that yours was the one which failed; and though you are lucky, this isn’t so surprising, since we would expect one firing to fail anyway.
The second explanation, given that yours was the only firing taking place that day, is that something suspicious is going on. Either the marksmen were all told to miss, or they were equipped with blank ammunition, or something similar. There was intention/design behind the occurrence which explains why it happened.
The firing squad story presents a direct analogy with the existence of the universe. We know from science that the physical constants needed to produce a developed universe at all are ‘fine-tuned’ - that they had to fall within an infinitesimally small range of values (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe). The very existence of a stable, developed universe such as ours is inherently unlikely. Given this widely accepted view, and since it is not rational, given the odds, to put things down to chance here (as the firing squad analogy clearly suggests), we have two main options. A million universes? Or intention/design. The first of these is the ‘multiverse’, the hypothesis that our universe is one of many universes existing in parallel. The second option is...well...suggestive of something else; something quite different.
Any configuration of dirt supports water whereas very, very few configurations of physics can support life. Some skeptical scientists who have studied the fine-tuning explicitly state this analogy “doesn’t hold water” – such as David Deutsch. The fine-tuning deals with how the physics has to be setup before life gets started so without fine-tuning there is no evolutionary way for adapting life to the universe.
Douglas Adamas puddle analogy falls short by the fact that the Big Bang was the most precisely finely tuned event in all of history and must have been logically the result of foresight and planning. Amongst many constants, just one, the cosmological constant, had to be adjusted at a precision of one to 10^123, an astronomically unimaginably huge number. There are 10^80 atoms in the universe.
Professor Stephen Hawking:
'If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the Universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present state.' -
“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'
What, though, can we make of the coincidences in the physical constants involved in nucleosynthesis? They cannot be dismissed as readily as other arguments. A complicated biological organism must indeed emerge in tune with its environment; but the basic physical laws are "given," and nothing can react back to modify them. It does seem worthy of note that these laws permit something interesting to have happened in the Universe, where there could so easily have been a "stillborn" universe in which no complexity could evolve.
Isn't it justified to have the subjective expression of surprise that a delicate balance seems to prevail?
Sir Fred Hoyle wrote in Galaxies, Nuclei, and Quasars:
"the laws of physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside stars. We exist only in portions of the universe where the energy levels in carbon and oxygen nuclei happen to be correctly placed."
In response to Hoyle's comment, one might ask if the physical constants could be different in different parts of the Universe, or at different times. Paul Dirac suggested, half a century ago, that the gravitational constant might change as the Universe aged; this is now ruled out by observations, and there is no evidence that any other physical constants have varied— strict constraints are imposed by observations of the spectra of distant objects, from radioactive decay over the geological past.
Last edited by Admin on Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:31 am; edited 15 times in total