Blind Forces

A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.  The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me to be so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.
Fred Hoyle

Hoyle, a physicist and an agnostic, was not arguing for the existence of God (which he believed to be inappropriate as a scientific explanation of anything).  Rather he was reacting to the evidence of the Anthropic Principle, which reveals a universe that seems to be very finely tuned for the existence of life as we know it.  Any slight deviation in any of the basic physical constants of the natural world–the nuclear forces, the electromagnetic forces and the gravitational forces–would render life impossible.  Likewise any tiny deviation in any number of other conditions of the natural world would change the universe so dramatically as to make it untenable for life.

For example, the nature of our universe depends upon the gravitational force being exactly as it is.  If gravity differed just enough to cause my current weight (or anyone elses, for that matter) to be a mere one-billionth of a gram more, then stars could never have formed. No stars, no galaxies, no planets, no us. Likewise, if the initial density of the universe had differed by as little as 0.0000000000001 percent (ten to the fifteenth power), then the universe would have collapsed before forming stars, etc. These are just two of many such examples.  There are myriad examples of this anthropic principle on earth too (such as the composition of the atmosphere, the precise distance from the sun, etc.).

Hoyle often made comments such as the one quoted above.  This one was in the context of his examination of  carbon resonance, which is not only seemingly extremely improbable, but also essential to the formation of the necessary components of life.

Scientists don’t yet have a universally accepted exlanation for the anthropic principle. Some dismiss it as essentially irrelevant.  Their response is something like, “Of course this universe has all the precise conditions necessary for our existence.  That goes without saying.  How else would we be here to observe and discuss it?”  A currently popular theory is that there are an infinite number of universes (the multiverse theory).  If that is the case, then the fact that one of them has the precise characteristics of our universe is not improbable at all, but rather is a scientific certainty.

Things like this really are mind-boggling and amazing.  Although citing the anthropic principle as evidence for the existence of God would be a natural conclusion (as Hoyle noted), time and again throughout history these so-called “God-of-the-gaps” arguments (that is, solving scientific mysteries by attributing them to God) have ultimately been proven wrong.  Maybe someday physicists will discover the elusive “Grand Unified Theory”, which will explain everything scientifically, including the anthropic principle.  Maybe not.

It seems that the more we learn about the universe, the more amazing we discover it to be.

Wherever our search for knowledge takes us, we can be sure it will be someplace amazing.