Could they also be essential at a much larger scale, for explaining the features of our universe, including the fact that it contains intelligent life?
There’s a line of thinking from theoretical physics that seriously considers this possibility, by suggesting that:
our universe could be the product of cosmological natural selection (CNS)
- It’s an approach that many will regard as truly far-fetched, but
- may seem slightly less so
- if you consider the rationale on which it is based.
Theories of CNS depend on the assumption that our own universe is only one among innumerable others
- that is, we live in a multiverse
- The multiverse concept may itself seem far-fetched, but
- it’s a topic of serious debate among many of the world’s most accomplished physicists.
- Various kinds of multiverses have been hypothesized to exist, and
- academic heavyweights and/or science popularizers, who have espoused these hypotheses, include:
- Sean Carroll, Brian Cox, David Deutsch, Brian Greene, Alan Guth, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Andrei Linde, Laura Mersini-Houghton, Leonard Susskind, Max Tegmark, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The kind of multiverse, proposed by CNS, is one of self-replicating universes
- analogous to reproducing organisms.
- Competition to replicate results in some kinds of universes being more represented than others
- with the most-represented being those,
- best able to replicate themselves faithfully,
- with their constituent physical laws intact.
- Thus universes evolve to be ‘selfish’, that is,
- as if they were interested in propagating their own kind
- just as biological organisms act as if they were interested in spreading their own genes.1
By what mechanism could a universe self-replicate?
- According to the best-known CNS theory, Lee Smolin,2,3
— in work that builds on an earlier idea
- suggested by one of the great physicists of the 20th century, John Wheeler4
- proposes that black holes are the mechanism, and thus that
- selection favours universes, that contain more black holes
- (Our own observable universe, by the way, probably contains about 100 billion black holes)
The idea that black holes give birth to baby universes
- has an unusually high degree of intuitive appeal for a cosmological theory
- (as such theories can often seem abstruse and bizarre).
- This is because a black hole does seem reasonably interpretable as the inverse,
- or ‘other side’, of a big bang:
- a black hole results in a ‘singularity’
- an infinitely small concentration of space-time, matter, and energy
- and a big bang emerges from a singularity, as an explosive expansion of space-time, matter, and energy.
- Smolin suggests that in such a process, a baby universe may ‘inherit’ physical parameters from its parent
- thus enabling some degree of self-replication.
Other theories have suggested that:
intelligent life could also be a mechanism, by which universes replicate themselves
– a concept known as ‘cosmological natural selection with intelligence’ (CNS-I)
- It’s an idea with striking implications for organisms like us, as
- it proposes that we could serve an identifiable function in a process of cosmic replication,
- but it’s less well-known than Smolin’s black hole theory.
- (For an interesting conversation between Robert Wright and Lee Smolin
- about how CNS-I relates to Smolin’s theory, click here: http://meaningoflife.tv/videos/32549?in=43:28&out=55:26)
- Various takes on CNS-I have been proposed, by:
- mathematician Louis Crane,5 cosmologist Edward Harrison,6 and most prolifically, amateur cosmologist James Gardner.7-13
One way to summarize CNS-I
- is to quote Harrison, who in 1995 published the first peer-reviewed case for it:
- “Not inconceivably, the goal in the evolution of intelligence is the creation of universes that foster intelligence.”6
A shared assumption of all CNS-I theories is that:
- sufficiently evolved intelligence could acquire the ability to create new cosmic environments for itself
- that, in order to be habitable, would need to replicate the physical laws of its native universe
- Cosmologists expect that billions of years from now our own universe will cease being habitable
- (due to, for example, a ‘big freeze’ or ‘big crunch’ - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_fate_of_the_universe),
- but by that point intelligent life could conceivably have become sophisticated enough to produce a new life-supporting universe
From this perspective, life is of crucial importance on a cosmic scale
- essentially, it’s the universe’s reproductive system
- That doesn’t mean that earthly life is the only kind that could enable this reproduction,
- and Gardner regards the hypothesis as implying that extra-terrestrial life is likely to exist.8
- However, Ray Kurzweil14 has good arguments for why we’re probably alone in the universe
- and he reiterates these in the foreword he wrote for Gardner’s second book.8
A notable feature of CSN-I is that:
it accounts for the seemingly improbable ‘bio-friendliness’ of our universe
– the observation that many laws and parameters of the universe seem precisely adjusted to enable the evolution of life.15,16
- If any one setting in this complex configuration were tweaked even slightly,
- life would be impossible;
- it’s as if the universe were ‘designed’, against the odds, for the function of enabling life to emerge.
- Now on the one hand, to observe some minimal degree of bio-friendliness in our own universe is unsurprising and indeed compulsory,
- since observations of a universe must be compatible with characteristics of the observer
- (the ‘anthropic principle’ - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle):
- of course our own universe is conducive to life, otherwise we wouldn’t be here to observe it.
But on the other hand:
it’s not at all clear that such bio-friendliness would be compulsory in all possible universes
- which raises the ‘fine tuning’ problem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe)
- that has intrigued and challenged many physicists.15,16
- CNS-I could provide a solution to this long-standing problem,
- because one basic lesson of evolutionary theory is that:
- natural selection processes are brilliant at producing improbable, complex, functional design.
Natural selection is the only known force that can generate complex functionality
- (that is, adaptation) at the biological level, and
- it’s interesting to consider that it could also do so at a cosmological level, and
- that life itself — along with the physical conditions that permit life to exist
— could potentially be regarded as a higher-order adaptation.
Although the concept of CNS-I will seem outlandish to many
- this really shouldn’t disqualify it from further consideration,
- as physics since Einstein has already established firmly that our cosmic habitat is, in fact, fundamentally strange.
- However it’s clearly very speculative, and I’m not arguing that it’s correct – no one knows if it’s correct,
- because scientists don’t currently possess the methods that would enable them to test it in anything close to a conclusive manner.
- It’s a new and inchoate story with many missing pages, and
- it raises at least as many questions as it could potentially answer.
- But it does seem worth keeping in mind as a possible starting point for explaining why life exists in our universe,
- especially because it’s grounded in assumptions about evolutionary processes
- for example, that selection among replicators can produce improbable functional complexity
- that we already know to be true at the biological level.
- It simply proposes that similar processes may also operate at a cosmological level.
- And although CNS-I is speculative indeed, it’s not necessarily more speculative than the leading alternative scientific view:
- that life is an accidental and ultimately purposeless by-product of larger cosmic processes.
Бонус: СОТВОРЕНА ЛИ ВОДА? - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/23591.html