A THINKING UNIVERSE

The universe consists of lots of bits of information. In fact, it consists of an unimaginably large (maybe even infinite) number of bits of information. These bits of information are organised by the laws of physics (whatever they may actually turn out to be). The information and the "operating system" have come together and created what should be impossible (at least in a finite universe). Furthermore, the "impossible" continues to be created. Things are happening all the while that stretch the credulity of observers. Some theorists speculate that everything seems to be just right in our universe for everything that happens in our universe to happen because there is an infinite number of universes and our universe just happens to be the one where everything is just right for everything to happen as it has. I might accept this proposition as an explanation for the just-rightness of the laws of physics but it seems extremely unlikely to me that it explains all the day to day impossibilities of life.

I am not a creationist (at least, not in the generally accepted sense of the word) and I certainly agree that life has evolved on earth. I do not hold with the pre-Darwinian, scientific notion that new species are created by a god or appear, somehow, out of nowhere. I accept the scientific community's geological dating of our planet and regard the creation narratives in the Bible as mythological. I also accept that in certain situations, such as an island locality, species will  naturally develop certain traits such as dwarfism or particular markings. What I cannot accept is that the major changes which have happened in the evolution of life on earth can be explained by natural selection alone. After much thinking about the probabilities of it all it just does not seem credible to me. Perhaps this can be put down to my general view of life. It may even be the result of my depressive condition. Most people appear to believe that things naturally happen as a matter of course. I believe that it is natural for things not to happen. In fact, I think that the tendency not to happen is so overwhelming that when something does happen it can rightly be regarded as a miracle. When Stephen Hawking looks up into the night sky he contemplates the billions of stars and concludes that, with there being so many stars, intelligent life must exist in many places in the universe other than just on our planet. When I contemplate the same number of stars and think about all the miracles (see above) that had to happen in order for there to be sentient life on Earth I conclude that there isn't a snowflake's chance in hell of there being anything other than single cell organisms on other planets and that even this would be a rarity.

My commitment to, what I call, the impossibility of all things, is based as much on scientific fact as Professor Hawking's optimistic hopes of the commonness of life in the universe. For example, the earth is 4.6 billion years old. It took a billion years for any form of life to appear on the earth which shows that life is not automatic. But it is the next era in evolution that really fascinates me. For the next 2.6 billion years, life on earth consisted of only single cellular lifeforms. That it took over two and a half billion years (2 600 000 000 years), during which billions upon billions upon billions of single cell lifeforms lived and died, for the right circumstances to happen for life to proceed from stage one to stage two proves to me that it is extremely unlikely (almost impossible) for life to develop. That it then took another 900 000 008 years, with all the billions upon billions upon billions of individual creatures that lived and died during that time, for the first human beings to appear shows that it is also almost impossible for the right circumstances to come together for intelligent life, at our level of intelligence, to evolve.

Our evolution from the first spark of life to homo sapiens would be (almost) impossible enough if each evolutionary change happened in an instant. But that is not how evolution is generally believed to happen. Change is gradual and is made possible by natural selection. But I just cannot see how natural selection can explain change in the way it is claimed it does. As change is gradual there must be a lengthy period of time during which the developing adaptation is either of no advantage whatsoever or, even, a definite disadvantage. That a species would promote the success of such an unneeded deformity seems highly unlikely. Therefore, the change from one distinct species to another distinct species is almost impossible if it happened just once. That such change is persistent throughout the history of advanced life on our planet is far too impossible for it to be explained by just natural selection.

I have thought long and hard about the impossibilities of life in the universe and I have come to the conclusion that there appears to be intelligence involved in the evolution of life and, maybe even, in many other, if not all, the things that happen in the universe (although that would be a matter for a separate discussion). Of course, the existence of a creative god would provide such intelligence but that is not the only answer. In fact, even if there was a creative god behind everything it does not necessarily mean that the intelligence at work in the universe is that god. I do not think that it is even necessary for the intelligence to be sentient. It merely has to be an agent that works intelligently.

It is here that I return, at last, to the opening statement of this essay concerning how the universe consists of information given order by the laws of physics. It is also at this point that any scientists still reading this post will finally throw up their hands in dismay at my unscientific propositions and consign me to the same hell as creationist Christians and flat earthists. Fortunately, I am not a scientist but a philosopher so I am allowed to have fun with ideas. Here is my idea.

What if (let's suppose) there are so many bits of information in the universe that the universe has become intelligent, even sentient, in the way some people propose that super computers may eventually become intelligent apart from human intervention? I emphasise that such a universe/computer would not need to be self aware, it would just need to act in an intelligent way. What if the laws of physics have become, in a way, the software for the universe/computer? This "idea" could explain why things happen, as opposed to do not happen, in the universe and why these things that happen keep turning out to be exactly the right things that need to happen. What if the universe deliberately decides the direction in which species of creature should evolve and optimises the chances of such evolution happening?

I am just playing with an idea.

It's nothing to have a cow about.

Stay calm and carry on!

* Although all this came out of my own head somebody else will have proposed such an idea, or something very similar, before me. Don't crow about it if you know who that person was. Such rudeness takes all the enjoyment out of the hobby of thinking.

** The person who wrote this essay (me) continues to be regarded as not good enough to be employed by the Church of England. To me that is a bigger mystery than the mystery of life.

Comments

A THINKING UNIVERSE — 4 Comments

  1. rev. Jonathan I hope it doesnt affect the fun of your cosmic hobby to say “welcome!”.

    If you ever get the chance of dark skies and a decent telescope…I affirm the experience. It def adda to the hobby of cosmic thinking to gaze at the hobby of a thinking cosmos.

    the Lord be with you danielj

    • We do not live far from Kielder Forrest and the Galloway hills. Looking at the universe in such places is mind blowing. I had never really seen the Milky Way until I saw it one night from a field near New Galloway.

  2. rev. Jonathan I hope it doesnt affect the fun of your cosmic hobby to say “welcome!”.

    If you ever get the chance of dark skies and a decent telescope…I affirm the experience. It def adda to the hobby of cosmic thinking to gaze at the hobby of a thinking cosmos.

    the Lord be with you danielj

  3. ‘The person who wrote this essay (me) continues to be regarded as not good enough to be employed by the Church of England. To me that is a bigger mystery than the mystery of life.’

    I doubt if it’s anything to do with your intelligence or lack thereof, Jonathan.